While Franklin’s advice, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail,” readily applies to small business entrepreneurs, another caveat is just as crucial: if you fail to manage your growth strategy on an ongoing basis, your business will probably not live to see its five-year anniversary. Once implemented, long-term growth strategies must be managed, monitored, tweaked, and revised in order to produce not just long-term survival, but increased growth and profitability.
If you’re ready to take your sales efforts to the next level, here are some steps to help you create, implement, and execute effective sales strategies for your business.
1. Understand what a sales strategy is
This may seem obvious, but the rate of failure of new business start-ups — 50% will fail within the first five years — suggests that many entrepreneurs aren’t very clear on what a sales strategy is.
Of course there are many different types of strategies for different aspects of business. Some examples of sales strategies are, inbound and outbound sales strategies, retail sales strategies, inside sales strategies, sales promotion strategies, online sales strategies, direct sales strategies, and the list goes on and on. But the fundamental definition of any sales strategy — the definition that business and sales leaders need to understand first and foremost — is that a sales strategy is a methodical plan devised to effectively allocate resources to accomplish one main goal: closing more sales.
Many entrepreneurs believe that the key to achieving more sales is better marketing. Obviously marketing is essential for building the brand, and getting the product or service seen by more potential customers. But the fact is that marketing sales strategies generate sales leads, while sales strategies generate actual sales and revenue.
2. Create sales strategies that fit your business
Some sales strategies fail to deliver because they aren’t actually geared to the business or its customers. To make sure that your sales strategy doesn’t fall into the ‘It looked good on paper’ category, you need to do the following:
- Identify your value proposition. Effective sales strategies should be centered on one main objective — meeting specific customer needs. The extent to which your products or services provide solutions for customer needs is what determines your value proposition. A strong value proposition sets your company apart from the competition. It also allows your sales force to better engage with potential customers, offering them clear solutions to their problems, instead of being perceived as trying to sell them something they don’t need.
- Define your marketplace. Having a clear understanding of the problem that your product or service uniquely solves is critical for creating effective sales strategies. But now you need to define your marketplace, identifying and targeting the audience that most likely needs your solutions.
No doubt you developed your products and services with a general target audience in mind. Now you need to get more specific to identify your ideal target customers — those who are most likely to purchase your products and solutions.
One tool that will help you to better define your marketplace is social media. Social platforms such as Facebook are what potential customers use to discuss their wants and needs, and to get product feedback from others in their social network. You can use this social media data to gain critical insights that you can use to formulate both offline- and online-sales strategies that work.
Having a clearly-defined target audience allows you to prioritize your current and prospective customer base. Then you can put your best efforts and resources to work on your most promising opportunities.
Keep in mind that different products and services may require different sales strategies.
3. Implement and execute your sales strategies
Thomas Edison once said that, “Vision without execution equals hallucination.” The best sales strategies in the world won’t yield results unless they are implemented within the company. Unfortunately, this is where many organizations fail—in the implementation of proper strategy. 61% of executives admit their sales managers have not been adequately trained in pipeline management strategies and techniques, resulting in lost sales, wasted effort, and decreased profits.
Proper implementation and execution of sales strategies comes from business leaders, management, and the sales team. One effective approach to get compliance within your organization is to help all stakeholders see how the sales strategies you propose will better meet their needs.
C-level execs need to see a better bottom line, and they will get on board if they are convinced that proposed sales strategies can generate more revenue. Sales reps need to close more sales, and they will more readily accept and execute sales strategies that they feel are designed to help them meet and exceed sales quotas and goals.
The effective execution of sales strategies requires constant monitoring and analysis. It is imperative to determine what is working and what is not. Tracking the customer journey through the sales funnel and identifying where they become disengaged will help to identify where customer needs are not being met, and allow your organization to make fixes to ensure sales strategy success.