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How to create a sales strategy: 6 tips and 5 frameworks

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Is your sales strategy active or is it languishing in a filing cabinet somewhere, while nothing happens?

No matter what business you’re in, it starts and ends with a sales strategy.

In this post, we review 6 tips on how to create a successful sales strategy and list 5 frameworks that you can use for drafting yours.

What is a sales strategy?

A sales strategy is a plan of action that outlines your goals, target market, and approach to selling. It’s a roadmap for how you will reach and engage potential customers to make a sale.

A sales strategy is not the same as a sales plan. A sales strategy is your overarching vision that guides every action of your sales team: it’s all about the why and the who.

On the other hand, a sales plan is more about the how. It’s a playbook that details specific steps, tools, and resources you use to execute your sales strategy.

It’s very similar to setting up a route on your GPS. Your sales strategy tells you the destination but your sales plan shows you how to get there.

The main reason sales strategies fail

There are reams of paper and terabytes of data on ‘how to create sales and marketing strategy’ documents.

Everywhere you look, there are guidelines on length and templates for you to fill out. And while the length isn’t a good predictor of its eventual success, even the shortest ones are usually between 5 and 10 pages.

That’s too long because if you have to read through that document every time you want to do something, you will never take action.

That’s what happens with to-do lists.

Some of us try to put everything we might ever want to achieve on them, but the longer they are, the less likely it is that you will actually achieve whatever is on them. Many strategy documents are the same, trying to fit every possible scenario.

In doing that, instead of being something actionable, they become sticks to beat yourself with, leaving you feeling like a failure because you haven’t done what’s in them.

6 tips for creating a successful sales strategy

So how do you bring your sales strategy back from the dead and make sure it’s not just another piece of paper to ignore?

Let’s look at the three most important tips.

1. Define your direction

First, figure out what your main strategic pathways are going to be. Then create a document outlining them with the top 3 to 5 actions for each of them and feasible deadlines.

2. Make it realistic

There’s nothing more likely to kill your strategy than working on outdated information.

Particularly in this era, data drives everything, so collect the stats you need to ensure that your strategy makes sense.

What does your customer journey look like? How long is your onboarding period? What is your customer LTV by market segment? How do you prioritize your leads?

By setting clear and measurable strategic goals, you’re empowering your team to take action.

3. Keep it digestible

Make sure your sales strategy can fit on a single A4 page. No long, intimidating documents allowed!

When listing your strategy, use bullet points. That’s the best way to keep it from spiraling out of control.

4. Add accountability

The success of your strategy will depend on its execution. The right time to think about execution is when you’re in the process of drafting your sales strategy.

Make different people accountable for achieving parts of the strategy and important actions.

Write their names next to their areas of responsibility on each strategy document.

Accountability is a powerful tool.

5. Put it into the spotlight

Instead of filing it, display your strategy where people can see it; on a wall, on a noticeboard, or wherever there’s a public space where it’s in the eyeline of team members every day.

That ensures that no one will forget about it, and it makes them publicly accountable for their areas of responsibility.

After all, don’t forget that sales strategy is your direction—and it’s good for everyone to remember where the company is going.

6. Review your progress

Schedule regular reminders and reviews.

Options for this include:

  • focusing on particular areas at particular times of year, such as freshening your web copy in spring, or making sure your sales targets are on the mark in Autumn.
  • sending out a monthly internal email summarising goals and progress and urging further action.
  • fostering cross-team collaboration so you always have the most motivated people working on your strategy and actions.

5 frameworks for creating an effective sales strategy

Here are some approaches that can help you create a sales strategy from scratch.

1. Make your sales goals SMART

Strategy documents can often be pie-in-the-sky, but thinking big doesn’t mean you avoid action.

One way to do this is to include the age-old SMART goals in your strategy.

These are still a good way of approaching strategy.

SMART goals are:

  • Specific (clear)
  • Measurable (with outcomes you can document)
  • Achievable (realistic and doable)
  • Relevant (relating to your business)
  • Time-bound (with a deadline for achieving them)

2. Keep your sales goals CLEAR

Another option suggested by Peter Economy is to make your sales goals CLEAR:

  • Collaborative (encouraging people to work together)
  • Limited (with a defined scope and time allocation)
  • Emotional (linked to people’s passions)
  • Appreciable (broken down to allow for continuous small gains)
  • Refinable (able to be modified as needed)

In other words, instead of letting your goals fossilize, keep them alive.

3. Let your strategy SOAR

Need another strategic planning tool? Try SOAR:

  • Strengths
  • Opportunities
  • Aspirations
  • Results

As ASQ explains, this approach keeps you focused on enhancing what’s working (rather than concentrating on what’s not) and doing that better.

4. Use a GTD workflow

David Allen’s Getting Things Done (GTD) is another useful approach for your strategy, as it incorporates both immediate and long-term planning.

The five steps are:

  • Capture (what you’re focusing on)
  • Clarify (work out what it means)
  • Organise (you need a system for this)
  • Reflect (review often)
  • Engage (do what needs to be done)

5. Use MITs

MITs are your most important tasks.

It’s an approach that works well for segmenting your daily to-do list into the 3 to 5 things you ACTUALLY plan to accomplish each day.

It’s a good way to reframe your strategy and make it more actionable so that you always have the sense that you’re achieving something and moving towards a greater goal.

Final thoughts

Overall, if you want your sales and marketing strategy to need the kiss of life, then KISS – keep it short and simple.

Note. This blog post was first published in September 2016 and updated for relevance in April 2024.
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