Sales Team

When sales teams struggle, I like to investigate three critical aspects of their sales strategy. 

  1. Market Position
  2. Ideal Customer Profile 
  3. Value Proposition

A strategy that helps you hit your revenue target consistently always includes the above elements. Specifically, you need to understand your market position, identify your ideal customer, and define the right value proposition. 

Let’s explore each of these actions in more detail. 

Understand Your Market Position

Your market position is where your product or offering fits into the market landscape. 

Understanding your market position is powerful because it helps you understand where to focus your sales and marketing efforts, and what language to use. Take a look at two things to define your positioning.

  1. The market
  2. Your competitors

First, investigate your market. These are the companies you’d most like to become your customers. I shouldn’t have to say this, but your market is not “everyone.” If you’re trying to define your market as all companies in all industries, across all territories, you’re thinking too broadly to be useful. What you want to do is carve out a niche where you can build a loyal following.

Of course, your product can be purchased by anyone who wants it, but you most likely have a niche where your product fit is best. So, look for space where the people who would most benefit from or appreciate your product fit. That’s who you’re selling to.  

When defining your market, think about which companies would find your offering appealing. From the perspective of your customer, you might be any one of the following: 

  • the economical choice
  • the sustainable choice
  • the tried and true choice
  • the cutting-edge choice
  • the simple solution 
  • the one with the most bells and whistles

Alternatively, you might align with your market around values or something else. Understand why you’re appealing, and make sure your messaging speaks to whatever your segment of the market values most. 

Next, look at the competition. How are they positioned? What segment of the market are they going after? Your best bet is to find a space where your competitors are or aren’t successful and own it. 

For example, maybe your competitors have all the bells and whistles and want to sell to enterprise companies. Maybe your product is simpler, less expensive and a better fit for small businesses or startups. Know your space and message so they hear you loud and clear. Position yourself so that the segment of the market relates to you.

Identify Your Ideal Customer Profile

Many sales teams run into trouble because they have little to no idea who their ideal customer is. This is a problem because the better the fit between your company and product and the customer, the shorter the sales cycle, the longer the customer relationship, and the easier the relationship. All of those things add to the bottom line (and help keep your sales team from struggling). 

To determine your ideal customers, look at two things: demographics and psychographics.

Demographics include elements like company size, industry, geography, and revenue. Technology systems that connect with your product or service might also fit into this category. Who their clients are might matter. Client or staff turnover might be an important consideration. 

Whatever it is, demographics are facts or measurements. Within the slice of the market, you are going after, you can narrow to the ones that will fit best. 

Psychographics aren’t as easy to measure. They often refer to attitudes. These could include their ideas about how they treat clients and vendors. Ask yourself the following questions about what kind of customers you’d ideally love to work with: 

  • Do they pay bills on time? 
  • Do they partner with their clients and vendors?  
  • Do the people that work there have integrity? 
  • Are they just interested in the lowest price or are they looking for the best solution? 
  • Do they blame past vendors for all the problems they had without taking any responsibility for their own role in the relationship?  

These things you often don’t find out until you start asking questions and begin the sales process. Other things are easier to find. Their advertising, website, and strategic plans will convey their values, for example. The company initiatives will tell you what is important to them.  

Focus on selling to clients that are the best fit for your product. When you state your value proposition, your solution should be the best fit for those people/companies.

Unless you have an enormous marketing budget, you can’t afford to market to everyone, so you need to focus on the slice of the market where you are best positioned and are the most likely to be successful and have profitable relationships.

Define the Right Value Proposition

I work with lots of sales and marketing teams that rely on value propositions that clearly don’t resonate with the market. If your value prop flops routinely, you need to take some time to reevaluate and figure out why it’s not helping you engage with the market. 

Your value proposition starts with your customer and ends with your solution. It encapsulates what makes your company and offering unique and valuable. 

The problem is that most sellers start with their benefits and then try to find a problem. To build an effective value proposition that will motivate your buyers to act, start by focusing on their problems, and couch it in their language.  

After you make that connection, you can move to how you solve the problem and why your offering is the best solution for that customer. Most sellers assume they understand the problems of customers, when in fact they’re off base. Do some research to confirm your assumptions about customer problems are on target. 

Value propositions are powerful tools when designed and delivered with the customer at the core.

Conclusion: A Great Sales Strategy Always Helps You Grow Revenue

It takes a lot of effort, but once you know your market, ideal customer profile, and value proposition, you’re far less likely to struggle with revenue. And wouldn’t that be a better way to run your business? 

If you would like to learn more, register for my FREE webinar, Reasons Sales Teams Struggle, happening on April 15th at 9 AM Pacific (12 PM Eastern).

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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  • Craig Meyer says:

    Hi Liz,
    Customers needs shift as do their business situations. Often this information is shielded from even the more senior (vs MOST Senior) employees a Rep is dealing with. The most observant reps can easily miss this, especially if they have not been in a “shifting” market before. A good way to be sure your sales teams are current with the ACTUAL state of affairs with their customers is to create their sales strategy and review it with their most senior members of the customer organization. While it IS a sales strategy perhaps renaming it for this review as an engagement or partnership plan would make it more welcome to the customer execs/owners.

    Customers want their vendors to support them with the best information and market intelligence good vendor organizations and reps can supply. NOBODY wants to be sold, but they do recognize their need for help through the buying process. They also like input towards their vendors on how they like to engage and buy. This is a time that Sales Management can get involved with the more senior Customer people. They support reps to be sure value is added with EACH interaction, and can also share any changes in BOTH the customer’s and vendor’s business and outlook since the last (say quarterly meeting). This provides visibility for both parties going forward. It also provides industry insight for both parties. And an aura of partnership and adding value to a CURRENTLY VIABLE and validated value proposition enhances the relationship for the Rep.

    If the news is bad, as we’re seeing in this uncertain time, there may be things a Vendor can do to help, like extended terms, inventory management improvements like fast turnaround for staged deliveries, for example moving toward “just in time,” thus making Cash flow more granular and manageable. I’ve also been able to extend a discount schedule to accommodate a lean stretch. Thus preserving the customer’s discount level while extending the window in return for a modest concession by a quarter or two. Since it could be made available to others, it would not be seen as an unfair advantage for one customer over another.

    These kinds of things are not usually in the power of the regular Reps. However, with a Sales Strategy and it’s corresponding “Engagement Plan,” the customer and both parties’ management are involved and engaged. Magic happens here. And Reps struggle less because all the right business resources (as opposed to sales gimmicks) on both sides are engaged. It is amazing what a Customer Senior Manager will tell a Vendor Manager that they wouldn’t volunteer to a Sales Rep

    SO YES!!! They need a strategy and the insight building that strategy yields, but they need full engagement between the higher levels of the Vendor and the Customer. That is really only effective if the work and the “all levels buy in” is the by product of creating a Strategy and PLAN. That’s the PAYOFF!

    And it yields excellent real life coaching opportunities, too.

    Craig Meyer
    Friend of Alice

    • Liz Heiman says:

      Hi Craig,

      Thanks so much for taking time to share all of that. You are so right. Sales teams need several types of strategies to be successful. The company needs an overall strategy that helps define sales’ role. They need a company sales strategy to set priorities and goals. They need individual territory strategies to define goals and actions for each rep. They also need strategies for opportunities and strategies for large accounts. For the team to succeed, communication must flow both ways and the salespeople need a team to support them. We are so powerful when we are pointed in the same direction. That is even more important in uncertain times like these.

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