Your sales strategy is the fuel for the company.
Are you trying to jump-start your growth engine by creating new demand, rebuilding opportunity pipelines, and re-engaging with customers? If so, keep reading.
Your sales strategy development, sales plans, and programs are what kept the lights on. It 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.
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 plans that may or may not be the center for sales strategy in your organization.
Sales Funnel: 4 Steps to Simplify It
What is your sales process look like and how are conversions? Do you track it? You should.
Your sales funnel is its critical part of any business.
Your sales funnel must be mapped to how your target customers buy. Or at least it should be. Having multiple products may require that you have several sales funnels.
When was the last time you mapped your sales process to match your customer’s buying journey?
The marketing-to-sales funnel is critical to every business. This is the cycle all buyers go through when deciding what to purchase and then finally committing. But can it be frictionless?
- Do you have a defined sales process?
- Does marketing pass qualified leads to your sales rep?
- Can you determine bottlenecks and leaks in your sales process?
With digital online marketing and lead generation, the cycle has changed somehow but is essentially the same as it has been since the earliest times of marketplace vendors. Picture yourself at a medieval village on market day.
People think they may need what you have, have money ready to spend, do a little research (smelling the apples in the old days ? there was no Google or Bing back then!), perhaps check out competitors, and then come back for your product.
Whether that process has moved online, on mobile social media, or at a brick-and-mortar store, the decision-making cycle of the funnel is still the same.
Think about how you purchased your last car or home. What was your process? It’s critical to understand the buyer’s journey and provide the right message and content to help the buyer make an informed decision.
Where Online Marketing Gets Tricky
The speed at which this can happen and the targeted approach are not the same for online marketing.
With savvy marketing, you can pinpoint your target audiences, address them with specific information at the right time in their buying process, and analyze data to show what worked to close a sale.
At every step of the funnel, a prospect could become a customer. How do you make that funnel seamless and without friction?
You want to eliminate any potential delays in responding to customers’ inquiries, ensure follow-up with those who Summaryare going further with your product, and keep the cycle always progressing toward a sale.
How Are Your Web Pages Converting?
Do you want to see all your analytics on a dashboard?
What’s a Good Marketer does to help the Sales Funnel
Make sure your marketing to sales funnel is defined, and the sales team agrees with it. There should be no holes or gaps in the sales funnel where your potential customers fall out.
Going on with our analogy, there will be some prospects that escape. But they’re not going into someone else’s funnel, and that’s the important part to remember.
1. Analyze your current marketing efforts and find the gaps
What gaps are in your sales funnel?
Perhaps you’ve got a lot of followers on social media, but no leads coming in. Why? Could it be you didn’t ask your followers to do anything that would open a relationship/conversation with them?
You need a Call to Action. Let’s say you do have a call to action, but you’re getting practically no responses. You should ask yourself: Is the Call to Action clear?
Is it on the first screen without the reader scroll down (called above the fold)? Is it graphically appealing? Is it something people care about or want?
Be ready to analyze and act on information coming from your audience interaction. Be sure you know exactly how people found your company, how they interacted with you, and where they either left the marketing funnel or decided to buy.
This can reveal a great deal about speeding up the buying process and increasing your overall sales.
2. Deliver the right message at the right stage of the buying cycle
Let’s go back to the medieval marketplace for a moment. You sell apples, and a village baker is looking at the newest flour delivery. You don’t even know if he’s thinking about making a pie or a loaf of bread, but your job is to convince him to make apple pies.Â
The next customer is a mother to six children and has already come by your stall once, looked at and smelled the apples, and is now visiting the strawberry vendor. These buyers are at very different stages of the marketing funnel.
It’s the same with your online marketing. You need to have each potential buyer defined as a buyer persona. Know who they are, what they are looking for, what motivates them, when they tend to shop, how quickly they make decisions, etc.Â
Then target your marketing accordingly. Your pitch to the villager buying flour will be to convince them to make an apple pie. Your pitch to the villager browsing fruit will convince them that your apples are better than strawberries.
3. Automate communications for follow-ups
You are far beyond the village marketplace in your marketing. You could have hundreds, or maybe even thousands, of leads coming in every week via your website, blog, social media channels, even email marketing.
Every one of these could be delivering someone in a different stage of the buying process. To make it frictionless, you need targeted campaigns with messages created specifically for each stage and channel.
Here are the best part and a huge opportunity where many others fail: Automate your responses.
Map out the buyer personas, where they are in the buying cycle, how they entered your marketing funnel, and how you will respond. Automate responses when a lead is lost or closed too. Setting up these scalable processes will ensure prospects move through the funnel smoothly.
4. Close the loop with sales funnels
The final but critical point in the funnel is sales. Everything that has come into the funnel counts for nothing if you don’t get a sale. Revenue is the ultimate goal, of course, and you’ve got to deliver your marketing leads to a strong sales unit.
I run into this all the time. A client’s lead management process is done haphazardly? Or worse, one doesn’t exist.
Borrowed from my friends at Sirius, I recommend using and adopting their Demand Waterfall to improve visibility into the health of the lead funnel to drive more revenue from marketing and sales investments.
Sales Strategy Funnels
Building a seamless, frictionless unit between sales and marketing requires that both sides listen to the other.
Salespeople want qualified leads, good data to tell them who they’re contacting, and details on what the potential customer is evaluating. It will help them deliver an RFP, demonstration, presentation, etc.
The marketing team, in turn, needs feedback on the data they deliver. They need to know a sale has been completed or why it failed. Remember also that a sale should never be the end of a customer relationship.
Follow-up sales, maintenance, upgrades, etc., should continue, back to marketing. The loop should never end, and the funnel should continue to regenerate.
The marketing-to-sales funnel should be a continuous flow between marketing, sales, and the customer.
Even though there are many marketing channels in today’s market, returning to retail roots may help shape your thinking. Go back to the old village, envision yourself as a simple vendor, and use common sense.
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 the buyer’s journey and 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 and 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 sales funnel stages: 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 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 because sales reps are providing more demos and churning out more proposals, they become increasingly frustrated as sales and profits continue to trend downward. More calls and demonstrations will not always increase conversion rates.
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 to 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 greater usage of – and loyalty to – the brand.
Applying 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 stage in the sales process – awareness, consideration, active discussion, proposal, negotiation, closure, and repurchase(see Exhibit 1).
An example of a weak sales strategy is poor communication of company capabilities to industry influencers, or insufficient focus on lead generation can limit growth in the awareness stage.
A bottleneck to moving from awareness to consideration is typically one of access, resulting from 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 strategy.
No matter how vigorously it is executed, the sheer activity aimed at the entire market will not produce the desired results.
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 40 percent of opportunities in these accounts.
However, when the company was invited to submit a proposal, it was enjoying a 50 percent close ratio. Still, the overall share of wallets from these accounts was only about 15 percent.
Closer scrutiny revealed that account managers were more focused on retaining existing revenue streams and managing contract implementation than on identifying new opportunities across other accounts divisions.
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 lacked relationship-building skills when faced with new buyers, especially those 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 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.
An important part of your sales strategy is evaluations and assessments. When the same company evaluated its smaller accounts (those with less than $50 million in revenues), it recognized it lacked overall presence in this segment. Interviews suggested that small businesses did not perceive their products to be “friendly” or priced competitively.
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 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 exist. Yet, they devote long hours pursuing conversations that ultimately lead nowhere. The following three actions can significantly increase your proposal rate:
- Conduct an up-front, fact-based evaluation of the likelihood of ultimately bringing a deal to closure. At a software company, a reclassification of accounts based on future potential revealed that growth would come not from current large customers but new, mid-market customers looking for total solutions. This new set of customers represented 60 percent of the revenue growth opportunity. To evaluate this type of opportunity, some companies set up a temporary team (at IBM, we call these SWOT teams) of senior sales managers to assess the probability of deal closure and plan the actual steps needed to close the deals in the process.
- Build a team with the appropriate skill sets and expertise to determine requirements and address customer needs early in the process. Some packaged goods companies have reorganized their sales forces around customer business teams resourced with specialists representing different categories. These teams are supported by a logistics manager, systems leader, finance deal maker, and a centralized pricing specialist.
- Structure compensation to support advancing more complex sales to the proposal stage. Most organizations compensate reps for revenue from deals closed, which encourages reps to choose the easy sales opportunities they know they can quickly close. To encourage investment in the more complex sales, compensation plans may need to treat each significant advancement in the sales cycle as a closure and compensate reps with a percentage of their total commission.
Reduce the sales cycle and convert more sales
Sales reps must conduct better contract negotiation planning upfront to close a deal and realize the highest possible price. 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 early in the process and later when the deal is structured. Most pricing decisions do not consider the effects of supply/demand and industry scenarios and other economic or behavioral collateral effects. This often results in a lower payoff.
On the other hand, successful negotiators 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 each player’s objectives, 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 basic skills and training to be successful negotiators. Most enter negotiations without a solid understanding of the economics of transactions or the specific customer situation requiring 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.
For example, at an industrial company, 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 price components (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 price components 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. To see these results, you must develop a sales strategy integrated with sales development representatives, better marketing programs, and marketing automation.
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.
However, for better account management and lead generation activities, 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 increased 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 incapacity 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 spent 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 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 to impact their companies’ bottom lines successfully 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.
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.
What is a sales strategy?
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.