How To Run Your Business
Sales are the lynchpin of your business, driving growth and building income. But to be effective, you need a good sales strategy.
We guide you through the planning process and reveal the steps to take to transform your sales from mediocre to monumental.
This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal, personal, or tax advice. The information contained herein is subject to change and may vary from time to time. For specific advice applicable to your business, please contact a professional.
When you start your own business, the ultimate goal is to sell your products or services to paying customers. Some entrepreneurs are natural-born salespeople. For others, however, selling fills them with dread. Either way, you can’t just wing it, and so a solid sales strategy enhances any business.
What is a sales strategy?
In a nutshell, a sales strategy is an action plan detailing how you’re going to sell and to whom. It’s a set of rules, processes and actionable steps which let your sales team know who your target market is, what techniques they’ll use to sell to them and how they’ll close the deal.
There is no one-size-fits all sales strategy, and businesses often have several, depending on who they’re trying to attract. With that said, all effective sales strategies tend to be developed using much the same process. Likewise, they will all pursue similar end goals.
An effective sales strategy will:
Define your business goals and objectives
Define roles and responsibilities of your sales team
Describe the lead generation process
Have clear sales goals
Monitor sales reps’ performance
Creating a sales strategy
Your sales plan is essentially a blueprint for a consistent and standardised sales process. It sets down a framework every salesperson can follow. At the same time, it also allows scope for every salesperson to be the individual they are.
There are a number of considerations when creating a sales strategy. These include:
- the location of your customers
- the business areas you really struggle/excel in
- your pain points
- what your customer’s journey looks like
- your sales tactics
- your targets (e.g. do you want to target B2B or B2C or both?)
- your business infrastructure (e.g. will you use the same process for inbound and outbound sales?)
By following the step-by-step process below, you can factor in all these elements to give your business the most robust sales strategy possible.
Follow this logical, step-by-step process, so creating a strategy is easily achievable.
Planning and forecasting
Effective preparation is vital for almost any business task. This definitely holds true for creating a strategy for sales. Here are the four key steps you need to follow before you start creating your sales strategy.
1. Review your past sales performance
Use your past sales performance to guide your sales strategy. If you’re a new business, then use data for your business sector. Essentially, you want to see if you can identify trends that might influence your sales. For example, does your market experience clear high and low seasons?
2. Review market conditions
This is important in the wider sense for your strategy. What are your competitors doing? How are customers behaving? Are there any competitors doing better than anyone else? How does this impact your sales strategy?
3. Define your goals
If you don’t know where you want to go, how can you plan how you’ll get there? Consider performing a SWOT analysis of your business so you can identify growth opportunities, then use the results to create specific goals.
Defining your goals is essential for any strategy but once both short-term and long-term objectives are in place, take actionable steps to realising them.
4. Define how you measure success
Goals are essential, so determine the metrics you’ll use to ensure you’re achieving them. Key performance indicators (KPIs) can be defined in many ways, so pick ones which best fit your business:
Monthly sales growth
Individual salesperson monthly sales figures
Average profit margin or revenue
Daily web traffic users
Conversion rates – web visitors into actual sales
Average cost per customer acquisition
Customer lifetime value
Customer retention rate
Marketing ROI (Return on Investment)
Opportunity to win ratio
Creating a sales strategy
You’ve defined your main goals, you’ve considered how you’ll measure them, now it’s time to create your sales strategy. You might want to do this in collaboration with your sales team. If you don’t, make sure that it’s defined clearly so everybody can understand it easily.
1. Define your target audience
Start by defining your target market. Then from this you can define target customers within that audience – you might have more than one you want to reach. Your sales and marketing strategy needs to be created with those target customers in mind. This means that you may need a different sales strategy for each customer group.
Many businesses create buyer personas. These are fictional representations of their ideal customer or decision-maker in each segment of their target market.
For example, let’s say you have an online retail site. It sells products that are for children. The buyers, however, are not the children but their caregivers. These could be segmented into multiple groups such as:
- Extended family
- Paid caregivers
Many of these categories could be further segmented into even more focused groups. For example, the category of parents could be split up into:
- Working parents
- Stay-at-home parents
- Single parents
These groups might see different value propositions in the same product. Alternatively, they might see the same value proposition in different ways. For example, professional caregivers might be focused on how a product will help a child’s development.
Parents and extended family, by contrast, might be interested in its entertainment value. For working parents, this could win them some time to get on with essential tasks. For stay-at-home parents it could win them some time to themselves.
2. Create a value proposition
A value proposition is a short statement which explains why customers should buy your product or service. It goes beyond a simple description and instead communicates the key benefits, the solution it provides and the value it offers. It’s used in your marketing strategy and throughout the sales process.
Ideally, your value proposition should reference a unique selling point (USP). Essentially, this communicates to potential buyers what your product or service can deliver that nobody else can.
A useful point to remember is that your USP doesn’t necessarily have to be directly linked to the product or service itself. It can be something you offer as a company. For example, a unique location, extended delivery times and/or a particularly high level of customer support could all count as a unique selling point.
3. Choose your KPIs
Your KPIs are your key performance indicators. Essentially, they’re a way of monitoring whether or not you’re making progress towards your high-level goals. For example, if your high-level goal was to increase sales by a certain percentage over a year, your main KPI would probably be your monthly sales figures. You might also want to look at conversion rates from your marketing and advertising and/or the level of affiliate referrals.
4. Set out your pricing model and specific prices
The pricing model(s) you use for your product and/or service can be at least as important as the price itself. Whatever pricing model(s) you choose, remember that modern consumers respect transparent pricing.
In other words, they want it to be simple to work out exactly how much they’ll be charged and what, exactly, they’ll receive in return. For larger and/or recurring purchases, they often appreciate flexible purchase options (e.g. buy-now-pay-later).
Once you have decided on what pricing model(s) you are going to use, you need to set your prices in figures. You also need to decide how much discretion, if any, you are going to give your sales team to offer discounts/run promotions.
Discounts and promotions generally do have their place in most sales strategies. With that said, be careful not to overuse them or they can devalue your product/service.
5. Assign responsibilities within your sales team
It’s important to define which salesperson does what, particularly if it’s a small team. If nothing else, you don’t want to waste resources by having people duplicate work.
Often there are more strategic reasons for defining responsibilities within your sales team. One of the most common ones is that it allows salespeople to build up their expertise in a particular market segment. This can allow them to sell more effectively into it.
When salespeople are dedicated to a particular market, they are more likely to have time (and motivation) to work on building useful relationships within it. In some markets, these can be crucial to success. Even in B2B sales, there’s often still a lot of truth in the saying that “people buy from people”.
6. Bring together the resources your team will need
There resources sales teams need tend to fall into two categories. The first is marketing collateral. Depending on your market, this could mean anything from pitch decks to case studies to PDFs summarising key points (e.g. features and pricing).
The second is role-specific business tools. Again, what each person needs will depend on their role in the team. For example, some people may need apps to create promotional materials, others may need tools that help to create key analytics, others may need project-management tools and/or a CRM.
7. Set out your sales process
This is the point where you pull together everything you’ve done so far and use it to create specific, step-by-step actions you expect your sales reps to follow to meet your targets. For example, your process could start by having your sales team leverage social media to generate leads or directly contact potential new customers through a targeted email marketing campaign. Your process may also include a sales script and other tactics you want them to employ, such as active listening where you make a conscious effort to hear not just what words a person is using, but the message too.
Further define your sales strategy depending on whether it’s an inbound one (customers who’ve reached out to you already) or an outbound one (customers you approach who may be interested in your product or service). A third category is retaining/upselling to existing customers whose details you already have in a (Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system, so include specifics around customer discounts, exclusive promotions or loyalty programs.
Creating a sales strategy requires a lot of planning in the beginning, but it’s worth it if you want to maximise your results. A solid strategy offers huge benefits in terms of building a practical and actionable plan for your sales reps. And when you’ve done it once, it can act as a sales strategy template for any new products or sales drives in future.
Useful resources to help you build your sales strategy
Learn more about conversion rate optimisation, the process of increasing the number of visitors who buy
Read how to increase sales for your eCommerce site.
This deep dive into [lead generation] (https://squareup.com/au/en/townsquare/lead-generation) explains strategies you can use whatever the size of your business.
Learn how to use KPIs to help you judge efficiency and growth in your business.
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