The Focal Point Blog // Operations Best Practices // Team Parallax // July 31, 2021

How to Develop a Sales Strategy in 10 Steps

A digital shop that wants to grow must get serious about its sales efforts. If your knee-jerk reaction to the word sales is, “ew,” you’re in the right place. 

Sales doesn’t have to be icky, and it can be the difference between your business continuing to hit its growth targets or plateauing. Once you accept that word-of-mouth referrals will only get you so far, it’s time to learn how to develop a sales strategy that will support your goals.

In this article, you’ll learn how to develop a sales strategy in 10 steps to achieve reliable business growth. We discuss key aspects such as setting goals, budgeting, aligning sales and marketing, and creating a winning company culture.

Here are the key takeaways you must know for developing a sales strategy:

  • Define clear sales goals and conversion targets.
  • Allocate a sales budget to cover necessary resources and expenses.
  • Build a dedicated sales team with the expertise to drive growth.
  • Implement sales technology, such as a CRM, to support your team’s efforts.
  • Identify and refine your target market and value proposition.
  • Foster collaboration between sales and marketing teams.
  • Establish a structured prospecting strategy and execute sales campaigns.
  • Gather valuable information during prospect meetings to close deals.
  • Regularly review and update sales scorecards to track progress.
  • Create a culture of winning by celebrating achievements and fostering motivation.

How to Develop a Sales Strategy in 10 Steps

As the head of growth at Parallax, I talk with numerous digital shops who know they need to formalize their sales program but aren’t sure where to start. 

I’ve created many sales strategies over the years, so I boiled my approach down to 10 steps to help you create yours. The sooner you start working through these steps, the sooner you’ll be able to achieve reliable business growth.

1. Define Your Sales Goals

Every element of your sales strategy must support your sales goals. Define your sales goals by starting with your annual sales and revenue targets

How much in sales bookings does your team need to close to hit your revenue target? This amount is your annual sales goal. Other supporting sales goals include the average deal target (e.g., each deal, on average, generates $50,000 for the business) and customer upsell targets.

Reminder! Sales and revenue are not the same. Sales is the amount written on the proposal or contract. Revenue is the actual dollar amount earned.

Conversion goals are also an important part of sales goals. Conversions track the percentage of contacts that complete the desired next action. 

For example, what percentage of the proposals you deliver convert into customers? If you’re starting your sales strategy from scratch, you might not have much historical data to reference to set these goals. 

That’s okay; start from industry averages. Your conversion rates could include:

  • How many inbound leads do we need to generate a marketing-qualified lead (MQL)?
  • How many MQLs do we need to generate a sales-qualified lead (SQL)?
  • How many SQLs do we need to deliver a proposal/generate an opportunity?
  • How many proposals/opportunities do we need to deliver to secure a new customer?

Work backward from these numbers to set your conversion rate targets

Not familiar with this lead terminology? Here’s how HubSpot describes its default lifecycle stages.

2. Develop a Sales Strategy Budget

Prioritizing sales means setting aside a budget for sales. Your sales budget should cover all of the resources needed to generate enough activity to hit your sales goals. The budget should include:

  • Total base salaries for sales team members, plus a bonus/commission structure
  • Software and technology expenses (e.g., CRM)
  • Training and professional development investments
  • Travel costs and associated expenses
  • Anything else that’s relevant to your particular business

3. Build Your Sales Team

Don’t skip the line item on your sales budget for people resources. Too often, digital shops think they can add the sales job on the plate of an existing leader, like the CEO or COO.

I can almost always predict what will happen: That leader will get so busy with their other responsibilities that business development falls to the back burner. This leader also often doesn’t have the sales expertise necessary to build a strong sales program. 

The company soon starts missing its targets because it didn’t give sales the attention and resourcing it needs.

When building your sales team, refer back to your sales and growth goals again. What kind of team do you need to reach those goals? You need at least one dedicated sales resource responsible for generating interest, setting up conversations with prospects, and keeping the sales pipeline healthy. 

Define your team structure, create an onboarding plan, and start hiring for those roles.

4. Choose and Implement Sales Technology

Your sales team will need technology to support their efforts. Most often, the first sales technology decision is the CRM. My personal favorite CRM is HubSpot because it makes it simple for sales teams to maintain contact data, create email sequences to engage contacts, and measure success. It also integrates well with marketing tools.

Whatever you do, don’t rush the technology implementation. Implementing a CRM with the mindset that it’s an internal reporting tool can lead to adoption problems. A CRM should help your sales team guide clients through your sales funnel and keep them engaged.

Be thoughtful about how you set up your CRM, including determining which lifecycle stages you’ll use for your buyer’s journey. Document what every stage means for your business, so sales and marketing know when and how to update a lead’s status. 

Leadership and delivery should also know how to correctly interpret where a contact is in the pipeline based on these stages.

5. Identify Your Target Market

Hopefully, you have already defined a target market and maybe even developed personas. If not, start there before defining sales targets. Identify who your best customers are

Where do they work (e.g., business type, industry, company size)? What are their key responsibilities? What are their most significant day-to-day challenges? Who influences their purchasing decisions? Answer all of these questions in your personas.

Sales targets will often be narrower than the company’s target market. The sales team will have additional criteria to follow, including specific locations or regions to target, ideal company size, targeted industries or accounts, and, just as importantly, who not to target (e.g., a particular industry where you have had little to no success).

6. Document Your Value Prop for Each Sales Target

Once you’ve narrowed in your sales targets, brainstorm how your company is uniquely equipped to solve their challenges. 

Think about your place in your industry. How do you compare to competitors? What sets you apart from them? Where are you weaker than your competitors? Shape your sales messaging on the differentiators your company can stand confidently on to win against competitors.

7. Align Sales and Marketing Efforts

Collaboration between sales and marketing is key to developing a sales strategy. Your sales plan needs to be supported by and aligned with your marketing strategy. 

Your two teams will have different goals and objectives, but they ultimately all need to align with and support the business’s goals.

Develop a strong working relationship between your sales and marketing leaders. Communicate frequently about the content (e.g., blogs, emails, white papers, videos) and campaigns marketing has planned, and plan how you can leverage marketing assets in your prospect outreach. 

Since the sales team has regular conversations with prospects, share themes and insights you learn with marketing. These insights can help inform the marketing team’s messaging and strategy — ultimately making everyone more successful.

8. Define Your Prospecting Strategy & Get Started

Once you have your value proposition messaging down and marketing assets to support your prospecting, it’s time to launch your sales campaigns. Determine what your ongoing prospecting strategy will be:

  • How often will you run a new prospecting campaign?
  • How many contacts will you include in each campaign?
  • How will you choose the segment of contacts to include?
  • How will you personalize outreach?
  • What combination of channels and tactics will your team use to reach prospects (e.g., email, social media, phone)?

Here’s an example of how you might structure a sales campaign using email sequences, phone calls, and LinkedIn:

  • Day 1: Introduction email: Send a personalized email to the selected contacts, asking them an important question about their business and including a call to action to read a new article that relates to that question. Ensure the article and email copy are relevant to the contacts you selected.
  • Day 3: LinkedIn engagement: Visit the LinkedIn pages of the prospects you sent the initial email to and request a connection. Engage with the content they share by liking their posts.
  • Day 5: Follow-up email: Send another email with a link to a piece of content and ask them another question about their business. For example, include a guide that marketing created to help your prospects learn about something topical and relevant to your service offering. Ask how they currently handle that aspect of their business, and if they’d like to set up a meeting to learn more about your company’s services.
  • Day 7: Phone call: Call each prospect enrolled in your sales series to introduce yourself. Reference the emails you sent and ask if they’ve had a chance to read them. If the prospect is still working remotely, use this step to instead send a LinkedIn InMail message.
  • Day 10: Follow-up email: Send another follow-up email, noting you want to ensure they have seen the emails you sent. 
  • Day 14: Break up email: Send a “break up email.” This email is the final one you’ll send to them and should make it quick and easy for them to respond with their level of interest in your services.

9. Gather Important Information During Prospect Meetings

Make it a habit to go into each prospect meeting knowing one thing you’d like to get out of it. This meeting is the time to “set the table” and begin to identify the pain points your prospect is feeling. 

Also, use this meeting to gather as much important information about the potential customer as possible—and enter that information into the CRM.

Asking the right questions during these meetings can help your team uncover the insights needed to close the deal and support the delivery team further down the road (in some cases, it can also identify when a prospect is not the right fit for your organization).

Once the project lands on delivery’s plate, they can reference the CRM data for helpful background information. Some questions to ask during prospect meetings may include:

  • What are the most significant business challenges you’re facing this year?
  • What internal obstacles must you navigate related to these challenges?
  • What is most important to you in a partner?
  • What is the makeup of the internal team we’d be working with?
  • Who is ultimately responsible for deciding whether to hire?

10. Meet Regularly to Review the Sales Scorecard

Every strong sales strategy measures its performance and makes adjustments along the way. Your sales scorecards, including the team scorecard and individual employee scorecards, should directly align with the sales goals you set in step one. 

Ensure you have the right KPIs selected to measure your team’s effectiveness and quickly pivot if things aren’t working. Meet regularly to update the scorecards and discuss progress toward goals.

Note: Not every sales team member needs to have the same scorecard.

Example KPIs include:

  • Average value of proposals sent
  • Amount of sales in the pipeline
  • Number of meetings scheduled with prospective clients
  • Number of proposals delivered to prospective clients
  • Number of new closed won deals
  • Amount of revenue in sales bookings

Each of these 10 steps is foundational to developing a sales strategy. As you progress through each one, remember to showcase and publicly celebrate the progress you make. 

Sales can be hard and exhausting. But when you celebrate wins—no matter how small—it creates momentum and sparks excitement. This positive energy flows through the entire company. 

Employees in non-sales roles begin to see the role they play in business development, making it clear why their work is vital to the organization’s success.

Developing a Sales Strategy Is Simplified With Parallax

Developing a sales strategy requires you to make data-driven, strategic decisions. With Parallax, you can unlock predictive resourcing and active forecasting to improve your sales strategy. To learn more, book a demo of Parallax today!