An approach to selling that allows the sales force to position the company and its product(s) to target customers in a meaningful, differentiated way.
Examples, Templates, and Plans Used by Top Sales Teams
Sales Strategy Definition and Types
Sales strategies can include, but are not limited to: a detailed plan of best practices and processes set out by management, from how to research and qualify prospects, cold calling, pitching, and the sales presentation, to closing techniques and account management policy.
There are two primary types of sales strategies: inbound and outbound. In outbound sales, the legacy system of most sales teams, companies base their sales strategy on seller actions, they rely on manually entered data to monitor the sales pipeline and coach their salespeople, and they run sales and marketing independently, creating a disjointed experience for buyers.
In inbound sales, the modern methodology for sales teams, companies base their sales process on buyer actions, they automatically capture seller and buyer data to monitor the pipeline and coach salespeople, and they align sales and marketing, creating a seamless experience for buyers.
Traditionally, buyers suffered through evaluating a product and deciding whether to buy it with only information provided to them by the seller. Today, all of the information needed to evaluate a product is available online and buyers are no longer dependent on the seller.
In fact, before a seller even contacts a buyer, he or she is already 57% of the way through the sales process.
If today’s sales teams don’t align themselves with the modern buyer’s process and fail to add value beyond the information already available to the buyer, he or she has no reason to engage with a sales team.
Inbound sales helps buyers at each stage of the buyer process: awareness, consideration, and decision. Inbound sales teams help the buyer become aware of potential problems or opportunities, discover strategies to solve the buyer’s problems, evaluate whether the salesperson can help the buyer with the problem, and then purchase the solution. They are helpful and trustworthy, creating partnerships rather than power struggles.
The Sales Planning Process
Every sales team should have a sales strategy plan outlining their goals, best practices, and processes designed to align the team and create consistency.
These are the essential components of a sales plan:
Each goal should be specific and measurable. For example, to sell 150% of the projected sales quota in Q2.
This entails a detailed profile of the target customer including the company size, psychographics, and the buying process. The product offering should outline the product benefits and features, with emphasis on those that solve the target customers’ pain-points.
Developing a list of criteria and attributes for sales managers to screen for when interviewing candidations is essential to recruiting and retaining top talent. The next step is to develop a training and onboarding program that will prepare them to start selling effectively and efficiently, followed by a compensation and rewards plan that will motivate them to continue performing.
This section should include a detailed plan for how to target potential customers in order to increase awareness of your offering. For example, using paid social acquisition channels, creating e-books and hosting webinars, hosting events, etc.
Time to track! Once the infrastructure is set up, we must create a procedure for tracking performance on the individual, team, and company levels. This measurement can take the form of quarterly KPIs, weekly dashboards, monthly reviews, or some combination of all three. This section should also highlight the specific metrics that the team should focus on.
This should span everything from the sales presentation to closing techniques.
From Successful Sales Teams
In this section, we’ve analyzed three incredibly high-performing sales teams and how they achieved success due to their unique sales strategies.
Founded in 2006, HubSpot has since grown to over 15,000 customers and over $100 million in annual revenue in just nine years. With an IPO in 2014, HubSpot is now valued at over $1.5 billion.
That said, we want to share a few pages from our own sales strategy playbook.
We first started by determining a list of attributes that made a successful sales rep. From there, we established a repeatable process to evaluate candidates during interviews based on these weighted criterion:
Preparation / HubSpot Knowledge
Adaptability to change
Again, the first step we took was to define the sales process that we thought would be most successful. We outlined our unique value proposition, target customer, competition, most common objections, product features and benefits, and so forth.
Then, we created a hands-on training program that would not only imitate the sales process for reps before they actually begun selling, but also allow them to experience our target customers’ painpoint. So a large part of our training program involves making reps create their own website and blog, and then drive traffic to it. This exercise allows reps to better consult potential customers in the future. We also use exams, certification programs, and presentations to measure each rep’s performance.
After employees are onboarded, we continue tracking their progress throughout the various stages of our sales process. The primary criteria we look at include: leads created, leads worked, demos delivered, and leads won. Then we measure these criteria against each other to create ratios such as leads created to leads won.
We track each stage in the process so if a rep is struggling on any particular metric, we can dig deeper to understand why that’s the case.
The sales and marketing teams work closely together in a process we call “Smarketing” in order to generate consistent leads each month. In this process, Marketing understands which qualities a lead needs to meet before it’s handed over to sales as well as how many of those qualified leads it must create each month to meet our sales projections. Meanwhile, the sales team understands how long they should wait before contacting a lead and how many attempts they should make to contact that lead.
All of these decisions are lead by data and science, not gut.
Valued at almost $50 billion, Salesforce.com reached $5 billion in revenue faster than any other SaaS company in history. In fact, the company has seen outstanding year-over-year revenue growth since its founding in 1999.
Now let’s find out why.
Salespeople are enrolled in a rigorous boot-camp curriculum for their onboarding training, taking as long as two to three months for enterprise sales reps. As soon as reps arrive, they’re given a long list of homework assignments which includes completing 20 hours of video instructions to learn about the software they’ll be selling and studying for consistent exams to test their knowledge of said software. During this process, top-performing trainees are awarded prestigious badges such as “Top Gun” and “Rising Star.”
Throughout their training, salespeople are constantly reminded how important it is to tell personal stories to potential customers as well as amongst each other. When encountering prospects’ objections, they’re armed with an arsenal of customer stories which they can recite effortlessly.
From customer feedback to employee feedback, Salesforce is obsessed with NPS. They even survey sales reps after their training to create a system of continuous improvement for their onboarding program.
To support this system, they also constantly track and measure reps’ success using metrics which fall into the following four categories:
With a plethora of data collected over the past decade from a slew of industries, companies, and cities, Salesforce has developed unique sales intelligence that provides highly accurate information about the probability of leads becoming customers.
Sales collateral is also highly accessible with a central system available to all reps, designed to provide ready-made customer success stories, on-boarding plans, and other content to increase productivity.
Loren Padelford, Chief Sales Scientist at Shopify, shared with us his secret sauce for increasing sales tenfold in ten years leading them to attain $170 million in sales and over a $1.5 billion valuation.
Hiring is arguably one of the most essential components of a great sales strategy. Many sales managers, though, are misled into believing that they must hire sales superstars. The truth of the matter is that we first must look for great people and then train them well so they become great salespeople. Padelford looks for six key personality traits when hiring salespeople:
History of success
Sales is now a field we can measure down to the second. We can explain success, then, according to cold, hard data-points rather than mystical qualitative assessments. Every sales team should be tracking average deal size, average sales cycle length, lead to deal conversion rate, calls per day per rep, and number of deals in the pipeline.
Each of these metrics, tracked over longer periods of time, will inform us as to the health of our sales process and pinpoint areas we need to improve upon.
Before Padelford took over the sales process at Shopify, sales reps would manually log phone calls and emails into the CRM, consuming five hours of a rep’s time each week. With a salesforce of 26, that added up to 130 wasted hours per week.
Realizing this misuse of time and capital, Padelford led Shopify to adopt the free HubSpot CRM. With the CRM, sales reps are able to receive notifications when prospects open their emails, click links, and view document attachments. They also have access to over 19 million prospects using the prospecting tool as well as detailed information such as estimated revenue, number of employees, suggested email addresses, and so forth.
Shopify uses the 4/5 Threshold to filter out unqualified leads, thereby allowing his sales reps to focus on selling to leads who have a higher probability of becoming customers. When evaluating whether a lead is qualified, a rep must have a concrete answer to four of the following five variables:
Want more details on Shopify's growth? Loren Padelford walks us through his team's sales strategy in the video below.