Developing a Great Business to Business Sales Strategy
Updated: Feb 1, 2019
Most organisations are looking for the same outcome from a sales strategy. Top of the list is generally revenue growth and profitability. The key thing required to achieve this is a clear plan (the right plan) in the form of a defined sales strategy. However many companies and organisational leaders struggle to commit the time required to regularly “zoom out” and review their market, their product fit, and the full extent of opportunities that exist and activities required to maximise sales growth.
While it’s a well-worn analogy, Stephen Covey summarised the need for leadership planning and strategy pretty well when he said: “The leader is the one who climbs the tallest tree, surveys the entire situation, and yells, 'Wrong jungle!' ... The truth never grows old.
The Essential Ingredients for a Sales Strategy
What are we really talking about when thinking in terms of building a sales strategy for a business to business sales organisation? What are the essential ingredients? Simplifying the process of planning, we can start with these three questions:
Who are we going to sell to?
What are we going to sell them?
How are we going to sell to them?
In other words, sales strategy is defined as the customer segments that a company targets, its value propositions for each segment, its sales force structure, and its selling processes.
While many sales directors would say that any strategy should be based on meaningful, accurate insights into customer needs and challenges, often the same teams waste time and effort chasing sales within broad market segments without having spent time looking at their markets’ requirements or segmentation of prospects. That is like trying to win a game in sports, without a clear understanding of the rules, or knowing where the stadium is located!
The Reason Sales Strategies Aren’t Defined
Often sales leaders try to define their strategy in real-time, adapting to the market and opportunities day-by-day, without a real understanding of the specific growth opportunities they should pursue. If you don’t first define the market opportunity, the market need, and best fit “targets” you cannot be truly effective, and you may waste valuable resources, time, and money in the wrong areas and on the wrong prospects altogether.
Unfortunately, sales leaders are constrained by time pressures, and while paradoxical, they never find the time to define a market clearly enough and look for their best growth opportunities at a granular level to drive sales strategy and get the very best results. Because they are too busy chasing sales…
Working on Sales Strategies
When CCS consult with organisations, this process ensures there is time for new insights to take place and that they do so in a structured way, along with a small, focused team and the software tools to simplify the tasks at hand. External consultancy is often the driver for businesses to set aside time and gain perspective.
During a client engagement or planning meeting, we often ask about sales targets and plans for growth. We want to know whether companies understand specifically, where their growth is going to come from to achieve sales targets. In many cases, the first answers are general ones and based on the numbers being set further up in the organisation, rather than a list of defined actions, at a localised or more granular level, which would ensure, without doubt, that targets are achieved.
Sometimes there’s a high-level statement that a business is planning to “grow by 10% in a specific product range or 15% year over year in another segment. Often there is one "halo" product, that has been the central driver for the real business growth, and the organisation may be under-performing in other segments and effectively losing market share in other regions or product verticals. Sales strategies and priorities defined in this way provide little help in guiding sales growth, or the activities of the teams making the sales happen.
Constructing Sales Strategies That Work!
To build a sales strategy that will enable profitable growth, it’s often necessary to explore each region at a more granular level by:
Completing a segmentation of existing customers and accounts
Building a detailed profile of the ideal customers for each segment.
Determining the challenges or desires for end customers in each segment to drive a purchase.
Determining the profile of an ideal business re-seller for your goods.
Mapping everything your company sells into best fit for each segment.
Estimate the potential revenue of each product or service (or groupings of products and services) for each segment.
Determine and break down the potential revenue in terms of sales volume opportunities, after sales, cross-selling opportunities, integrated solutions, and retention within each segment.
When forecasting sales a combination of firmographic data (or business demographics!), historical sales data, market forecasts, localised data such as GDP, Purchasing Power, and Population Density can help.
Use Data for Better Sales Forecasting
It’s important to gain input from a wide range of sources and look to consolidate and review data in several different ways. Business Intelligence software, Graphical Analytics, and Mapping Solutions can be especially helpful when doing this – as they help you to quickly see trends and drive strategy with many factors, in the same place.
Wherever possible, sales leaders should use data to estimate the scale of any given opportunity and to further rank and prioritise the markets and leads already defined through the segmentation and market analysis. At CCS we have built a scoring system for our own leads and prospects that combines several factors, each with a weighting and gives us an overall “Propensity to Buy” score within each of the product and service verticals we work in.
Factors That Help Provide a Fact-based Sales Strategy
Some of the factors to take into account and which may be available to help are as follows:
Historical Win Rates
Deal Size or Potential Deal Size
Sales Cycle Times
Cost to Serve
Several software solutions exist that use statistical models to quickly rank / assign weighting and consolidate these types of factors, into an overall score that will enable you to set priorities for all prospects accurately (and logically) moving forward. So the time it takes is well spent and can work for many years to come.
Leveraging data can cause headaches for sales leaders, particularly when they are used to setting strategy based on instinct or gut-feel. But if you want a scalable strategy that serves a company to grow into the future and scale up quickly – it’s important to employ data and a methodology to prioritise.
Sales leaders, who do develop a fact-based or data-based strategy, will be able to focus assets, and resources where it matters most – and they will regularly outperform the ones that don’t. So it’s a significant advantage to have a strategy that employs data and logic, which is scale-able for the future.
Ultimately combining in-depth knowledge about your customer needs, and your customer and re-seller segment and product fit, will help sales leaders to make the right decisions and find better routes to market for their goods and services.
When this strategy is further empowered with quality data, using a standard methodology to rate, rank, and prioritise based on the key factors that impact on sales success and revenues, you will have a great, robust sales strategy that will drive results for years to come…
The costs we charge businesses for market segmentation, data generation and sales mapping are generally lower than the costs incurred to do the same work in house - so if you are tackling sales planning or strategy challenges and would like some assistance - please contact us.