Learn How to Increase Your Sales for B2B Businesses – Sales Strategies
Your sales strategy development, sales plans, and programs are what kept the lights on. It really doesn’t matter if you are in a for-profit or non-profit.
Your sales strategy elements might be called sales quota, sales forecast or fundraising goals it’s all sales.
In fact, when was the last time you tried to persuade someone?
Maybe a movie, a dinner, a date, or a $500,000 deal. So when I hear I’m not in sales, we all are.
You can find a sales strategy template and sales strategy plans that may or may not be the center for sales strategy in your organization.
Overview of Sales Strategy Development
In competitive markets, there is increasing pressure on sales organizations to increase sales. Your sales strategies are critical.
Your sales strategy development involves many elements. The sales strategy in marketing needs to map to the buyer’s journey but also the marketing and sales funnels. If you don’t do this you confuse both the prospect and internal staff.
As deals become fewer and smaller, sales cycles get longer, and competition intensifies, I have observed a tendency for sales organizations to unleash a flurry of activity. Often, however, increasing sales activity without a focused sales strategy will prove unproductive.
Through my experience in sales and client work, I have found that profitability can be enhanced through a more focused sales approach when aligned with account-based marketing and marketing automation.
Sales Strategy Definition
A sales strategy is a plan by a business or individual on how to go about selling products and services and increasing profits. Sales strategies are typically developed by a company’s sales director, along with its sales, marketing, and advertising managers.
Leverage the Marketing Spending Approach to Prime the Sales Pipeline
To help improve your sales strategy start by applying a better marketing spending model to the B2B sales function, marketers can identify bottlenecks at the various stages of the sales funnel: awareness, consideration, active discussion, proposal, negotiation, closure, and repurchase.
The identification of bottlenecks is the first step toward reversing the downward trend in sales and profits.
Keys to Sales Growth: Segmented Selling and Account-based Marketing with Focused Actions Across the Sales Pipeline
The most important insights come from understanding how bottlenecks along the sales funnel differ by customer segment. The sheer activity aimed at the entire market – no matter how vigorously it is executed – will not produce the desired results.
4 Sales Strategies: How to Increase Sales Pipeline
Hyper-competitive marketing and economic downswings place increasing pressure on sales organizations. As customers scrutinize all spending, there are fewer deals and smaller purchase sizes.
Painstakingly cautious customer purchase decisions lead to longer sales cycles and higher sales expenses. Price pressures and competition intensify as players become more aggressive and compete for the same set of small deals. And big players continue to get bigger as customers turn more to the “known” than to new/innovative players.
In response to difficult environments such as these, I have observed a tendency for sales organizations to unleash a flurry of activity. Often, however, this activity is unproductive.
While sales reps and managers are making more calls this is not an effective sales strategy. Just
As deals get smaller, sales reps must apply more discipline in deciding which deals to pursue. Following up on endless small deals with razor-thin margins will only put further downward pressure on the bottom line.
And as sales cycles lengthen, attempts to shorten the process with more aggressive calling patterns will only result in irritated customers, delayed sales processes, or getting “thrown out of the game” altogether.
Through my experience and client work, I have found that profitability can be enhanced through a more focused sales approach like account-based marketing.
For example, by focusing on finding new opportunities to expand the share of wallet of high-growth customers, deploying sales resources whose skills align with these opportunities, and eliminating unproductive activities of sales resources, marketers are taking the steps necessary to unlock latent productivity and dramatically reverse downward trends in sales and profits.
Leverage the Marketing Spending Approach to Prime the Sales Process
I have found a useful tool that can provide the sales team with the insights they need to focus on resources and tailor their sales approach on a segment-by-segment basis.
An aligned marketing process model is a tool for diagnosing specific bottlenecks in the way of greater usage of – and loyalty to – the brand.
The application of a rigorous understanding of the bottlenecks along this funnel – and their underlying causes – enables marketers to develop creative, targeted approaches to overcome obstacles to growth.
Most importantly, this understanding enables them to target spending to eliminate the highest-value bottlenecks in the highest-potential segments.
As a result, they can build sales quickly and effectively. For example, many new brands face bottlenecks at the awareness stage, particularly for new entries due to the sufficient intensity or creative appeal in marketing communications.
In the B2B sales function, bottlenecks can develop at any of the stages in the sales process – awareness, consideration, active discussion, proposal, negotiation, closure, and repurchase(see Exhibit 1).
An example of a
A bottleneck to moving from awareness to consideration is typically one of access, which is the result of not knowing the right people in the customer’s organization. In subsequent stages, a lack of sales rep ability to discuss business issues at the executive level usually prevents movement from consideration to active discussion.
Getting on the customer’s shortlist requires a responsive sales process and well-tuned negotiation tools. Finally, moving from closure to repurchase requires outstanding customer service, a convenient repurchase cycle, and proactive/early notification of contract expirations.
Segmented Selling and Focused Actions Along the Funnel – Keys to Sales Growth
The most important insights come from understanding how bottlenecks along the sales funnel differ by customer segment (see Exhibit 2). Understand this and you are on your way to an improved sales
For example, the sales organization at a large high-tech company evaluated the sales funnel for its top 50 accounts. The evaluation indicated that the company was not being asked to bid on as much as 40 percent of opportunities in these accounts.
When the company was invited to submit a proposal, however, it was enjoying a 50 percent close ratio. Still, the overall share of wallet from these accounts was only about 15 percent.
Closer scrutiny revealed that account managers were more focused on retention of existing revenue streams and managing contract implementation than on identifying new opportunities across other divisions of their accounts.
As might have been expected, the compensation structure for the sales organization favored the perpetuation of existing revenue streams over the growth of new ones.
Additionally, the sales organization suffered from a lack of relationship-building skills when faced with new buyers, especially ones outside of the traditional buyer set like IT professionals or maybe CFOs.
Understanding these bottlenecks enabled the company to deploy a targeted approach to address the problem areas. For example, management deployed teams whose sole responsibility involved growing new business by increasing the number of conversations with key decision-makers.
Team specialists like sales development reps (SDRs) provided expert support to generalist reps who pitched solutions to non-traditional buyers. Dedicated market development reps (MDRs) can be responsible for managing retention revenue streams.
These actions resulted in a share-of-wallet increase of 8 to 20 percent in mid-sized and larger accounts. Our teams and IBM and Sun Microsystem used these models and it works.
In addition, small businesses had relationships with local Value-Added Resellers (VARs) who were unwilling to sell the company’s products because profit margins were inadequate.
Here the actions necessary to move beyond the bottleneck were very different from those taken to address large accounts. The company initiated a combination of “pull” marketing among small businesses and alliance building with VARs to increase mindshare.
In addition, they created segments of small businesses that were actively managed by a “small business segment manager” who had access to and authority over dedicated SDR and marketing resources. This improved the sales organization’s ability to manage local VARs and develop local marketing programs.
4 Sales Strategies: How to Increase Your Sales Pipeline
While the highest-potential sales funnel bottlenecks, as well as segments, will vary by company, I have found four levers that have the highest impact during new sales development and hyper-competitive markets:
Increase the sales pipeline with a better sales strategy
To achieve an increase in your sales pipeline, focus on both the quality of your contacts and the clarity of your communications. For starters, most salespeople tend to stick with who and what they know.
They don’t spend enough time proactively identifying new opportunities, particularly within their current customer base.
A sales rep, for example, may have excellent insights into a Fortune 1000 company software group spending and the various projects available but may have little, if any, knowledge of other opportunities across the company.
You need to expand into other departments, build relationships from the influencer to the decision-maker. Frequently, sales reps communicate to management that they have a customer or territory “covered” when in reality they do not.
Also, customers frequently are not aware of the vendor’s full range of capabilities. For example, a company was recognized as a premier marketing software provider, but not known for project management solutions.
This is usually the result of insufficient communication of company offerings and capabilities by sales reps. Either because they have not built critical relationships with key decision-makers or because they do not possess the skills necessary to discuss more complex solutions and services.
The consequence? These reps are not given the inside track on negotiations and thus have a reduced ability to influence deal specifications and price.
Five actions can significantly increase your sales pipeline:
- For your top accounts, create an account-based marketing plan that includes targeted industry or product/service experts who can detail the required actions for increasing customer awareness and coach the executives/sales reps who are responsible for the account
- For top account teams, deploy highly capable sales resources whose skills align closely with the specific needs of key influencers on the customer side
- Create alliances with companies that have knowledge of opportunities at target accounts or existing relationships with key customer decision-makers
- Free up sales rep capacity to focus on identifying opportunities and leverage SDR’s
- Revise compensation, giving higher priority to relationship building than to quota satisfaction
- Reduce the sales cycle and convert more sales
A sales rep’s lack of understanding of the specific opportunity – or an inability to articulate the full range of benefits based on an understanding of the customer’s business and competitive offerings – is a frequent bottleneck to moving customer discussions to the proposal stage.
Sales reps may not realize that a bonafide opportunity does not, in fact, exist. Yet they devote long hours pursuing conversations that ultimately lead nowhere. The following three actions can significantly increase your proposal rate:
Reduce the sales cycle and convert more sales
In order to close a deal and realize the highest possible price, sales reps must conduct better contract negotiation planning upfront. For example, expanding the bid specs to include a higher-value solution gives a company a competitive advantage.
These up-front negotiations will influence how to play the contract both early in the process and later when the deal is structured. Most pricing decisions do not take into account the effects of supply/demand and industry scenarios and other collateral effects – economic or behavioral. This often results in a lower payoff.
Successful negotiators, on the other hand, use decision support tools that include game theory and scenario planning in the early stages of the pricing cycle to develop a negotiating strategy.
These tools provide a fact-based understanding of the objectives of each player, the price options (e.g., maintain or reduce), the timing (e.g., repeated or one-shot), the cost curve, and the specific competencies and demand scenarios.
In my experience, less than 20 percent of sales reps have the raw skills and training to be successful negotiators. Most enter negotiations without a solid understanding of the economics of transactions or of the specific customer situation that may require creative deal structures, such as an underbid in anticipation of a future payoff.
Often, sharing best-practice negotiating tactics with average performers can add an average of 2 to 3 percent of the price realized. More complex negotiations may require creating a “deal maker” role, particularly for the most attractive and important customers.
At an industrial company, for example, the creation of a pricing guru position and the dissemination of tactics used – and prices achieved – by top-quartile reps resulted in an ability to realize a higher range of prices for 75 percent of the completed transactions and significantly reduced discounting on small-volume deals.
Further, most sales reps do not always have the tools or the knowledge to determine appropriate pricing levels for a particular deal or customer. The “price waterfall” is a tool that provides transparency to all of the components of the price (i.e., usage, competitive discounts, cost of giveaways, training, cost of services such as installation and customer-specific R&D).
This helps sales reps understand the current price paid per customer and the impact of individual components of the price on customer perceptions of value.
For example, Customer A may be more influenced by year-end earned cost savings rebates, whereas Customer B may prefer direct discounts off the list price.
Improve sales resources for your sales strategy
Sales teams, particularly in downturns, typically spread their resources too thinly across too many opportunities. Or they sometimes over-invest in certain opportunities at the expense of others.
This may result in insufficient selling time for individual sales reps who have to juggle multiple accounts and, as a result, often never touch the “perceived bottom 10 percent” of their account base.
Alternatively, simply “throwing more bodies” at a few key accounts may result in higher sales costs with no improvement in account penetration.
By realigning the type and amount of sales and service resources with the size of the opportunity, I have seen a 30 to 40 percent improvement in productivity.
The majority of this improvement stems from the implementation of a multi-channel sales and service model. You must develop a sales strategy integrated with sales development representative, better marketing programs, and marketing automation to see these results.
The most effective method or sales strategy of capturing a high-end consultative sale would involve a face-to-face sales rep capable of articulating service benefits, building executive-level relationships, bringing ideas to customers, and negotiating contracts.
For better account management and lead generation activities, however, SDRs may be more efficient – they can cover more accounts than a face-to-face sales rep and have access to more current account information. This is a win-win for the organization.
A chemicals distributor was able to increase contribution margin levels by 45 percent by using a blended sales model leveraging SDRs. This approach involved a 50 percent reduction in face-to-face sales rep utilization, and increased usage of SDRs, and the use of a Web-based service.
The multi-channel model also releases sales reps from non-revenue-generating responsibilities such as administration, credit reviews, and meetings (see Exhibit 3).
A 30 percent improvement in capacity is a typical result of offloading tasks from reps to other channels.
Credit reps handle collection issues, an administrative pool handles scheduling and paperwork, and the customer service rep manages billing inquiries.
At a leading software company, sales reps were spending 60 percent of their time on non-sales activity such as contract paperwork and invoicing.
The use of standardized contract management software and guidelines, along with the use of an administrative assistant, added 15 to 20 percent of each rep’s selling time. This improvement generated $500,000 to $1 million in additional revenues per sales rep.
Impact of Multi-Channel Task Specialization – High-Tech Company Example
In the face of sales downturns, you need a solid sales strategy. Sales organizations must recognize a need to rapidly adjust their selling models and approaches in order to successfully impact their companies’ bottom lines.
Many organizations have found that increasing sales activity without a focused strategy is unproductive, often alienating customers and negatively impacting cost-effectiveness.
As I have seen, best-practice companies leverage account-based marketing paired with the SDR model to the sales process in order to mine the insights that can help sales organizations focus resources and tailor sales approaches on a segment-by-segment basis.
By targeting critical bottlenecks to growth at the four high-impact stages of the sales funnel – and implementing carefully selected initiatives to address the bottlenecks – these companies build sales, reduce cost, and make a genuine impact on the bottom line.
Wrap up on sales strategy
A sales strategy is an approach to selling that allows an enterprise sales force to position the company and its brand to target customers in a significant, differentiated way.
Most sales strategies involve a detailed plan of best practices and processes set out by the sales and marketing management. If you need help designing an effective sales strategy check out this digital marketing agency in Denver, Colorado and Burlington, Vermont.
A sales strategy is a plan by a business or individual on how to go about selling products and services and increasing profits. Sales strategies are typically developed by a company’s administration, along with its sales, marketing, and advertising managers.
Why is a sales strategy important?
Sales strategy establishes a direction for your business to take; it will help it sharpen its focus to get there. Strategic planning can, therefore, help your organization develop the right goals and targets and help everyone focus their efforts on meeting them.
How can I develop a sales strategy?
What are the different types of sales strategies?
1) Know the Product
2) Knowing the customer
3) Translate the features into benefits
4) Get visual
6) Bring the new but maintain existing
7) Engaging communication
8) Listen, Understand and Check
How to write a sales strategy.
Here are the steps you need to take in order to piece together the essential elements of your business’ marketing plan.
Step 1: Know Your Business.
Step 2: Determine Target Market and Ideal Customer
Step 3: Analyze Competitors to See What They Are Up To.
Step 4: Set Goals and Leads Requirements.
Step 5: Outline Strategies and Write Tactical Plan
Step 6: Set a Realistic Budget.
Step 7: Start and Watch your Metrics.