You may have an outstanding product or solution and an elaborate marketing strategy, but the success of your business depends the most on how well you have crafted your sales strategy. After all, selling your product or service is the only thing that will bring in revenue, right?
Unfortunately, sometimes we forget that a great sales strategy is the key to grow our business and neglect to focus on designing such a strategy.
As a Customer-Centric Growth, Sales, Marketing, and Digitisation Strategist who has developed several sales strategies during the years, I have realised that even businesses that give their sales strategy the attention it deserves see varied results. This is because the quality and outline of each sales strategy can vary considerably depending on the skill and experience of the sales manager who designs it.
I have therefore developed a sales strategy outline that you or your sales team can use as a template to develop a better and more efficient sales strategy for yourself. Do remember that the framework below will need to be tailored to your organization.
What is a sales strategy?
Let’s first talk about what exactly is a strategy.
There are many definitions of strategy but one of my favorites is this one by Michael D. Watkins:
“A business strategy is a set of guiding principles that, when communicated and adopted in the organization, generates a desired pattern of decision making. A strategy is therefore about how people throughout the organization should make decisions and allocate resources in order [to] accomplish key objectives. A good strategy provides a clear roadmap, consisting of a set of guiding principles or rules, that defines the actions people in the business should take (and not take) and the things they should prioritize (and not prioritize) to achieve desired goals.”
Drawing from this definition, a sales strategy can be defined as:
“A sales strategy outlines the detailed steps businesses take to pitch and sell products or services to targeted customers in a way that communicates that their product or service delivers better value to the customer than those offered by their competitors.”
The sales strategy is therefore based on your value proposition – the reason why a customer should choose your product or service over that of your competitors.
Keeping all this in mind, here is my eight-step guide towards designing a sales strategy that will show great results.
1. Decide your ‘Go to customers’
If you are reading this article, you are most likely to have already identified a few customer segments that you are targeting.
My general experience is that often both sales and marketing try to reach too many segments at the same time. I would caution you against this approach as it spreads you out too thin, leading to a lack of focus, which means you are unable to become the expert you need to be to sell your product or solution successfully.
If you focus on a narrow customer segment instead, you will better understand your prospective customer. You can learn about the customer’s jobs to be done, expected gains, their pains and their buying process. This knowledge will help you anticipate any questions during the sales process and allow you to pitch your message to the customer better. This improved communication will help the customer recognise the value your product or solution brings them, making them more receptive to your sales pitch and more likely to close the deal.
The search for the right customer segment(s) may take time and can require some experimentation. That’s perfectly alright. Just make sure you add this step to your strategy.
If you are a smaller team, you could discuss with your team members what segment of customers most need your product or solution and/or are most likely to benefit by using it.
Once you have this internal discussion, decide who exactly is this “Go To Customer”. Once you have zeroed in on this customer, make sure you document and describe this customer in detail. What does their world look like? What are their pain points? What gains are they looking for? What value are they trying to provide to their customers? Why are your solutions relevant to them? Any information that describes the “Go to customer” is valuable for the sales team.
Here are two important points to remember in this context:
- Once you have decided who your “Go to customer” is, it does not mean that you will not sell to “non-Go to customers”. It merely means that you will focus your resources on a specific customer who finds real value in your offering.
- “Go to customers” include your current customers. Make sure that when you write your strategy, you include how you will develop existing customer relationships and how you plan to increase engagement with them.
2. Analyze your specific market
Great! Now you know whom you should target. You now need to analyze the market itself. Ask yourself these questions: How many target customers do you have in each region? In each country? For example, do you have several hundred in one state or maybe only two? What areas are most developed when it comes to your target customer? Analyze the data and make suggestions about what your target markets should be.
3. ‘Go to customer’ value proposition and storytelling
When you know exactly whom you will sell to and where, it is time to set the value proposition for this specific ‘Go to customer’. What value do you deliver to this particular customer? Which one of the customer’s problems are you helping to solve? What bundles of products and services are you offering? Which of their needs are you satisfying? Why are you relevant to them?
To develop a Value Proposition for B2B take a look at my detailed article – How to Create a Strong Value Proposition for B2B – describing exactly how to do it.
The next step is to work on really good storytelling and building up the interest in your product or solution. This is very difficult and takes time and resources. But here again I have written an article to guide my readers: How You Create Storytelling Sales Presentations.
4. ‘Go to customer’ relationships
Create a strategy and idea for how you will create and maintain your customer relationships.
For this, here are some questions you need to ask yourself: What type of relationship does your ‘Go to customer’ expect you to establish and maintain with them? Which ones have you established? How are they integrated with the rest of your business model? How costly are they?
As an example, you may decide to have a very personal relationship. Perhaps you choose to set up a support site to help customers in need, or you decide that your salespeople will call the customer every quarter to make sure they are alright. You could also decide to be more hands-on and really help your customers implement your solution step by step.
On the other hand, you could also choose to have a less personal connection with your customers. In this model, your customers may have to implement the solution themselves and you only offer support via chat.
No matter what you decide to do, make sure it is a good fit for your strategy.
5. Key activities
Your focus and your message are established, which is great, and now you need action.
Create a plan and list what your key activities will be.
Ask yourself: What key activities does your sales strategy require? Are there key activities missing? What key activities do your customer relationships require? What activities do you need from your marketing, product development, and service departments to help you close deals? What activities will you hold to reach customers? How will you make them interested in your product?
Some activities may be one-off projects such as creating improved onboarding instructions, while others can be more long-term and continuous such as setting up how your salespeople will follow up with customers every quarter to check in to see how they are doing.
Your sales strategy doesn’t run itself and you need to make sure that all your activities are listed and there is a plan to have it all working.
6. Key resources
Every great plan needs resources in the form of money, time, competent people and so on. Your plan is no different. Ask yourself what key resources does your sales strategy require. List the resources you need to be successful. Are there resources missing? If anything is missing, create a plan outlining how you should get them.
Do remember that the word “resources” doesn’t refer to only money. You may decide, for instance, to design a great onboarding experience for your customers. For this, you will need really good material such as a guide/instructions about your product or solution that you can share with your customers, a specific type of person and skills to perhaps hold demos or help your customer initially, and most likely different IT solutions.
Plan carefully. This is a key stage where you will most likely have a few important realisations. Perhaps you will concede that you do not have the resources for your original and more elaborate plans, and you need to modify your key activities and target markets accordingly. Perhaps you will decide that you should target only customers in the city you are based in instead of the entire country. Or you will decide to go 100% digital because it’s cheaper.
7. Sales target
Build your sales target both for potential prospects and for current customers. Make sure you add details about how many sales deals you are planning to develop and close in each region. You must draw up a timeline that states how many prospects you need to contact each month, how many customers you will contact each month and how many deals you expect to close.
8. Build an amazing presentation
If you have followed steps one to seven, you have by now developed a detailed and intelligent sales strategy that is certain to bring you success.
You are in the driving seat of your sales strategy, and it is now time to share your insights with your organisation. Create an attractive power-point presentation of your sales strategy and present it to your manager. They can share this presentation with other departments so that everyone in the organisation is on the same page regarding the strategy and can pitch in with the key activities and key resources you need from them.
That’s it for now.
If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I love to receive any comments on how this article helped you or suggestions on how it can be improved to help more people. If you need help with your sales & marketing strategy you can always contact Up Strategy Lab, my company where we deliver real strategies to scale businesses.