You want the best possible sales strategy for your business, right?

Sales and marketing success is never an accident. Get your sales and marketing team together to create a better strategy. This guide will show you how to dissect your past, create a vision for the future and write a bulletproof plan to achieve your goals!

Check the sales trends of the last 12-months.

Here are a few questions you need to answer before going forward:

  • Where did each customer come from in the past year? Was it word of mouth marketing? Was it SEO? Was it paid advertising? Was it email marketing?
  • How many customers were first time customers? How many were repeat customers?
  • How many leads did your website generate?
  • How long did it take for a lead to convert into a sale?
  • Do you need to “fire” some bad customers? Who are your worst customers?
  • What about your best customers – what makes them the best?
  • Where is your best traffic comes from?
  • Why did customers on the verge of buying hold back?
  • Did you miss potential sales? What were the reasons for losing sales?

Stop. Write down the answers to all these questions before moving on. They will give you a solid base to figure out where you stand, and some ideas of where you can improve.

Review your marketing.

Now that you know how your sales went, take a look at your marketing efforts. What are you doing now? What have you done in the past? Create a marketing baseline to get an understanding. Then, you can start to make improvements.

Answer these questions:

  • How much traffic did your website get?
  • Where are you generating the most leads? How many did you get? Did they come from online or offline efforts?
  • Of the leads generated, how many converted into sales?
  • How is your ROI (Return on Investment)? Are you improving your ROI?
  • Which blog posts performed well? Which didn’t? What is different about the content that drives traffic vs. posts with poor results?

Create a Vision. Where do you see your company during the next 12-month period?

If you could snap your fingers and magically be exactly where you wanted to be, where would you be? That’s your target. Write those goals down, and be specific. In fact, be SMART! (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Reasonable and Timely). Write down exactly how much money you want to make, how many customers you’ll get or how many emails on your list. Whatever your goal is. Also write down when you want to do it by, and how you plan on doing it. This is an important step which is often overlooked. Written goals are important.

Pick priorities.

You can do something so well it hurts. But what happens if it’s the wrong thing? Getting through 10000 old emails in your inbox might feel great when you’re done. But, did that really help you build a more profitable business? Did that bring you closer to your goals? Was it in your sales and marketing strategy? If it was, great! If not, then you may have a problem. Knowing what to do can often be harder than knowing how to do it.

Write down your priorities ahead of time.

Got a buyer persona? Is it up to date?

Do you know who you’re trying to sell to? I certainly hope so! You may not have a buyer persona. You should. If you do, you rock. If not, you won’t be able to optimize your sales and marketing. Create a buyer persona.

How do your customers get to the point of sale?

Alright hot shot, you’re getting pretty far along here. Do you know the steps it takes for your leads to become customers? Go to the people who bought.
What page did they come from? Before that? Before that? Before that? I think you get my point. Keep going until you find what launched them on their journey to purchasing.

What motivated them to click that first button? Then the second? And so on?

Can you improve it?

Time to play “I Spy”!

You think your competitors aren’t doing just that? You can learn more from your competition than from anything else. Your marketing strategy is incomplete without a deep understanding of your competition.

Check all these things (literally check them off):

  • Social Media (Including LinkedIn!) – Check out how they interact with their customers on social media.
  • Website – What are they do better on their website? Can you get any ideas? Can you improve on what they are doing? Check out our article on how to design a website that beats your competition.
  • Blog – Do they have an active blog? What topics do they blog about? Are their visitors interact and comment on their blog posts?
  • Ads – Where do they advertise? Do they run ppc campaigns? Do they advertise offline? Do they exhibit at tradeshows and seminars?
  • Keywords – What keywords are they targeting? How do they rank for those keywords?
  • Email – How aggressively do they collect emails? What does their email marketing strategy look like?
  • Reputation – What do their customers say about them? Check online reviews. What kind of reputation does your competitor have?

This is just a starting list. I’m sure there’s more stuff out there to spy on. Their physical location maybe? Marketing materials? You don’t need any special kind of tool to spy on your competition, just some good old fashioned elbow grease.

What makes you different? Better? Worse?

If you are just as good as your competition, it will not help you. You have to be better than your competitors, much better. Especially, if your future customers are already doing business with your competitors, you have to be much better. To get a customer to fire your competition, you have to be much better. Are you better than your competitors? What makes you better? Write this down and stick to your strengths. Hiring to fill a weakness is always a good idea!

There are several ways to differentiate your business:

  • Do what’s hard. The best way to differentiate your business is to do what others are not willing to do.
  • Look for holes in the offerings of your competitors.
  • Be a specialist instead of a generalist. Target a niche or a specific service. Focus in on something instead of trying to offer too many services to too many customers.
  • Offer a guarantee so strong your competition wouldn’t dare to offer.
  • Make a strong offer. If you rely on word-of-mouth marketing, offer to refund any customer who brings in 5 or more new customers (The actual number of referrals depends on your business, but you get the point).
  • Become an industry influencer within your niche. Speak at conferences and tradeshows. People want to buy from the best.
  • Become the fastest. Be quick to respond to questions. Be the fastest service provider.
  • Talk about what makes you different. Tell everyone.

When was the last time you looked are your marketing materials?

Have you reviewed your logo, brochures, catalogs, images, and and ad copy lately? Check your emails, social posts, fliers, coupons, postcards, whatever! Look it all over. Is it still viable? Are you proud of it? If a prospect looks at your marketing material, what impression would it give about your business?

Improve your marketing materials the following way:

  • Before you design or redesign your brochure, understand your target market.
  • Define the brochure objectives.
  • Don’t overwhelm people with data. Your marketing materials don’t have to say everything about your business.
  • Stick to a clear message.
  • Include a strong call to action. What is the next step? Spell it out for people. Do you want prospects to call you? What is the number? What do they get if they call you?
  • Include an incentive to act now.
  • Use great images. Avoid stock photos, if you can. It takes a lot of work to come up with great images, but they are worth it.
  • Avoid technical language unless your target is engineers or scientists.
  • Check out your competitors’ marketing materials.
  • Proofread your work. You can ruin all of your efforts redesigning your marketing materials by spelling and grammatical errors.
  • Make it easy to respond. Offer multiple ways for prospects to get in touch with you.

Social and Web – Is it attracting the right people?

You have a persona now. Is your online presence marketing to that exact person/people? If not, you need to do some updating. Are you targeting the right people?

Check your process, man!

Do all your sales people send leads through the same funnels? Is that process documented? Is your brand image consistent across it? Check this out. Document it. Maybe you can automate a few things like emails. Give it some thought!

How are you going to propose?

No, I’m not talking about marriage. I’m talking about sales proposals. Are your current proposals consistent? Do you have a template for them? If not, make one. What percentage of proposals turn into paying customers? Is that percentage improving?

Gaps are ugly.

No one likes gaps. Look at your sales process you created earlier. Look at where your customers are going through the sales funnel and falling off. Are there any gaps in your sales and marketing strategy? Find a way to plug them up.

Now get to work! Just remember to limit spending.

We can plan all day. I love planning just as much as the next guy. But nothing is going to happen unless we start doing! So get to executing that plan! Just remember you need a budget. Only increase your spending if you can prove that you are making a profit. Test small. Only increase spending when you can prove that it works. Ads that aren’t giving you a return should be altered! So watch your spending. But remember that you’re never going to be able to get a mercedes on a VW budget. As awesome as that would be.

Don’t forget about tracking. And don’t be afraid of changing direction.

Congratulations, you’ve made it to the last step! Now don’t forget that the best entrepreneurs are those who know when to change direction. Meet with your team regularly to track the progress of your sales and marketing strategy. If things aren’t going according to plan, or if they are doing much better, you may need to change it up. Don’t get stuck on something just because it’s written down.

There’s a ton to do here. All the steps above don’t sound like much, but each step could take hours of planning and even longer to execute. If you’re all done, that’s awesome. Good for you. I would recommend hiring a marketing consultant to check your work and give you some unbiased feedback. Being so close with your business makes it hard to see it objectively. If you don’t feel you need to, that’s fine too. Good luck to you!

If you found this guide helpful, please share it with someone else you think it may help! I want to help as many people as possible.

Originally posted 2017-08-15 13:00:00.

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George Meszaros is the editor and co-founder of Success Harbor where entrepreneurs learn about building successful companies. Success Harbor is dedicated to document the entrepreneurial journey through interviews, original research, and unique content. George Meszaros is also co-founder of Webene, a web design and digital marketing agency.