Strategy is essential, it's the direction and the game plan. A strong plan gives you the best shot at exceptional sales results. This includes details of the type of sales you'll undertake, who the customers are, what sales resources are needed, how to engage both, key metrics and performance standards, and a lean, mean process to enable hitting that target, among other things.
Fundamentals to Include in a Sales Strategy
Sales isn’t rocket science, but it is easy to spend time and effort in areas that don’t deliver the results you want. Getting the sales basics right is the quickest way to move your business forward. Developing a sales strategy and including the details of how, when, where mean you're arming yourself or your team with the map to find the pot of gold. Then of course it's about ensuring the team have the competencies needed to do so, but for now, let's focus on the elements you need to include.
We have eloquently (if we do say so ourselves) matched the five fundamentals with 5 Zig Ziglar quotes. We’ll hopefully be able to come up with some original words of wisdom but for now, Zig’s our guy!
The extensive research from the CEB Sales Leadership Council shows that star performers spend more time in sales-preparation activity and planning, and core performers spend more time on non-sales-related administrative activities. Stars appear to control their own time, not let others control their time.
Here’s two ‘admin’ or planning activities that add a LOT of value:
- Territory Plan or Call plan - who you’re going to see and how often.
- Call strategy and objective - why you’re seeing them and what you are aiming to achieve from the meeting (if you don’t have a call objective don’t waste your client’s time! They will see you if you add value, not to chat about their weekend!)
It’s not just about knowing about the customer, really smart sales people will add value to the customer through providing industry and relevant insights, information, and recommendations. They will take a long term view of the relationship and work collaboratively with the customer, deeply understanding the customer’s business, their business strategy and needs. This insight enables them to prepare and recommend the best possible solutions as they have a deep understanding of the potential opportunities, barriers, roadblocks and influencers. They strive to see the world from the customer’s perspective.
They also advocate for the customer internally, while balancing the needs of the business too. The founding principle these people buy into is that they seek a true win/win outcome.
Honing their craft as a sales professional, developing and adding to, a sharp and effective set of tools, being the resident encyclopaedia on the product (ummm … do encyclopedia's exist anymore!?) are essential for today’s kick a$$ sales person.
Adding to the knowledge bank is important, but more importantly is the way they use this knowledge. Sharing and developing others in the team or in the business, and using the skills. There is no amount of knowing that can trump getting out and doing something.
We all know a tonne of stuff that we just don’t do. The people you want to surround yourself with, are those that chase knowledge and then prepare to stumble and fall as they make attempts to build the capability to ‘do’ what they’ve learned.
Perhaps the one area many sales people really struggle with (actually, not just sales people, most time-poor people do), is run off and act based on a series of assumptions or a ‘quick and dirty’ conversation to get to the root of the situation. This is super crucial when working alongside customers to develop solutions. If you’re not a master ‘questioneer’, then you’re not getting all the information you need to really developing those sticky, productive, win/win outcomes. It’s the combination of up-skilling to add value, and deep knowledge of the customers and the situation that enable the best sales people to shine.
FOLLOW UP AND THROUGH
Doyle Slayton co-founder of xoombi sums it up brilliantly “Follow-up is among the most important activities in sales. It’s an opportunity for salespeople to establish credibility, follow through on deliverables, and build value. Deals are won and lost based on how effective a salesperson is with follow-up.”
It’s a good idea to set clear, specific expectations for sales professionals by mapping out the sales process end to end. Spelling out clearly what follow up is expected, and within which time frame, removes all guesswork and helps codify ‘how we do things around here’ ie, culture. A really simple example could be – new leads are to be contacted with 24 hours with the objective of making a face to face appointment. The appointment to be held within 2 weeks with the objective of understanding the customer’s business, key stakeholders and their current preferred solution.
The other common question, is which medium is best for follow up? The one that your customer prefers of course! If they’re engaged and responsive via email, then that’s a valid option. If phone is best, do that. Make sure critical information gathering or expectation setting meetings are in person where possible though.
The ‘Follow through’ is applicable all the time. It is the super important, applicable to everyone, credibility-building ‘do what you say you will’. Simple.
When working with a customer to develop a solution proposal or deal, let them know at the beginning that you will contact them at the end of the deal to discuss it, regardless of outcome. This will increase the likelihood of them agreeing to have a conversation and signal at the outset of the deal that you care.
"In any walk of life, we tend to do what we focus on, and there are a lot of things to focus on,” said Timo Rein, co-founder and president of Pipedrive. “But you need to be focusing on – and filling your day with – things that are the key to being successful.”
Each sales person and each business will have different set of things to focus on, and this focus needs to shift throughout the day or week, inline with what’s happening out there.
If you’re leading a sales team, or wanting to reset your focus as a sales person, here are some of the core areas to laser in on:
1. Keeping an eye on the prize in the medium-longer term
What’s the sales target and how performance is tracking in line with this
2. See #1 above
Planning, reviewing effectiveness and refining plans
3. And #4 above
Follow up and follow through – has this been done?
4. Industry knowledge
What events are coming up, what market research has been made available?
5. Product knowledge
What can be brushed up on? Check in with colleagues around what new uses or applications, or testimonials they have. What’s new that you can share with the development or marketing team?
Types of Sales
There are essentially two types of sales:
1. Pro-active sales where you’re contacting a customer directly to engage them, typically this is face to face, but may also happen in an outbound sales role which is desk based and using phone to connect with customers. We focus most of our content on the face to face style, but the majority is relevant to outbound phone sales too.
2. The other type is more reactive, we call this Frontline. It’s where customers are coming to you or initiating contact with you. This is commonly the type of sales we’re used in retail businesses, hospitality and contact centres.