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Growing a business

Need to craft a sales strategy? Here's everything you need to know

One of the first steps after starting a new business is to begin marketing online as well as offline. Often, however, business owners overlook the importance of straight sales strategy. Whether you have a unique product or are looking to break into an established idustry, the two must go hand-in-hand.

Taking the time to understand what a sales strategy is, why it needs to compliment your marketing efforts, and how you can set up a successful one is useful for your new business. The information you’ll find below can help you build a successful sales strategy and increase sales.

What is a sales strategy?

A sales strategy is anything a company does to sell its goods or services to its target market. There are various strategies you could implement to help drive sales.

Not only must you take the time to craft a customer profile and determine your ideal target market, you’ll also need to convert these leads. Considering that 50% of your leads likely won’t be a good fit for your product, it’s easy to see why the sales process can be so challenging. Building the proper strategy will allow you to hit your sales goals.

Understanding the sales funnel

To build a proper sales strategy, you must first understand the sales funnel. The sales funnel is a term most often used by marketing teams to describe how target customers go through the buying process. Your goal should be to have high conversion rates, meaning that a high number of customers completed the sales cycle and bought your product.

Marketing strategies typically make up the first stage of the funnel, which is otherwise known as the “awareness” stage. Here, companies are looking to increase awareness about their new product through marketing campaigns. During this time, businesses should begin to establish customer relationships with the target audience.

Once a company has acquired leads, customers will move into the middle of the funnel, into what’s known as the sales stage. This is the section where a great sales strategy will come into play. You’ll highlight your value propositions, otherwise known as the differentiators that set your company apart.

The sales stage of the funnel may have many dynamics. For instance, you may start by giving a prospect your sales pitch. Then, you may schedule a demo. You and the prospect may negotiate the price a few times before you can finally close the deal and make them a new customer.

You may elect to use different strategies at various points in the sales pipeline. The best sales reps will listen to their prospects, build a relationship, and deliver the sales pitch that best suits the prospect’s needs at the time. The ability to adjust your sales plan will go a long way toward converting leads.

Inbound vs. outbound strategies

You can categorize all sales strategies into two broad categories: inbound and outbound.

Outbound sales strategies are outdated and no longer worthwhile. In these situations, companies will base their sales strategy on the actions of the seller. They often run sales and marketing independently, creating a confusing experience for the buyer. Making cold calls with no idea who is on the other end of the line is an example of outbound marketing.

Inbound sales strategies focus on the buyer’s actions. Thanks to the Internet and search engines like Google, customers now have an abundance of data about a product or service. Sales leaders who implement inbound strategies will add value to the buyer.

The best strategists use inbound methods to build customer relationships and cater to the customer’s needs. If you’re struggling to find ways to increase sales, take a look at your current plan and determine whether you’re using the outbound methods of the past. If so, the next step would be to shift to an inbound strategy.

Crafting a sales plan

There are several components that go into developing a successful sales strategy. Each strategy should have some version of the following.

Goals for your company

The first thing you should do when developing a sales strategy is set a goal. The goals should be specific and measurable. For instance, you may set a goal to sell 100% of your remaining product inventory by the end of Q3.

Similarly, you should also highlight a timeline for the sales process. How long should it take for a prospect to move through the sales pipeline? When is it best to follow up, and when is it best to move on?

Profile of the customer

You should also take the time to establish an ideal customer profile. You should pinpoint various demographics, such as:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Occupation
  • Location

You should also determine the needs of these ideal customers and the problems they may have. Then, figure out why your product or service would be a useful solution.

Build a team

You’ll want to put your sales team in the best possible position for success. Taking someone who is, say, a computer programmer and trying to convert them into a sales professional is not going to work. Investing in successful salespeople will pay tremendous dividends for your company. Outline a list of the sales skills that you wish for these salespeople to have. Characteristics that you’ll want to look for, other than past job experience, include:

  • Empathy
  • An ability to listen
  • Competitiveness
  • “People skills” and networking ability
  • Self-awareness
  • Assertiveness

You should hire a couple of dedicated salespeople for your team. If it’s in your budget, you should also hire a sales manager to oversee these individuals and serve as the decision maker when it comes to strategic implementation.

Once you hire top talent, you’ll need to provide them with the proper training. Providing sales training to your staff will go a long way toward converting leads.

Prospect qualification

You’ll receive a lot of prospects in your pipeline. If you can’t spend time on every prospect, you should be efficient in determining which prospects to target. A good indicator of a high-quality lead is one who reached out to you beforehand. Perhaps they downloaded an app, completed an inquiry form, or visited a particular page on your website.

The sales pitch and process

You should outline your sales process and pitch. This is a map that your salespeople should follow when working on a lead, starting with the discovery call and moving toward the final pitch. You should come up with a sales pitch that best suits your company, not a generic elevator pitch that you can find online.

You should also outline how you would like your team to handle objections. Highlight pain points, or the things that customers are most likely to object to. Come up with retorts for these objections ahead of time.

Lastly, arm your team with closing techniques. What are you going to use to help seal deals? Are you willing to provide a product discount if a customer closes today? What strategies will you use to help bring a sale home?

Track results

You’ll also want to take the time to determine how you will measure success. Many companies choose to use Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to track the progress of a particular campaign. Determine which KPIs and analytics are most essential and how you’ll go about monitoring them.

Tips when implementing a sales strategy

If you’re looking to develop a strategy that works, the eight sales tips listed below could help.

1. Talk to your current customers

Your current customers are one of your best resources for increased revenue. Your customer base can provide you with valuable feedback about what worked and didn’t work for them during the sales cycle.

Similarly, current customers are an excellent source of revenue. You’ve already converted them once. It’s easier to sell to an existing customer than it is a new one. Make sure that you maintain your relationships through customer emails or one-on-one check-ins. And, offer solutions to the problems your existing customers are having.

2. Talk to failed customers

In addition to talking to current customers, you should also solicit feedback from failed customers. Even if you couldn’t convert a lead, there’s a strong chance you still developed a relationship with the person or business.

Follow up with failed leads to figure out what went wrong and what you can do better. This feedback can improve your sales strategy.

3. Bundle your products and services

Many small businesses have found success by selling bundled products and services as a package rather than as individual offerings. Doing so provides value to the customer. It could also help cut your costs, as you’ll push inventory and reduce overhead.

If possible, try to keep your bundles flexible. If you can swap out different products or services to align with varying customer needs, you’ll see increased sales as a result.

4. Ask for referrals

Your current customers are also a great asset because they can provide you with client or word-of-mouth referrals. If you know that a client is satisfied and happy with your products, ask him or her for the names and contact information of other small business owners who might benefit from working with you. You can also ask satisfied customers for testimonials and then use those on your website and in sales emails or newsletters. Always be sure to ask permission first when using a customer testimonial.

5. Have a limited-time sale or promotion

Discounting your products may seem counterintuitive, but even offering a slight discount can make your products and services more attractive to a client because it creates the appearance of value. Make sure to clearly define the parameters of the sales, including start and end dates.

6. Listen to your prospects

This is perhaps the most straightforward — and most overlooked — sales technique. Listening to your clients or potential customers is the best way to understand and address their needs. Make sure that you and your sales team understand:

  • How to actively listen during sales conversations
  • How to ask the right questions to get more information from prospects
  • How to brainstorm solutions with clients

7. Use social media and content marketing to your advantage

If you have even a small following on Twitter or Facebook, using social media is a great way to build your brand and generate potential leads. Don’t just view social media as a sales tool, but as an open line of communication. Use it to post about interesting industry information, retweet or repost articles of particular significance, or further illustrate how your business works, perhaps with behind-the-scenes photos or videos. Social media can allow you to begin developing relationships with customers.

In addition to common social media sites like Facebook and Instagram, be sure to use sites like LinkedIn. The best salespeople will use LinkedIn to build their network.

Also, make sure to utilize content marketing. Content marketing involves things like posting sales blogs, landing pages, and eGuides on your website. You can also post links to your published pieces on your social media accounts to help drive traffic to your homepage. Content marketing is useful because it provides your followers with value. And if you engage in Search Engine Optimization (SEO), content marketing can help you rank well in search results.

8. Understand your competition

Taking the time to understand your competition and what they offer will put you in a position for success. Many of the most common objections to your product or service will involve competitors. For instance, you may receive an objection similar to, “Well, Company B can provide me with X, Y, and Z.” Knowing what sets your product apart will help you explain your value to leads.

Keep on selling

Your sales strategy is something that you craft explicitly for your company. The bottom line is that tailoring a personal, relatable strategy can go a long way toward building relationships, boosting revenues, and converting new sales. A financial management system that allows you to view customers and their needs in one place, such as QuickBooks Online, can help organize and optimize your sales.

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