What Is a Sales Strategy? Playbook and Template for Success in 2023
We all want a united and successful sales organisation, don’t we?
But there’s no magic word or secret trick that’s going to help you scale up into a revenue wonder kid, fast.
There is however, one thing that’s proven to help align sales teams and empower them to give their very best.
And, it’s your sales strategy.
In this guide we’re looking into the top sales strategies and initiatives that work and explaining how you can build your own for sales success.
But first things first, let’s look at the sales strategy definition:
What is a sales strategy?
A sales strategy is a method used by B2B sales teams to achieve sales targets and direct selling activities. A sales strategy is an opportunity to work out who you are going to sell to and how you are going to do it and is crucial to revenue generation in any business.
The major benefits of implementing a sales strategy are improved team performance, more effective targeting and a higher ratio of closed-won deals.
Here’s a quick summary of what a sales strategy is in 90 seconds 👇
Sales strategy basics
It doesn't matter how great your product is - if you want to win in B2B sales, you need to be strategic.
Yes, that means excellent B2B marketing, but it also means implementing a working sales process so your team can stay on top of closed-won and closed-lost deals..
And the better your strategy, the more incoming revenue.
Of course, this is just one reason why a good sales strategy is important. We've laid out the rest in the infographic below 👇
Sounds fantastic, doesn’t it? But, how do you implement and manage a successful sales strategy?
You’ll need to employ a team of lead generation specialists, including:
- Sales directors:
They are responsible for planning, setting sales goals and communicating the overall strategy to their team.
- Sales leaders:
They are responsible for the day-to-day management and training of your sales team.
- Business development managers (BDMs):
They conduct demos, negotiate contracts and close business with prospects.
- Sales development representatives (SDRs):
They help generate new leads, making the initial contact with them and then booking meetings.
- Marketing development representatives (MDRs):
They followup with targeted leads generated by the marketing team and the content they produce.
- Sales operations:
They are responsible for the technical implementation of new solutions, products and processes.
Once you have your perfect SaaS sales team aligned, you’ll then have to decide on the type of sales strategy to implement.
Types of sales strategies
No matter what industry or organisation you work for, there will always be two types of sales strategies:
Inbound and outbound.
You can choose to do one or the other, or you can do both.
Here's a breakdown of what each mean:
Inbound sales strategy
Inbound can be considered a marketing sales strategy because marketing collateral captures a buyer's attention. They already know what your company is selling through this process and enter the sales funnel warmer than outbound leads. Content is then used to inform, educate, and nurture prospects through the decision-making process.
Outbound sales strategy
Outbound lead generation focuses more on reaching out to prospects via email and cold calling. These buyers have shown no interest and often don't know anything about your company, so it is your rep's job to convince them that your solution is a good fit.
If you think that both of these methods sound good, you'd be right. According to a WebStrategies report on inbound vs. outbound marketing budgets, 84% of companies use an omnichannel sales strategy for more effective lead generation. There's no reason why you can't too!
👉 Click to learn more about the differences between inbound and outbound!
Building a sales strategy in 5 steps
An effective B2B sales strategy is made up of many different elements, although they all relate to one another. Each part of the strategy is connected, thereby creating a feedback loop that drives efficiencies and improved performance.
These are the 5 elements used to create the best sales strategy:
1 - Set up a sales process
The initial phase of a B2B sales strategy. Take a step back and take note of where the business currently sits. By looking back at the analytics, you can set goals, metrics and KPIs and plan how to achieve them. Here’s a quick rundown of how to establish your sales process:
- Setting B2B sales goals
Start with revenue generation. How much would you like to generate each quarter and year? Then build your strategy around that number.
- Creating a sales model that drives growth
The bedrock of your sales strategy is your sales generation KPIs and metrics. B2B sales metrics are the numbers you monitor to make sure you are on the right course.
Your sales tech will produce an avalanche of figures – too many to stay on top of. Your task is to identify the metrics that matter. Focus on your chosen metrics and point your efforts at improving them. If you see the numbers dropping, you need to take action.
- Identifying your ideal customers
Develop a profile of the type of customer who will get the most value out of your solution. This will be your ICP. Look at factors such as their company size, qualitative data, and buying process. Then, outline how your product and its features will benefit and solve your target customers’ pain points.
- Defining your Total Addressable Market
How many of your ideal customers are available for your pitch, right now? A TAM calculation will give you this knowledge.
- Building and maintaining a sales pipeline
The process of qualifying potential customers, initiating engagement with them and guiding them to the next phase of your SaaS sales strategy.
2 - Implement Sales tactics
Tactics are the practical application of an effective sales strategy. You know how you want to sell – now you need to make sure every part of the process runs effectively. How are you going to reach your ICP and what messaging will you use?
For example, if you believe cold calling is the best way to reach your prospects, create messaging that your salespeople can use that relates to their pain points and positions your product as the solution. Here’s a quick rundown of how to implement sales tactics:
- Lead qualification
The process of understanding more about your ideal customers and evaluating if they are a good fit for your product.
- Cold calling
- Outbound email
The digital companion to the cold calling section of your sales strategy. With outbound email, SDRs contact prospects by sending them electronic messages.
- Social selling
- Sales cadences
A cadence is a series of outbound emails in daily or weekly sequences. SDRs often deploy video and audio messages via email in this activity.
- Negotiating and closing
The core part of your sales strategy. After BDMs conduct a product demo, they will liaise with external stakeholders until the deal is confirmed.
3 - Optimise sales performance
The optimisation phase when developing a sales strategy. Here, sales leaders and representatives analyse results and develop inside strategies to improve their work. It includes:
- Team structure
How the sales team is arranged and organised for peak performance. A typical structure should consist of SDRs (Sales Development Reps), AEs (Account Execs), and Customer Success who keep the customer happy after they have signed on the dotted line.
- Time management
How to maximise time and improve productivity. It’s important to note that managing time well is crucial for both sales leaders and reps.
- Sales skills
The best sales teams improve performance by sharing winning tactics and knowledge. Learning and development can be outsourced but is best managed in-house.
4 - Measure performance
The analytical phase of a data driven sales strategy. Sales leaders should set goals and KPIs for reps to work towards. For best results, individual and team goals should be linked to wider company goals.
- SDR metrics
These include productivity and success rates, such as numbers of calls made/emails sent, number of meetings booked and meetings attended.
- BDM metrics
These include individual, MRR, demo and pipeline metrics, such as average deal value, demo attended to closed-won rate and total number of closed-won deals.
- Team metrics
The overarching KPIs behind every sales team. These include inbound and outbound conversion rates and total amount of revenue won.
P.S. Read this article if you need help unpacking all these business terms.
5 - Adopt sales tech
Finally, you will also need to decide which of the thousands of sales tech solutions you'll use to power your sales strategy. Here are three types of software you'll need to get started:
- CRM -Your CRM is the bedrock of your tech stack. It records all your interactions with prospects and customers, making sure salespeople and managers have all the data they need at their fingertips. Salesforce is the market-leading CRM.
- Sales intelligence - Sales intelligence or B2B prospecting tools help identify potential customers. It also enables you to locate the details you need to reach them, including email addresses and direct-dial phone numbers.
- Email tools - If you choose email as a channel to reach your prospects, implement specialist sales automation software to schedule emails, log responses and more.
These only scratch the surface of what is available. Research the market to find what tech is suitable for your sales strategy. Then do the following:
- Tech audit
Sales leaders should carry out a thorough audit of their tech stack before buying a new tool. Always aim for full utilisation of your current tech.
The process of reviewing and choosing the best tech for your business. There are thousands of sales tools available on the market at any given time; it’s essential to perform due diligence.
- Tech adoption
The onboarding stage. Here, the sales leader will sign up for the sales automation tool and arrange training for the rest of the team, if necessary.
- Tech evaluation
A B2B sales tech stack is never static; it should constantly be evolving and improving. Conduct regular reviews of the tech you use. If something isn’t working as well as hoped, remove it.
B2B sales strategy examples from successful brands
Top sales strategies are the secret to some of the most high performing B2B companies in the world. To wrap up this guide, we've taken a look at how Hupsopt, Shopify and Cognism have used various B2B sales strategies for revenue success.
1. Shopify: people-first approach
Shopify’s revenue and GMV has grown 54% year on year leading them to make history as the only SaaS company to cross the $1 billion-dollar revenue mark at such a fast growth rate.
How did they achieve this?
They believe in people - in entrepreneurs and in new hires. Firstly, when hiring, they don't just look for great sales people, they look for people with great potential. People who showcased the following traits: intelligence, work ethic, history of success, creativity, entrepreneurship, competitiveness.
Another key factor in their sales strategy is to focus on the facts, and that means embracing a data driven approach to sales prospecting. Every sales team and individual reps have to track their average deal size, average sales cycle length, lead to deal conversion rate, calls per day, and the number of deals in the pipeline.
2. HubSpot: walking in the customer's shoes
HubSpot currently brings in around $510 million in annual revenue and is valued at over $23.81 billion.
Part of their sales team strategy is to hire reps via an established and repeatable process. This way every individual is evaluated on the same criteria and the best of the best are hired.
The second factor in their strategy to improve sales is to encourage every rep to walk in their customers' shoes. This hands-on approach to training new hires allows them to experience each customers’ pain points and discover innovative ways to solve them.
3. Cognism: aligning sales and marketing
Cognism is a sales intelligence startup that’s taken B2B prospecting to a whole new level. Our B2B software sales strategy incorporates a number of different strategies - one of which is to align sales and marketing.
By aligning our goals and encouraging communication across the business our teams were able generate 190% over our revenue target month on month.
When sales and marketing align, anything is possible - including exceeding target.
🎧 Listen to this podcast to find out more about how Cognism break'down team silos:
At Cognism, we also like to experiment with different sales strategies to see which one works for us. After all, every business is different. You need to find a strategy that works for yours.
Here’s a list of links to 8 sales strategies not mentioned above, that we swear by:
- Social selling on LinkedIn
- Generating enterprise leads
- Creating demand
- Using Cognism for ABM
- Omnichannel sales strategy
- Creating content for revenue generation
And of course, our favourite - go to marketing. Press ▶️ to learn more about selling to new markets:
Download your free playbook
It can be difficult to navigate the sales landscape. Our Leave No Stone Unturned Guide to building and managing a successful sales strategy explains how to build a strategy that maps out exactly how you can achieve success in sales. Click the image below to download your copy 👇
Develop a winning sales strategy with Cognism