If you’re reading this, you’re probably disappointed in your recent sales. Maybe you’ve done okay in the past, but you just saw two quarters of decline in a row, or maybe you’ve just started a new business and you’re not getting any sales traction.
In any case, your sales strategy is a hot mess.
You aren’t getting the results you want, but more than that, you aren’t sure exactly what’s “wrong” with your existing strategy. If you knew how to fix it, you would have fixed it by now.
The bad news is there aren’t any quick and easy things you can do to start getting more sales tomorrow. But the good news is, if you’re willing to analyze what’s going wrong with your current strategy, and you’re willing to make positive changes to correct those flaws, you can really turn your sales strategy around.
When I work with sales teams to analyze their efforts and make improvements, I generally notice some combination of these five problems in play:
What exactly are you trying to do? Yes, you’re trying to sell to people, but who are you selling to, what are you trying to sell them, and what are your backup strategies if that initial approach fails?
Most companies new to sales (or struggling with sales) find it hard to answer basic questions about their strategy; that’s because their objectives are unfocused. They have a general idea of what they want to do (i.e., they know they want sales to be higher), but they don’t have a specifically directed program for how to meet those vague goals, nor do they have clear processes in place.
You can begin to fix this issue by setting some concrete goals, like improving sales by 20 percent next quarter, or hitting a specific dollar amount by the end of the year. It may also be worthwhile to set goals for each individual on your team, challenging them to improve.
Today’s top sales teams don’t base their efforts on intuition or speculation; instead, they base their work on objective data.
It might seem obvious that objective data is superior to subjective whims, but it’s tempting to design your sales strategy around what you think might work. For example, you likely put yourself in your customer’s shoes, wondering how you might like to hear about this product or service for the first time. But your experience is biased, colored by your existing knowledge of the product or service; you may also belong to an entirely different demographic, and have no idea how someone in your target audience might react.
Everything starts with market research. You need to figure out exactly who your target customer is, exactly how they typically behave, and how they’ve responded to sales strategies in the past.
Much of your sales success will depend on your salespeople’s ability and willingness to pursue your objectives. Ideally, they’ll work autonomously, naturally inclined to follow best practices and push themselves to achieve higher sales on their own—but most people aren’t like this.
If you want your team to succeed and earn more sales for your organization, you need to hone their motivation. There are several strategies you can use here, focusing on both extrinsic and intrinsic motivation. Extrinsic motivation comes from an outside source; for example, you might offer a cash bonus to the top salesperson on your team, or team-based rewards when you hit a certain dollar amount for the year.
Intrinsic motivation comes from within and is harder to develop. You can coach your team to feel more passionate about sales, but you’ll also want to start early by spending more time finding and hiring candidates who are self-motivated.
Sometimes, your salespeople are working just fine—but they don’t have the high-quality lead pool they need to do their best. High-quality leads have a few things in common; they already fit your demographic “ideals,” they have qualities or past behaviors that indicate they might be specifically interested in your products, and in an ideal world, they’re also “warm,” meaning they’re familiar with your brand or have been in contact with your company in the past.
A good lead generation strategy will provide you with high-quality leads and plenty of them, but if your lead generation is lacking, your salespeople will be set up for failure. There are countless ways you can build and polish a lead generation strategy, but the most efficient methods rely on automation and funneling; in other words, you want a strategy that can generate new leads for your team automatically, and push them through a process that naturally ignores the people who probably won’t be interested in what you’re selling.
As much as I’d like to say there’s a secret formula that can guarantee higher sales to every business that uses it, the reality is that every business is unique. You’ve got a unique product, a unique team, and a unique customer base to work with. The only real way to tell whether a strategy is working is to directly measure it and analyze your results.
The scientific method is your friend here; conduct an experiment by trying a new approach or tweaking your existing strategy (such as changing the wording of your phone script), then roll it out under similar conditions and determine whether there’s an improvement, a decline, or no change. Based on that information, and applied over dozens of experiments, you can gradually inch closer to the “perfect” combination of strategies for your business. If you aren’t experimenting or adapting at all, you’ll be stuck in your rut forever.
All five of these points do assume that you’re selling an attractive product or service for a reasonable price; otherwise, even the best salesperson in the world may not be able to help you.
After noticing and correcting for one of these issues, you’ll likely see an uptick in your sales—but don’t let that make you complacent. Your sales strategy can always be better, and no matter how many issues you fix, there will always be opportunities for improvement. Adopt a mindset that your work and your team can always be better, and you’ll have a much higher chance of long-term success.