A successful sales strategy can help to increase customer acquisition, grow revenue with existing customers, develop your sales reps, and ensure sales and marketing teams are working in harmony.
A sales strategy is a whole lot more than just giving your sales team a target and a phone… An effective sales strategy ensures your sales teams and marketing teams work closely together, optimises your sales processes and outbound sales strategy, considers buyer personas, links your sales goals to your customer relationship management (CRM) systems… and that’s not an exhaustive list!
Fortunately (and before you panic that sales strategies are only for businesses that can afford vast sales resources and six-figure consultants to help them increase revenue), there is no ‘one-size-fits-all solution.
Think Wow has been trading a little over three years, and in that time our sales strategy has changed beyond recognition.
What started off almost entirely as a brand awareness and networking drive, has become a relationship-driven account management strategy, harnessing the power of customer satisfaction, positive reviews, and social proof, to make it easier for prospective customers to say yes.
Some businesses may have an extremely desirable or niche product, so the sales strategy could largely be focused on ensuring new customers ‘find’ the business and that there is a strong inbound sales function.
Depending on the size of the business the marketing team and their operations may be included within the sales strategy, but in any event the sales tactics, sales process, and marketing outputs need to be tightly aligned.
The most effective sales strategies will build in periodic reviews of the wider business model, and allow space for rapid adaptation of feedback from the sales team (or customers) if the current strategy isn’t working.
What makes a powerful sales strategy?
Depending on the size and complexity of the sales operations within a business, a sales strategy could either be the work of a single individual and focus on one or two key elements, or a multi-faceted, cross-department effort that requires a small army to implement.
What every successful sales strategy has in common, however, is the quality of the research that is performed.
This could cover:
✅ Thorough review of existing customers (spend analysis, share of wallet etc)
✅ Analysis of current sales process
✅ Skills review /performance review of sales team
✅ Assess online sales performance (if relevant)
✅ Impact of sales initiatives
✅ Sales goals
✅ Conversion rates by lead type
✅ Effectiveness and utilisation of sales CRM
✅ Outbound strategy
Start with a SWOT analysis
Understanding what is currently working well and where there are opportunities, will help govern the areas that need to be addressed by the sales strategy.
A SWOT analysis covering a broad scope will help ensure that sales doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and that any changes suggested by the sales strategy support the wider business strategy.
For example, a SWOT analysis could identify that a competitor has been making inroads into a key market sector.
The sales strategy would then need to consider what could be done to counter this and whether it was viable to do so (based on competitive analysis, how much revenue was at stake, the long-term profitability of the product or service, as well as internal and external obstacles to taking on the competitor).
Bring sales and marketing together
Whether in a large corporation or a small business, it’s critically important that sales reps are aware of what marketing is doing and vice versa.
In the research phase of creating a sales strategy, simply bringing members of the team together to discuss successes, failures, initiatives and frustrations will shed light on many factors that could be key to determining what opportunities or challenges need to be addressed.
Ensure CEO sponsorship
This could almost be applied to any significant transformation within a business of any size but it bears repeating – if resources (whether financial or time) are going to be spent in pursuit of a new or improved strategy.
It is vital that the CEO understands the rationale behind the work, the benefits of executing it (and the risks of not), as well as a top-level view of the resources required to deliver it (new CRM, sales training etc)
How to ensure buy-in
As with all efforts to influence, it is important to deliver the message in the language that is spoken by the intended audience.
For example, a CFO or FD may be interested in how the strategy will give the business more pricing power (and therefore increase margins).
Operational leaders may be more concerned about how the potential for increased customer throughput is going to be managed.
The sales team might wonder how they will benefit if they are instrumental in delivering a successful sales strategy.
Do we even need a sales strategy?
The simple (and surprising) answer is – not always.
Plenty of businesses will be thriving without having a formal sales strategy.
Now, this doesn’t mean that the way they operate couldn’t be described as a strategy, just that it hasn’t been captured in one place and defined as such.
However, if any of the following apply to your business, creating or reviewing a sales strategy would be advisable:
✅ Targeting aggressive revenue growth
✅ Conversion rate or margin dropping
✅ Annual revenue forecast reducing
✅ Competitors taking market share
✅ Planning IPO
✅ Looking to enter a new market
✅ Sales team underperforming
The above is not an exhaustive list of circumstances, but indicates the various scenarios where a sales strategy could benefit the wider business.
How does a sales strategy increase revenue?
There is no single method and it depends on the areas of the business that need to be addressed, but an effective strategy can have a direct and significant impact on revenue growth.
For example – a sales strategy may conclude that a focus on increasing retention is strategically important. If retention rates double as a result of the strategy and customer attrition currently costs £250k per year, this can be directly attributed.
If the process concludes that a particular team is not converting at the right level and diagnoses a program of sales training or product awareness, any subsequent increase in conversion rate can be classified as ROI on the strategy changes.
In larger businesses, the sales strategy may be responsible for penetration into completely new market sectors or product lines.
What’s the difference between a sales process and a sales strategy?
A sales process governs in granular detail what happens to an enquiry that is received, in terms of initial contact, logging, quoting, and following up.
It can also apply to outbound sales functions.
A sales strategy could incorporate reviewing the sales process (but won’t always) and has a far broader, longer-term, and more holistic remit.
What are some of the likely challenges?
Perhaps the most common hurdle to overcome (and from the sales force in particular), is fear. Fear of change. Fear of being made to look bad. Fear of being left behind.
Overcoming this is all about the messaging and the early engagement.
If the salespeople feel like they are a part of the solution as opposed to a part of the problem, and have an active stake in shaping the future sales activity, they will be far more likely to approach the change with enthusiasm as opposed to fear.
It’s possible that as the project develops, it will run out of steam. This is when the energy and commitment of the strategy owner is absolutely vital.
Keeping direct reports and the wider business updated about progress and quick wins can help to ensure momentum doesn’t wane.
Depending on the outcomes of the research, some individuals may begin to feel frustrated with the process or even its leader.
This could be because under-performance has been identified, or because changes made have resulted in new or additional workload.
Whatever the cause, ensuring that people feel heard and that the rationale behind any decisions is clearly explained will go a long way towards mitigating their frustration.
If your business is hitting consistent double digit growth, taking chunks or market share away from your competitors, and your biggest customers LOVE you – then you might not need to look at your sales strategy. For everyone else, why not lift the hood on your sales operation and see what might need a tune-up?
We’ve been helping businesses to transform their sales strategies for over a decade, so you won’t need to go it alone. Get in touch today for a free chat!