When we first met our brand-new Vice President of Sales, the CEO of the company had just laid out the strategic plan to the executive team, hinging on the necessity to implement a world class sales strategy to deliver the revenue necessary to fulfill the company’s aggressive growth objectives!
No problem: In this final installment of our 3-part series examining the key drivers of successful revenue growth that create real value, we will build on the four key components of the Sales Plan (outlined in Part 2) that included:
– A documented, well-understood sales strategy;
– A defined sales process and methodology;
– Ongoing sales training and development; and
– The effective use of data analytics and readily available technology.
In this article – Part 3 of the series – we will explore what makes for a truly effective sales strategy to deliver on the company’s objectives.
Best-in-class companies implement sales strategies through a combination of effective planning, execution, and ongoing refinement. While specific strategies can vary depending on the industry, target market, and product or service, there are some common elements that top-performing companies tend to incorporate into their sales strategies.
Let’s explore some key aspects of how they achieve this…
Best-in-class companies invest heavily in market research, gaining a comprehensive understanding of their target market. This includes in-depth knowledge of customer needs, preferences, and pain points. Legendary management guru, Peter Drucker, notes that “Quality in a product or service is not what you put into it, it is what the customer gets out of it.” So, understanding your customer requirements is imperative.
They also conduct rigorous competitive analysis to identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Continuous monitoring of market trends and changes allows them to stay ahead of the curve.
Setting well-defined and measurable sales goals and targets is a key component of any plan. Tracking specific Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to measure progress and ensure that their sales objectives align with broader business goals allows for monitoring of achievements.
Segmentation of the customer base enables the tailoring of approaches to different customer groups to align with their needs more specifically and effectively. This involves the creation of detailed buyer personas to understand customer demographics, behaviours, and motivations, allowing for more personalized interactions.
Ongoing training and development programs are a priority. They equip the sales team with the knowledge and tools necessary to excel in their roles, ensuring they stay up to date with industry trends and product knowledge.
Salespeople are quick to point out that their industry is specialized, and that you need unique knowledge and experience to be successful. Brian Halligan, CEO of HubSpot, states “In sales, it’s not about what you sell; it’s about how you sell it.”
The development of a clear and effective sales process that guides salespeople through each stage of the sales cycle is a key goal that allows for future scalability. Regular refinement and optimization of the process based on performance data and feedback ensures continued efficiency.
Utilization of CRM (Customer Relationship Management) systems is common. These systems help manage customer information, track interactions, and automate routine tasks. Additionally, they implement sales enablement tools to provide sales teams with the right content and resources at the right time.
Fortunately, these tools are readily available and have come down in price and complexity so that any size company can take advantage of these benefits.
There’s a strong focus on collaboration between sales and marketing teams. Shared goals, messaging, and strategies are developed to generate and convert leads effectively. This alignment helps prevent the disconnect between the two departments which can sometimes hinder sales efforts.
Effective strategies for lead generation are put in place, encompassing both inbound and outbound channels. Lead nurturing processes are established to move prospects through the sales funnel, ensuring that potential customers receive the right information and support at each stage.
Regular measurement and analysis of sales performance and pipeline data are integral to decision-making. These companies use data to make informed decisions and adjust the sales strategy as needed, ensuring a data-driven approach to sales.
Building and maintaining strong relationships with customers is a priority. These companies provide excellent customer support and post-sales service to foster loyalty and encourage repeat business. As Sam Walton, founder of Walmart stated, “The goal as a company is to have customer service that is not just the best but legendary”.
Incentive and compensation plans are designed to motivate the sales teams. They reward top performers and align compensation with sales goals, ensuring that the salesforce remains highly motivated.
Best-in-class companies actively seek feedback from the sales team, customers, and other stakeholders. They continuously iterate and adapt the sales strategy based on this feedback and performance results.
In the 1970’s no company demonstrated this more than Harley Davidson, relying on key feedback mechanisms to rescue the company from near obscurity to become the iconic brand it is today. “The more you engage with customers, the clearer things become and the easier it is to determine what you should be doing.” – John Russell, President of Harley-Davidson
Taking risks is a requirement in business. Mark Zuckerberg, the co-founder and CEO of Facebook maintains “The biggest risk is not taking any risk. In a world that’s changing quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks.”
However, world class companies identify potential risks and challenges in the sales process and develop contingency plans to mitigate risks and overcome obstacles. This proactive risk management helps to ensure a smoother sales process.
Making sure that the sales strategy adheres to legal and ethical standards is a discipline expected by the market. Maintaining transparency and integrity in all sales interactions is a core principle for customer success.
Implementing a world class sales strategy is not rocket science! Our new VP of Sales needs to understand that it takes discipline to deliver a comprehensive plan and that it is an iterative process. The first steps include researching client needs, setting clear objectives, and defining the target customer segments. This forms the basis for any sales plan; however the VP needs to recognize and that continuous refinement is a defining factor of an effective strategy.
Best-in-class companies remain agile and open to change, continually adjusting their sales strategies based on market dynamics and emerging opportunities. They also invest in technology, data analysis, and employee development to stay at the forefront of their industries, which allows them to consistently outperform competitors in their respective markets.