Sales strategies are like New Year’s resolutions: Everyone makes them. Everyone tries to follow them. But eventually, they’re forgotten. There are two reasons for this: unrealistic expectations and a failure to adapt to change. Luckily, both of these can be avoided.
Start with the Sales Team
Most organizations have three plans for how sales should work: what the company thinks is happening, what the sales manager thinks should be done, and what the salespeople actually do. Viewing things from the top down is great for setting goals, but not for planning a strategy.
Start at the end of the year. Go beyond intuition and take a look at what it takes a salesperson to develop a customer.
How many emails does it take to get a meeting? Are phone calls more effective? Is there a set period of time, or can the process be sped up by more frequent contacts? Is it better to take it slowly?
These are questions that can’t be answered at the company level. It takes historical data and the experience of your staff to figure it out.
Once you have an idea of the normal timeframe, you can get a sense of when to keep trying and when to move on. Some prospects will never convert. Others will produce little revenue compared to the energy required. Your salespeople need to pay attention to how much work they do to make a sale. You don’t want to stop trying too soon, but when effort exceeds results, it’s time to find a better opportunity.
Understand Your Market
Understanding your market means understanding the people involved, and how best to approach them. Your audience should determine the approach used in sales. Some customers prefer phone calls to email. Others may be more open to a casual visit. Does the salesperson need to have something in common with the client, or is it all about the product? Understanding this gives you a handle on how to approach that particular customer more effectively.
Mine the data produced by your own team to find the best approach for your customer base. Identify other products or services you can offer existing customers. Take a fresh look at your accounts to find out what you’ve been missing.
Combine all this information to create a growth strategy. This will focus on the clients with the most potential for repeat business or expansion into other offerings. The idea is to continually look for ways to use existing connections to boost sales without increasing costs. Finally, make all your selling activities work for a living: if they don’t pay for themselves, drop them.
Stick with It, But Be Ready to Change
Once your strategy has been in place for a while, check the numbers. Weekly planning sessions can help identify problems and opportunities for improvement. Make sure new salespeople learn how to create their own strategies and use their downtime for planning and paperwork.
If everything stays on track, continue with the plan. Otherwise, use the most recent information to make adjustments, then test those changes. Have someone keep track of progress and speak up if the strategy is being ignored. Dropping a sales strategy should be the result of a decision, not neglect.
Business is dynamic. Your sales strategy should be, too.