8 Best Sales Strategies and Plans for Success from Real Companies
No matter how big or small, every business needs a sales and marketing strategy. Depending on how much experience you have in either field, that task can sound daunting.
A strong sales strategy plan creates the foundation for a cohesive and successful sales organization. Sales strategies and initiatives also align salespeople on shared goals and empower them to do their best work — keeping them happy and successful, too.
There’s no need to worry! You do not have to reinvent the wheel. The beauty of being in business is that you walk on a road paved by giants. Sure, you’ll want to toss in a little spice of your own. Perhaps someday, you’ll be a pioneer in your strategy. But for now, we need to take a look at some real examples. In this guide, we'll dig into some sales strategies and initiatives that can help you generate more leads and close more deals.
A sales strategy is a series of actions, decisions, and corresponding goals that inform you how your sales department depicts your business and its services/products to new customers. A sales strategy is the guiding light for salesmen and saleswomen to follow, providing clear objectives for the sales process, competitive analysis, and product/service positioning.
Most strategies involve a detailed plan of best practices and processes set by management. For the most part, all sales strategies involve management creating a plan for processes, practices, and goals. The most important component of choosing and implementing your sales strategy is your customer. For this reason, a sales strategy shouldn't be one-size-fits-all. Every customer is different; therefore, different organizations should draw up and implement different strategies.
1. Become a thought leader.
Sharing your advice, tried-and-true best practices, and niche expertise are some of the most long-lasting ways to build your personal brand and lend more credibility to your organization. I’m sure we all can agree that nobody wants to feel like they’re being sold to. Instead, it’s better to help people by offering solutions to their problems.
Thought leaders do exactly this, and it’s even been backed up by Edleman data. In its 2022 Thought Leadership Impact Report, Edelman found that “Thought leadership is one of the most effective tools an organization can use to demonstrate its value to customers during a tough economy – even more so than traditional advertising or product marketing, according to B2B buyers." According to the study, 61% of decision-makers said thought leadership could be moderately or very effective at demonstrating the value of a company’s products compared to traditional product marketing. Additionally thought leadership becomes even more important during economic downturns with 51% of C-suite executives stating it has more of an impact on purchases.
So what’s the catch?
Not all thought leadership content is created equal. Just as much as it can positively affect a company, poor thought leadership can be devastating to a company’s sales goals. A quarter of decision-makers who answered Edleman’s previous survey reported that thought leadership content contributed to their reasons for not doing business with an organization.
Before you plan a spree of LinkedIn posts to drive leads, consider who your audience is, what they need to know, and how your organization can help. And, it may not hurt to have a second set of eyes from your marketing, communication, and PR departments review your plan first to make sure everything is on-brand (and trackable!)
2. Value-based selling – UPS
One of the more popular sales strategies recently is value-based selling. This is the process of positioning what you’re offering and the received value of your products or services. This is the opposite of selling based on the product or service alone. Focus on the benefit, not the product.
UPS does this very well. As one of the biggest shipping and logistics companies globally, they have a lot of competition constantly nipping at their heels. However, they tend to gallop ahead of the competition by providing an extra layer of value to their services and products.
UPS has built a global infrastructure for shipping, offering deals and value to businesses that other shipping companies simply can’t. They offer a wide range of shipping options for businesses, broadening their value by producing extra value for their customers. They don’t just sell shipping deals. They sell convenience, variety, simplicity, flexibility, and peace of mind.
3. Properly research and qualify prospects.
Even the strongest sales strategy can't compensate for targeting the wrong customers. To ensure your team is selling to the right type of customer, encourage them to research and qualify prospects before attempting to discuss your product. They'll find that more work on the front end can lead to smoother closing conversations later on.
Outline the criteria a prospect should meet to qualify them as a high-probability potential customer. This should be based on a prospect’s engagement history and demographics.
4. SPIN selling – everyone
SPIN selling is a strategy that utilizes a set of four basic questions in order to move closer to a sale. In his book titled “SPIN Selling,” Neil Rackham summarizes sales as simply learning to ask the right questions. He then goes on to highlight the four types of questions that you need to ask:
S – Situational
Asking situational questions gives you data that you can’t gather through research. These are questions that are unique to the lead/prospect.
P – Problem
Asking about the problem they’re having gives you insight into their needs. It points out priority number one for them.
I – Implication
Implicational questions let you know the urgency of the situation. How soon do they need a fix?
N – Need/Payoff
Asking about what they need outside of your company gives you a general understanding of their interest independently. This provides for a solid transition to talk about features and pricing.
The idea is that each one of these questions, if asked correctly, will tell you everything you need to know about the lead, whether they qualify or not.
No specific company is mentioned here as an example because most fortune 1000 companies use this strategy in some way or another. Because this strategy is not limited to four-set questions, it can be adapted very heavily.
5. Offer a demonstration of the product.
Pitching can be the make-or-break moment in a sales strategy. The sales pitch has to be a powerful, compelling presentation, but it also can't come on too strong lest you’ll scare away the prospect.
Study the elements of a successful sales pitch and demonstrate to prospects how they’ll benefit from making the purchase. Have your team practice amongst themselves, too. Better yet, test your presentations on a few loyal customers and gather their feedback.
6. Challenger Selling – Cyber security
The challenger sales strategy is potentially one of the most popular sales models right now, but it’s not for everyone. Challenger selling may or may not be relevant depending on the sales rep, the situation, and the customer.
Challenger selling involves taking full control over the sale (as the sales rep) and aiming to teach the customer something new about their company. In turn, this forces the experience to be tailor-made to the situation.
Because of this, you can understand why it’s hard to nail down a specific name as an example. Instead, let’s imagine a situation based on an industry: Cybersecurity.
Remember, the goal of the challenger sales strategy is to take control of the situation by informing the customer. In cybersecurity, users may not know exactly what they need, but they know they need something. Big businesses worldwide implement some sort of security network to protect their data, but they may not understand how dire the situation can be.
Cybersecurity salespeople swoop in and inform the customer of the potential dangers and what they need to stay protected. Instead of asking, they’re telling.
This can come off as a bit rude on paper, but in B2B, this is precisely what many business owners are looking for. They won’t care so much about the emotion of the sale. They want results.
7. Be willing to adapt your offering.
In sales conversations, you should expect to come across clients with unique demands. It’s only natural when working with companies of different structures and needs. Instead of saying “you won’t” or “you can’t” — make sure your sales strategy is adaptable to accommodate the customer’s desire.
8. Close deals with confidence.
How you close a sale is just as important as how you start the conversation. Encourage clear, concise, and firm closing techniques to ensure your sales team sets the right expectations and delivers on their promises.
Keeping a list of proven, go-to closing techniques will help salespeople routinely win deals. Such techniques can include the now or never close, “If you commit now, I can get you a 20% discount,” or the question close, “In your opinion, does what I am offering to solve your problem?”
What It Looks Like When Sales and Marketing Act as One
The outcome of a Sales and Marketing strategy is truly coordinated efforts that look like this; imagine that the first time a prospect indicates interest in your company, you start sending timely, relevant content introducing them to your brand and thought leadership on top-of-mind issues. Seeing the buyer’s interest and the content being sent by Marketing, the Sales team personalizes and amplifies those messages through their activities on social channels where the buyer spends time.
As the potential buyer continues down the buying path, Marketing shares mid-funnel content that makes a compelling case for change, followed by specifics about your services and products. Again, because the Sales team is in the loop, they get busy reinforcing the key messages with social shares.
As you close in on the “conversion” stage, the Sales team connects with the interested buyer who has been fully primed. Marketing reinforces these conversations with highly targeted content, such as ROI studies and success stories. Marketing can even share personalized content that resonates with the buyer’s key stakeholders and incentives the buying committee to close the deal more quickly.
The rise of the empowered buyer and importance of an indispensable customer experience are forcing organizations to reimagine how their Marketing and Sales teams interact throughout the buying process. Today’s success hinges on a truly orchestrated effort built on a solid strategy.