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How Sales Managers Create a Successful Sales Strategy

When we hear Sales Strategy we often think of our marketing department and their strategy to position what we are selling.  As sales reps and sales managers we don’t often think of ourselves as strategists, but we should.  Creating a successful Sales Strategy will allow sales managers and their sales team to focus on the right customers, in the right ways, and at the right times.

Any successful Sales Strategy should be based on all aspects of the Sales Execution Model. As we learned, the overall setup of the Sales Execution Model consists of 3 phases in which we will build our Sales Strategy around; Pre-Sales Activities, Sale Execution, and Post-Sale Analysis.

Planning the Sales Strategy Plan

To plan an effective Sales Strategy, we must first determine the goal of our plan. In most cases the goal will be some variation of optimizing the results obtained by the sales manager or their team. In essence, our plan should dictate which customers we spend what amount of time with to get the greatest overall return from our time investment.

With the sales goal defined, we must next determine the duration or timeline for the plan. Depending on your industry and market, the sales strategy plan duration will vary.  What is the right interval for your industry?  Looking at the seasonality of your business, the frequency of change in company goals, and the timeline you use to measure success to goals or quotas are all things to keep in mind when determining the duration of the plan. Another thing to remember is you may determine that a six month plan is the right length the situation, but this does not mean that you will only focus on this more long term sales strategy. A sales strategy of this type will also need to incorporate monthly planning that rolls up to the six month plan and a daily plan that rolls into the monthly plan to ensure that we stay focused on the overall goal. Breaking the sales strategy into the smallest steps possible will make it much easier to follow and will allow for short term measurement of success.

Pre-Sales Activities Planning

Pre-Sales Activities, as we discussed in the article What Sales Managers Should Coach, are integral in the selling process. While the common belief in Sales Management is that you need to spend more time interfacing with your customers as the more time you spend with your customer, or potential customer, the better your ability to build a relationship and to ultimately meet your goals.  I suppose being in their face is one way to get the results, but most sales reps have way too many customers to call on.  This is why we must determine up front which customers we spend our time with and how much time we spend with them. Remember your time and the time of your team is a limited resource!

As sales managers, we can help our sales reps focus their efforts by segmenting our customers. Who is performing? Who should be performing but is not? Who is not doing business with you today? Putting your customers into these 3 buckets will help Sales Managers and Sales Reps to determine not only how much time to spend with them, but also what to focus on in the time you do spend with them. Much like coaching people, selling to customers will only get you a certain return or level of performance based on the segment they fall in. For more information on how Sales Managers should focus their sales reps' time and the return they can expect, check out the article on Investing Wisely in Coaching.

Now consider your industry.  To ensure your sales reps are prepared for the next phase, conducting a Competitor Analysis is essential. They should be reading periodicals, trade publications, and studying reports.  Do your sales reps know what their market share is?  As sales managers, its crucial that we focus our teams on taking the time to analyze their competition.  What are the strengths and weaknesses of the competitors and how do those compare to yours?

Once you have the answers to these questions, the sales manager should work with the sales rep to set goals for which customers they will attack this month.  As we discussed, you might have your sales reps segment their customers by producing, non-producing but have the ability to do so, and unsigned customers.  By listing these customers out and determining when to call on them a road map is created that the sales reps can follow and that the sales managers can coach to.  Where does each customer fall on the Relationship Curve?  Knowing this will help to determine how often the sales rep should visit and what approach they should take from a relationship perspective.

Planning to Execute the Sale  

Now that you and your sales reps have determined who to call on, it's time to prepare for the sales call. Preparation means to set qualitative objectives, quantitative goals, and to prioritize objectives, goals, and tasks. As a sales manger, you must ensure your sales rep prepares for the sales call and is clear on their objective.  How will they use the data they have gathered on the industry, competition, and on the customer in the call? To make sure the goal is clear, encouraging the sales rep to write an objective or two for the call will help them remember their focus. You should also stress in the objective that the sales rep should always try to get a win-win; both parties should get something out of the interactions.  After writing the objectives for the call, the sales rep should write down the process or talking points that will help to meet the objective.  Think about the objections they are likely to hear and help them prepare to overcome these prior to them being raised by the customer. When we overcome objections prior to the customer bringing them up, our sales reps have the upper-hand and influencing becomes easier.  Do you think you are through preparing?  Not just yet.  You have written down objectives for the call and out lined your process or talking points.  Next write down the benefit or measurable outcome from the call.  Why do this you ask?  Because, as a sales manager you need to be able to evaluate the call after its complete and to guide the sales rep through what went well or what could have gone better.  

Finally, the part of sales we all like; the execution of the sales strategy plan or making the sales call.  After all the planning and preparation your sales rep should feel very good about the call.  The critical path to execution is understanding the relationship with the customer and to use it when making the call. Also as we've discussed, the sales rep should leverage their strengths such as industry knowledge and capitalize on opportunities by providing solutions. Finally, leverage the relationship to build consensus and gain commitment. 

Post-Sale Analysis Planning

Just when you thought you were through we get to the last portion of the process or sales strategy; the evaluation.  Do your sales reps take time to evaluate their sales calls? Do you, as the sales manager, spend time with them doing the same? Most sales reps will point to the end result of, sale or no sale, as all the analysis that is necessary.  That is certainly step one, but there a few more things to consider before we call it done. By taking the time to document what went well and also what didn't, both the sales manager and the sales rep will have some concrete learning's and best practices for next time. This may feel like overkill, but how often have you seen your sales reps step in the same hole with a customer time and again? Since most sales reps have far too many customers to call on, it is difficult to remember all of our interactions and what worked. This is why Sales Managers must encourage keeping detailed Post-Sale Analysis notes. This will ensure that they always have a history of their interactions at their fingertips.

Finally, we'll also want to reanalyze the segment each customer falls in. Did they move customers from non-producing to producing?  Are any customers producing more?  If the answer is yes or no, why?  Having these answers will allow the sales rep to incorporate their learning’s into their sales strategy plan and prepare for the next day, week, or month in your Pre-Sale Activities.

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