Successful sales is a deliberate, thoughtful activity. You need a process that you initiate over and over again. Whenever I talk with small business owners or salespeople who aren’t realizing the results they desire, the cause is usually the same: They don’t have a sales strategy.
You can’t sell here and there. You can’t pick up the phone when you have a minute. Sales requires a strategy, a process, a way to proceed that you can measure and monitor. Sales is something you have to commit to on an ongoing basis. You can’t just try it for 30 days! It takes persistence, energy and focus.
Think of the sales process in terms of bike riding. When you ride a bike you have to gain momentum. When you first start to pedal, it takes extra energy to get the bike to move. Once you’ve been riding you develop a flow; you can even glide at times. As you ride you build up steam. And when you hit a hill it is easier to climb it because you already have that momentum going.
That’s what an effective sales process is like. Starting out takes extra energy. You have to put the plan in place and start the ride. Once you get that energy going, it becomes easier to maintain. You still have to pay attention to what you are doing, but sticking with it and realizing results becomes easier the more you pedal. However, if you start and stop, and start and stop, you’ll be exhausted … and have nothing to show for it.
There are 5 steps to a successful sales strategy:
1. Define your target market. Knowing this is critical to your sales success. You aren’t going to do business with everyone. And even if you were, you have to start somewhere. You have to have a place where you can focus in order to build up that momentum we talked about.
Once you have the market defined, create a list. This list should be large enough to give you the opportunity to really delve in and repeat the process a couple of times. If your target market is too small your odds of success decrease. You may have to merge two similar target markets in order to have the numbers working in your favor.
2. Determine your outreach. Will you cold call or network or both? I have a system that works really well for my clients. It goes like this:
Once you’ve defined your target and created the list, reach out to your networks to see if you are connected in any way to the person or organization you seek. This includes direct outreach – emailing or calling them – and exploring your LinkedIn contacts. Remember, you are looking for an introduction. That’s it! You want the opportunity to meet with the prospect. When your friend or associate introduces you to the prospect, follow up and set up the meeting.
Next, take the ones on the list you don’t have a connection to and cold call them. This could mean sending them an introductory letter or postcard, or picking up the phone and calling them. If you send an introductory letter or postcard, you must tell them that you will call to follow up – and then follow up! You can’t leave the action in their hands. The process is yours to conduct, not theirs.
3. Know your questions. Before you go on a sales appointment, create a list of questions to ask the prospect. This is the time for you to really get to know them, their needs, their business practices. It is not the time for you to talk endlessly about your product or service. If they look like a qualified prospect, provide them with a quote. If they don’t, walk away.
4. Deliver and build. Deliver on what you said you were going to do for the prospect. Then make sure you build the relationship. Don’t expect them to stay with you or use you for other needs if you aren’t taking the time to build the relationship with them. The sales process doesn’t end with the sale.
5. Monitor. This is one of the most critical aspects of a successful sales strategy. As you move forward with your plan you must keep track of how well it is working. On the first day of each month, take a look back at the previous month. Ask yourself these questions:
- How did it go?
- What worked?
- What didn’t work?
- Did I hit my numbers?
Knowing what works and what doesn’t gives you the opportunity to tweak your process. Adjust or get rid of what doesn’t work, and keep what does. If you hit your numbers, celebrate! Then prepare for the coming month. What’s the goal? What’s the plan?
If you didn’t hit your numbers, determine what might need to be changed and change it. Then add the missed amount to the coming month’s goal. You don’t want to give up on the overall goal by just letting the past month drop. You want to take the sales dollars you didn’t get and add them to your goal for the coming month. Now plan for how you are going to achieve that – and get going.
This is a process that will work over and over and over again. You’ll find that the momentum builds with each step, so it becomes easier to do. Moreover, you’ll realize results from this sort of structure. Implementing a sales strategy keeps you focused and succeeding. And it makes the whole sales process easier to do. So do yourself a favor and give it a whirl! I’m sure you’ll notice the difference.
Image from 3DProfi/Shutterstock
I’m consistently surprised how few businesses have a firm grasp on #1. Every time I start a PPC campaign I start by asking the business owner or marketing team to describe their client profiles and I often have to pull the information out of them. This information needs to be so well known it’s top-of-mind.
How can you improve sales, when you are asked to do so?
Can you be more specific? What do you mean – when you are asked to do so?
Good point Robert, a lot of people really miss the point on defining a target market. If you don’t know who you’re selling to, how can you do anything at all?
Thanks for the info. I’m at a brand new company, and what you’re saying about momentum is something I’ve been trying to explain to the inventor and the investor. We officially launched on the sixth of may, and our sales have been on a steady increase. The people really running the show are wanting an overnight success, and it’s hard to explain that that’s exactly what we’re experiencing, it’s just that it turns out that overnight success happens after a long, arduous journey.
I’ve been flying by the seat of my pants here, and have been so focused on visibility that I haven’t been looking directly into our sales funnel and how it works. While I’m a statistical monitoring junkie, my overall strategic thinking has been so focused on web promotion and product production that I’ve been forgetting about the thing that’s actually going to keep us afloat: sales!
Thank you again, I appreciate the info.
I think it’s because they don’t want to count out any group. they’re afraid they’ll miss out on business if they narrow their focus. Or they think their ideal client is every client they have. They have a hard time painting a picture of the ‘ideal.’ It is a shame for sure!
i admire you ma’am diane 🙂
Nice job, Diane,
I like what you wrote about building relationships. The days of the quick sale, and just moving on to the next one seem to be over.
The Franchise King®
and thank goodness!
Diane, I like how you outlined these steps in a drop dead simple way and I think that the challenge here is on the ‘deliver’ part. When you fail to deliver something you’ve promised, no matter how big or small, you break that trust which is the ultimate driver in pushing someone to make that buying decision. Thanks for keeping us reminded of these baby steps.
Adam – we support you. If there’s anything else you need, reach out. You are in an exciting time (which can be challenging at times). You are so right about the journey of overnight success!
Great points Diane! Knowing how to generate leads and increase sales is critical for businesses. Good thing you discussed the factors for a successful sales strategies.
Looking forward to more of your articles.
Thanks, this is awesome, I tried this strategy on my client, life insurance company. The agents created sales process based on this I tried it on flyers and facebook page. It worked like magic. They now have leads chasing them.
Thanks everyone. For those of you in the states, happy thanksgiving! I am grateful for the opportunity to share with all of you.
I am a new business and don’t have a sales person. I know my market. I have made 2 calls to them and they say they should know soon. I am afraid. I have everything I need but guts. I don’t have money for a salesman. Only commision right now but no takers to even ask what my business is. They want money and I don’t have it. Even if I got the leads. Any suggestions
Lots of questions there Mary. Many business owners find they are their own sales force and struggle with it. Gaining a deeper understanding of sales might help you get over your fear. There are many great sales coaches and training programs out there. I’d be happy to talk with you about this to see what direction you can go in.
The best strategy any salesperson can employ is to maintain good contact with leads to nurture them to become conversions. This can be difficult unless you are hyper-organized and never forget anything. For the rest of us, I recommend a cloud based customer relationship management tool like SalesOptima.
Crisologo C. Jumao-as
This is great!!! the bicycle analogy in the intro is perfect very clear….every sales person can relate. Thanks Diane, looking forward for more sales tips…Godbless.
Chris C. Jumao-as
I enjoyed reading and will use this as a guideline for my personal Sales as a Salesman.
Thanks Chris and Angel. I’m glad you found value in the article.
what is the best strategy for voucher card
Hi Daniel. Can you give me more information on what you are asking?
Great point!! Thanks, Diane. m just come back form the interview of Fedex for the international sales position. What you mentioned are really helpful for the fresh like me!! Thanks for the sharing!!!
Glad it helped Henry! Good luck
Thanks Diane, for the great sales strategy. It is always good to learn from those who are out there doing it.
can you help me out about this strategies..??
Can you provide me with more information about what you are looking for?
Don’t forget that it is important to understand you customer before you build your sales strategy. One place to start is by reviewing your customer’s annual report. Here’s a quick 20 minute guide on how to read an annual report for sales insights I found yesterday by Executive Conversation http://www.conversation.com/ideas-and-insights/post/how-to-read-an-annual-report-in-20-minutes/
Ive just started in the sales position at my company, and ive got to admit its difficult. Ive found that ive used your tips but the results im getting are disappointing to put it mildly.
I like to think its gonna take time but im not sure my company will give me the time.
Any help would be greatly appreciated.
Hi Gerard. Might I suggest scheduling a complimentary 30 minute phone consultation between you and me? That way I could better understand what you have been doing so I could provide some suggestions. Sales can be a difficult thing to take on when you haven’t done anything like it before. I remember being new at sales. I do, however believe you can master it with a plan that works for you. If you’d like to schedule that call please email me at email@example.com
Great advice, especially on the subject of monitoring.
hi can you send more details about sales policies,pl
Good information. I’m sure you talk more in depth regarding goal setting in your consultations. It is a huge part of successful sales strategy. Thank you and keep up the great work!
Thanks Nancy. Yes I do go deeper in my consultations as well as my workshops. It is critically important as you say.
very much useful information . I have mailed you some information on your pvt inbox. Hope to hear from you .
Hello, Diane! nice one! I am struggling in hitting my target. Can you please share a bit more so I could use it at work. I am working as an Outsourced Telesales Advisor for a telecommunication company in the UK . Thank you
Hi Hanna. That’s hard to do without knowing more about your situation. like – what are you selling? What are you currently doing? What is working, what isn’t, what part of the process are you struggling with? If you can tell me more i may be able to shed some more light specific to your situation.
Thank you Diane for the swift response. We are selling Cable TV, Landline, Mobile Contracts and Broadband Internet to existing customer. Like for example the existing customer does only have a Solus Broadband or Dual Services like Broadband and Landline and we need to offer them other services that they do not have. My challenge is , I can hardly penetrate because onset of the call customer hangs up the phone everytime they hear where we calling from( apologies if I cannot mention the name of the company). Because the leads we’re using have been used up like 2 months earlier.
I can somehow let the customer stayed on the phone for couple of minutes however when they hear they will pay £4.99 or even just £3.00 extra from what they are paying the still hold back even I tried to do fact finding or giving out the benefits. My stats are bit not good for the past 2 months due to these struggles.
I really really appreciate it Diane if you could help me reinvent things or experiment things that could possibly deliver positive numbers so I could share it with my colleagues too. Thank you. -Hanna
Hi Hanna. Thanks for the additional information. It sounds like you haven’t developed trust yet, so they aren’t interested in hearing from you. My suggestion is to set up a plan to reach out to clients to find out what’s going on with them and what they need (especially those things you DON’T provide). Don’t ‘sell’ them – just get to know them. We all have to build relationships with our clients in order for them to want to hear anything we have to say.
Hi, Diane! Thank you so much for the advice. You know what I applied it on my calls for the past 3 days my sales improved. I personalised my calls and created connection with the customer and Voila! I created good numbers. I owe you a lot Diane! Thank you.
Thank YOU Hanna for proving what is true about sales. it’s about relationships, trust, matching a solution to a need. Good for YOU!
I work for architectural product manufacturer and kindly show me initiatives to increase my sales. My clients are builders and architects.
Malvi, I would need a lot more information in order to be able to help you. For example, what is the value of what you sell, how do you engage with prospects, What are you currently doing that is working? What isn’t working? And more.
Kia ora Diane,
I work for a tourism company in New Zealand. Our products are unique caves as well as adventure tours into caves.
We have just opened a kiosk in a region hour and a half away from our base to try to capture some tourists from here. I’m managing the shop, but not too sure how to increase our sales.
I like your article, but I find a bit hard to adapt your concepts to our reality.
It would be great to exchange a couple of ideas, if you have some time.
Thanks in advance.
HI Leo. I’d be happy to schedule a 30 minute complimentary phone call to learn more about your business and provide some ideas. Let’s try to coordinate schedules and time zones. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for further discussions.
I love this write-up.
I am an entrepreneur into the business of education support service to primary schools.
My product is a web/mobile assessment and diagnostics portal that assesses the learning process in order to uncover learning problems and also makes an attempt to track the origin of the learning problem.
My target market includes private primary schools and parents of children in these private primary schools.
My challenge has been developing an effective marketing strategy that will result into sales.
I will welcome any advice or ideas.
Drill down to what the value is for those markets. How will it help them? What will their result be if they buy your product? Then create a marketing message around that value as that is what your targets will hear. You will most likely have two different marketing efforts – one to the schools and one to the parents.
what are the common drivers of Sales Stratergy
Can you provide me more detail here? I’m unclear what you are looking for.
I am also completely new in this sales business. The company I am working for is selling roof sheeting and roof tiles as well as exstra’s on roofing.. I have not been bringing in any sales what so ever, except for those that are over the counter. I dont know where to start or how to go about. I have been on the road for the past month as i am expected to do cold calling. Our products is of a very good quality but i find in my area it is too expensive and the not so good quality is also acceptable in my area… I have no idea what to do.
I love your write ups and response.
But i will like you to discuss when an organisation ask “what are you bringing to the table to improve sales numerically”?
If possible your response in my mail box: email@example.com
I’ve been searching on how to develop sales strategy which is I think is different from Marketing Strategy, Sales Strategy, I believe is more on the implementation or execution of the marketing strategy. Now my concern is, I hope you can help me, upon reading your above content, I was really, WOW, this simple steps? but I know its not simple unless you execute the steps. I’m a new employee in a startup business here in UAE, they are hired me to create marketing plans, not to create sales strategy, since the company is startup and lots of competitors around the area, what do you suggest in doing sales strategy, does flyering or leafleting is one of it? Basically we are design company focusing on graphics, digital and offset printing. When you say, define your market? Should I send email proposals? What is the way to approach them via phone call?
Thank you for your response, and more power!
How can i improve on sales and also volume of my products (paint to be specific) to corporates i. e hotels, having in mind they only buy when there is need.
this is a concept for sales persons need to improve for prepare their sales strategy and absolutely i really need more sharing from you, guy, thanks
I’m a new employee in a Service provider company in Nigeria. I will appreciate you assist me to create sales strategy that will work for selling a service, since the company is startup . What do you suggest in doing sales strategy, does flyering or leafleting is one of it? Basically we are telecom company focusing on Toll-free and conference calls . When you say, define your market? Should I send email proposals? What is the way to approach them via phone call?
Am a telecom SME sales Manager in Uganda. How best can i grow my sales in an environment where there is low disposable income!
Great Article! Yes the last point is so important. Analysis and monitor of our strategies and plan that these things leave impact and take it another level. But when your strategy and plan does not work , then you have to take a step ahead and modify according to trends and audience.
I recently have started sales and maketing agency and india and I already got contracts for 5 companies. 5+1 mine, I have total 6 companies to promote and due to financial issues I do not have enough man power and I am handling everything.
I must say this really helped me to decide strategy though I have one question. Can you please advise me on to how to manage 6 companies’ work??
Again, Thank you for content. It really helped
Diane H Helbig
Hi Vasu. Wow, sounds like you have your hands full! My suggestion would be to structure your time for dealing with each one. If it is possible to work on one company each day – like company a on monday, company b on tuesday, etc then you could find your time is structured and organized. That will help your thinking to be structured.
hope that helps!
Great article Diane! I love that analogy of riding a bike. I have never thought of sales strategies like riding a bike. The last point is I think is the most crucial point!
it was a good example to explain about how sales in reality goes for a beginner and for runner. but minimizing the explanation of sales process to just only 5 basic points is not enough for me. cause i expected and needed a little more data regarding this sales to add and include it to my college presentation 🙂 thank you madam
Are there questions you still have about the sales process that i can shed some light on?
Kindly advice how i can improve on my sales and volume target. I sell paint to corporates i. E hotels in mind they only buy when the need be!
I am in shipping & Logistics Business since last year i started my own Business and creating ideas, as i learn from my past experiences don’t sell out your services as sales person just give the solution to the customer I am following all your reply’s and really enjoying your tips I want your tips for logistics services industry sales strategy i will be very thanks full to u