A crucial aspect of your company’s success is having a clear sales strategy in place.
So What Is A Sales Strategy?
A sales strategy consists of a series of activities which if executed effectively will position your company's brand/ product to gain competitive advantage.
Successful strategies will also help your sales force to focus on target customers and communicate with them in relevant, meaningful ways.
The important thing to remember is to keep it simple and concise.
It needs to be a working document which you refer to a constant basis. Not a huge tome which you spend months writing and then file away in a drawer, never to be seen again.
It’s also a great way to ensure you know exactly what direction you are going in and how you are going to get there. More importantly it clearly identifies what you want to achieve and helps you measure your success.
Every business needs to sell and every sales team should have a sales plan outlining their goals, best practices, and processes designed to align the team and create consistency.
Daunted at the thought of it? Well don’t be.
The good news is there are a logical set of steps to work through and by following this process you will be well on your way to increasing you sales success.
How to Develop Your Sales Strategy
1. Analyse Historic Sales and Revenue
The first thing you need to look at is how your business has been performing.
Some things to consider:
- Where did your sales and revenue come from?
- What % of your sales revenue is from existing customers and how much is new customers?
- How long was your average sales cycle from the initial lead to closing the sale?
- Who were your best /worst customers and why?
- What are your best lead sources?
- Why did you lose the opportunities you think you should have won?
- Could your close rate be improved?
The important thing is that you capture all relevant sales information and identify what you need to do differently to improve things. Start thinking about the improvements you’d like to make for the year ahead and what changes need to happen.
2. Analyse Your Market
So you have analysed your historic sales and have a good idea of what has and hasn’t worked for your business. The next step is to identify why customers need your company. Who are they? What are their typical problems/ issues/ challenges? How can your business help to solve these problems for them? What makes your business stand out from the competition?
Identifying why customers use your business will help you to zone in on your target audience. Develop a picture of who your typical customers are (let's call them Client Personas) and map out their sales journey? Prospects tend to take lots of tiny steps along the way to becoming a buyer - knowing what these steps are will help you to understand your market better!
3. Know Your Competitors
Too often businesses focus on their own activities and pay little attention to what their competitors are doing. Don’t fall into this trap. Be aware of who your top 5 competitors are. Conduct research on them and have a look at their website and their social media presence. Don’t be put off if you think they do some things better than you, learn from it.
It is crucial you know how your business compares to them, what makes you different and what they are doing better than you. If customers aren’t buying from you chances are they are buying from one of your competitors. If you want to grow your business and increase sales you need to be regularly comparing your business to others within the same sector.
4. Have a Clear Vision for Your Business
Before you start making plans about how you are going to generate sales you need to be clear on what your business vision is. Don’t be afraid to think big (provided you are being realistic)! Focus on how you want your business to look in 12 months time and what you need to do to achieve this.
If you have a marketing team ask them to help, if not, talk to your partners or directors and build out a vision for your business now. Get your vision down on paper and try to keep it to one paragraph and definitely no more than a page.
As part of the process of building your strategy for sales you should carry out a SWOT Analysis to determine your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. This helps you to establish important elements such as the best places to pursue business and any weaknesses you need to address.
5. Identify Goals for the Current Year
You will only ever be measured by your current performance, no matter how your business performed previously. It is therefore important that you map out your goals for the next 12 months ahead.
Ideally this exercise should be done at the end of your financial year so you are focused on what you need to achieve in the next year (break it down into a quarterly basis as well).
The key thing is that each goal needs to be specific and measurable. For example, you may have a goal to achieve 115% of the projected sales target in the next year.
To achieve this goal you would need to think of:
- What sales target do you need to achieve for the year?
- How are you going to break the target across the 4 quarters?
- Are there certain activities which need done e.g. recruitment of sales team to achieve this target?
- How will you measure performance on a monthly basis?
It’s important that you don’t come up with too many goals. Think about what is preventing you achieve your vision and identify the core 3-4 priorities to focus on in the first quarter. It’s much easier to achieve results when you are focused however please note that attempting to achieve too many goals all at the same time will overwhelm you. Phase your goals across the year and across each quarter to maximise the effectiveness of your strategy increasing sales.
6. Establish Sales Objectives
Once you have your key goals identified the next set is to identify sales objectives for each of your products/ services. What do you want to sell, who is your target market and what are the timescales involved? Decide where your focus will lie - whether this is on a specific product/ service or target customer, and what needs to change for you to meet these objectives.
For each sales objective, list the steps you will have to take in order to meet them. Think SMART when you are coming up with them:
For example: “Achieve 10% increase on Q4/15 sales by Q1/16”.
7. Know Your KPI’s
Having identified your top line goals for the business think about which Key Performance Indicators (KPI) are appropriate? What do you need to do really well to succeed? A good KPI’s list will probably number no more than 10 of your most important business metrics so you can manage the process, measure it and track performance.
Examples of good KPI’s include:
- Total revenue
- Units sold
- Number of leads generated
- Lead response time
- Conversion rates
Identify the KPI’s relevant for your business and ensure you are able to track these on a regular basis.
8. Document Your Sales Strategy
There’s no point spending lots of time identifying what your strategy is going to be if you don’t document it and refer to it on a constant basis. No matter how robust your strategy is things change and you will need to be able to adapt it on a regular basis.
Once your strategy is mapped out start using it! Refer to your goals and plans in weekly meetings, track and review sales performance constantly and adapt actions when required.
Make sure you prioritise your actions otherwise you will never be able to achieve anything. Break down your strategy over 4 quarters. It’s much easier to identify what you need to achieve and how you have performed over a 3 month period and it also let’s you revise your plans for the next quarter ahead, rather than waiting until the end of the year to discover you could have made vital changes much earlier.
9. Develop a Sales Process
Having identified your goals and objectives you need to have a clear sales process in place for everyone to follow. Think of it like an exam. To get the best results your team needs to be trained (and coached) so that everyone follows the same steps to achieve the best results. If you don’t have a clearly mapped out process, everyone will do things differently with very mixed results.
Key things to think about:
- Is there a clear step by step sales process to follow? What is it and is everyone trained on it?
- How do Marketing and Sales work together to share information?
- What marketing collateral do you use and how do you ensure sales are using it correctly?
- Does everyone follow the same process for capturing and qualifying leads?
- Have you a clear proposal process? Can customers understand the jargon you use?
- Do you have a CRM (customer relationship management) system?
- What sales documentation do you use? Are there standard presentations/ templates?
Spending time mapping out your sales process will ensure consistency and will also allow you to identify which parts of the process are proving the most difficult to implement and follow. It will also provide an added bonus as a great training tool for onboarding new employee’s.
10. Get Started
No matter how good your strategy is results won’t happen without focused activity. Once you have a clearly mapped out strategy share it with your team and get everyone to commit to achieving it! Provided your plans are realistic and supported by appropriate resources (people and budget), you need to start “doing”.
Too many times businesses either have a plan of where they want to be going but don’t share with their team and then get frustrated when results aren’t delivered. Be clear. Buy into the full plan. But most importantly start delivering.
11. Measure Performance
Fantastic - you’ve shared your strategy for increasing sales and are now working on the plans you have identified. But you have only just started! You need to measure performance on a continual basis and have clear metrics in place to report on.
Make sure your team knows how performance is being measured and that your sales metrics are clear and easy to track. Reward the team when objectives are met and share success. Equally when targets and objectives are behind plan call out the issues and be prepared to change tactics in order to get the sales operation back on track.
So What Next?
The most important step is to jump in and get something down on paper! There’s lots to do and it can be easy to spend time thinking about what needs done rather than just getting on with doing it.
Have a go at each of the steps above and remember that it’s easier to revise an existing strategy, as opposed to starting off with a blank canvas. It might not be perfect first time but draft something to get started and before you know it your plan will have evolved into a highly effective strategy for sales delivering on the stated objectives you company wants to acheive.
I would love to here your views on the steps above and find out what has and has not worked in your business? Feel free to add your comments below or share with your social networks using the links above.
Alternatively, if you would like help to get your strategy started, please feel free to drop me a line. I’d love to hear from you!