Five years ago, I transitioned from the retail industry, where I spent more than 20 years of my business life, to being in a custom publishing business. Suddenly, I needed to learn how to sell. You see, in retail, as long as you marketed effectively, merchandised well and provided great service, you sold product. However, I found myself faced with the challenge of growing a company from zero by proactively reaching out to potential customers and selling my services. This is a much different world.
In the early days, I was faced with many challenges in growing the business and making sales. However what I quickly realized was that I needed a solid sales strategy, and systems to support it, if I was going to be successful, especially as I grew and added new members to my sales team.
I’ve learned not to do this alone: although many top performing salespeople do not consider themselves strategists, they should always be involved along with sales managers in developing a successful sales strategy since they will be responsible for its execution. And I’ve learned not to develop a plan that stands in isolation: in order to ensure success, your marketing and sales strategies should work together to facilitate an effective plan and execution. Ultimately, I’ve found there are three main components to building and executing a successful sales strategy:
1. Know what you’re working towards
Developing a sales plan or process always starts with determining a goal. When you plan to go somewhere, you have to determine what the “somewhere” is. The goal needs to be realistic and achievable. Along with the goal determination, there must be a timeline. This timeline should be broken into measurable subsets to gauge whether the plan milestones are being reached and whether additional measures or changes need to take place. These periodic measurements (goal checks) may also reveal that expectations of the plan may have been unreasonable (either too low or too high), indicating that the plan needs to be amended by either changing the goal or the timeline.
2. Hire “humble and hungry” salespeople
When building a sales team, having a good cultural fit influences sales success more than you might expect, certainly more than traditional “salesmanship” or skills alone. You need people who are humble and hungry, not just good at rapport building and sales.
Humility plays such an important role in any sales team. Salespeople who are humble will put the best interest of the team ahead of their own. This creates an environment in which the individual members of the team are more focused on company performance than achieving their own individual metrics. By filling a sales team with people who are humble, you’ll achieve a situation where 1+1=3; a team working together will achieve more than the sum of its parts. Humility is a critical personality trait that most people don’t consider when building their team.
The level of hunger of a salesperson is also critical. Your sales team should be filled people who have a strong desire to succeed. Those who are passionate about achieving success and are willing to work hard for it will naturally have the stamina and determination to keep going when things inevitably get tough.
Fill your team with humble and hungry (as well as skilled) salespeople and you will have the foundation and culture of a winning team.
3. Execute flawlessly
Without proper preparation, it is doubtful the individual or team will be able to execute the sale smoothly. That means making sure everyone is informed, prepared and engaged in the process.
First, have a kick-off meeting with all stakeholders in the project. Discuss expectations, assign tasks, review timelines and make sure everyone is on the same page.
Second, hold review meetings at regular intervals to check the status of meeting the sales goal. Use these meetings to discuss recent successes and failures and to discuss ways of overcoming potential obstacles. Set expectations of what needs to be done before the next meeting. This will create sub-goals that can assist with reaching the overarching overall objective.
Finally, conduct review meetings after reaching key sales milestones. Talk about about everything associated with the sales strategy. This may be one of the most important steps in the process, because it allows you to document the successes, failures, and required changes, which will help your next sales strategy be even better.
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Do you have a good plan to support your sales strategy? Do you know how to pick the right salesperson that will fit your office and business culture? Do you know how to properly execute flawlessly? How many consecutive months, quarters, or years have you met or exceeded your sales targets? If you paused or had to think hard about any of these key sales strategy questions, you know you have work to do in at least one of these three areas.
Andy Buyting is the CEO of Carle Publishing. Carle Publishing helps independents publish and distribute their own customized print and digital magazines, positioning them as a leading authority in their marketplace.
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What’s your sales strategy? Let us know by commenting below.