The art of selling is like a game of chess; it requires gathering intelligence and setting a strategy before diving in to make the sale.
Success in sales is most often marked by numbers – Did the team meet its quota? Did the business unit sell more this year than last year? Did the organization increase revenue as a whole? But in order to achieve those numbers, it’s critical to look at four foundational elements that drive success.
1. The insight: You understand the upcoming year's market, your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses, and how your business is performing.
You can’t have a great sales strategy without a certain level of insight, which includes first and foremost knowing your customers’ needs and how you can best serve them. This isn't a one-off task to do, but rather an ongoing priority. At any given moment, understanding the voice of the customer, the macro market, your competitors’ major moves and the hard truths about the performance of your own business will help drive certain decisions to create a sales strategy that is both timely and advantageous.
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2. The strategy: You've defined the organization’s action plan to achieve its sales goals, the products and services to focus on, and selected certain markets.
Too often, the decision to push specific products or services is made internally and may not align naturally with customer needs. Consider what your customers need, rather than what leadership wants to sell. Secondly, prioritize customers through segmentation and targeting. Which customers should you focus on? Which customers have the budget? Which customers should you downplay this year? Consider the customer’s industry, sales potential, profitability, common needs and overall fit with your organization.
3. The coverage: You know how you will use the company's channels, roles, processes and resources to go to market.
Sales channels and roles integrate with the processes of working with customers. The best customer coverage models begin with the customer’s buying process. Learn how your customer buys, and then adjust your sales process and sales roles to reflect how your customer prefers to work. Making the best use of your sales team includes considering how each person should be deployed, and what level of sales support they need. Sales deployment is typically guided by a combination of sales capacity (available sales time and workload) to manage current accounts or sell to new accounts, sales role and customer alignments, and logistical factors like geography and travel patterns.
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4. The sales enablement: Your quotas are ready and accurate.
Finally, after you gather insight, set a clear strategy and map your coverage plan, you’re ready to look at the quotas. Believe it or not, more than 30 percent of companies do not have quotas ready by month one, when they roll out compensation plans, according to a 2014 SalesGlobe study. Without quotas, reps typically continue to work in the direction they had been going, which may or may not reflect this year’s strategy. Having quotas ready is essential, but having quotas set correctly is also critical. Poor quotas typically don’t reflect actual market opportunity. About 50 percent of companies end up adjusting quotas mid-year, according to the SalesGlobe study, due to rushing the process and missing these important details. The most effective method of quota setting combines a bottom-up perspective from the front line, assessing real market potential, with a top-down perspective on what needs to be sold in order to achieve the company’s revenue goals.
Having these four elements in place predict sales success because they help you create a strategic plan. Too many people jump straight to the numbers – or just look at their quota and pick up the phone. Gathering insight, setting a strategy, and mapping your coverage beforehand allows careful consideration of the larger picture before you get into the details.