This month we are taking a look at SALES STRATEGIES – what they are, and why you need them in order to ensure your sales income is maximised.
Basic Definition of Sales Strategy
Here’s a clue – it isn’t simply throwing stuff out there (including your sales team!) and just hoping something will ‘stick’ and result in a sale.
Your sales strategy is (should be) a detailed plan which establishes the direction you wish your business to take, and how to go about developing your sales processes in order to ensure consistent sales and therefore income.
Like many businesses, when you started out you were glad of any sale, no matter where (or how) it came to you.
You probably did a bit of social media posting, went to networking meetings etc but were too busy working in your business to take a step back and really work out any kind of strategy.
If you’re reading this article now, it is a fair assumption that you have grown your operation to a stage where you have sales teams, a marketing department and a back-office function (no matter how small these teams are).
(NB if you haven’t reached this stage of growth, please don’t stop reading – you’ll pick up some tips which will put you in a great position before you get there!)
The problem is, that if you are still stuck in the mindset of a small business owner, doing everything for yourself, then you are unlikely to have created a fully cohesive sales strategy and your teams will be lacking guidance.
Even the best sales manager in the world will be operating with one arm tied behind his/her back if they have no clue what the company’s overall business strategy is.
Have a re-read of the two previous articles – Put Sales at the Heart of Your Business Processes and Why Leadership Matters which look at the structure of your business, its culture and your leadership role.
This section is entitled ‘Starting Over’ for a reason – it’s time to take a really good look at where you are now, what is working in terms of bringing in sales and what you need to completely revisit, revamp and redo.
It can be very easy to get stuck in the ‘we’ve always done it this way’ or ‘this has always worked before’ mode of thinking…get over yourself! Yes, changing things can be scary but without change there is rarely growth and without growth there is no possibility of increasing your sales income past a certain point.
Getting Back to Basics
What About Your Customers? Do you know where they are currently coming from? If not, why not?
- What does your ideal customer avatar look like? If you don’t know then set about creating one (or multiples if you are selling more than one product/service with potentially different target markets).
- What do your customers say on social media about you? Do you offer them the ability to leave reviews?
- Is there an unexplored market you could consider?
Look at Your Product. Now this may sound so basic that you will wonder why it merits a mention…what are you selling? Is it a physical product(s) or a service?
Take a good look at whatever it is – analyse it. What will buying it give your customers?
- Does it solve a problem(s)?
- Does it tackle a pain point?
- Or is it a luxury item – something that people desire but don’t really need?
- Are you selling direct to consumers or is your market B2B?
Get these points straight in your head because it will affect your selling strategy.
How Are You Currently Marketing? Next, it’s time to look at your current marketing tools – bring your marketing team in on this as it’s entirely possible that you may be somewhat out of the loop.
- What does your social media presence look like? Are you using it at all, and if so, has the message you are communicating changed since the early days?
- Are you overly reliant on social media? Has your company become a little complacent, even seduced by online channels?
- Are your marketing messages conveying everything they need to?
- Do you need to consider different social media platforms – for example, if you have just used Facebook in the past is it time to consider Instagram?
- What’s your following like on the platforms you engage with? Does one outperform another? If so, why?
- Do you use mail-shots (both physical and email) and if you do, who are you targeting? Do you segment your audience or carpet bomb them all with the same information?
What you are doing here is stripping back everything – establishing what has worked for you so far and what needs changing going forwards.
Starting to Plan
Right – you’ve looked at your current situation. You understand what is working with your existing marketing and you have a grip on your target audiences…
Now you can start to STRATEGISE
Firstly, work with your sales manager to establish realistic sales targets based on your company’s financial needs and capabilities…create a Sales Forecast.
Sales Forecast. Don’t pull figures out of the air, make sure targets are achievable.
- Base your forecasts on past performances.
- Look at existing customers – what are their buying habits, and can they be influenced to buy more or a different product?
- Break down the forecast into monthly/weekly figure by customer and product. How many leads and conversions will be required to hit the targets?
- How many salespeople will be required to reach these targets- is it more or less than you currently have?
- What sort of activity will your sales team need to engage in to meet the targets – can you quantify this in cost terms?
Targeting and Reaching Customers (Sales Channels) Get your marketing and salespeople in the same room – if you followed the guidance in the previous articles then they should already be ‘singing from the same hymn sheet’ and ready and willing to work together.
Based on the sales forecast you have created, plan out how your marketing and advertising can target the customer base you wish to focus on (this may vary seasonally or even month to month so take this into account).
- Does new marketing material need to be created? Get the input of the people on the ground – your sales team – they are closer to the customer and will have a good idea of what does and doesn’t work.
- Segment your audience in order to run highly targeted campaigns.
- Can existing customers be up-sold to?
- Can existing customers be persuaded to recommend your business (a referral scheme)?
- Work on customer retention ideas – remember it is easier to keep a customer than seek a new one.
- Do you need to revise social media campaigns (and platforms) to target key audiences?
- Do you even need to look at re-branding in order to attract your target audience?
Remember that your sales and marketing teams need to work together – they are each one half of the same coin after all. It is pointless having super-duper marketing materials if the sales team don’t know about them imagine being a salesperson dealing with a customer who points out something in a leaflet, or online campaign that you were completely unaware of. Not only does that look unprofessional in the eyes of the prospect, it could also make them wonder about the business as a whole…
Is There Anything You Need In Order to Get Started on Your Plans?
Undoubtedly there will be!
If this is the first time you have gone into such depth and strategic planning, you may find that there are shortfalls in your existing training and tools.
- A CRM system (Customer Relationship Management) to track your customer interactions*
- A sales funnel (tracking a customer journey through your sales process)*
- New marketing materials
- New online platforms
- Training for your in-house teams
(* Look out for the next article when these topics – your Sales Processes – will be discussed in depth)
Get everything lined up and ready before committing to your new strategy – ideally you want to get it as close to right the first time around. Of course, it will change and develop over time, but hit the ground running, have a definitive start date and make sure you measure the outcomes.
Putting the Strategy into Action
After all that hard work planning, it’s time to put the Strategy you have developed into play.
- Do make sure that you have documented all the decisions and actions in order that you can track progress over the year and, if necessary, tweak as you go along.
- Make sure that ALL your employees are fully aware of this new Sales Strategy and that they have all bought into it.
- If you have decided on new marketing/promo materials, ensure they are ready.
- If rebranding, do you need some kind of ‘launch’ – this could be a great publicity opportunity.
- Monitor and track progress
- Keep your teams onboard by making sure they are continually updated
- Remember to continually recognise success within your teams
- Thank your teams for their work!
There’s a lot of information here, but to summarises:
- Explore the existing situation and current processes
- What is it you are actually selling?
- Identify your audience
- Target the marketing appropriately
- Establish achievable sales targets
- DOCUMENT your strategy
- Get your teams onboard
- Set up any new systems and training
- Get your marketing materials ready
- Constantly review progress!
It can be all too easy to drift along in the same way, making sales but not reaching the heights you know you should be achieving.
Going right back to the basics may seem a bit of a chore but it will enable you to create a Strategy which reflects your aims whilst also respecting what has gone before.
Your Sales Strategy should be flexible enough to account for changing conditions and you must review it regularly.