Sales Strategy is where the direction for the company’s Sales department is determined. It needs to build on the insights from the external marketplace and remain aligned with the Corporate Strategy while also addressing how Sales will achieve the revenue objective with support from the Product and Marketing teams. It requires choices on which sales programs to invest in and which ones to forgo.

 

Here is how best-in-class sales leaders define their sales strategy:

 

What is a Sales Strategy?

A Sales Strategy is an operating plan for a company’s Sales force.

 

What does a Sales Strategy do?

A Sales Strategy allocates sales resources efficiently to drive selling costs down and revenues up.

 

What does it mean to use a Sales Strategy?

The use of a Sales Strategy means the Sales executive will get the most out of his/her Sales force.

 

sales-strategy-methodologyNow that you understand the definition of Sales Strategy, so what’s next?

 

There are five steps to defining the right Sales Strategy – Planning, Engagement, Org, Execution and Support. In the rest of this section we will dive into the details of each of the steps and provide guidance on how to pull them off.

 

Follow the five steps above to enable your Sales force to define the right Sales Strategy to grow revenues organically. And your Sales team will get much better at doing what they are trying to accomplish.

 

But many Sales teams that perform these steps fail. The reason? They perform the steps out of sequence. Even the best intentions cannot overcome improper sequencing. The steps as outlined above must be done in the following order – starting with Market Research – which was covered as a separate section in this document.

 

One other reason they fail is they are out of alignment with the other functions. The following checklist will help ensure your Sales Strategy is receiving the proper inputs from the other strategies and producing the proper outputs:

 

Market Research – The primary feed into your Sales Strategy. Market Research will tell you about the market in which you compete, the accounts to prioritize, how to engage buyers/users in a dialogue, and what these buyers want from you.

 

Corporate Strategy – Your objectives will be set in the Corporate Strategy. Is the company more interested in acquiring new logos, growing revenue or preserving the install base? And how should your Sales force behave? Internally the Corporate Strategy will point you in the right direction.

 

Product Strategy – The Product Strategy is what arms your gun with bullets. Having the best executing Sales force in the world does not ensure success; you also need products that solve market problems and are in high demand, and you need to provide feedback from the marketplace to the Product team.

 

Marketing Strategy – Your strategy and the Marketing Strategy are tied the most closely together of any of these. How many leads do you need from Marketing to be successful? How are you going to give feedback to them on the leads handed over?

 

Talent Strategy – Your strategy requires people to come to life. What types of people do you need? When do you need them? Your Sales Strategy has defined your “A” player talent. The Talent Strategy is where those are sourced, hired, on-boarded and developed.

 

 sales-strategy-burst

 

STEP 1 – PLANNING

Planning is where you develop sales and data plans that will make the number. This will help you plan for how you will reach your goal. You will know what data you need along the way to help you make decisions. With the right plans in place, you improve your chances of success.

 

There are two phases to the Planning step:

 

Phase 1 – SALES PLANNING

Define the plan for how you are going to achieve your revenue goal relative to your competitors.

 

Phase 2 – DATA PLANNING

Define data required to drive sales decisions.

 

Phase 1 – SALES PLANNING

Define the plan for how you are going to achieve your revenue goal relative to your competitors.

 

THE PROBLEM

You don’t have a clear plan to make your number…

 

The CEO hands a revenue number to the Sales and Marketing leaders and says, “This is what I need from you this year.” Without a revenue plan, the employees work disjointedly, and the probability of success plummets. Sound familiar?

 

Creating a revenue plan can be overwhelming. The number of variables —  changes in products, prices and competitors — is staggering. And Sales and Marketing leaders are busy people with many other responsibilities.

 

THE SOLUTION

Complete the Sales Planning phase by answering the following:

 

  1. What is the financial model that summarizes how we are going to make the number?
  2. What is the financial model that summarizes the costs associated with making the number?
  3. How will our sales break down across market segment, customer segment and Sales team?
  4. What KPIs do we need to measure to know we are on track?
  5. What is the execution plan that details what we will do in pursuit of the revenue goals?
  6. What resources are needed to make the number?
  7. What budget method is right for us (Percentage of Revenue, Competitive Benchmarking, Objective-Based, Affordability, etc.)?
  8. How will we track spending to ensure we are on track?
  9. What is our desired return on sales investment?
  10. What budget do we need to meet our revenue goals?
  11. What headcount do we need to get to meet our revenue goals?

     


Phase 2 – DATA PLANNING

Define data required to drive sales decisions.

 

THE PROBLEM

You need Big Data applied to sales…

 

With dirty data, systems issues, and having lots of data but not knowing how to derive meaningful insight from it, it’s not simple. But if you don’t find a solution to harness the power of Big Data, your competitors will do so first, outmarketing and outselling you.

 

THE SOLUTION

Complete the Data Planning phase by answering the following:

 

  1. What data do we have? What data do we need? Where do we have data gaps?
  2. Where is the data you need? How can you get your hands on it?
  3. What is the data architecture design needed to provide the data we need?
  4. What data is clean vs. dirty? How do we keep the data we need clean?
  5. Who owns what data? What does this data ownership mean?

     

     

STEP 2 – ENGAGEMENT

Engagement is where you define how the Sales team is going to interact with prospects and customers. This begins with prospecting to generate early-stage buyer interest. Even if you are supported by a world-class Marketing team, the reality is that Sales will still need to source at least 50% to 70% of your opportunities. This process definition continues through the sales process. The sales process must match the way buyers turn their initial interest into a decision to buy.

 

There are two phases to the Engagement step:

 

Phase 3 – PROSPECTING

Fill the sales funnel with enough opportunities to make the revenue goal.

 

Phase 4 – SALES PROCESS

Deploy a sales process tailored to how your buyers want to buy to improve win rates and deal sizes while shortening the sales cycle length.

 

Phase 3 – PROSPECTING

Fill the sales funnel with enough opportunities to make the revenue goal.

 

THE PROBLEM

Need to get decision makers to say “I’m interested. When can we meet?”…

 

Until you can close or renew 100% of your revenue, your Sales team needs to generate new opportunities on an ongoing basis. One of the biggest obstacles to successful prospecting is getting the reps to do it, especially since traditional methods like cold-calling or batch-and-blast email have sharply declined in their effectiveness. How are you helping your team execute modern prospecting techniques?

 

THE SOLUTION

Complete the Prospecting phase by answering the following:

 

  1. What does a buyer want from us when they are early in their decision process?
  2. What programs do we need to implement to generate leads (social selling, referrals, off-line prospecting, etc.)?
  3. What resources does the Sales team need when executing the prospecting processes?
  4. How are we going to get the Sales team to adopt the prospecting programs?
  5. How are we going to make the prospecting process easy to execute with technology?
  6. How are we going to track metrics that indicate success and/or failure of the prospecting process?

     


Phase 4 – SALES PROCESS

Deploy a sales process tailored to how your buyers want to buy to improve win rates and deal sizes while shortening the sales cycle length.

 

THE PROBLEM

You need to win more deals in less time…

 

Decision makers are making purchase decisions differently today. Traditional sales processes, based on needs development and solution position, will cause the majority of your reps to miss the number. How can you change the process for the betterment of your company?

 

THE SOLUTION

Complete the Sales Process phase by answering the following:

 

  1. What does a buyer want from us at the later stages of their decision process?
  2. How will we know when a buyer exits one stage and enters the next one?
  3. What is our process for turning buyer interest into a purchase decision with us?
  4. What resources does the Sales team need when executing the sales process?
  5. How are we going to get the Sales team to adopt the sales process?
  6. How are we going to make the sales process easy to execute with technology?
  7. How are we going to track metrics that indicate success and/or failure of the sales process?

     

     

STEP 3 – ORG

Org is where you set up the correct organizational structure so the right people are in the right roles to execute the processes. This is where you figure out how to deploy the resources you secured in the Planning phase. You need to make sure they are the right resources to execute the processes defined in the Engagement step and set them up for success by placing them in an optimally defined territory, assigning them the right quota and incenting them with a comp plan that reinforces the desired behaviors.

 

There are six phases to the Org step:

 

Phase 5 – SALES ORG DESIGN

Design the appropriate sales organizational model and determine the proper headcount.

 

Phase 6 – CHANNEL OPTIMIZATION

Select, sign and enable partners with whom you can secure the greatest share of resource commitments.

 

Phase 7 – TALENT PROGRAM

Source, hire, on-board, coach, train and develop talent required to execute the Sales Strategy.

 

Phase 8 – TERRITORY DESIGN

Create balanced territories by placing the right reps in the right territories.

 

Phase 9 – QUOTA SETTING

Translate the corporate revenue goal into sales quotas that reflect the potential of each territory.

 

Phase 10 – COMPENSATION PLANNING

Develop an incentive compensation program that stays within the corporate budget, attracts/retains top talent and motivates the desired behavior.

 

Phase 5 – SALES ORG DESIGN

Design the appropriate sales organizational model and determine the proper headcount.

 

THE PROBLEM

You need to know the optimal number of Salespeople for you…

 

Understaffed Sales teams miss opportunities and fall short of revenue goals.

 

A bloated Sales team increases costs and hinders profits. Sales organizational models need to be revisited and restructured to keep up with the needs of the customers. A poorly executed reorganization can result in lost customers and superstar reps’ resignations.

 

THE SOLUTION

Complete the Sales Org Design phase by answering the following:

 

  1. Through which sales channels do our buyers want to engage our Sales team?
  2. Which organizational model best supports our buyers?
  3. What level of sales specialization are our buyers willing to pay for?
  4. What roles need to be filled?
  5. What are the responsibilities for each role?
  6. What headcount is needed by role?
  7. What is the production and cost of each role?
  8. How should each role spend their time?
  9. How should we transition from the structure we have today to the structure we need going forward (Rapid Build, Safety Build, Pay As You Go)?

Phase 6 – CHANNEL OPTIMIZATION

Select, sign and enable partners with whom you can secure the greatest share of resource commitments.

 

THE PROBLEM

You need to align your sales channels with customer demand…

 

When sales channels overlap in their functions, both costs and customer frustration increase. How can you best allocate the channel mix to control costs and assure customer needs are satisfied?

 

THE SOLUTION

Complete the Channel Optimization phase by answering the following:

 

  1. What is our ideal partner profile (i.e., what defines our ideal partner)?
  2. Through which partner channels do our buyers want to engage our Sales team?
  3. How do we ensure we have proper coverage across the channel network?
  4. How will the channel sell our product?
  5. How are our competitors using the channel?
  6. How do we avoid/resolve channel conflict?
  7. What is the economic model when we sell through the channel?
  8. How do we select, recruit and on-board the right channel partners?
  9. How do we enable our channel partners?
  10. How do we structure our channel org model?
  11. How do we measure the contributions from the channel?

     


Phase 7 – TALENT PROGRAM

Source, hire, on-board, coach, train and develop talent required to execute the Sales Strategy.

 

THE PROBLEM

Need to build a team of top performers…

 

The annual HR-driven process is antiquated and delivers little value. Sales leaders need to manage performance more aggressively but often don’t have the tools to do so.

 

Sales leaders struggle with recruiting top performers, on-boarding them effectively, retaining them and developing them into future leaders.

 

THE SOLUTION

Complete the Talent Program phase by answering the following:

 

  1. What are our hiring profiles?
  2. How do we assess talent to ensure we have “A” players in each role?
  3. How are we going to recruit top talent and reduce the time it takes to fill an open position with an “A” player?
  4. What candidate selection process do we use to hire top talent?
  5. How are we going to on-board new talent to reduce the time to productivity?
  6. What sales training program do we need to develop the competencies/skills/knowledge of the team?
  7. What sales coaching program do we need to reinforce the right behaviors?
  8. What sales performance management program do we use to develop existing talent?

     


Phase 8 – TERRITORY DESIGN

Create balanced territories by placing the right reps in the right territories.

 

THE PROBLEM

Need to allocate territories for revenue potential…

 

The allocation of sales territories is often based on criteria that have little to do with the proven effectiveness of the Sales reps. As a result, resources are poorly allocated and revenue targets are missed. Territories should be designed such that your best Sales reps work the territories with the most potential.

 

THE SOLUTION

Complete the Territory Design phase by answering the following:

 

  1. What is the potential of each account?
  2. Which accounts should we prioritize?
  3. What is the optimal size of each territory?
  4. How do we design balanced territories?
  5. How do we assess the potential in each territory?
  6. How do we set goals for each territory?
  7. What is our process for territory planning?
  8. How do we transition accounts when we change territories?
  9. How do we communicate territory decisions to the team?

     


Phase 9 – QUOTA SETTING

Translate the corporate revenue goal into sales quotas that reflect the potential of each territory.

 

THE PROBLEM

Need to set realistic quotas…

Unrealistic quotas demoralize your Sales force and cause costly turnover. Profitability suffers. But even when they’re trying, Sales leaders find it difficult to accurately tie quotas to territory potential and the skill of the Sales reps.

THE SOLUTION

Complete the Quota Setting phase by answering the following:

  1. What is the potential of each account each rep is responsible for?
  2. What is the territory potential for each rep?
  3. What is the production capacity of each rep?
  4. What is our annual quota setting process?
  5. How do we rationalize the organization quota across all reps?
  6. How do we rationalize the quota of each rep against the organization’s quota?
  7. How do we stress test quotas to determine where we are vulnerable?
  8. How do we communicate quota decisions to the team?

     


Phase 10 – COMPENSATION PLANNING

Develop an incentive compensation program that stays within the corporate budget, attracts/retains top talent and motivates the desired behavior.

 

THE PROBLEM

Need to design and execute effective compensation programs…

 

Creating effective compensation plans can be a complicated and overwhelming process. To do it well requires the analysis of data from multiple sources, factoring in critical sales effectiveness drivers such as territory potential and quota setting.

 

THE SOLUTION

Complete the Compensation Planning phase by answering the following:

 

  1. How do we accurately benchmark compensation for each role?
  2. How do we determine what we want to pay relative to the benchmarks?
  3. What is the optimal compensation plan design for each role?
  4. How do we calculate the cost implications of our compensation decisions?
  5. How do we automate compensation administration through technology?
  6. How do we communicate compensation decisions to the team?
  7. Who should be part of the compensation plan committee to approve changes?
  8. How do we measure the effectiveness of our compensation plans?

     

     

STEP 4 – EXECUTION

Execution is where you begin doing the work. At this point it is time to figure out how you are going to enable the Sales team. You need to determine how you will drive adoption of the new sales initiatives. You need a process to keep a pulse on the sales pipeline/forecast. The data needed for decision making from the Planning step needs to come alive through reporting. Doing all of these things right will begin to bring your Sales Strategy to life.

 

There are two phases to the Execution step:

 

PHASE 11 – SALES ENABLEMENT

Get the right sales content into the hands of the right sellers at the right time through the right channel to move a sales opportunity forward.

 

PHASE 12 – FORECAST/PIPELINE MANAGEMENT

Analyze data to produce insights for Sales leadership.

 

PHASE 11 – SALES ENABLEMENT

Get the right sales content into the hands of the right sellers at the right time through the right channel to move a sales opportunity forward.

 

THE PROBLEM

Need to get the right content in the hands of the right people at the right time…

 

Millions of dollars and thousands of man-hours are wasted each year on creating sales programs that are never used in the field. Sales staff become numb to the constant flow of “new and improved” sales training programs. Eventually they just ignore them or, worse, pay lip service to them while each Sales rep continues to perform as s/he sees fit.

 

THE SOLUTION

Complete the Sales Enablement phase by answering the following:

 

  1. What are the objectives for our Sales Enablement team?
  2. Where does sales enablement live and who owns it?
  3. How do we invite the Sales team to tell us what sales enablement they need?
  4. How do we develop the content needed to enable the Sales team?
  5. How do we communicate new sales enablement initiatives to the Sales team?
  6. How do we package the sales enablement material into a playbook that is available to the Sales team when they need it?
  7. What technologies are needed to facilitate sales enablement (mobile playbooks, sales portals, content management system, partner resource center, learning management system, etc.)?
  8. What should our training program include to build the necessary competencies, skills and knowledge?
  9. How do we ensure that the team knows what sales enablement tools are available and that they are able to use them?
  10. How do we drive adoption of each new sales enablement initiative?
  11. How do we reinforce our sales enablement strategy through coaching?
  12. How do we measure the effectiveness of our sales enablement investments?
  13. How do we stay agile in our adoption and incorporate learnings from successes/failures along the way?

     


PHASE 12 – FORECAST/PIPELINE MANAGEMENT

Analyze data to produce insights for Sales leadership.

 

THE PROBLEM

Need to produce accurate forecasts…

 

Deals that were supposed to close get pushed out to next quarter. Deals that were supposed to amount to millions dwindle into thousands as 500-unit forecasts become 50-unit orders. These forecasting issues hurt, causing a loss in personal credibility for the forecaster.

 

THE SOLUTION

Complete the Forecast/Pipeline Management phase by answering the following:

 

  1. What pipeline KPIs should we focus on?
  2. What forecast KPIs should we focus on?
  3. What pipeline management process/cadence is needed to drive an accurate pipeline?
  4. What forecast management process/cadence is needed to drive an accurate forecast?
  5. How do we train the team on the forecast/pipeline process?
  6. How should we account for big deals in our forecast?
  7. How should we conduct quarterly business reviews that help us make the number but do not distract the team?

     

     

STEP 5 – SUPPORT

Support is where you help the Sales team’s effectiveness by removing their non-selling responsibilities and streamlining those that can’t be off-loaded. With sales operations you will improve the efficiency of the team through process, technology, metrics and best practices. With sales support you will make the internal organization easy to interact with. With systems you remove the administrative burden by automating the core business process.

 

There are three phases to the Support step:

 

PHASE 13 – SALES OPERATIONS

Increase sales efficiency through process, technology, metrics and best practices.

 

PHASE 14 – SALES SUPPORT

Represent the field within other corporate functional groups, allowing the company to be easy to work with.

 

PHASE 15 – SYSTEMS

Automate the core business processes to increase the productivity of the sales organization by removing the administrative burden.

 

PHASE 13 – SALES OPERATIONS

Increase sales efficiency through process, technology, metrics and best practices.

 

Identify, design and create a set of reports that consistently satisfies the needs of the Executive Leadership team.

 

THE PROBLEM

Need to move from tactical to strategic…

 

The role of Sales Ops has become corrupted. It is a catch-all job without a defined role or set expectations. What’s worse, Sales Ops leaders end up working 80 hours per week with no end in sight.

 

Sales force automation systems allow you to create KPI dashboards. But Sales leaders often don’t know what to measure, how often to measure it or how to apply the results.

 

THE SOLUTION

Complete the Sales Operations phase by answering the following:

 

  1. What should be the objectives for our Sales Operations team?
  2. What is our data plan and how do we execute it?
  3. What is our analytics strategy? Can it become predictive? How do we execute it?
  4. What dashboards need to be provided to stakeholders to drive decision making?
  5. How do we leverage Quarterly Business Reviews (QBRs) to make our number?
  6. How do we make executive reports filled with sales insight available with a single click?
  7. What technologies does our Sales team need to be effective?
  8. What internal processes – pricing, contracts, comp, quotas, order management, etc. – need to be streamlined and/or off-loaded from the Sales team?
  9. How should we track quota to revenue while providing visibility to the necessary stakeholders?
  10. What resources are required by the Sales Ops team? What is each responsible for? How should they be structured?

     


PHASE 14 – SALES SUPPORT

Represent the field within other corporate functional groups, allowing the company to be easy to work with.

 

THE PROBLEM

Need to make it easy for customers to do business with you…

 

Even when Sales has great rapport with customers, the supporting departments may be bogging down the relationship. Contracts take too long to get through legal, and credit checks and price approvals delay important deals.

 

Modifying product configuration can stall an order. Your processes are making it hard for companies to do business with you.

 

THE SOLUTION

Complete the Sales Support phase by answering the following:

 

  1. How can our pricing process help us close more sales while meeting our profit objectives?
  2. How can our contracting process help us close more sales while not exposing us to unnecessary risk?
  3. How can we automate our compensation administration?
  4. How can we streamline our order management process?
  5. How can we better enable our channel partner community?
  6. How can we improve our territory design and quota setting processes to improve productivity?
  7. What should be the rules of engagement inside our Sales team and with other parts of the organization?

     


PHASE 15 – SYSTEMS

Automate the core business processes to increase the productivity of the sales organization by removing the administrative burden.

 

THE PROBLEM

Need to use automation to empower your Sales team…

 

Your Sales team spends too many hours on administrative duties, preventing them from closing more sales. Technology systems should be automating many of these tasks, but in reality the systems aren’t used well enough to increase the reps’ selling time.

 

THE SOLUTION

Complete the Systems phase, consider how you can leverage the following technologies to improve productivity:

 

  1. CRM/SFA
  2. Mobile Playbooks
  3. Knowledge Management
  4. Partner Resource Management
  5. Learning Management System (LMS)
  6. Gamification
  7. Compensation Automation
  8. Contract Administration
  9. Configure-Price-Quote (CPQ)
  10. Territory Optimization
  11. Social Collaboration
  12. Predictive Analytics