There’s no way around it: Strategy is exciting.
It’s even more exciting when you’ve got a new or revamped product, or a slew of new features, and you need to develop and launch a brand new sales strategy that will take your product to the top spot it was made for.
A good sales strategy, developed and launched correctly, can be the difference between your product being competitive and your product being the category leader.
What’s exciting can often be daunting, too. There are an unlimited number of angles from which you can attack a sales strategy. With so many options, it seems impossible to be guarantee that your strategy will be a success.
Luckily, we’ve broken down how to develop and launch a new sales strategy into five essential stages. Both for when your sales strategy is in the works and for when it’s already out there and needs a little optimization (Read: TLC).
What is a sales strategy?
A sales strategy is an actionable plan for the growth of existing accounts and the acquisition of new accounts for your business. It’s fundamental to driving revenue, and giving sales reps information that’s key to targeting the right customers and closing deals.
There are two common types of sales strategies.
- The old-fashioned model: Outbound sales — is centered on the actions of a seller. It steers clear of automated data-handling and keeps approaches to sales and marketing separate. With sales now oriented primarily around a company website, this kind of approach can be unwieldy and impractical.
- The modern method: Inbound sales — is centered on the actions of a buyer and takes advantage of automatic methods of data capture. This will be the approach we take.
Developing your sales strategy
Now that we’ve got our definition down, it’s time to tackle the most difficult part of any process: the first steps. Developing your sales strategy first requires that you diligently build up a conception of your target audience — otherwise known as your ideal customer profile (ICP) — before setting goals and constructing your sales funnel.
Stage 1 - Building Your Buyer Personas or ICP
Before you can start building any functional sales strategy, you need to know exactly who you’ll be selling to. Knowing your ideal customer profile (ICP) allows you to specifically target every aspect of your operations, from outreach to product development, based on the needs of those you’re trying to serve.
Step 1: Find your data.
Capture as much key customer information as you can during their interactions with your site; forms replete with information useful to a sales team is a good start (be careful not to overdo it — forms that ask for more than necessary can intimidate prospects).
Once you’ve got a good set of basic data for your customers, start buffing up your data bank by taking note of search, content, sales, and behavioral data for your customers. What do they come to your site for most? How many customers are requesting demos but not purchasing?
Step 2: Pool your sales team’s experience.
Sales strategies can often involve battles between what works theoretically and what works practically. If you have experience on your sales team, take advantage of it during both the developmental and the post-launch phases of your sales strategy. Are there any customer types who are particularly receptive to what you’re selling? Are there any with whom you’re having no luck whatsoever?
Step 3: Talk to your customers.
It seems so simple but is so easily neglected. Approach both satisfied customers and those who might not be having such a swell time with your product; find out what they want, and find out why. Balance your focus grouping with contributions from non-customers, including third parties (e.g. a consultant from outside of your company, who’s not also one of your customers).
When you’re approaching customers, don’t forget to incentivize. Customer time is as valuable as their subscription payments. Reward loyal customers willing to answer a few questions with a sweetener on their upsell deal, or an entry into a subscriber’s sweepstake. Seize any chance you get to strengthen your relationship with existing customers.
Step 4: Collate your info and define your buyer personas.
By the end of a successful persona build, you should have a very clear picture of your buyers: their ages, lifestyle attributes, territories, and pain points. Your company's personas will be totally unique, but below are three examples of generic personas:
- The Newbie: The newbie has never bought a product like yours, so a considerable part of a sales rep’s work when dealing with a newbie is to act as a consultant, introducing them to the field and letting them know what a product like yours can do for them. They’re not likely to know quite as much about your product’s area, and are more likely to be won over by freemium business models that allow them to test the waters, and by an approach from your sales team that stresses relationship building.
- The Buyer: If your company is more of a hardware seller, one of your main buyer personas may, in fact, be the “buyer.” They work at a third-party seller and don’t handle the product itself; instead, they procure it for other people. Their in-field expertise is likely to be strong, and they’re likely to take a skeptical and analytical approach to deciding whether your product is for them.
- The Influencer: The influencer fills your sales rep’s heart with dreams, because the influencer is the persona most likely to come down and ask you for enough subscriptions to trick out their entire department. They’re also likely to have very strong in-depth knowledge of the field (they use reviews and third-party research), and be highly discerning. Many companies like to have a special pricing plan for supplying large corporate clients to make these kinds of high-value sells easier.
Stage 2 - Define Success Through Clear Goals
Setting clear goals for your sales strategy is just as important as knowing who you’re selling to. Establish company-wide performance expectations and giving your sales reps the incentives they need to excel.
Step 1: Set clear goals.
Whatever objectives you decide to set for your new sales strategy, they should fulfill your company’s growth expectations while remaining realistic. Clarity is the key. Ensure that goal-setting is a company-wide discussion, with active input not only from all levels of sales (from executives to team leads) but also from marketing, product developing, finance, and even HR.
Assess your resources and personnel, and establish long-term targets. Without establishing clear goals, it’s impossible to synchronize your team’s motors, and get our all-important later steps to work.
Step 2: Align your marketing team and sales team on performance targets.
Once goals are set, ensure that both teams are aligned with complementary performance targets and synchronized in the way they evaluate leads and approach quota fulfillment.
Essentially, both teams should be in sync on the type of lead you’re trying to approach. They can then work on sourcing those kinds of leads from their separate angles.
Start off by making sure that both sales and marketing are tailoring their work to the same set of buyer personas. Your marketing department can shuttle the correct type of prospect towards your sales funnel, where your reps are waiting to make a sale, aware of exactly the types of customers they’ll be talking to.
Make your marketing team aware of the volume of business your sales team is aiming to bring in. Your marketing team can then adjust in terms of the volume and type of marketing material they’ll need to produce in order to help bring that amount of business in.
Step 3: Motivate your team toward their goals.
However good your sales strategy as a whole is, your team members are the ones who’ll be braving its challenges to get you there. Cultivating the right motivation is a core ingredient of success. Team and individual motivation is something you must pursue actively when developing your new sales strategy.
Make clear to your teams how quotas will work and what type of commission plan you will use. Be clear about any changes you’re making to the tech stack, offering how-to-use workshops if necessary, and demonstrate how your reps’ performance will be assessed.
There’s a battle within the war here to find out what motivates your individual sales reps. Some might be motivated by meeting (and exceeding) their targets only; others might be driven by the commission they individually stand to gain, the pure feeling of the win, or just the joy of being part of a successful team. However the profile of your team breaks down, get together with each of your reps individually, and customize incentives within your sales strategy to take full advantage.
Develop a healthy culture of feedback and mutual improvement to keep everyone motivated and moving towards the same goal.
Step 4: Give your team the tools they need to succeed.
Remember, it helps you to help your sales reps meet their targets with a minimum of difficulty, and having the right sales tools is an indispensable facet of a successful sales strategy.
The development and launch of a new strategy is a good opportunity to assess the foundations of your tool stack. Start with your customer relationship management (CRM) software. Is it optimized for your team’s uses? Are they able to easily find the right sales contacts? Is your CRM set up to automate those pesky, menial sales tasks (things like calculating commission) that eat away at sales reps’ all-important selling time?
Your learning management system (LMS) should be used to help your sales team keep track of the wider objectives driving your new sales strategy as well as help them come to grips with any new aspect of process (particularly new tools in the tech stack, etc.). A good LMS is helpful if you took our earlier advice to heart and are running with multiple goals your sales team needs to independently keep track of.
Asset management software is also key, especially when it comes to coming to grips with your content strategy (more on that in just a moment). Managing, personalizing, and analyzing your strategy’s performance is key to its success, so the right tool to help your team through those processes is hugely important.
Stage 3 - Building Your Sales Funnel
The way you build your sales funnel will determine the buyer’s journey for your product. A well-made sales funnel can bolster your selling at every juncture, from generating leads to closing them.
Step 1: Plan for buyer behavior at various points along the funnel.
Knowing how potential customers are likely to behave at various points along the funnel (more likely to switch off at point “b”? Most likely to hit the “buy” button at point “e”?) is fundamental to the rest of your sales strategy.
Your “newbie” persona is likely to spend more time consuming the content on your site (more on that word ‘content’ later) in preparation for a demo request or a purchase call. If you’re dealing with a corporate connection, they’ll have probably already done their research, and may well want to go straight into a call with a rep to discuss the details.
Planning for user behavior is the surest way of being able to give your various customer types what they’re after. You can’t sell to everyone in the same way.
Step 2: Bring traffic to your site.
Generating awareness of your products organically and bringing customers to you are key to keeping leads coming in. Any of the following methods are excellent for building traffic to your site:
- SEO and Content strategy: Great content goes a long way. Building out your blog fills your site with content, keeps prospective customers on-site, and helps establish your reputation as a thought leader in your area.
- Social media marketing: A social marketing plan can be highly effective at giving you exposure to a wide, deep audience. Be creative with your social media game — be visual, be funny, go cross-channel.
- PPC campaigns: With PPC, you pay a fee each time one of your ads is clicked. Creating relevant, intelligently targeted PPC campaigns is not easy. It involves selecting keywords, organizing them into coherent campaigns, and setting up PPC landing pages that are optimized to drive conversions — but the results are undeniable.
- Email drip campaigns: Refreshing your drip campaigns can keep you top of mind and inbox. They are particularly good for reestablishing waning engagement with your product, and heading off that delinquent churn.
Step 3: Build a landing page with a persuasive call to action.
Given all of the work that goes into the rest of your sales funnel, it can be sorely tempting to view your landing page as a formality — to presume that by the time your prospect gets to it, they’ve already decided to buy. Not so.
You should treat your landing page as the crown on top of your sales strategy, and building one with a persuasive call to action is paramount. The first mistake you should avoid is using your home page as a landing page; even if your website is exquisitely easy to navigate, prospects will still have little idea of how to quickly find their way to the buy option they’re looking for.
When creating your CTA, remember that your objective is to inspire. Generate real excitement in the potential buyer for what your product can do while keeping the required steps to fulfill that CTA simple. We did just that with our demo request page.
Launching your sales strategy
We’ve developed a promising-looking sales strategy. But what’s the best way to launch it? And how can you continue to optimize its performance after launch?
Stage 4 - Testing Your Assumptions
At this point, you'll have diligently built out your data over the course of developing your new sales strategy. You'll know about the current state of the market, about the appeal of your product, about target audience and buyer personas. If you don't test those assumptions, however, you might as well not have made them.
A successful sales strategy is one that can adapt.
Gather feedback and new data from your team regularly. Ask questions like:
- Which sales techniques are working: Do we need more calls earlier in the process? More webinars outlining the utilities of the product? More content?
- Whether leads are converting at the expected rate: Is our sales funnel set up to bring customers through the stages at the right rate? Are we leaving too much time between sending demo materials and hosting a follow-up call?
- Whether or not buyer/prospect behavior in the sales funnel conforms to expectation: Are the endorsements of your product in your content clear enough to be sending prospects through to the landing page? Are customers registering initial interest coming back after being sent a demo?
- Whether the sales team is able to meet the expectations: Are you targeting the right types of leads?
Stage 5 - Tailoring Your Approach
Developing your sales strategy is only half the battle. Tailoring your approach is vital to its success of your post-launch. Based on the new information you acquire about the initial success (or otherwise) of your new sales strategy, modify your approach to counteract any flaws in the original plan.
Step 1: Encourage the adoption of new approaches to sales.
Based on the results of your tested assumptions from Stage 4, take a look at what works and what doesn’t in your sales funnel, and be prepared to make necessary changes. Bring client calls further forward in the schedule. Consider the creation of different content types.
You should still be critical of your approach if sales are good. For instance, if your product is selling like hotcakes, it may be a testament to the high quality of the product and the low quality of its price point. If that’s the case, you aren’t getting the full value from each sale.
Step 2: Revisit your buyer personas, and adapt them to the new information you’ve received.
Part of the fun of buyer personas is that they are your own creation — they’re supposed to stand in for your customers, but they’re not actually your customers. This means there’s margin for error.
Adapt them to the customer data you pull during the sales cycle. Is one persona avoiding your product completely? Is another coming in with a different set of needs than the ones forecasted? Are individuals entirely unrelated to any of the personas you originally had coming in dying to demo your product?
Step 3: Coach sales reps who may be falling behind.
The key to a successful sales strategy, in short, is to not be afraid to be wrong. Learning from mistakes or misconceptions you had before can be of enormous value. You should take the same approach to your reps.
Not everyone adapts easily to a new sales strategy, especially if you’re coming in on a wave of new processes or approaches. That goes for the rock-star sales rep as much as for the recent grad finding their feet. Coaching should always be a part of a sales strategy — and its own art. Focused and meaningful coaching allows coaches to easily and fully assess how reps are responding during sales calls. Technologies like Conversation Intelligence can make all the difference when it comes to coaching sales reps into the right kinds of habits.
Sales Never Sleeps
Getting your sales strategy right is an ongoing process; like most of what’s effective when it comes to sales and sales enablement, the strategizing should never stop. Only a restless sales strategy can push your product to the very top.
Still, the right foundations for a sales strategy are fundamental to its success. No amount of post-launch data-gathering and patchwork will compensate for a strategy with buyer personas that are poorly defined or are being driven by a scattered, under-motivated sales team. Develop and launch your sales strategy with the care it requires. Your revenue team will thank you.