Effective sales strategies are developed through careful evaluation and constant improvement. At Highspot, we work with sales and marketing leaders every day to enable their success, so we know firsthand the importance of a great sales strategy.
Below, we’ve answered some of the most frequently asked questions about building a sales strategy that lands more wins for revenue-facing teams.
What Is a Sales Strategy?
A sales strategy is a detailed plan outlining sales tactics and processes that a sales organization can use to achieve company goals and lead with a competitive advantage. The strategy informs your sellers on how to position your organization and its products or services to engage buyers in a meaningful way, further converting qualified leads into actual customers.
Any small business or organization can succeed or fail based on its sales strategy, so you’ll want to revisit yours constantly, while still leaving room for evolution based on new market trends, newly surfaced company objectives, and/or shifting prospective customer needs.
Who Develops a Sales Strategy?
Marketing, sales enablement, and sales each play a vital role in sales strategy development and execution. The best sales strategies align both sales and marketing team processes to meet desired sales goals. This is because many marketing activities (and resulting content assets) can help generate new leads and, eventually, close more deals.
Sales enablement links these two teams, encouraging greater efficiency, speed, and continuity of operations during sales strategy implementation. Sales enablement team members can then plan and roll out initiatives propelled by your sales strategy, which, in turn, can help prepare your salespeople through training that ensures all marketing assets are used effectively.
How Do You Build a Sales Strategy?
Designing a new strategy can be difficult, but every successful sales strategy starts with the following steps:
1. Define Your Business Goals
Outline clear revenue and sales performance goals early so you can measure success as accurately as possible later on. Keep in mind a good goal is SMART — specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-based —and reflects the company’s overall objectives.
To execute SMART goals effectively, sales leaders should meet regularly with company executives to ensure overarching sales strategies align directly with current market trends and business needs. Next, leaders should evaluate previous performance metrics to determine whether current goals are realistically achievable.
Sales leaders should ask themselves questions like:
- “How much did my team sell last year?”
- “Which clients generated the most revenue?”
- “What’s the next logical step for growth?”
- “Which assets will my team need to support the next stage of growth?”
Use your answers to chart a clear path toward your stated objectives. This will help you understand how to go from where you are to where you want to be.
2. Examine Your Product Offerings & Create an Ideal Customer Profile
You should always cater your product to customer needs. A tight product-market fit gives sales reps the best chance to convey value and close deals. Here’s how to get started:
- Begin building your ideal customer profile (ICP) by examining market trends and existing customer feedback. In addition, evaluate your target demographics and take advantage of typical ICP characteristics, such as industry, company size, and generalized region.
- Consider how your product creates value — and ask yourself if this value proposition still solves the target customer pain points uncovered during the creation of your ICP.
- Take your time. Product messaging is the backbone of your sales strategy, and it will underpin your next step…
3. Review Your Prospecting Strategy
After you’ve devoted ample time and resources to developing your ICP (and made all the necessary changes to your product), prospecting should be next on your list of priorities.
Prospecting is the process sales professionals go through in order to find potential customers who fit their company’s ICP. The overall goal is to identify people who are most likely to become customers and move them into the sales funnel. Once that’s done, the stage is set for sales reps to nurture these prospects until they’re ready to close.
Effective sales prospecting is critical to the sales cycle, particularly as more opportunities in your sales pipeline increase the likelihood of meeting quota. And since growing or maintaining your pipeline coverage requires generating three to four times as many opportunities (i.e., delivering three to four times as many prospects), a strong prospecting strategy can better position you for sales success.
To improve your prospecting technique, think about the types of accounts you identified in the previous step (that is, in your ICP) and consider these questions:
- “What outbound methods will you use to reach out to these accounts?”
There are many different forms of outreach, such as social selling via social media platforms (e.g., LinkedIn), asking existing customers for a referral, or even making a simple cold call. These can all be useful, but no matter which method you choose, be sure you always follow up.
- “Are your current ICPs effective and up to date?”
Make a point of reviewing your buyer personas to validate they’re in sync with your qualifying buyer personas. (Every buyer has their own personal buying process and pain points, so you want to be certain all the profiling criteria you’ve outlined are still applicable to your current audience.)
- “How will you prioritize your accounts?”
Organization is the key to lead qualification. Create a priority-based sales account list and score leads to establish their level of urgency. This will assist you in closing the most important deals, faster.
- “What types of sales collateral and resources do your reps need to achieve sales strategy goals?”
An assessment of these kinds of assets will allow you to make more meaningful requests whenever you collaborate with your colleagues in marketing.
4. Align Your Sales Strategy Plan with Marketing Initiatives
When sales and marketing work in separate silos, it’s often difficult to execute a sales strategy. So, at this point in your sales strategy development, it’s time to evaluate your marketing team activities — from content to lead generation — and ensure they’re designed to support your sales goals efficiently.
This is because your sales strategy’s success depends on your alignment strategy’s success. As part of your alignment efforts, marketing activities should be optimized to attract inbound leads that resemble your ICPs. This will empower marketers to help convert these leads by creating and surfacing valuable content uniquely tailored to ICP needs and concerns.
Modern teams often rely on sales enablement technology to help foster constructive alignment between marketing and sales teams. A sales enablement platform can even enhance alignment processes by creating a single source of truth for marketing-approved content, allowing sellers to find, customize, and pitch content assets easily and effectively.
Yet while these solutions are very powerful, their success is ultimately determined by the strength of their accompanying sales process and strategy. You can help boost sales strategy impact by bringing marketing on board during the development phase of your strategy and by providing ongoing feedback to marketers as you work to implement and execute your strategy moving forward.
5. Train & Coach Your Sales Team
Being an experienced sales rep is one thing. Understanding product messaging, target markets, value propositions, ICPs, and competitors’ advantages is quite another. Salespeople need comprehensive programs for onboarding, training, and coaching to maximize their potential and to be able to uphold your company’s sales strategy.
Make sure your company leverages systems for sales training that include:
- Onboarding and ramp-up programs for each new sales hire
- An overview of your company’s preferred sales technologies (and guides on how to use them)
- Modules on how to access sales enablement materials
- Optimal sales pitch techniques and in-field best practices
Beyond this, sales managers should also provide ongoing mentorship and coaching to help sellers navigate and improve their sales calls, emails, and general selling skills. A robust sales enablement tool can offer support for both extensive sales training and sales coaching systems, laying the groundwork for easy-to-build:
- Just-in-time training processes
- On-demand learning videos
- Routine practice sessions
- Performance evaluation tools and reporting
6. Implement, Evaluate, & Iterate
Once you’ve made it through steps one to five, your final task is to set a timeline and communicate your strategy across all stakeholder teams. Each team must clearly understand every single part of your sales plan: from its goals to its strategic initiatives, as well as its timeline for execution.
After your strategy has been fully implemented, institute a schedule for continued evaluation over time. This will help identify areas for improvement that can drive more growth.
How to Measure Sales Strategy Success
Setting goals and measuring sales success starts with building an infrastructure that allows you to review sales performance on a regular basis. Not sure where to start? Focus first on the sales metrics and KPIs you care about most.
Salesforce, for instance, suggests measuring recurring revenue, customer lifetime value, customer retention, lead quality, and changes in win rate. Hubspot, on the other hand, recommends you measure only lead-to-opportunity conversions and opportunity close rates.
The decision on what to track and what to ignore is up to you. Just make sure to find metrics that support data-driven decision-making and can help you quantify performance in terms that make sense for your business.
Once you’ve defined your desired KPIs, ensure your sales enablement and CRM technology has adequate reporting capabilities. In-depth reports can help support proper tracking, which can further inform practices for improved performance.
Ready to build an effective sales strategy? Although there are many different types of sales strategies, these steps can serve as the foundation for your sales department’s success, regardless of company size – from startup to well-established enterprise.
Upon creation and execution of your sales strategy, you’ll be better situated to boost conversion rates; align your marketing, sales, and enablement teams; and work together at scale to achieve company sales goals. Looking for a deeper sales strategy dive? Download Winning Over the Modern Buyer to learn more about optimizing your strategy and meeting modern buyer expectations.