A sales strategy is the process of matching the business purpose or mission with a sales plan, then putting in place goals, metrics and sales tactics. The sales strategy will also map out courses of action and allocating resources to achieve the selected goals and tactics.
A sales strategy is really about answering the one critical question “What is the best most viable method for the business reach paying customers for the product or service? Is it sell to or sell through, direct or indirect?
Before a sales strategy addresses how the sales team will sell or, it must first address how customers are buying. Today customers are seizing the balance of power in the buyer-supplier relationship, more and more aspects of the sales process is being played out online, so companies need to structure the sales plans and resources for this new reality.
- “57% of the purchase decision is complete before a customer even calls a supplier.” (CEB)
- “67% of the buyer’s journey is now done digitally.” (SiriusDecisions)
Today’s selling reality.
Potential customers or prospects will have researched a supplier based on digital reach and industry influence before a sales rep ever gets to talk to them
Sales and marketing are now one team, an integrated “Smarketing” team that functions to target and acquire customers.
Understanding customers buying behaviour define the product offerings.
To sell more and win market share a business needs to offer more seamless customer service touch points through lower cost channels
Vanilla flavoured selling will disappear, sales teams need to be specialised, social enabled and multi-channel savvy.
Sales reps have to work at adding value in the sales process rather than just quote features and benefits.
Sales complexity and the sales process needs to be minimised to ensure selling costs are controlled in a tighter margin environment.
The key Sales Strategy Questions.
Asking and answering a series of sales strategy questions will help a business identify and take advantage of the best opportunities to sell better and more often. Also Sales leaders who acknowledge the new selling reality need to know how to answer questions like:
- Does the business have a market development lead strategy (selling more of same product to same/new customers) or a product development strategy (selling new products to same/new customers)?
- Who is the business selling to? Does it know which market segments have the best growth rates?
- What is the most effective means of reaching target customers and what is the cost in taking this route?
- How does marketing and sales share the workload and collaborate?
- How does the business equip the sellers (direct, indirect, partners) with the right content, expertise and skills to navigate the customers’ buying journey and then differentiate the business value proposition?
- Does the business collect and analyse data to forecast which products customers are likely to buy or trends developing?
- What is the most effective sales and distribution model?
“To compete in today’s customer educated world, companies got to have something different. The product must higher quality, easier to use, more convenient to buy, or a better fit than the competition.”
Sales Strategy Selection.
The sales strategy selection should cover what is the customer sweet spot, what are you offering them, sales deployment for customer coverage based on customer sweet spot, sales and marketing activities, what sales and marketing enables/tools will the business use, how you will manage and track performance against the goals.
- The target market. This is the customer selection, customer sweet spots where the sales and marketing focus will be.
Give it some detail. Once the target market has been defined, give it some detail. How big is it, profile of customers, buying preferences then create a hit list. The hit list should be number and data driven, do you have 100 or 1000 or 10,000 prospects on the list.
- Reaching the target market. What is the primary reach method or put another way “what is your customer acquisition plan”, is it on-line, social media, cold calling, partners, channel or networking?
Regardless of the method to reach paying customers, reaching the target audience takes “Smarketing”, sales and marketing working together on tactics like content marketing, social selling, industry influence, thought leadership, blogs, and whitepapers, audience reach on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn etc. Effective sales strategy using Smarketing means a business drives marketing qualified leads (MQL) and sales-qualified leads (SQL) into one sales funnel, then measures, monitors and ensures follow up on the leads generated for the business.
A business needs to map out the sales cycle and sales process. This is all about getting the sales team selling. The “Smarketing” effort should have a target of generating leads via inbound marketing, landing pages, request for information, social selling on LinkedIn and other social media sites, cold calling or field visits.
- Customer Nurturing. The sales process should be void of any unnecessary complexity or obstacles in customer interaction. The sales process has to include social selling, where the sales team gets engaged with social selling to the prospects. This stage is where prospective buyers are sourcing, digesting and reviewing information and content. A recent report by Act-On showed that 85% of Business-to-Business buyers said it takes three or more pieces of relevant content to help make a decision on progressing with a supplier. So, a business can lead nurture by influencing the buyer to take action by feeding them with relevant content on their terms or personalised preference.
Make sure the sales teams are delivering on what the marketing message promoted. Vanilla feature and benefit selling is gone, train the sales team to be industry experts, build the customer relationship. Don’t expect them to stay with you or use you for other needs if you are not taking the time to build a relationship with them. The sales process does not end with the sale.
- Collect and Analyse Data. This is one of the most critical aspects of a successful sales strategy. As a business moves forward with the sales plan it must collect, track and analyse how well the sales tactics, product offerings or pricing is working. Every sales rep to sales leader should be asking these questions:
- How did it go?
- What worked?
- What didn’t work?
- Did we hit the numbers?
Collecting the data gives the insights as to what works and what does not so a business can tweak the sales process.
So to recap, the Sales Strategy should cover:
Target Customer Profile – Customer Segmentation – Sales /Distribution Model – Sales Process Definition (i.e. Sales Cycle) – Sales Funnel Calculation – Pricing Strategy – Upselling and Cross selling Strategy
The actual Sales Plan Components should include:
Sales Materials – Content Materials – Sales Team – Smarketing, Sales Pipeline – Customer Nurturing and Channelling – Sales Cycle – Closing Techniques – Sales Forecast – Timeline – Budget
The challenge for sales leaders today is to better execute on their sales strategy. Buyers and business even consumers are going through changes in what they buy, how they buy, and what they are willing to pay for it. As buyers change how they buy, vendors need to change how they sell. The way a business sold its products or services is not going to cut it in the future. Sales strategies need to be nimble, social driven and customer lead. Now is the time to revisit and revise the sales strategy.