How to create a sales strategy for your small business

Step 1: Set measurable goals

Sales is a numbers game, and it starts with your sales strategy. Each strategy involves measurable goals. What’s your revenue target for the month, quarter, or year? This must align with company revenue objectives.

Once you know your target, model the number of sales leads required to hit your revenue goal based on your lead-to-conversion ratio. Look back at past performance to estimate these numbers with accuracy.

Consider factors such as which clients bring in 80% of your revenue, how you can grow these clients’ spend with you, and where you can find similar clients.

Ensure your strategy aligns with company initiatives. If your company is pursuing a new market, the sales strategy should include capturing a percentage of sales in that market.

Validate your goals are achievable by vetting against past team performance and getting team buy-in on the targets. If sales reps feel the goals are not achievable in the allotted time frame, they become demoralized.

While sales is numbers-driven, it’s also a confidence game; maintaining strong team morale is critical, or you'll be fighting an uphill battle to hit your numbers.

Step 2: Identify buyer personas

The key to a successful strategy is to focus on the customer’s needs. Your offerings resolve customer problems, and incorporating that fact into your sales strategy is essential to generating sales. To that end, the sales strategy defines your target markets and customer profiles, called buyer personas.

Look at your most profitable clients, in or those spending the most to identify the ideal buyer personas. If you’re just getting started, examine your products and services to determine the best fit for these offerings. Research customer demographics and psychographics to help fill in your personas.

These buyer personas focus your sales team on the right kinds of leads, and their likelihood to close deals increases. Reps are more efficient with their lead qualification time.

Step 3: Define the value proposition

Your value proposition is what convinces potential customers to buy. It relies on deep customer knowledge so it can speak to your client’s needs. Sales and marketing collaborate on this piece to create a unified, consistent message across all external company communication.

The buyer persona outlines your customer and the problems they’re looking to solve with your solutions. Layer this with a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis.

The SWOT looks at your company’s position in the market, identifying your strengths and weaknesses, while looking at market opportunities and competitive threats. Knowing your market position allows you to contrast your offerings against competitors, and it highlights why your solutions are best.

Combine these elements into a cohesive, easily understood value proposition in your sales strategy. Back up your value proposition with data, testimonials, and case studies, which serve as real world examples of how your solutions helped other clients.

Step 4: Outline sales operations and compensation

The sales strategy incorporates key sales processes. This ensures the team operates efficiently and fulfills the responsibilities necessary for an effective sales team.

An example includes booking lead management activities in CRM software. This software generates reports that allows sales management to analyze team performance.

If your team doesn’t have enough leads in the sales pipeline, you know you won’t hit the monthly revenue target and can act swiftly to change course.

The strategy addresses sales operational components such as defining sales territories, whether your team includes inside sales or field sales, the use of outbound or inbound sales techniques, and if the sales team includes account management, which addresses what happens after you acquire a customer.

Training is also a consideration. How do you onboard new sales reps? How do you coach underperforming reps?

Sales team compensation is a key component. The sales strategy outlines how your team is financially compensated. These are common options.

  • Salary only
  • Salary plus commission
  • Commission only
  • A spiff or bonus layered on top of one of the above

Step 5: Create an action plan

Many companies leave it to sales reps to figure out how to make quota. A better approach is to define repeatable best practices through a sales action plan. This plan is part of your sales strategy and ensures your team uses the methods that consistently capture sales.

The sales plan helps reps create their sales funnel by outlining elements such as the prospecting process, how many leads are needed in the rep’s pipeline to hit quota, and how many sales calls this requires.