Sales Strategy: What’s Most Effective? A Great Message! (Updated May 2019)

By Tim Riesterer, Chief Strategy Officer

May 22, 2019

how to plan a sales strategy - what are the key sales strategies for the most successful companies?

When you think about it, an effective sales strategy is all about making sure that your reps hit their quota, right? Consider the following insights:

  • Research performed by SiriusDecisions shows that the number-one inhibitor to sales achieving quota is “inability to communicate value message.” In other words, if your sales force cannot communicate why your solution is different, better and worth more, there’s nothing your sales strategy can do to fix that.
  • In corresponding research in which SiriusDecisions asked executive customers about the quality of interactions with salespeople, only 10 percent said sales calls provide enough value to warrant the time they spent on them.
  • A Forrester Research study revealed that only 15 percent of sales calls add enough value, according to executives surveyed.
  • The Forrester study also showed that just 7 percent of surveyed executives say they would probably schedule a follow-up.

The lesson from these statistics is that the messaging element – what salespeople say, do, and write in order to create perceived customer value – is far from adequate. To be effective, your company sales strategy needs to focus on customer conversations as a way to create a distinctive purchase experience and separate your company from the competition.

To do that, your sales strategy needs to focus on 10 key areas.

10 Keys To Developing A Successful Sales Strategy

1. Demonstrate Value In Your Messaging

Even if you sell a truly remarkable product, prospects aren’t likely to recognize the full value you offer. In fact, most prospects either don’t recognize or can’t articulate the root of the challenges they struggle with on a daily basis. That’s why you need to create your own opportunities. And to help prospects understand the benefits of your offering, you need to demonstrate your value with powerful and persuasive messaging.

Crafting this message means successfully differentiating your solution from competitors, creating contrast and urgency using stories and insights, and taking an empathetic approach to answer key questions your buyers are asking at each stage of their Deciding Journey. At the end of the day, your messaging — the story you tell and how you tell it — sets you apart from the competition.

2. Position and Differentiate In Your Sales Strategy

Most technology companies position themselves for a competitive bake-off of features and benefits. They talk about “why us?” — why the prospect should choose them over their competitors. But the real questions that customers are considering are “why should I change?” and “why should I do it now?”

Successful sales strategy requires a new approach for positioning and differentiating your offering. To stand out from the crowd, you need to understand that your real competitor is the status quo and you need to help your prospects make the decision to change before you help them make the decision to choose you.

3. Tell a Compelling and Memorable Story

When salespeople prepare for conversations with prospects, they usually focus on getting all the facts straight about their offerings. But the most accurate information in the world won’t resonate if you can’t connect with your customers.

Telling personal stories and using metaphors and analogies helps bring your message alive in a more compelling way than simply reciting facts and data. Effective storytelling paints a vivid picture, illustrating the contrast between your prospect’s current situation versus what’s possible, and connecting what you can offer directly to their unique situation. Once you start sharing stories in your sales conversations, your customer relationships will become deeper and more rewarding.

Corporate Visions can help your company create a sales strategy on a solid foundation of effective sales messages. Power Messaging helps you execute the most remarkable, memorable and compelling sales strategy, creating buying experiences that convince prospects to choose you.

4. Speak to the Deciding Journey, Not Your Sales Process

A sales process is a set of repeatable steps that a salesperson uses to lead a prospect to purchase. Typically, the sales process involves several steps like prospecting, qualifying, discovering needs, negotiating, and closing. This would be an ideal checklist to follow if all your buyers were robots being taken through an assembly line. But that’s just not the reality.

Marketing and selling today isn’t a predictable progression that you’ve decided is how your prospects and customers should buy. What you’re really up against today is a Deciding Journey—a series of key questions your buyers are asking as they look to address specific business goals. Instead of being “program-centric” with a one-size-fits-all design, you can be problem-centric, addressing specific needs as they arise with situationally relevant messages, content, and skills.

5. Don’t Rely on Personas or Customer Profiles In Your Sales Strategy

Customer profiles and personas sound good in theory. The idea is to collect common demographic attributes, attitudes, and behaviors of your target audience to help frame and target your messages. But when used as a superficial profiling approach, personas can lead your messaging astray.

Persona-based selling assumes that the behaviors or actions of your target buyer are motivated by their internal characteristics. In reality, buyers are motivated by outside influences that challenge their status quo and convince them to change. These outside influences might include rapid growth within the company, inefficient or unsustainable processes, or broader changes that affect their industry as a whole. So, instead of focusing on your prospect’s disposition, speak to their situation.

6. Avoid the “Commodity Trap” In Your Sales Strategy

Too often, marketers and salespeople base their messaging on the needs prospects tell them they have. Then, they connect those identified needs to corresponding capabilities, in standard “solution selling” fashion.

The problem with this approach? You fall into the trap of commodity messaging along with your competitors, who are likely constructing their value message in response to the same set of inputs. As a result, you sound just like everyone else, leaving your prospects indecisive and without any real urgency to change.

Instead, you need to introduce unconsidered needs that extend beyond the identified, known needs and solve for those. Introduce prospects to problems or missed opportunities they’ve underappreciated or don’t even know about. Then, connect the unconsidered needs you’ve identified to your differentiated strengths, which are uniquely suited to resolve those risks.

7. Lead with Insights, Not Discovery Questions

To be of value to your buyers, it’s no longer sufficient to say, “Tell me what you want, I’ll get it for you.” Buyers now want salespeople who will tell them what they should want. They want you to do the heavy lifting of sifting through the overwhelming amount of information that’s out there, and to deliver insight into what they’re missing out on that can improve their performance.

This means more than simply finding data and statistics on the internet. A fact without a story is just a data point. To make it real for your buyer, wrap your insights in a story that connects the dots for them and provides the context within their world.

8. Align Sales and Marketing

Too often, sales and marketing are siloed departments, each with individual goals that appear compatible. Marketing creates sales messaging and tools and generates leads for the sales team. Sales teams use the messaging and tools to transform those leads into revenue. But a lack of alignment and gaps in your process can damage the effectiveness of your efforts.

You hear the following complaint from both sides: “we’re doing our job, but they just don’t get it.” The problem with these goals is that they foster an us-versus-them attitude and miss the big picture. Sales is a design point for better marketing. If Sales is the storyteller of your organization, then Marketing is the story builder. Ultimately, these two teams share — and must be aligned to achieve — one purpose: to persuade customers to choose you.

9. Tap into the Potential of Customer Retention and Expansion

Most sales and marketing teams spend the majority of their budgets and effort on customer acquisition and demand generation. Meanwhile, the majority of your annual revenue likely comes from your existing customers, through renewals and upsells.

Nearly half of the companies surveyed by Corporate Visions invest less than 10 percent of their marketing budgets in these key Customer Success situations. Clearly, customer retention and expansion are highly underrated yet powerful growth engines within your company. And you shouldn’t overlook the potential of this untapped revenue stream.

The challenge is, retention and expansion require a distinct messaging and customer conversation approach. Existing customers have their own unique buying psychology. While customer acquisition is all about challenging the status quo to highlight the benefits of switching to your solution, expanding value with your current customers requires you to reinforce your position as their status quo.

10. Enable Ongoing Situational Training

Most training and learning efforts are based on a collection of competencies, supported by a curriculum and catalog that gets scheduled on calendar-based interest and availability. But what does that have to do with helping the company’s business strategy, responding to shifting market demands and intervening to fix emergent needs when they arise?

To be as effective and efficient as you need to be today, your training has to rise to a new level of flexibility, customization, and situational relevance — one that gives your reps a training experience you can stand up at a moment’s notice to solve problems as they occur and tackle initiatives as they arise. Training your reps for situational agility equips them with the messaging and skills they need relative to the customer conversations they’re having.

Corporate Visions can help your company create a sales strategy on a solid foundation of effective marketing and sales messages. We help global B2B organizations build powerful messages, create content to deploy your message, and train sales teams to ensure they deliver your message effectively.