Here’s what we’ll cover in this guide:
- What is a sales strategy?
- Types of sales strategies
- Strategic sales channels
- Tools to improve sales
- Creating your sales strategy
- Don’t forget existing customers
What is a sales strategy?
The term “sales strategy” can be used in two different contexts. It’s more accurately used when referring to a long-term, documented plan but is also often used when describing a sales methodology.
When used in the first context, a sales strategy is a documented long-term plan that provides clear guidance on best practices and processes for your sales team. It includes any information that’s been identified within the business to be necessary to acquire new customers and achieve sales goals.
Some of the elements it may include are:
- Organizational goals
- Selling processes
- Steps to identify qualified leads
- Team structure and responsibilities
- Market data
- Customer personas
- Product positioning
- How you’ll engage with your customers
- Customer journey
- Competitive analysis
The sales strategy should include any factors you’ve identified necessary to acquire new customers and achieve your sales goals.
The goal of a sales strategy
The goals of a sales strategy are to provide clear objectives and guidance for the whole sales team. It gives you a long-term plan for the future with a detailed road map for achieving your sales goals while pre-empting any problems you might encounter.
It clarifies your market positioning, helps you identify your ideal customer base, and how you’ll speak directly to those customers.
Moreover, as your sales strategy is unique to your business, it provides a way to differentiate your business from your competitors.
A sales strategy shouldn’t be carried out as an exercise in box ticking. It should be a highly relevant document with practical guidance that you can use to achieve your sales goals.
An effective sales strategy can help you:
- Improve your team’s performance
- Achieve more effective targeting
- Achieve higher conversion rates
- Give you a clearer understanding of your target customers
- Provide actionable tasks for each team member
- Increase customer retention rates
- Improve communication and collaboration within the sales team
- Optimize resource allocation and budgeting
- Be consistent with your sales messaging and branding
- Forecast sales trends more accurately
Types of sales strategies
When we use the phrase “sales strategy” to describe a methodology or sales tactic, there are many to choose from. In this next section, we’ll look at a selection of those methods and in which contexts they work best.
Inbound vs. outbound
In broad terms, sales strategies can be categorized into inbound or outbound. Their categorization depends on who initiates the sales relationship.
If the prospect reaches out to the business first, this is inbound selling, while if the sales rep reaches out to the prospective customer, this is outbound selling.
Some examples of inbound sales strategies include:
- Content marketing
- Search engine optimization
- Social media channels
- Email marketing (can be both inbound and outbound)
Some examples of outbound marketing are:
- Cold calls
- Cold emailing
- Print advertising
- Pay-per-click ads
To diversify their outreach, many businesses will include a mix of inbound and outbound sales tactics within their long-term sales strategy.
Value-based selling is a method in which sales reps aim to provide the best solutions for their customers. It reinforces the benefits of the product or service to deliver value.
Sales representatives get to know their customers’ specific needs and pain points so they can provide the best solution possible.
This means building customer trust is at the core of the approach. Consequently, value-based selling develops better customer relationships and a more loyal clientele. It works best when customers prioritize the solution’s value over product features or price.
Consultative selling has similarities to value-based selling in that it focuses on the specific needs and problems of the customer. However, in consultative selling, the salesperson has industry-specific knowledge, which allows them to provide expert advice to their customers.
The salesperson’s role is very much an advisory role, in which they may ask probing questions to understand their customer’s needs fully. The emphasis in consultative selling is to build long-term customer relationships, often prioritizing this over immediate sales.
SPIN selling is a well-established sales technique based on extensive research by Neil Rackham, the author of the book “SPIN selling.” The acronym “SPIN” comes from four types of questions designed to uncover your prospect’s needs and challenges:
- Situation: Gather facts about your customer’s current situation.
- Problem: Define what specific issues your customer needs to address.
- Implication: What are the consequences of these problems, and how urgently do they need addressing?
- Need-payoff: What would be the value or benefits of a potential solution? Is the product you’re offering right for your customer?
This systematic approach shifts the sales conversation from a product-centric sales pitch to a customer-centric discussion, focusing on identifying and addressing the customer’s needs.
Solution selling involves gaining a deep understanding of a prospect’s problems and needs. It doesn’t focus on pushing any particular product but instead emphasizes recommending a product or service that meets those needs.
It’s best used in situations where customers need unique solutions and where you can offer a variety of products or a tailored solution.
Challenger selling is based on the idea that successful salespeople challenge and educate their prospects. Salespeople first seek to understand their prospect’s business and use that knowledge to offer new ideas and solutions the customer hasn’t previously considered.
Salespeople are willing to take control of sales conversations and push their customers out of their comfort zones by challenging any preconceived ideas they might have.
Challenger selling is most commonly used in B2B selling and emphasizes the need for salespeople to become trusted advisors with in-depth knowledge and insight.
Conceptual selling is a sales approach based on the assumption that prospects buy for their own unique reasons, which are often different from those the seller presumes.
It’s a helpful method when selling to large corporations involving high-value complex deals with multiple decision-makers.
Using this technique, salespeople must take the time to understand the prospect and their concept of what they need. This requires in-depth research of the customer to uncover any underlying perceptions and motivations behind a potential purchase.
Conceptual selling is a holistic approach focusing on how the product or service integrates with the prospect’s long-term objectives. It’s centered on collaboration and fostering long-term relationships.
SNAP selling is based on the principle that customers are overwhelmed with information, distractions, and numerous responsibilities, so they need a fast, simple, and effective selling method.
SNAP stands for the four core principles of the method, which are:
Simple: Salespeople should present their solutions in a straightforward and easy-to-understand way.
iNvaluable: They should position their products as indispensable to the prospect and themselves as a trusted partner in the sales process.
Aligned: They should ensure their sales message aligns with the buyer’s objectives, needs and core beliefs.
Priority: They should address those issues of the highest priority to the buyer and position their product as the best solution to the needs they care about the most.
SNAP selling is most appropriate for busy prospects who value straightforward solutions that address their immediate priorities.
Account-based selling (ABS) is a strategic sales approach, most commonly used in B2B sales, that targets specific high-value customers.
These customers are chosen because they align closely with the seller’s ideal customer profile (ICP). Once these customers are identified, the seller researches to gather deep insights into the intricacies of the target organization.
Then, a collaborative team, including sales, marketing, and customer service, work together to create a personalized sales package for the stakeholders within the target company.
This method focuses on building long-term relationships with all those involved in the decision-making process within the target company. By targeting their resources and providing highly personalized packages, businesses can outpace their competitors and increase their chances of securing more significant deals.
Strategic sales channels
There are two broad categories of sales channels: direct sales channels and indirect sales channels.
Direct sales channels sell directly to customers and include:
- In-house sales teams: Your company employs dedicated sales teams that reach out directly to customers. B2B businesses often use this sales channel.
- Company stores: Apple, for instance, sells its products directly to the public through its stores.
- Company websites: Businesses sell products or services directly to the public through their websites. This is one of the most popular direct sales methods, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic when physical stores were forced to close.
- Direct mail catalogs: Although this is a less common sales channel since the growth of ecommerce, it can still serve a purpose. For instance, gardening businesses that sell seeds, bulbs, plants, and gardening tools still often sell through direct mail catalogs.
- Telemarketing: This is where sales calls are made directly to customers.
Indirect sales channels involve a third party, such as distributors, resellers, or agents. In indirect sales, the intermediary buys the product from your company and resells it to the final customer.
Examples of indirect channels are:
- Retailers: The retail business buys the product from the manufacturer.
- Wholesalers: These entities purchase products in bulk from manufacturers, and then sell them to retailers or other businesses.
- Franchises: Companies grant licenses to businesses to sell their products. There are countless franchises worldwide, and some examples are McDonald’s, Subway, and Snap-on tools.
- Online marketplaces: These include platforms like Amazon and eBay, where many individual sellers list their products.
- Affiliates: In this case, businesses promote another company’s product to earn a commission fee every time a sale is made through their platform.
The best sales channel for your business depends on factors such as your product type, target market, company size and industry.
For example, if you manufacture standard office items such as pens, staplers, and notepads, your target market would be offices, educational institutions, and the general public. Brand loyalty would likely be low, so in this case, using an indirect sales channel would potentially have a broader reach than selling directly.
A better strategy might be distributing your products in bulk to retailers like Staples or online marketplaces like Amazon.
Using multiple channels for your sales strategy
Many companies will employ multiple sales channels. There are many benefits to this approach, for instance:
- Increased reach: Using multiple channels allows you to reach a greater number of customers.
- Spreading your risk: Relying on a single channel can be risky. Using multiple channels means that if one channel isn’t performing as well as expected, you have other channels to provide sales and revenue.
- Meeting customers’ needs: Different people have different preferences, and where one sales channel might not attract a particular type of customer, another may perform better.
- Flexibility: Having different sales channels allows your business to alter your strategy should market conditions change.
- More sales opportunities: You’re more likely to make sales if you offer multiple touchpoints for your customers.
- Brand visibility: People are more likely to recognize and remember your brand if they see it on multiple platforms and channels.
- Using the strengths of each channel: By using multiple channels, you can make the most of the strengths of each one.
- Better pricing: Set prices that suit each channel’s audience.
- Learn more about your customers: Each channel provides an opportunity to gather customer data, such as their preferences, behavior and demographics. These insights provide valuable information for your marketing strategy.
- Competitive advantage: You can gain a competitive edge by offering more ways to buy than your competitors.
- Better customer experience: Offering a choice of channels allows your customers to buy through the channel most attractive and convenient to them.
If multiple sales channels are used, it’s essential to ensure the brand’s message remains consistent across all your channels.
Tools to improve sales
In a recent survey, businesses reported that using digital technologies increased total cost savings by 8%, indicating that to maximize your efficiency and profitability, you should consider investing in relevant software.
Software tools to improve sales vary in features and functions, and each tool often contains features from more than one of the categories listed below. So, one software tool may offer sales analytics features and customer relationship management, while another might offer features relating to forecasting and automation.
The following categories aren’t strictly separate but can give you an idea of the capabilities software tools can provide to help you design and execute a powerful sales strategy.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tools
CRMs make it easier for businesses to track and manage customer relationships. They store information about customers, such as contact details, interactions, and purchase history, and can track sales and automate marketing campaigns.
Some examples of CRMs are Zoho CRM and HubSpot. Using a CRM can eliminate the need for multiple spreadsheets, databases, and apps, providing a more streamlined and efficient process.
Sales automation tools
Sales automation tools automate repetitive sales tasks throughout the sales cycle so that your sales teams can focus on selling.
Different tools work on automating various parts of the sales process. Generally, they can help you manage your sales pipeline and automate tasks such as data entry, lead assignment, invoicing, payment reminders, and follow-up scheduling.
As a result, your manual tasks are substantially reduced, and sales processes become much more efficient.
Some examples of sales automation tools are HubSpot Sales and Pipedrive.
Sales analytics software
Sales teams need accurate insights about the effectiveness of their sales strategy, and recent research found that 60% of B2B sales teams are transitioning from selling based on intuition and experience to data-driven selling.
The need for reliable sales analytics software is becoming increasingly relevant. These tools accurately and automatically analyze sales trends, team performance, and customer behavior.
This helps businesses gain a better understanding of their sales processes. They then convert the data into charts and reports that make it easier to understand where improvements can be made or where particular challenges exist.
For instance, you could identify which products sell best in a particular region or how a new salesperson performs. Insights gained from sales analytics software can be used to improve your sales process and forecast future sales. This leads to better-informed decision-making and, ultimately, more sales.
Examples of sales analytics software are Insightly and Zendesk.
Lead generation tools
Lead generation software is a collection of tools to help you identify potential customers who might be interested in your products or services. These leads can be gathered from various channels, such as landing pages, ads, webinars or chatbots.
This software saves sales teams valuable time by simplifying finding and reaching out to leads.
HubSpot is one example that provides a suite of tools to capture leads from sources such as websites and social media.
OptinMonster finds potential leads by creating and displaying website pop-ups encouraging visitors to enter their details.
Sales enablement tools
Sales enablement tools allow you to create, edit, and share all your sales materials and content in one location. This makes it easily accessible to all the members of your sales department.
It can also help with onboarding new team members and getting them quickly up to speed.
By centralizing and organizing all your sales materials, a sales enablement tool can improve the effectiveness and productivity of your sales team.
Recent research found that 63.1% of sales enablement professionals felt that the quality of their content was below par.
Sales enablement tools can help by providing insights that show how you can improve the quality and relevance of your sales training content. Examples include Showpad and Highspot.
Sales forecasting tools
Sales forecasting tools enable your team to accurately predict sales trends and potential revenue within a given time frame. These insights can help you make better strategic sales decisions, set accurate sales targets, and allocate resources more effectively.
Examples of sales forecasting software include Aviso Predict and Freshsales.
Revenue operations (RevOps) software
Revenue operations software, also known as RevOps software, enables visibility and control of the entire revenue process, including various stages of the sales funnel. It can collect and analyze data, often dispersed across various software tools and spreadsheets used within the business.
Without RevOps software, it can be difficult to extract and align data from all these various sources. RevOps software combines sales, marketing and customer data to offer powerful insights into sales activities and performance metrics.
These insights allow for accurate sales forecasting, which can improve your company’s performance and potentially significantly increase revenue.
Clari is an example of a revenue operations platform. Research conducted by Forrester used financial analysis and representative interviews to conclude that Clari’s platform delivered an ROI of 448% over three years.
Creating your sales strategy
1. Determine your goals
Decide what you want to achieve. For example, you can increase sales by a certain amount, expand into a new market or acquire a specific number of new clients.
2. Understand your audience
Research your target audience. Look into their age, location, income level, and buying behaviors and create a buyer persona.
3. Analyze the competition
Identify your main competitors and find out what they do well and not so well. Then, determine how you can outperform them.
4. Choose your sales channels
Decide how you’ll sell your product or service. Which of the channels identified above might work best for your business?
5. Determine your pricing
Set your prices considering production costs, competitor pricing and what your target audience is willing to pay. Think about discounts, bundles, or promotions you might offer.
6. Develop your sales message
Create a sales message that communicates the benefits of your product or service and demonstrates why it’s better or different from your competitors.
7. Decide on the sales tools you’ll use
Decide which software or tools will help you the most and give you the best return on investment.
8. Decide how you’re going to train your sales team
Make sure your sales team has the necessary training and resources to sell your product or service effectively.
9. Determine your sales methodology
Which of the sales methodologies outlined above will your sales team use?
10. Set a budget
Decide how much you’ll make available for each component of your sales process, such as tools, training, promotions, and any other sales expenses.
Don’t forget existing customers
When writing your sales strategy, ensure you’re not solely focused on acquiring new customers. 76% of sales professionals report that prioritizing existing customers is essential to their business and provides a significant percentage of their revenue.
Loyal customers generally bring more value over their customer lifetime, and it’s more cost-effective to keep current customers than it is to acquire new ones. This will save you marketing and sales expenses in the long run.
Loyal customers are more likely to recommend your products or services and be valuable ambassadors to your brand. So satisfied, repeat customers are an asset to your business that you can’t afford to overlook.
You can also increase revenue from your existing customers by upselling and cross-selling. Sales leaders widely recognize the value of upselling and cross-selling existing customers. One in four identify this as their primary goal for sales success in 2023.
Upselling is the process of encouraging an existing customer to upgrade to a higher-end product or service. For instance, you might offer a premium version of your software to a customer who’s subscribed to your standard version.
Cross-selling means encouraging customers to buy a product or service that complements something they’ve already bought. For instance, if a customer of an electronics store has already purchased a laptop, the salesperson could cross-sell by recommending an external hard drive to go with it.
Don’t neglect the importance of customer feedback from your existing consumer base in your sales strategy. Their feedback can give you valuable insights into how you might best improve your product or service.
Loyalty programs are additional ways to maximize revenue from existing customers. You can motivate these customers to continue to buy from you by offering them rewards, discounts, or other incentives. This helps you retain customers and deepens their commitment to your brand.
So, always consider the needs of your existing customers in your sales strategy. To avoid customer churn, include plans to communicate with them regularly with newsletters, special offers, and personalized messages.
Implementing your sales strategy
- Ensure that your sales team is fully trained and understands the goals and methods of your new strategy.
- Provide them with the tools and resources they need, such as software and promotional materials.
- Break down your strategy into small, achievable goals. This makes the process manageable and makes it easier to track progress.
- Give your team regular updates with any changes, insights, or feedback. Keep everyone aligned with open lines of communication.
- Encourage feedback from your sales team—they can often provide valuable insights.
- Use sales analytics tools to track your performance. This will help you identify what’s working well and what needs improvement.
- Adjust your strategy based on data and feedback. You might need to tweak sales messages, change sales channels, or offer new training.
- Celebrate achieving sales quota milestones. This boosts morale and motivates the team to push forward.
- Set times for periodic strategy reviews, perhaps quarterly or half-yearly, to make sure it’s still relevant and effective.
- Stay updated with any changes in the market, customer preferences, or new technologies. Be ready to adapt your strategy when necessary.
Transform your sales strategy
So, to recap, your sales strategy is a long-term sales plan, encompassing all the practices and processes for your sales team and a methodology you might use as part of that long-term plan. We’ve discussed just a few tools that can help you develop a successful sales strategy and put it into action.
Because of its involvement in the entire revenue process, RevOps software has the potential to play a significant part in your sales strategy.