When is a sales strategy not a sales strategy?

When you’re making it up as you go along! Which is something that many small businesses do, especially in the beginning when there is so much to do and so little time to do it. 

Strategy is, by definition, considered, intentional, planned, and it’s the most reliable way to get from where you are now to where you want to be. To design a robust and effective commercial strategy that will help you generate a consistent pipeline of leads and more efficiently convert them, you need to understand your business. 

You need to have clarity on who you are, what you do, and for whom, as well as your aims for the next twelve-months before analysing the sales resources and systems you have in place. You need to consider the ways you communicate with your current and target audiences as part of the sales process and the tools you have in place or might need to implement that help you to do that.

Here are some questions to consider when you’re creating or revising your current sales strategy. 

What are your sales targets? 

Consider more than just revenue when setting your targets. The exact metrics you include will depend very much on what it is you sell and to whom. Do you sell products, services, or both? How many customer groups do you sell to? Useful metrics might include the number of products sold, average transaction value, or number of new clients.

What systems do you have in place and how well do they function? 

Automating as much as you can and streamlining your processes makes it easier to manage the enquiries you receive from different sources. Ensuring you have some sort of Customer Relationship Manager (CRM) system in place is a great first step, and there are lots of other tools, some free and some requiring investment, that can increase sales effectiveness.  

Do you have standard operating procedures for sales in place? 

It not, write some. SOPs ensure consistency and often free up staff resource that can be devoted to generating more leads and converting more of the enquiries you receive into confirmed sales. SOPs are especially important if you have plans to grow your sales function beyond its current size. Once you have a process that works, this approach allows you to deploy it consistently. 

How consistent is your cash flow? 

Cashflow is an important factor in any business because it determines your sustainability by ensuring you have enough cash coming into the business regularly to cover all expenditure including costs, salaries, taxes, and so on. The more consistent you can make your sales pipeline, the more confident you can be that your cashflow will be stable.

Are all your eggs in one basket?

In other words, do all your sales come from the same place? It’s much safer to have diversity in your business mix and to maintain a consistent pipeline of work that comes from a diverse range of sources. For example, if 80% of your business comes from one client, what happens if they go bust or choose another supplier? Your business will be decimated overnight and may struggle to survive. Consider your number of clients as well as where your enquiries come from.

What’s the balance between reactive and proactive sales activity?

Many businesses rely only on the enquiries that come directly to them and forget that there are levers they can pull to stimulate that demand. The best sales strategies include a combination of regular proactive and reactive sales activities. 

Once you can answer these questions, you’re well on your way to creating a simple and effective strategy that works. But strategy alone though isn’t enough, you have to take specific, targeted action to implement the strategy and deliver results. That’s why we insist that the best sales strategies include an action plan appendix that will guide your decision making and shape the actions you take on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. That way, you have the best chance of hitting or exceeding those sales targets you set yourself.

by Sarah-Jane Dale

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