Do you follow sales strategy best practices to keep your sales team performing at top levels? Have you identified what these ideal practices are – for your industry, your competitive marketplace, and your organization? Do you understand the difference between a sales strategy, a strategic sales plan, and sales processes or tactics? For a better understanding of how sales strategy best practices can benefit your sales results, read on:
One Size Does Not Fit All
Sales strategy best practices are, by nature, somewhat generic and broad in scope. If they were one-size-fits-all, everyone would use them as-is and no one would have a competitive advantage. We know better. So, it is important to remember that you must adapt sales strategy best practices to the nuances of your market and your organization
A Sales Plan is Not a Sales Strategy and a Sales Strategy is Not a Sales Process
It also helps to understand the difference between a sales strategy, a strategic plan, and sales processes or tactics. Here are the differences.
- A SALES PLAN is comprised of a set of measurable goals, coupled with a list of the most important, most effective things you or your sales team can do to reach those goals.
- A sales plan is not the same thing as a SALES STRATEGY. Sales strategy is the planning of sales activities and methods designed to reach clients and close sales. This, of course, demands awareness of your target market, your competitive differentiators and advantages, and key resources available.
- The implementation of your sales strategy happens by way of your SALES TACTICS. These are the day-to-day activities of selling, including all parts of the sales process from prospecting to closing to following up.
Sales Strategy Best Practices as a Game Plan
Think of yourself as a football coach and your sales strategy as the game plan. The goal – in a football game as in the game of sales – is to outplay the competition, to win. The game plan that will make that possible is your strategy. To formulate a winning game plan, you’ll need to analyze and adjust to the playing conditions. You also must play to your team’s strengths and exploit your competition’s weaknesses. Execute your strategy at a high level and you have an excellent chance of winning. Winning customers, that is.
Goals and Commitments
Before you can put your sales strategy in motion, of course, you must also define your goals as part of your strategic sales plan. What do you want to achieve? What to be adjusted acceptably? How many opportunities should be at various stages in your pipeline? What are the optimum individual quotas for your salespeople? By defining measurable goals, you can turn a solid strategy into winning tactics.
But goals by themselves only set the stage for success. Driving success through superior sales performance can only truly happen with commitments and hard work of all sales team members. And these commitments can only happen if everyone understands the big picture goals and their contributions to achieving them.
Listen and Observe
Perhaps one of the most important sales strategy best practices is to listen and observe. To establish, implement and manage a successful sales strategy, you must keep your eyes and ears open – to what is happening in your organization AND what is happening in your marketplace. You must listen to your salespeople, certainly, but also to signals from your prospects and customers. For example, sales professionals often have a gut instinct when something isn’t right with a customer’s account. It is foolish to ignore this instinct and assume everything is okay. Instead, ask questions and address any potential problems before they become insurmountable. The best time to save a client’s account is before it heads out the door.
Measure Leading Indicators
To ensure the success of your sales strategy, its components must be measurable. But to keep your strategy on track in real time, focus your measurements on leading key performance indicators (KPIs) rather than lagging indicators. Leading indicators are forward-looking and predictive measures of sales performance. Leading indicators “are the ‘warning lights’ that…allow you the opportunity to intervene before it is too late.” Leading indicators are useful for sales forecasting and might include such essential metrics as the number of prospects in the pipeline, number of customer visits, number of presentations made or proposals submitted, or even the amount of time spent in the prospecting phase. If these numbers are too low, future sales could be in trouble – and your sales strategy might need to be adjusted.
Adapt, Adjust, Refine
Just as the football coach knows he must change strategy during the game, not after; the same goes for the wise Sales Manager. They must constantly keep tabs on what the competition is doing, analyze how the “playing” conditions in the market are evolving (or sometimes changing rapidly), and change plays and players to better position the company for continuing success. Keep in mind, however, that for most organizations with a good sales track record over many years, the overall sales strategy should probably be less dynamic than your sales plan or sales processes. In other words, changes to your sales strategy should probably be more evolutionary rather than revolutionary.