In addition to recruiting and developing leadership teams, my company Excelsior helps our clients assess their sales teams' overall effectiveness. In doing so, we have had three clients in a row in which we came to the same basic conclusion: the problem was not necessarily with the salespeople, but rather with the companies themselves, which lacked a formal sales strategy and process for their salespeople to follow.
To that end, I thought I would tap into some of the top sales strategists in the field and get their insights on the subject. The first expert I spoke with is Ian Altman, author of Upside Down Selling and founder and CEO of Grow My Revenue. The other person I spoke with is Andy Miller, founder and CEO Of Big Swift Kick, a sales strategy and sales force performance company that uses science and candor to consult with sales leaders on how to double the speed at which they double their growth.
The first question I asked them was: why is establishing a sales strategy so important?
Ian shared the following:
Without a strategy, you might not close any business. Or, in an even worse scenario that most companies don't even consider until it's too late, you may end up closing deals that are not a good fit for your company, and ultimately, you end up losing money.
Andy shared the following on the importance of sales strategy:
After 18 years of observation, I've realized that strategy is the most effective way to drive more sales. Let me give you a perspective: typically, you will see companies perform some type of skills/sales training and sales management training, install a new CRM, change their marketing efforts, or attempt to hire sales superstars. These are mostly tactical. What most companies don’t realize is that strategy trumps all the other stuff combined. In order of priority of sales effectiveness is strategy, process, talent/people, and skills.
Think about the movie, Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark. When Indy is in an alley in Cairo, and his towering enemy confronts him, the enemy pulls out a sword and performs an amazing display of sword mastery and intimidation. Then, Indiana Jones pulls out a gun and shoots him. So let’s break this down. The big guy was the better talent. The big guy had better skills. They both had a process, but Indiana Jones had a better strategy. In the sales world, I have seen this over and over again, and that is why I say strategy trumps process, talent, and skills!
How do you go about developing a strategy?
Ian shared this:
You need to conduct an objective analysis and determine who your ideal client is. This entails answering three questions:
1. Do your clients have a fundamental appreciation of why they need you?
2. Why would someone hire you over someone else?
3. Who in your marketplace fits your criteria for an ideal client?
To develop objective criteria for who your ideal client is, Ian uses what he calls the TRUE Opportunity Identifier:
T = Terms: what are the business terms, e.g., how profitable is the project?
R = Relationship: how long is the potential relationship, do they want to use us, do we have an inside contact that is advocating for us so we understand what they want?
U = Upside: is this opportunity repeatable, can we use them as a reference, are there additional opportunities?
E = Expertise: is this in our wheel house, does our team like to do this type of work?
With the answers to these questions, you can then rate where you are strong and who is a good client for you.
Andy added the following: you also need to know how to make a shift from being seen as a sales team to a team of subject matter experts.
So what kind of results can you expect?
Both Andy and Ian said it will take about 6 months before you see real results. But when you do, you can expect a dramatic increase in revenue and profit and a decrease in number of pursuits they go after. Your sales cycle will get shorter, and the margins get higher. Ideal clients are less concerned with cost and more concerned with the logistics of implementation. And it is not uncommon to double your sales without adding any new sales team members.
if you would like a free sales strategy call to determine if you are the guy with the sword or the guy with the gun in the Indiana Jones analogy, click here.