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Time for a Sales Strategy Review? Here are 5 Things to include

4 October, 2017

Make sure to include these five areas in your Sales Strategy

Positive market trends set sales targets and expectations high, making businesses invest further in development of marketing and sales. Others may be suffering plummeting revenue and profit margins due to new or better competitors. Or maybye have digitalization and changes in customer behaviour set new (and challenging) standards for the go-to market approach. No matter what challenge your sales organization may have you should review the sales strategy regularly to ensure a sound and clear direction going forward. 

So what questions should be addressed as part of a robust sales strategy?

Far too often we come across sales strategies that predominantly address high level market trends and competitors; areas which provide very limited guidance on how to manage two of the most important areas in sales: your customers and how the sales organization should respond to it.

At Ascend Consulting we have developed and implemented sales strategies across many industries and types of companies. Our approach when developing a sales strategy covers five topics:   

These questions may seem simple at first glance, but when answered in full, it ensures a comprehensive and clear direction of the sales strategy. 

1. Where to play?

The purpose is to clearly rank markets, segments and types of customers based on the overall potential and its relation to sales targets. This is to ensure sales efforts and any improvement initiatives have a sound focus to optimize potential in the market. Example of questions to address in this section:

  • Where do have the best growth opportunities?
  • What industry segments do we grow?
  • What customers (segments / customer groups) do we prioritize?

The key is to answer these questions and see ‘where to play’ in detail. Seek to identify subgroups or segments in an industry with common needs and behaviour, Together with the subgroup’s potential, this will guide the development of the sales strategy. Far too many companies single out industries alone as targets, and don’t investigate the differences in drivers of need and behaviour of companies within the same industry. The outcome of a too ’general’ approach is often a weak sales strategy leading to increasing cost of sales and a low hit rate.   

2. What to play

The purpose is to tailor and align offers, products and services by selected market and segment. Problems with high churn (customers leaving you) or low hit rate may derive from services not aligned with customer needs. Example of questions to address:

  • What value do we deliver in our services per segment?
  • Who are our competitors and how do we beat them?
  • What services should be offered to each customer segment? 

The key is to unfold the reason selected segments or customer groups are willing to pay for your services or products. There may be different reasons your customer buys the same product, therefore it is critical to tailor your value propositions for each of the targeted segments or customer groups.     

3. How to play

The goal is to define the sales channels, sales logic and operating model of how to generate leads, close deals and deliver selected offers per segment. The choice of sales channels should be based on the behavior of your customer segments. The choice of channels may vary along the customer’s buying journey, and so do the functions involved in the customer dialogue. Example of questions to address:

  • How can we become more proactive toward customers?
  • How do we impact the customer buying cycle?
  • What channels do we use for each segment?
  • What should we do in the digital channels?

The key is to really understand the customer’s buying process to be able to design the ultimate way to attract interest and lead the customer along the preferred path. In this section, the use of digital channels and the potential (?) need for cooperation with marketing (departments) may be important topics to address.  

4. Who will play?

The purpose is to define roles and responsibilities along the customer life cycle per segment and market. This section clarifies how different functions cooperate to support the customer from initial interest, to purchase and after-sales services. Example of questions to address:

  • How can different parts of the organization (Marketing, Sales, Corporate Accounts, Digital, etc.) collaborate for growth?
  • How do we organize to strengthen our capabilities and drive growth?
  • Who is responsible for each part of the end-to-end customer journey?

The key is to develop your approach, process and / or operating model together with other involved parties, especially Marketing, to ensure there is an agreement for how each function contributes to sales. ‘A chain is never stronger than its weakest link’ is very much applicable here. Without a common view and agreed handover between roles and functions, the end result may be low hit rate and increased churn (customers leaving you).     

5. What capabilities are needed?

The purpose is to define what skills and capabilities are required to deliver the strategy and fulfill desired goals. The (potential) capability gaps need to be addressed as part of a plan, including initiatives developing skills, technology, ways of working etc. Example of questions to address:

  • How should the sales & marketing processes be designed to maximize growth and profitability
  • What competence and skills do we need in Sales and Marketing?
  • What sales tools and methodologies do we need?
  • What initiatives can deliver ‘most bang for the buck’? 

The key is to balance the desire to improve sales capabilities with the ability of the organization to embrace and embed the new ways of working. Far too often sales organizations set ambition and speed of implementation too high. This leads to good ideas and initiatives being rejected or ignored by the organization. So, instead choose to roll out improvement initiatives in small steps and monitor the organization’s attitude and ability to embrace change on a regular basis.

 

Learn more about common pitfalls in sales transformations here

Learn more about Ascend and what we do here

 

By Ascend Consulting - We drive business transformation for the future.

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