What goes into a sales strategy? That answer could change from year to year and even month to month. As sales and marketing methods grow and evolve, Google algorithms shift, new social media platforms get unveiled, and emergent tech changes how we live our lives, the world of sales must change as well.
You may look at your current strategy and see a dozen ways you could tweak it. You want it to be as good as possible, after all. Even more so, you want it to be perfect. How do you go about introducing a perfect sales strategy?
You can start with this article. It will act as a comprehensive resource for building your own effective sales strategy. As you read, you’ll learn the types of strategies you might use and the elements of a solid sales plan. We’ll even give you tips and advice on creating your own strategies for sales, including with CRM software.
Let’s get started.
What Is a Sales Strategy?
Before we can talk about what might go into your sales strategy, we want to clearly define what such a strategy is.
Here is a sales strategy definition. A sales strategy is the method your sales team utilizes to convert customers and make sales. Such a strategy might differ from company to company, but often not very drastically. Examples of these strategies include adjusting your polices on account management or altering your closing techniques. You may also adapt sales presentations, in-person pitching, or cold calling into your repertoire.
You can also break down your sales planning into four basic steps or stages:
- Identifying which contacts could become leads, thus driving awareness
- Connecting with leads and filtering them into qualified leads
- Exploring opportunities for conversions and sales
- Advising the lead on a purchasing decision so they can become customers
Image courtesy of HubSpot
Sales Strategy Types
Next, let’s talk about the types of sales strategies. To appeal to as many types of leads as possible, you might use an outbound or inbound strategy. Here’s more info about both types.
The first method involves the use of outbound sales. We’ve talked about the difference between outbound and inbound marketing before on this blog, and a similar premise works in sales. If you’re following outbound sales strategies, then you’re the one doing all the work and initiating.
Cold calling is the primary example of outbound sales. With cold calling, you dial the number of a lead you’ve never spoken to before. This person has never talked to you either, so there’s certainly some inherent risk. You have no idea how interested, if at all, the lead is in your company’s products or services. Still, it’s an integral part of your strategy since it can deliver results. Otherwise, salespeople wouldn’t do it anymore.
According to ResourcefulSelling, within the last year, a large percent of buyers (69 percent) were willing to talk on the phone with new salespeople.
Image courtesy of ResourcefulSelling
You’ll always come across stats and articles from salespeople and marketers saying cold calling is dead. That’s probably because it’s more convenient to stick to that belief because cold calling can be so uncomfortable. As a salesperson, you’re on the phone enough, so you will get used to it.
The next type of strategy you might employ for more sales is inbound selling. Instead of cold calling, with an inbound strategy, you have both warm and hot calling.
Warm calling is sort of more in the outbound category, but it’s often labeled as inbound sales, so we’ll stick with that as well. With a warm call, you’re still the one making the initial contact (hence why it’s like an outbound strategy). Instead of picking up the phone and talking to a total stranger, though, you email that stranger first.
You often have a brief message exchange, a little back and forth, but not much. Through email, you identified that the lead may have an interest or need for your products/services. Thus, you decide to move things along and speak to them on the phone. In some cases, they even scheduled a call with you via email.
With a warm call, the lead is already more receptive. You’re not taking time out of their busy day to try to sell to them like you are with a cold call. That’s good since that strategy isn’t very appreciated a lot of the time. A lead you’re warm calling wants to hear from you. They’re expecting it.
You want to give them the information they seek in this call. For instance, maybe they have questions about product specs or pricing. Answer those questions as best you can over the phone and then follow up with yet another email. If you don’t convince the lead to buy over the phone, then maybe that follow-up message will.
The best of the best in terms of inbound sales is a hot call. You don’t have to do much if any legwork this time around; it all comes down to the lead. That’s truly what inbound sales is. You put your message out, the lead sees it, and then they reach out to you.
Hot calls often occur after a lead has poked around your social media, your website, or your landing pages. They know a bit about you and may be ready to buy right away if you’re lucky. Even if they’re not quite eager to make a purchase, they may be on the verge. They just need more info and convincing from you first.
Developing a Sales Strategy
Okay, so you know more about outbound versus inbound selling, but the question remains: how to develop a sales strategy? There are seven steps or pillars you should follow to begin implementing an effective sales strategy for your own business.
Review the Numbers
Without clear data in front of you, it’s hard to say how good your sales methods already are and where you could stand to improve them. Who bought from you? What did they buy? How much? Was it a one-time purchase or did this customer become a regular? Who are your top buying customers and will they continue to buy this year and into the next?
Look into your sales team as well. Who sold the most and how often? How well did your team do overall? Who brought in the most repeat business?
You may find that you undersold, failing to crack your revenue goals. This happens, and it’s likely why you have decided to seek out a new strategy for more sales. It’s not anything to be ashamed of. It’s just an indicator that it’s time to revise, such as with the new strategy you’re about to build.
Make Customer Avatars
According to sales resource Alice Heiman, LLC, repeat clients drive most of our business. The company says that a portion of these repeat clients (20 percent) will account for most of our revenue (80 percent). That’s why it’s so important to look into your numbers and stats before you ever sit down and revise your selling strategy or create an entirely new one. You must be able to identify these very valuable customers of yours.
Can you find the magic 20 percent that bought from you the most often? These customers typically have the briefest sales cycles since they know just what they want. They also tend to not need a whole lot of influence to make a purchase.
Once you can identify these customers, you want to sit down and study their buyer behavior. Chances are, even though they’re your most valuable customers, they don’t all behave the exact same way. Good. That’s what you want.
Next, you should make customer avatars or profiles of each of these valuable purchasing customers. These become your measuring stick in which to assess each new incoming lead and potential customer. You can also sort leads and prospects based on their shopping behaviors into these avatars. It then becomes easier to sell to them, increasing your chances of closing the deal.
When making your customer avatar, you don’t only want to take buyer behavior into account. Yes, it’s an important metric, but far from the only one worth using. You also want to have as much information as possible to create your customer avatar or profile. This avatar should be like a real person, expect it’s actually an amalgamation of several people.
You need to know the general age range, marital status, job title, and lifestyle of each avatar. You should also identify their problems or pain points. This way, you can find ways to overcome them.
Here’s a pretty good template you can use as you craft your customer avatars.
Image courtesy of 30 Leads 30 Days
Once you’ve created a handful of avatars or profiles, pass them along to your fellow sales reps. The next time they identify someone who meets the criteria of the avatar, it becomes easier to sell to this person.
Do a SWOT Review
It’s time to turn inward again. Take a look at your company and determine where you are now versus where you’d like to be in the future. What’s the likelihood of bringing in new customers? How prepared are you for more customer demand? How many current accounts do you have that you could grow?
To answer those questions, you’ll have to do a SWOT review or analysis. SWOT is an abbreviation for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.
Image courtesy of Business-to-you.com
When reviewing your company’s strengths, keep these points in mind:
- Count mostly tangible things, such as technologies, new products, capital, property, etc.
- Look at your staff as well to see who’s doing the best job
- Consider what makes you better than your competitors and why
- Also look at your company wins, either for the last year or overall
Next, move on to your weaknesses, weighing the following qualities:
- The clarity of your selling propositions or lack thereof
- The limitations you have, including resources and other areas
- Ways in which the competition excels compared to you
- Any other area in which your company is behind or lacking
As you move on to O for opportunities, think carefully about this:
- How much media coverage and press your company could get and for what reasons
- The future need for your services and/or products
- How many competitors exist in your neighborhood
- Which markets you could target that are a little less crowded
Completing your SWOT review, assess the threats to your company in the following way:
- What your current customer attitude is and whether that might change
- The impact that negative press could have on your company and why that might occur
- How regulatory environments can affect your business (just think of the GDPR from last year)
- How new competitors could come in and steal the spotlight
A SWOT review won’t do you any good if you’re not completely honest. It’s easy to flub over the weaknesses and threats part and play up your strengths and opportunities. However, if you’re not realistic in your assessment, then you might as well skip this whole step.
Make Your Market Plan
After finishing with your SWOT review, you can move onto your market strategy or plan. Stay in that introspective mindset, asking yourself more honest questions about the present and future of your business. For instance, what methods can you use to get your current accounts growing even further? Could you start a referral system if you don’t already have one?
What kind of revenue do you expect to make from these accounts along with the products and services you already sell? What about expanding to other, unchartered territories? Could you make more money with them by selling them your current products or services? How much money?
Plan Your Goals for Revenue
Answering the above questions will allow you to create realistic goals for your sales company. While it’s always nice to chase lofty dreams of very high revenue, if that’s not attainable, then you’re wasting the time and effort of each member of your sales team.
Review all the information you have to this point to decide what the appropriate quotas should look like.
Have a Growth Timeline
You also want to create a timeline for the growth of your sales team. You might mark this by how many new products or services they sold or how many new markets they reached. You could focus more on conversions as your main metric.
Deploy the Strategy
Once you know where to position your company, it’s time to let loose with your sales strategy and test it out. You should have drawn out a functional sales funnel for the members of your sales team to follow. They should have specific, targeted markets to chase after with clear goals in mind.
That doesn’t mean there won’t be some hiccups along the way. With a clearly mapped out plan, though, it’s easy to overcome most hurdles and meet your goals left and right.
What Is the Difference Between a Sales Process and an Inbound Sales Strategy?
Earlier, we discussed inbound sales. To recap, this inbound strategy involves both warm and hot calling. With warm calling, you email with a lead first before speaking to them on the phone. In instances of hot calling, the lead reaches out to you via phone with no scheduled consultation beforehand.
How does this differ from a sales process? To answer that question, we have to clearly delineate between such a process and a sales methodology.
Let’s start with the sales process. A sales process is like the map your sales team follows to guide a lead through the customer journey, converting them in the process. Such a process often differs from your business to that of your competitors and even your competitor’s competitors. Sometimes you may change up this process somewhat if you introduce a new product or service.
The sales process influences the types of prospects you need. That’s an important distinction to make. You should not start your sales strategy by searching for potential customers and then let them shape your sales process. Make your sales process first and allow that to influence the leads you work with.
Okay, so that’s a sales process. What about a sales methodology?
Well, if the sales process involves the entire customer journey from beginning to end, then the sales methodology is just a piece of that pie. It zeroes in on a particular part of the sales process.
Here are some examples of sales methodologies your company might use with explanations of each:
- SNAP selling: Jill Konrath came up with the premise of SNAP selling, which she outlines in a book on the topic. It has several components, such as:
- Raising your priorities to meet those of the buyer
- Aligning core beliefs with business objections to influence more people to buy
- Becoming invaluable, in that salespeople must be experts on their products and services to inspire trust in buyers
- Staying simple to encourage people to buy
- Conceptional selling: Stephen E. Heiman and Robert B. Miller created the idea of conceptual selling. It involves uncovering a service or product concept in the opinion of a lead. To glean these concepts, the salesperson must mostly listen instead of talk. Once they understand the lead or prospect better, they can introduce some products or services to solve their problems.
- CustomerCentric selling: Michael Bosworth’s CustomerCentric selling is a method of sales that seeks to position salespeople as collaborative consultants. It has several pillars for success:
- Empowering rather than pushing the lead to make a purchasing decision
- Tailoring a sales cycle to the buyer instead of the salesperson or sales team
- Promoting quality versus quantity in sales
- Displaying product usage to make sales
- Focusing on selling more to decision-makers than product users
- Addressing a buyer’s problems via a product or service while building a professional relationship
- Asking specific questions targeted to the buyer
- Having conversations instead of being presentation-based with a sales approach
- MEDDIC: Next, we’ve got MEDDIC. This means Metrics, Economic Buyer, Decision criteria, Decision process, Identify pain, and Champion. It’s a means of qualifying leads to decide the worthiest ones to work with. These qualified leads have a better chance of buying from you.
- Inbound selling: We’ve already talked about inbound selling, but it is a strategy as part of your sales methodology.
- Solution selling: With solution selling, you’re focusing on creating a solution for the customer. It’s not about pushing a product because it’s new and available. Instead, you listen to the customer, address their concerns, and then position your products and services as the solution.
- The Sandler System: Way back in 1967, David Sandler created the eponymous Sandler System. There are seven stages to the lifecycle:
- Developing rapport and a professional bond with the prospect
- Planning for an up-front contract
- Speaking with the prospect to learn their pain points
- Use the up-front contract to make a budget that fits the prospect’s lifestyle and needs
- Score the prospect or do other segmenting to determine if it’s worth going further with them
- If you decide to continue working with the prospect, then you now want to present your products and services to the prospect as the sixth stage of the sales process
- Close the deal
- E.A.T. selling: Another acronym, N.E.A.T. selling focuses on the needs, economics, access, and timeline of the buyer.
- SPIN selling: Neil Rackham created the concept of SPIN selling in 1988. It stands for situation, problem, implication, and need/payoff. SPIN selling is all questions-based. With the situation and problem parts, you can determine if your products or solutions fit the buyer’s needs. The implication part is about how urgent the situation is. The need/payoff part of SPIN selling deals with buyer interest.
- The Challenger Sale: Last, we’ve got the Challenger Sale, a sales methodology from Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson. Like many other sales methodologists, they wrote a book about it. With the Challenger Sale, it’s about the three Ts: teaching, tailoring and taking control. You teach your lead about your products/services, tailor your own sales process, and then control conversations with your lead. There are five profiles for B2B sales representatives that Dixon and Adamson defined in the book:
- The Problem Solver: As the Problem Solver, this sales rep leaves no problem unsolved. They also get back to stakeholders and anyone swiftly with focus on the details.
- The Challenger: The Challenger has a great grasp on customer business. They don’t mind pushing and debating with their customers; in fact, they even enjoy it. Their view of the world could be labeled as different.
- The Relationship Builder: The Relationship Builder likes to have a professional relationship with all his or her prospects. They use internal advocacy as well.
- The Lone Wolf: Preferring solitude over working with a team, the Lone Wolf isn’t as easy to manage as other sales reps. They still do get the job done, though. They’re quite self-assured and trust their instincts over those of others.
- The Hard Worker: The last profile is the Hard Worker. This sales rep wants to develop personally and likes hearing feedback in which to do so. They can motivate themselves and won’t give up without a fight.
The Elements of a Sales Strategy Plan
It’s time now to build a sales strategy plan. While we’ve provided a lot of great information thus far, you may wonder how to begin with such a plan. We’ve created a sample sales plan you can follow, so watch this section closely.
Your sales action plan should have seven steps, give or take. Let’s dive into these seven steps now.
Creating Sales Goals
No sales action plan is complete without sales goals. You need actionable goals your sales team can work towards and eventually achieve. As we’ve said, you need to keep a realistic view when making these goals.
Some sales goals you might focus on include:
- Spreading your income to more than one stream
- Making X amount of sales for a new service or product
- Boosting revenue from a specific audience subset
- Holding steady with revenue from current customers
- Increasing conversions
- Setting up financial goal tiers like sales numbers
Next, you must budget for your upcoming new strategy. This is an internal company budget and should account for your operational tools, the size of your team, and your business overhead. You may adjust this budget throughout the life of your sales campaign or leave it as is.
Crafting Your Perfect Customer Profile
We already provided a sales plan example of how to make a customer profile earlier in this article. You may make more than one persona or customer avatar; in fact, you should, as it assists the sales team in selling to more than one type of person.
Mapping the Customer Journey
Speaking of sales strategy examples, here’s what a customer journey might look like for your company:
- Awareness stage: At the beginning of the customer journey, the lead doesn’t know much if anything about your company. Thus, they decide to do some digging and look into your brand and how it operates. The lead may subscribe to your newsletter, look at your website, read through your blog, and visit your social media profiles.
- Consideration stage: Next, the lead progresses to the consideration stage. With this, you use such things as lead scoring, segmenting, and other means of lead qualification to determine how likely the lead is to make a purchase.
- Decision stage: Your lead now reaches the decision stage. You make a tailored offer and hopefully, the lead decides to accept it.
Establishing Your Competitive Advantage
The next part of your strategy for sales involves your competitive advantage. Namely, what is yours? To determine where your competitive advantage may lie, think of factors like the following:
- The promptness of your service
- The quality of your curated products or services
- The convenience of purchasing from you
- The uniqueness of what you sell
Making Your Marketing Strategy
Sales teams and marketers go together like peanut butter and jelly. Now’s the time to involve your marketing team as you create a workable marketing strategy. The marketers at your company may use traditional media, email marketing, or social media to promote your products and services.
Putting Forth Your Action Plan
With all those gears set into motion, you need an action plan as well. This allows you to execute certain elements of your sales strategy at specific times to leverage your company for success. An action plan also ensures you’re meeting your goals as projected.
How to Create a Sales Strategy Using CRM Software
What if you use a customer relationship management or CRM software? For instance, there’s the sales CRM offered at EngageBay, your all-in-one sales, and marketing suite. Could you combine this CRM with the selling strategies we’ve discussed thus far?
It’s absolutely possible to link your CRM to your strategic sales plan. In fact, we’d recommend it. Here are our preferred methods for marrying CRM to your sales strategy.
Begin with Lead Scoring
First, you want to kick things off with lead scoring. This is something we’ve talked about many times on both the blog and even in this article. You assign a lead a score based on their behavior. Their scores can be positive if they do things like subscribe to a newsletter or make a purchase. You may have to deduct points for abandoned carts and the like.
With EngageBay’s lead scoring, you can gauge both the interest levels and the fit quality of all leads that come your way. You may review whether the lead communicates with sales reps, if they click links, whether they visit your sites, and if they open emails to qualify or disqualify them.
Sort Your Sales Documents
You want all relevant sales documents in one convenient place. These docs include your object management templates, sales templates, emails, sales scripts, and more. With CRM, you can view and track these sales documents on all sorts of devices, from smartphones to laptops, tablets, and desktop computers.
Begin Your Sales Campaign
You’re now ready to launch your sales campaign. With CRM like that at EngageBay, the handy workflows will allow you to automate certain elements of your strategy and implement others when necessary.
Improve and Learn with Reports
With your sales campaign live, you’ll want to track every last result. Did your strategy increase your sales, add new customers, and convert more leads? The analytics reports a CRM like EngageBay’s can generate, give you clear-cut results you can use for future campaigns. Whether your strategy needs some minor tweaking or a major overhaul, knowing that all starts with analytics reporting.
A sales strategy converts customers and increases revenue, so it’s not exactly something you can afford to get wrong. With the information presented in this detailed guide, it’s possible for you to revise and even rewrite your own strategy for more success within your company. Good luck!