- What is a sales strategy?
- Why should I create one for my business?
- How do I set up a sales strategy?
Imagine that Suman has a company that sells handmade alpaca sweaters. While the business is fine, she is facing competition from another sweater brand.
Suman hired Salesperson to persuade potential customers to buy more sweaters than their competitors. They promote her products by telling the target audience that Suman’s sweater can get you the best price.
Suman’s competitors tell that the local artisan hand-knit sweaters of the company. The company answers questions during live chat and sends potential and current customers newsletters with fashion tips. Why is the competitor outselling Suman?
Let’s find out
Did Suman make sure her salespeople understood her target audience?
Did the salespeople understand why Suman’s business was special and unique?
Did Suman make sure her salespeople knew how to engage her customers beyond a sales pitch?
That’s a no on all counts. Suman should have had a plan for how she’d like to promote her sweaters. And she probably should have hired salespeople who knew how to tell her business story and present information in an engaging way.
In the past, a business’ marking and sales groups were 2 distinct entities who had different responsibilities.
Marketing would handle branding and messaging. They’d make sure people knew the business’ products or services and give basic information about their benefits. This would give them leads, AKA potential customers.
Sales would pitch the business’ products or services to these leads, and give them the guidance they need to make the final decision to buy.
These days, marketing and sales are intertwined. That means marketers need to know how to foster relationships with customers like salespeople, and salespeople need to understand the messaging marketers have created.
This is why a sales strategy is so important. It’s a guide for how you’ll go about selling and marketing your products and services.
It’s hard to come up with a sales strategy if you don’t know your target audience that well. That means it’s time to put on your research hat.
Beyond just their age, gender, income, and where they live, learn about their interests, attitudes, and opinions. Also, discover where is the best place to reach them.
Do they love certain social networks or online forums? Do they frequent blogs and websites you should advertise on? What do they search for online? What magazines and newspapers are they reading? Do they follow influencers?
Once you know your target audience, it’s time to understand the experience they have when looking for products and services like yours.
Start by asking yourself what problems or needs your target audience has that your product or service can help solve for them. For example, Suman’s audience needs warm clothing, and her alpaca sweaters can help.
Are there are any specific scenarios that are associated with this problem or need? Suman’s audience needs warm clothing when it gets cold during the winter or for a trip to a colder climate (like when they go skiing).
Next, look for emotions surrounding the problem or need, and how you can address these emotions. Suman’s audience loves buying clothes, but they worry about paying too much for poor quality. She can help ease this worry.
Then find critical moments for your business during this buying experience. For example: when your audience first has a need, when they research how to solve this need when they first hear of your brand or their first visit to your store.
Finally, ask yourself how your marketing and sales can meet your target audience at all of these critical moments.
After you plan how to meet your target audience during their buying journey, develop the right messaging to show them at those critical moments.
The average consumer has been bombarded by ads online, on their phones, and at the store, all telling them what they want or what they should buy. That’s why it’s important to base your messaging on the authentic story behind your business.
Ask yourself why you’re passionate about your business and products or services, and why other people should be too. Is there a personal story behind your business, or does it have a higher purpose?
For example, Suman’s business story is personal because her grandmother taught her to knit at an early age and it’s how they bonded. But her competitor has a higher purpose because they’re passionate about sustainable clothing.
Also, figure out what makes your business better and different than your competitors. Is there a special process for producing your product or service? What would your company never do (what are your values)?
Combine all these elements and create a narrative story for your business. Make this narrative the foundation of your messaging and sales strategy, as it helps your audience see the human, genuine side of your business.
Beyond sending the right message to your audience, a message to your audience, your sales strategy can plan for how your business will give your audience information they need.
Think like your customers: What questions would they have about your products or services? It helps to revisit the “need” scenarios and emotions you discovered while researching your audience’s buying experience.
For example, Suman remembers that her customers need warm clothes for winter but are worried about quality. So she’ll give them information on how her sweaters are knit for maximum warmth and longevity.
Where will your audience find this information? On a search engine, social media, a directory, somewhere else? Be prepared to have your information ready and available in these locations.
Make sure your website will appear in search results when people search the most common phrases associated with your business questions. Put these phrases into your website test and in its metadata.
It goes without saying that your website should then feature the answers to your audience’s questions.
But you should also have this information on your social media pages and in any online business listing, you may have.
Make content creation (blogs, social media posts, newsletters, etc) a part of your sales strategy. It helps potential customers find you, engage with you, and form a relationship with you. Strong content is always useful, entertaining, and/or informative.
Your sales strategy can also work hard to assure your audience that, even though we’re in a digital age, there are still real humans who care.
You can help bridge the digital/human divide by featuring a live chat on your site, or a helpline that has real humans answering questions instead of an automated system.
If your business does in-person sales, you might use digital tools to make people’s shopping experience easier (a website with FAQs, a Google My Business Listing with your location and hours, online photos of your products).
You can also show that you listen to customers and care about their feedback. Social listening tools like Google Alerts, Talk walker, and BuzzSumo can tell you when you’re mentioned on platforms like Twitter or in online publications.
Regularly respond to customer reviews – both negative and positive. They can be a huge factor in whether or not potential customers give you business. Reviews also help you build relationships with current customers.
Finally, go beyond the sale. Create a plan for keeping in touch with customers before, during, and after purchases – like encouraging them to sign up for your newsletter or sending them a thank you email after they buy.
You’ve probably realized that you need to do a decent amount of research before you can jump into creating a sales strategy.
Now you’re ready to get your sales strategy together. Your next step is to list all the places you can reach your target audience and to explore the experience customers have when they’re looking for and buying products and services like yours.