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Sales strategy: The ultimate guide with examples and templates

Sales Strategy
Setting goals at each stage of the sales funnel
Understand the customer journey across your entire organization
Create benchmarks based on past performance
Collect qualitative insights and customer data-points
Get clear with your core differentiator
Adopt a consultative selling approach
Target a specific market segment
Implement a robust qualification system
Automate your follow-up processes
Speed up the process with cold calling
Sales strategy: The bottom line

In this guide, we’ll help you build the foundations of a strong sales strategy so that you can meet your sales targets for leads, and close deals at a higher rate.

By establishing a strategy based on these proven sales principles, you’ll create a culture that values efficiency and empowers reps to do their best work and be properly rewarded for it. An effective sales strategy will also help provide your customers with value at every step of the customer journey.

You’ll also learn the sales activities and elements to include in order to create a well-oiled system.

Setting goals at each stage of the sales funnel

You probably already know about setting data-driven sales goals, so we won’t spend too much time on it. By using data to drive decision-making, you can set reasonable and attainable goals at every stage of the sales pipeline.

Each stage requires a different approach, messaging, content and, most importantly, unique sales activities. The objections and obstacles you’ll come across will also vary, which is why setting goals for every deal stage is key.

The desired outcome for one stage of the sales process is different from the next. Let’s take a look at some of the most common pipeline sales stages:

  1. Prospecting
  2. Qualification
  3. Appointment/meeting/discovery call
  4. Needs defined
  5. Proposal/presentation/offer
  6. Negotiation
  7. Deal won
Sales process

For example, the desired outcome of a discovery call is to identify a problem, as well as to qualify whether a lead will be a good fit for your solution. At the proposal stage, however, you must position yourself as the best solution for their problem, prepare for negotiation and win the sale.

Establish goals in two categories:

  1. Activity-based goals. These are the inputs required to take a sales opportunity to the next stage of the pipeline (e.g. email outreach, follow-up calls etc.).
  2. Results-based goals. A quantifiable number needed to reach your “true north” goal (e.g. number of appointments made, number of follow-up emails sent etc.).

This is where mapping your entire sales process is invaluable. When you know which actions are required to guide a lead to the next stage of your relationship, you can work on optimizing those activities.

Another sales strategy example, as advocated by Tom Pepper, Director of Marketing at LinkedIn, is to use a bottom-up revenue forecast:

Build a bottoms up forecast to get visibility into the business, then set a stretch goal on top. A target should feel ambitious but achievable. As a guide, feeling 80% confident hitting your number is about right. This approach is centered around assessing your current situation and capabilities to see what you can reasonably achieve from there.

You’ll also get an objective view on how much effort, time or resources it will take to reach your set of key predefined goals (e.g. number of sales across a period or revenue), helping you with your sales plan efforts.

Understand the customer journey across your entire organization

Your sales team members shouldn’t work in silos, and every company has its own customer journey. Start by collecting insight on how leads are generated, new customer onboarding processes and solution fulfillment for customer success.

A consulting firm’s sales strategy example could see them attracting leads through their demand generation efforts or referrals. Those leads are then passed on to sales professionals, who work to qualify and guide those leads to an appointment. Then, once the problem has been identified, the reps work with account managers or other consultants in order to develop a proposal with a possible solution.

Whatever this process looks like for you, make sure you have a clear view of every step of the customer journey and client relationship.

Create a process map structure

No matter which tool you use (from pencil and paper, a free template or software like Lucidchart), you’ll need a method of illustrating your process using a specific structure for your sales strategy.

Using Lucidchart for reference, you can choose from several ‘shapes’, or charts, to visualize the nature of each stage of the sales process. The shapes range from top-down family tree style charts to circular charts to process diagrams, and each one works better in different scenarios. The key is to identify what chart works best for each stage of the sales process so that you can easily optimize and adjust your sales strategy down the line.

Map your existing sales process

To improve and optimize your sales process, you must understand the activities and steps you’re already using. Start by interviewing other reps and stakeholders throughout your sales organizations.

Here are some example questions you can ask based on different roles and responsibilities:

  1. Sales. How do you generate new leads? Once a lead enters the pipeline, how do you guide them towards the close? Is the sales strategy aligned with the marketing strategy?
  2. Sales Development. Do you have a structure for different areas of the sales development function? How are leads prioritized before handing them over from marketing to sales? What is your sales enablement process?
  3. Marketing. What are your top lead sources? How do you assign leads to sales teams and sales development reps (SDRs)?

Asking these questions will fill out any gaps when mapping your sales strategy.

Uncover opportunities

With your existing sales strategy mapped out, it’s time to do a SWOT analysis (i.e. identify Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats).

For example, you might have a strong workflow that nurtures existing leads towards the close, based on fewer leads dropping out mid-process, but your initial lead generation could use some work. Digging deeper, the biggest problem might be getting inbound leads to agree to a discovery call.

Here, your strength is the process you use to close leads once the initial appointment has been made, and your opportunity is generating more leads and increasing the conversion rate to appointment.

Optimize your process map

With your sales process mapped out, you can now work to create a future sales process to fill in the gaps and increase performance across your entire organization.

First, you need to build a map of your existing process. Here’s the possible process map of a sales strategy example:

Sales process diagram

To develop a successful sales strategy, template maps like this can really help guide you and your sales team. Go back to the opportunities you outlined above. These will act as the goals for your sales process optimization. Here are a few sales strategy example goals:

  1. Increase the response time between inbound lead notification and initiating a first sales touch-point
  2. Optimize the appointment-making process to make it easier for a lead to schedule a call
  3. Use data enrichment, like finding and consolidating publicly available information about your new lead, to speed up the qualification process

Finally, it’s time to set goals for each existing and new stage. Again, you must set activity- and outcome-based goals throughout the sales process. For example, goals for the appointment-setting stage could be:

  1. Activities. Reach out to new leads within an hour of them entering the pipeline.
  2. Outcome. X% lead-to-appointment rate.

Create benchmarks based on past performance

Sales strategy mapping is about understanding the activities required to close a deal. But how do you measure those activities and create accurate performance benchmarks?

The first step to setting benchmarks is, of course, measuring the right metrics. The Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) you measure will depend on the activity. Here, we’ll run through a simple, three-step process to develop sales performance benchmarks for your sales strategy.

Step 1: Collect the right metrics

With your sales process mapped out, choosing and measuring your sales metrics will be 10 times easier.

First, let’s go through some common sales metrics based on different activity categories:

  • Activity metrics. These include the number of emails sent, follow-ups, cold calls made.
  • Pipeline metrics. These measure the health of your overall pipeline. Metrics include sales cycle length, total close rate and open sales opportunity by period, team and rep.
  • Lead generation metrics. These include volume of new opportunities, lead response time, number and percentage of leads followed up with.
  • Outreach metrics. These include email metrics (open rate, response rate), phone metrics (number of leads who agree to an appointment, call-backs, demos) and social selling metrics (InMail response rate, LinkedIn connections accepted).
  • Conversion metrics. Opportunities closed, and the percentage of those won or lost.

Most importantly, you must always measure high-level sales KPIs. While the above metrics will give you an overview of activity performance, sales KPIs are what indicate the health of your entire sales organization. Metrics that fall under this category include:

  1. Total revenue
  2. New business revenue and percentage of overall revenue
  3. Growth year-over-year
  4. Customer average lifetime value (LTV)
  5. Revenue segmented by product/service offered

Finally, you must ensure each metric and benchmark is assigned to the different roles within your organization.

For example, a sales development rep (SDR) will be most keenly focused on their lead generation and outreach numbers. Whereas a sales manager will need a top-level view of these numbers, as well as how they’re contributing to the core sales KPIs.

Step 2: Calculate your benchmarks

As you collect data over time, you’ll have sufficient volume to calculate accurate benchmarks. However, the way in which these are calculated will vary.

Let’s start with sales KPIs for every position within your sales team. Sales benchmarks for these are often straightforward, depending on how complex you’d like to segment them. For example, you can set long-term benchmarks across the previous year to set 12-month goals. You may also wish to set revenue benchmarks per month and quarter to keep up a more aggressive sales strategy.

Then, there are activity-based benchmarks. As performance will vary between reps, a team-wide average may not always be the best approach. Therefore, you have two options:

  1. Calculate averages across the entire sales organization
  2. Set criteria for different levels of performance, and average out the numbers within those segments

The latter is more complex, but will allow you to set personalized goals based on the performance of your reps.

For example, if a top-performer is surpassing team-wide benchmarks every month or quarter, they’re not going to feel challenged. This then presents a problem for talent retention and could hurt your sales strategy.

Segmenting benchmarks by performance can help keep your best reps engaged while contributing to the continued growth of your organization. It will act as an incentive to help other reps focus on what they need to do in order to do better.

By segmenting teams you can also add a healthy level of competition. Use a tool like Pointagram to visualize and reward performance, in a way that boosts morale.

Step 3: Implement benchmarks into your sales training

With your benchmarks defined, it’s time to communicate these with your salespeople, SDRs and anyone else involved in the day-to-day operations of your sales organization.

There are two ways you can use benchmarks to drive team performance:

  1. Communicate sales KPI benchmarks (revenue etc.) in team meetings and training sessions
  2. Set activity-based benchmarks on a one-to-one basis

Communicating revenue benchmarks will boost team morale and provide a tangible number everyone can aim for. It also turns your sales strategy into a team effort, with everyone working towards hitting your revenue goal.

For activity-based benchmarks, save these for your one-to-one interactions. Show reps what someone within their percentile should be aiming for, and provide the data behind why those benchmarks are made. Most importantly, keep their morale high and show them why they have the ability and talent to achieve those numbers.

Finally, use these benchmarks to set more ambitious goals within your strategy. Couple these benchmarks with the opportunities you uncovered when mapping your sales process earlier.

Ask questions like “how can you double the rate of growth by focusing on this opportunity?” This is how sales can stimulate explosive growth for their organizations.

Collect qualitative insights and customer data-points

While this sales tactic is often seen as an activity reserved for marketing, collecting and sharing your own data about leads and customers will not only help you close more deals, but help the entire organization expand and improve.

Collecting customer insights has several benefits:

  1. You can craft more compelling outreach and follow-up emails that gets to the crux of their pain-points
  2. You’ll know exactly when to hone in on a certain aspect of your solution or features with each customer demographic and buyer type
  3. You’ll be able to address sales objections not just by logic, but based on the prospect’s goals and motivations

With this in mind, let’s look at some practical ways to collect customer insights to fuel your sales strategy.

Record frequent pain points

Listening is one of the best soft skills a salesperson can have. You talk to your target audience on a daily basis.

Every single conversation you have is an opportunity to learn more about their common pain points, challenges, desires and the things that keep them up at night. Knowing these pain points can help you tailor your pitch and sales techniques to better suit your audience.

Start using this skill, and make a note of the common (and even one-off) pain points and challenges that your prospects raise during sales calls.

As a sales leader, it’s also up to you to encourage this behavior. Create a process that allows your reps to collect these insights. It could be something like:

  1. Note down the timestamp during the call when the pain point was mentioned
  2. Use a call recording system within your CRM to go back to that point
  3. Note down, word-for-word, how the pain-point was framed and the language used
  4. Store this insight in a global spreadsheet

Over time, as you collect data around this insight, you can help your reps identify which are mentioned most often. Standardize how they’re positioned by looking at the common language used, and order them by importance.

Scour publications for research

Some publications have already done the hard work for you. Say, for example, you sell software (like Pipedrive) and many of your customers work in sales development. By searching for “top sales development challenges” in Google, you will find some of the challenges SDRs will face, such as high-performance expectations.

When selling to SDR teams, mention this pain point in your pitch and then explain how your solution can help them tackle this common challenge.

Use data to make an argument

Anecdotes and stories will only get you so far. Sometimes, you’ll need cold hard data to make an argument (especially when selling to senior decision makers).

There are two main ways you can use statistics to make an argument:

  1. Collect your own proprietary data from owned assets (user engagement, results etc.)
  2. Collect third-party data from other sources

Do both if you can. Third-party data and statistics can help make an objective, impartial case for your sales pitch.

Again, you can usually find a collection of third-party stats through a simple Google search.

Collect the relevant statistics in a single place, such as a spreadsheet, and use them during your pitch when addressing objections.

Get clear with your core differentiator

What makes you different from your competitors? Asking this question is usually another activity that’s often up to marketing to figure out. But just like customer pain points, you’re in a unique position to uncover gaps left open by your competitors.

There are two stages in your sales conversations where you can collect insights on competitors and uncover gaps in the market:

  1. The initial conversation, asking the prospect which supplier they currently use
  2. During objection handling, where inevitably they’ll measure you against other vendors

Let’s look in-depth at both approaches:

Approach 1: The initial conversation

During the qualification phase, you’ll be asking questions that ensure a prospect is a good fit for your solution or product. This includes simple things like budget and business model, as well as more qualitative insights on how they and their organization currently do things.

But another, often forgotten question is around the solution, product or service they’re currently using. This is a prime opportunity for uncovering what attracted a prospect to you, and why they’re dissatisfied with their current vendor.

To uncover gaps your competitors are leaving open, when the opportunity arises, ask questions like:

  1. Why did you originally decide to work with [COMPETITOR]?
  2. Which of their features did you find most useful?
  3. Why are you looking for a new solution?

Dig deeper into their responses by asking follow-up questions. This is where you find their true motivations and frustrations.

Approach 2: Objection handling

You’re nearly at the close, and you’re confident you’ll win the deal… only to have the dreaded “Competitor X does this, and you don’t” objection.

While this can be disheartening for many salespeople, it’s a tremendous opportunity to learn and figure out the gaps in your own positioning.

When you get an objection like this, follow-up with “why is this important to you?” or “how do you feel this will solve [their problems] better than [your feature]?”

Not only will you better position yourself against the competition, but their response will provide a platform to address and overcome these objections.

For more guidance on tackling objections, check out our sales objections tool.

Adopt a consultative selling approach

What’s the best way to build long-lasting business relationships based on trust? Consultative selling is the hallmark of a good sales strategy.

As per our definitive guide on the subject, consultative selling is “a philosophy rooted in building a relationship between you and your prospects. A salesperson who practices consultative selling develops a holistic and nuanced understanding of the buyer’s needs, and then they try to fulfill those needs with a customized solution.”

As poor customer relationships are one of the biggest causes of churn, it’s wise to do everything you can to connect with leads at every stage of the customer journey.

Sales strategy churn

Let’s look at what it means to adopt a consultative selling philosophy as part of your sales strategy.

Build your authority

To successfully create a consultative selling approach, your prospects need confidence in your expertise on the problem they’re looking to solve.

To build authority and position yourself as an expert, follow these tips:

  1. Collect evidence: You need to back up your claims. This can be in the form of case studies, or third-party stats and data (as we covered earlier). Show them how you’ve solved their problem in the past.
  2. Create content: Create content on LinkedIn, conduct webinars, and post on your company blog to addresses the common pain points of your customers. It’s a great way to attract new leads while nurturing existing opportunities.
  3. Address criticism head-on: This will happen, especially if you create content with polarizing views. Instead of hiding from it, address it head on—in comments, on social media and wherever your content can be found.

Lead the conversation

Part of consultative selling is understanding that no two conversations are the same. A key skill to cultivate is leading your conversations, uncovering a prospect’s pain points and their true motivations, and tailoring your conversations to them

This means asking the right questions at the right time, while making sure your prospects feel understood. Make a list of these questions before the initial call.

Research your prospect's organization and role to get a feel for what their pain-points might be in order to elicit the information you need to craft a relevant solution.

For example, you might discover that they’re already using a competing solution. Therefore, you could ask them why they’re looking for a new solution now, and perhaps why they decided to use the competitor in the first place (as discussed earlier).

Consultative selling requires a full picture of your prospect’s current situation. Ask the right questions, and you’ll get the right insights to craft the best solution for each prospect.

Create a bespoke solution

With the right information, you can begin to craft a solution specific to their needs. This can be as simple as tying software features to specific challenges, or as complex as building a bespoke done-for-you service to help them achieve a big project or goal.

When crafting a bespoke solution for your prospect, follow this three-step process:

  1. Ensure you truly understand their needs: Listen for common themes and challenges throughout your initial conversation. If they say a particular feature, goal or objective is important to them, ensure that it’s part of your solution.
  2. Get into the pain: According to CEB Marketing Leadership Council, “personal value has twice as much impact as business value” for B2B buyers. No matter the industry, people buy based on emotion. If you can show how your solution will personally benefit your prospect, you’ll double the value your solution delivers.
  3. Demonstrate the solution in action: Allow prospects to experience your solution during the sales process. This doesn’t mean just showing them the features or an in-depth proposal, but rather the results your solution can bring.

Couple this approach with traditional elements, such as case studies, to bring the sale home. Demonstrate how you can solve their specific problems by showing them the results you’ve got in the past.

Show them how you can get similar results while maintaining relevance to their unique situation.

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Target a specific market segment

For salespeople, a strong position in the market can often make the job ten times easier. But not every salesperson works for a recognized market-leading business, and for those who do, taking this stance can be difficult—especially when you don’t truly understand your customer.

This is why, especially in today’s competitive climate, targeting a specific segment of the market can help you get the attention of those who operate in it.

For example, you may offer a solution that helps SaaS companies generate more leads for their business. But each segment of the SaaS market has its own set of challenges and goals unique to them.

So, you could go one level deeper and focus on marketing technology (MarTech). With a little research, you’ll find that selling to marketing decision-makers is harder than most other roles. Therefore, you can position your product or service as the best solution to this problem.

To do this, you’ll need to collaborate with your marketing team as part of your sales strategy. However, understanding your position in the market and how that ties into your sales strategy is key. Let’s go through a proven process to help you do this.

Identify market segments and their needs

The first step is to identify the right market segment to target. This can be done through a number of data points and qualities, but the best place to start is with the market itself.

Ask yourself, which market niches are saturated? Which have you already generated ample amounts of traction with in the past? Which market has particular pain points that your solution or product can help solve? Look for markets that you have plenty of experience and inroads with.

Once you’ve found a niche, it’s time to get specific about commonalities among potential customers in the niche. This might include company size, the way they market to their audience or the average amount raised during Series A fundraising.

Once you know the market you’re targeting, it’s important to truly understand the individuals you’re serving within those markets. There are a number of ways you can collect qualitative and data-driven insights on these people:

  1. Collect customer data: Look at the data you already have on customers and users. What products or services do they invest the most into? Which features of your software do they use most often?
  2. Survey them: Send out an email survey to this specific segment and ask broad questions about their organization and day-to-day job role.
  3. Interviews: To get more qualitative insights, get on the phone and talk to them. This allows you to dig deep into their responses and truly understand their motivations.

Finally, collect information on the average buying cycle, as well as their lifecycle as a customer. For example, does the average deal take three months to close and include several stakeholders? This is all information worth collecting.

Evaluate commercial viability

Now it’s time to use this insight to measure whether or not this segment is worth pursuing. After all, if it’s harder to sell than other segments of the market, it might be worth pointing your focus elsewhere.

Here are some qualities to look for:

  1. Market size. First of all, is your target market broad enough to segment in the first place? Is the segment you’ve uncovered large enough to achieve your core business goals?
  2. Differences. Does each segment of the market have large enough differences to justify segmenting? For example, the goals of a SaaS product that targets marketers must be clearly unique in comparison to solutions targeting other professionals.
  3. Accessibility. Can you actually reach this audience? Do you have the ability to get your message in front of them?
  4. Profitability. Will you generate an ROI from your growth initiatives?
  5. Unique benefits. Your chosen segment should benefit from your solution in different ways.

Establish your position

With these questions answered, you can now move on to establish your position in the market. Positioning maps is an easy way to do this. For example, here’s what a positioning map looks like:

Sales strategy position map

The variables used here are “price” and “quality.” It maps where each brand sits along these two variables, giving a clearer view of their position in the market.

To create your own map, start with the two variables that make the most sense for your brand and solution. Common positioning variables include:

  1. Quality
  2. Price
  3. Market share
  4. Complexity
  5. Market perception
  6. Practicality

Once you’ve chosen your variables, use the map to place your competitors and evaluate their own market positioning.

Use this to drive your overall position in the market, using the core differentiators you identified earlier to lead the way. Couple your features and service offerings with common pain-points of your leads to show you’re the best solution for your chosen segment.

Implement a robust qualification system

For sales organizations dealing with a large volume of leads, unqualified opportunities are a huge time-suck. An effective sales strategy includes a reliable qualification system that targets leads in a meaningful way.

A strong qualification process should be positioned at the beginning of your sales process.

Here, we’ll show you how to create a process to focus on the strongest opportunities that enter your pipeline.

Defining what makes a qualified lead

Much like the market segments above, not all qualified leads are the same. It’s up to you to figure out the qualities of a qualified lead, and what the best sales opportunities look like.

There are three stages of qualification that you should consider when defining what makes a strong lead:

  1. Organization. What’s their company size? Do they sell into your industry? Check out their website and company LinkedIn to see if they fit your ideal organization profile.
  2. Stakeholder. Do they have the budget? Many small businesses and startups may need your solution but lack the money to buy it. Who is involved in the buying process? These are questions you must ask before and during any initial sales conversations.
  3. Opportunity. Do they even have a challenge or problem that you can solve? This is probably one of the most important things to establish as you begin the sales cycle.

Knowing when to disqualify

Letting a sales opportunity go is a difficult thing for salespeople to do. We’re so hungry for leads that it’s a shame to end a conversation when the opportunity isn’t a good fit.

But disqualification is a key part of an efficient sales strategy. Wasting time on poor leads distracts you from other tasks that will bear better fruit.

Disqualifying is about knowing when an opportunity doesn’t fit the criteria you set above. For example, if you see that a company has only been in business for a year, and you know that your ideal clients are well-established with 100+ employees, you can end the process without setting an initial appointment.

But it’s also important not to get misled by signs of a golden goose. For example, you might speak to a stakeholder that has ample amounts of budget. However, upon digging into their needs, if you find they don’t have a problem you can solve, they’re still not going to be a good fit.

Ask qualifying questions

Asking the right questions is a foundational piece of the qualification process. These questions will elicit the information you need to know to decide if an opportunity is worth pursuing, or if you need to cut them out of your sales process.

Some qualifying questions include:

  • What industry are they in?
  • How long have they been in business and size is the business?
  • How did they hear about you?
  • What are the top challenges they and their team face?
  • What results are they looking to achieve?
  • How would these results benefit them?
  • What will happen if they don’t achieve these results?
  • What’s their buying process look like?
  • Are they the key decision maker?
  • Do they have the resources and time to implement a solution short-term?

Questions like these will help you evaluate whether or not they fit your ideal customer profile. They’ll help you figure out if they have a need, budget and the timeframe they’re looking to implement a solution.

Using the BANT framework

While every customer and client is different, the opportunities that lead to won deals will share various qualities. You can use the BANT framework to measure an opportunity against these qualities.

BANT stands for:

  • Budget: Do they have the resources allowing them to buy?
  • Authority: Do they have the ability to make the final decision?
  • Need: Can you solve their problem(s)?
  • Timeline: When are they planning to invest in a solution?

Using the questions laid out earlier, your reps can qualify a prospect based on these four criteria. For example, by asking them what results they’re aiming to achieve and how it would benefit them, you can quickly ascertain whether or not they have a need.

Finally, look out for signals that might make for a poor lead. If they provide short answers to your questions, then this might be a sign that they’re not truly invested in looking for a solution, and are simply “window shopping.”

Automate your follow-up processes

A great sales strategy incorporates effective solutions that save valuable time. One of the easiest ways to reclaim time is to streamline your processes with automation tools.

Without a doubt, following up on leads and opportunities can take up the bulk of a salesperson’s day. From making calls to sending emails (“touching base”), there’s a lot to be done when nurturing a potential customer.

But this doesn’t always have to be the case. By using the right sales tool, technology and processes, you can automate many steps of the follow-up process.

A study conducted by Drift found that, out of 433 companies, only 7% responded to new leads within the first five minutes. This presents a huge opportunity for organizations looking to improve their follow-up processes.

Let’s look at how to empower your reps to close more sales while saving time.

Start with your CRM

Your CRM is at the heart of any good sales strategy and acts as the foundational platform to your follow-up system. Without a good CRM that manages sales opportunities and conversations at scale, your reps will constantly be swimming in their inboxes trying to stay above water.

A good CRM platform should free you from common administrative tasks, not simply get you to perform them in different ways. If you’re evaluating different CRM vendors, make sure you find one that ticks these boxes:

  1. Business function: Does it help you achieve common tasks and achieve goals specific to your organization?
  2. Cost: Does it provide those features within budget?
  3. Data quality: Does it enrich your data and help you personalize your follow-up messaging?
  4. Brand: Are they familiar? Do they have clout in the industry and a proven track record?
  5. Scale: Will they handle your sales plans for growth and expansion?

Your chosen CRM platform should have the features to automatically follow-up with prospects. For example, in Pipedrive, you can create workflows that automate various follow-up tasks for you:

Workflow automation sales strategy

At the very least, your CRM should integrate with tools that can automate these tasks for you. Find out what tools integrate with Pipedrive in our Marketplace.

Know when to automate

With the right technology in place, it’s time to automate! But not so fast. First, you must identify the tasks that don’t need you to execute them.

In fact, this practice should be used beyond the follow-up process. Any task that doesn’t need you should be automated, which will allow you and your reps to focus on the tasks that have a bigger impact.

Here’s a simple process to figure out what can be automated:

  • Can it be eliminated? If it’s not truly bringing value to the sales organization (or your prospects), it might be best to remove it from your sales strategy altogether.
  • Can it be automated? Not all tasks can be taken off your plate through technology. For example, if it’s a type of email that requires manual personalization, it’s going to be hard to automate using technology.
  • If it can’t be automated, can it be delegated? Can you give this task to someone else to take care of?

With a list of common follow-up tasks, you can begin working on automating them. In order to do this effectively, you must know what the trigger and action are for each task.

For example, when following up on a proposal, the trigger and action might look like this:

  • Trigger: Proposal email sent five days ago
  • Action: Send email template

Get the timing right

Sometimes, your emails might get lost during a time when the prospect has other priorities, or something has come up in their personal lives. Not getting a response doesn’t always mean rejection.

Therefore, your follow-up sequence should have multiple touch-points. Take all eventualities into consideration. Perhaps they are indeed busy, or they don’t trust you enough just yet and need more convincing.

Take these factors into account when crafting your follow-up emails. For example, a simple four-step sequence might look like this:

  • Follow-up 1: A simple message, asking if they had any thoughts on your proposal
  • Follow-up 2: Similar to the above, offering to answer any questions
  • Follow-up 3: Provide insight or results you helped an existing customer gain
  • Follow-up 4: Share a piece of content that provides insight on a specific pain-point

Spread this sequence over time, and you’re likely to dramatically increase your response rate.

Of course, you shouldn’t go too far. After five or so follow-up emails, it’s more likely that the lack of response means “no.” At this point, move on from them and focus on leads more likely to convert.

You can still keep the line of communication open with them, just limit your follow-up emails to once a month. Send something that the prospect will find of value. These are all activities that can be executed using automation.

Set reminders and use personalization

Your CRM should allow you to set reminders for tasks on specific dates. Sometimes, when personalization is key, you’ll need to use these reminders to set the right emails at the right time. Having a CRM to automate this process for you can simplify your process and improve your sales strategy as a whole.

For example, in Pipedrive, you can schedule various activities on specific days:

schedule sales strategy

You’ll then be reminded to execute the relevant task on the date and time you scheduled it.

As you can see, automation is two-fold: it’s using technology to handle the execution of simple tasks, while also empowering you to simplify the activities that need your input. Know when to use which approach, and you’ll have a bulletproof follow-up process that runs on autopilot.

Speed up the process with cold calling

Email is the centerpiece of modern communication. But let’s not forget about the trusty telephone. Indeed, there’s no better way to build rapport and dig deep on prospect motivations than talking to them directly.

In every sales plan template or sales strategy template, calling scripts can help reps engage leads. Let’s look at some effective ways to apply cold calling to your sales strategy, and how your sales reps can connect with prospects on a deeper level.

Research your prospect

Get an understanding of which segment your prospect falls into by conducting thorough research. This means getting your hands on the insights that will make an impact during your first conversation.

LinkedIn is a gold mine for this insight. Visit their profile and check out what their career journey has been like. For example, if they’ve just started in a new role, it’s likely they’re looking for new approaches and vendors to make a positive impression.

Here are a few ways you can research your prospects:

  1. LinkedIn. What groups are they involved in? Who do they follow? Do they create their own content?
  2. Twitter. What content are they sharing? Who are they connecting with?
  3. Google. What comes up when you search their name? Do they have a personal blog? Do they create content for their company?

Having this insight will start your cold calls off on a strong note. It’s the difference between this:

“Hi Mark, my name is James and I'm calling from Pipedrive. We help sales managers like you optimize their sales processes by…”

And this:

“Hi Mark, I recently checked out your article on cold calling (which I loved by the way) and thought you might find this of interest. My name is James and…”

The second example has clearly been given more thought. Make your prospects feel like you already understand them before jumping into your pitch to make a strong first impression.

Build an outline

While we have plenty of cold calling scripts for you to take inspiration from, it’s good to use a proven structure to build your own. Here’s one we advocate at Pipedrive:

  1. Introduction. State who you are and why you’re calling. Keep it short and sweet.
  2. Opener. Use personalization (like in the example above) to connect with them early on. Mention something you share in common if applicable.
  3. Reason. Why are you calling? Why should they pay attention, and how can you help them?
  4. Offer. What’s your value proposition? Who do you work with and how have you helped them get results? What sets you apart from the competition?
  5. Questions. Gauge their interest and use qualification questions to see if they’re a good fit.
  6. Close. Provide a call-to-action and lead the conversation towards the next step of the sales process.

By using proven outlines, you can fill in the gaps with your own messaging and use anecdotal evidence in the right way, at the right time.

Collect early stage objections

The objections you get during a cold call will differ to those later in the sales cycle. Therefore, make sure you’re well prepared.

For example, “I need to think about it” is a common pushback received during cold calls. Sujan Patel, partner at Ramp Ventures, has a great response to this objection:

“What’s holding you back from making the decision? During this time I usually send the customer 1-2 case studies or include a few testimonials from customers that are in the same industry as my prospect.”

Start collecting a library of responses to these common objections. Collect them in a knowledgebase to make objection handling easy as they arise.

Knowing when to call is as important as what you say when you’re connected. According to InsightSquared, the best time to call is between 10 AM and 4 PM.

However, each industry is different. Experiment with different times and see what your customer personas respond best to. For example, you might find it’s common in your industry for prospects to be active at 8 AM to get a head start on their workday. See what happens when you dial around this time.

As well as time of day, there may be certain “trigger events” that make cold calling appropriate. These trigger events might include a round of funding, new members added to their team or an acquisition.

Finally, learn to truly listen. Ask open-ended questions and dig deep into their responses. Listen to what they have to say and tie their problems and motivations to the specific details of your product or service.

Sales strategy: The bottom line

To build an effective sales strategy, you must first truly understand your ideal customer.

What are their common challenges? What are they trying to achieve and how can you help them do it?

It’s a common theme we’ve addressed across the entire guide. When you collect insight and data on your customers, you can create a strategy, using a sales strategy template, that aligns their needs with your goals. Once you’ve nailed this, your activity will make a bigger impact.

For more guidance on creating a sales strategy, read our article on setting up your sales playbook.

9 steps to creating the perfect sales strategy (with free template)

In this handbook, we’ll walk you through what your sales strategy needs, plus there’s a free strategy template to get you started!

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