Recently, I collaborated with a company creating a complex digital ecosystem, which required a multi-tiered marketing and sales approach. There were very specific major corporations that this company needed to engage in launching their product. At the same time, this company needed to sell to the organizations that would implement the technology, including IT providers.

The company’s leadership didn’t prioritize selling and engaging at multiple levels to the salespeople. Instead, the sales reps focused on hitting their sales quotas and did exactly what you would expect—they sold to the lowest hanging fruit. It turned out that the sales they made were small, low profit and required a lot of programming. More importantly, they weren’t selling to the organizations that could make the company’s technology a standard in the industry.

When I met with the company’s owner, I asked why the reps were primarily selling to clients that didn’t fit the company’s Ideal Customer profile, “We need sales now” he said. In response, I asked, “How will you ever achieve your long-term goals of creating a digital ecosystem with these small, resource-consuming sales?”

Yes, it’s possible for sales teams to hit revenue goals and for the company to still miss critical targets. It’s not enough to give the sales team a better list of targets. That may help in the short-term, but it will only put a bandage on the larger issue, which is that leadership hasn’t developed or communicated a sales strategy.

It’s not uncommon for business leaders to start a sales strategy with sales goals. But, a sales strategy doesn’t start with sales. In fact, a sales strategy ends with sales. There is a whole lot that happens before you can look at a sales team and say, “Hit these numbers.”

Answer These Big Questions!

A revenue goal alone won’t result in the long-term strategic sales you need to sustain growth. But, building a great sales strategy will help ensure the success of your team.

To create a great sales strategy and to effectively execute it, your sales team needs you to answer six big questions:

  1. What’s the bigger picture?
  2. What Ideal Customer Criteria can they use to prioritize prospecting?
  3. What are the top companies we want to reach and sell to successfully?
  4. What is your position in the market?
  5. What value proposition is appropriate for each buyer persona?
  6. What support can sales depend on from every department in the company?

Here’s how you can answer each question and position your sales team for success.

What’s the bigger picture?

We tend to think that salespeople just need to sell what we tell them to sell. But, to truly grow your business and make the right sales, your reps need to understand your company vision. Make sure you explain where the company is going and where the market is going on a regular basis. Provide your sales team with insights regarding how the company intends to capture a new market or leverage technology changes. If you make changes to product availability or services, explain to your sales team why those changes were necessary. Or, better yet, involve your sales team in those decisions! Once reps see the bigger picture and the long-term vision for the company, they can bring their customers with you.

What Ideal Customer Criteria can they use to prioritize prospecting?

Did you know that in some companies as many as 90 percent of leads never receive a follow-up call? Sure, some of those leads may be unqualified or may not be worth your sales team’s efforts—but what about the one that is?

If your sales team has a glut of leads and no way to prioritize them, it’s likely they’re missing the opportunity to sell to the right person. To help them prioritize leads, provide Ideal Customer Criteria they can use to measure a potential client. This information will help your reps filter prime opportunities and pursue them in a focused way.

What are the top companies we want to reach and sell to successfully?

Your sales team shouldn’t be picking your top priority companies—leadership should be. Once you have your defined your ideal customer, you can use those criteria to make a list of the companies you want to target. Depending on your capacity, that could be 10 companies or 1,000. Once you select these companies, explain to your reps why these are the top target companies, which will help your sales team understand the bigger picture.

What is your position in the market?

For your sales reps to effectively sell your company and products, they need to be able to communicate your position in the market. Look at the strength of the market, brand awareness, competition, and outside factors such as technology landscape or economics to clarify your positioning. Once you’ve completed your analysis, provide your team with a summary of your findings and a positioning statement they can use.

What value proposition is appropriate for each buyer persona?

A value proposition flips the positioning statement to be customer focused. Sellers need to explain to customers what your company offers in a way that matters.

Your value proposition starts with the answer to these two questions:

  1. What problem is your client having that you can help or solve with your solution?
  2. What is unique about the way you solve this problem?

Provide your salespeople with real reasons that your ideal customers will get unique value from what you are selling. This will empower your salespeople to have the conversations they need to have.

What support can sales depend on from every department in the company?

Even with the answers to all of the above questions, your sales team will still be unsuccessful if they do not have buy-in from every department in the company. Many companies have at least one sales prevention department. It could be a production department that can’t fulfill the orders that the reps sell, or legal holding up contracts, or maybe it’s accounting.

Every member of your company needs to understand the sales team’s goals, how they are expected to achieve those goals, and how they can support the sales team. To get there, make sales a fully integrated part of your company. And, ensure that other departments know the value and critical nature of a high performing sales team.

Sales Strategy Doesn’t Start with Sales

As I said in the beginning, sales strategy doesn’t start with sales—it ends with it. If your sales team only receives a revenue goal, they will never be able to understand how to reach that goal in a way that grows your company. As a business owner or sales leader, your job is to create a kick-ass sales strategy and then clearly communicate that to your team.

We want all of you to be able to answer the Big 6. Watch Liz’s webinar Sales Strategy Doesn’t Start in Sales for more information!

About the Author Liz Heiman

A strategic thinker, sales strategist, Japanist, and Rotarian, Liz is a coach, trainer, and prolific speaker on the topics of sales and sales leadership. Liz loves sales, and enjoys working with sales leaders to create strategies and processes that make sense AND bring in results.

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  • What do you Need to be Successful ?
    I say there are 10 competencies that you need to master if you want to be successful in business:

    1. A brand that differentiates you from others
    2. A well-defined Product or Service to sell
    3. A Unique Selling Proposition (USP) or a Killer Introduction that intrigues your prospects and makes them want to know more about you and your business
    4. A clear understanding of who Your Ideal Customers are
    5. The knowledge of where to find them
    6. The understanding of how to Get To Engage Them effectively
    7. Know-how to Eliminate Your Competitors so that your business becomes the buyers’ final and only choice
    8. The skills to create effective proposals that close the deal and get your prospects to Transact only with you
    9. A superior pre, during and post-purchase Customer Experience
    10. The know-how how to keep your customers Loyal and win their Repeat Business

    Do you have all 10 under control?
    Which could do with more work?

  • Liz Heiman says:

    Absolutely true. Sales reps need all of those things and more to be successful. Good strategy and tactics combined make sales teams powerful.

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