If you're a small business owner, creating a sales strategy plan can feel like a daunting task. But having a sales plan is an essential part of ensuring that your products sell—and your business is successful. The good news? With a little planning and some actionable advice, you can create a sales strategy plan that will help your business thrive. Here’s how.
What is a sales strategy?
A sales strategy is a plan designed to help position a product in the marketplace in order to increase revenue and reach specific sales goals. It works in tandem with a marketing strategy, which raises awareness about your company or brand but doesn’t focus specifically on sales.
Not all sales strategies will be effective for every type of business. The most successful sales strategy for a small business owner is the one that is tailored to their specific products, services, goals, and target market. A business that specializes in spices, for example, might try bundling multiple blends together, while a business that specializes in a service may try free trials (more on these—and additional tactics—below).
A sales plan details what the product is that is being sold, how it is going to be sold, and who it is being sold to. By taking the time to develop a specific sales strategy, small business owners can give themselves the best chance for success.
How to create a sales strategy
- Determine your goals
- Figure out your target audience
- Hire a sales team
- Create a plan
- Assess and iterate
Whether you’re just starting out or you’ve been in business for a while, it’s important to have a plan in place to help you reach your sales goals. Luckily, creating a sales strategy doesn’t have to be complicated. Here are five simple steps to get you started:
1. Determine your goals
Before devising a sales strategy, it’s important to first identify the goals that you hope to achieve. Without clear objectives, it can be difficult to measure success and allocate resources effectively. That means setting goals is an essential part of any sales planning.
When setting goals, it is important to be specific, realistic, and achievable. For example, rather than simply aiming to “increase sales,” a more actionable goal would be to “increase sales by 10% within the next quarter.”
Once you have determined your goals, you can begin to develop a plan of action. By taking the time to create measurable goals, you will be setting yourself up for success in the development of an effective sales strategy.
2. Figure out your target audience
There’s no point in creating a sales strategy if you don’t first know who you’re selling to. But how do you figure that out? Let’s get into it.
- Define your product or service. Before you can identify your target audience, you need to have a clear understanding of what you’re selling. What are the key features and benefits of your product or service? How does it differ from other products or services on the market? Once you have a good handle on what you’re offering, you can start to narrow down who would be most interested in it.
- Consider your current customer base. If you already have existing customers, take a close look at them. Who are they? What do they do for a living? What needs or problems do they have that your product or service can help with? An analysis of your existing customer base can give you some valuable insights into who your target audience should be.
- Do some market research. In addition to looking at your existing customers, it's also helpful to do some broader market analysis. This can involve anything from reading industry reports to conducting surveys or focus groups. By taking the time to understand the overall market landscape, you’ll be better equipped to identify potential target audiences for your sales strategy.
- Create buyer personas. Once you’ve done some research, it’s time to start creating buyer personas. These are specific, fictional profiles of your ideal target customers, based on real data and insights. When developing buyer personas, be sure to include information about each persona’s demographics, needs, pain points, and goals, as well as a customer journey and a vision of what customer success looks like. This will help you create more targeted sales messaging that resonates with your audience. For some inspiration, check out these buyer personal examples.
- Test and refine your approach. After you’ve identified a few potential target audiences, test out your sales strategy with each one. This will help you see what’s working and what isn’t, so you can make adjustments as needed. Don’t be afraid to experiment until you find an approach that works well for your business and helps you reach your sales goals.
3. Hire a sales team
You might be thinking, “Do I really need a sales team? Can’t I just do it myself?” The answer is, “Potentially.” If you’re selling products or services that are relatively low-cost and easy to purchase, then you might not need sales and marketing teams. However, if you’re selling products or services that are more expensive or require a longer sales cycle, then you’ll likely benefit from some help. If that’s you, here’s how to find it (and if not, skip to the next step).
- Define your ideal candidates. What skills and experiences should they have? What personal traits would make them a good fit for your company? Are you looking for sales managers? A full marketing team? General sales professionals or a few sales reps? Taking the time to clearly define your ideal candidate will make the hiring process much easier.
- Post job listings in various places. In addition to job boards, consider posting your listing on social media platforms and in local newspapers or online forums. LinkedIn is another great spot to find people who are looking for work and are qualified to do what you need.
- Conduct thorough interviews. When meeting with candidates, be sure to ask about their previous experience in sales organizations, their motivation for wanting the job, and their goals for the future.
- Make a competitive offer. Last but not least, be sure to make a competitive salary offer. You can determine what a competitive offer is by asking other people in your industry what they pay their sales team members, seeing what’s offered on other job postings, or checking out publicly available sources, like the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Compensation Surveys (OCS).
4. Create a plan
Now it’s time to take all of the work you’ve done so far and create an actual sales strategy plan factoring in all foundational work you’ve done in assessing your goals and target audience. If you hire a team, pull them into this planning process, as they likely have experience creating successful sales and marketing strategies.
One of the most important elements of any great sales strategy is setting realistic sales targets. You can't just arbitrarily decide that you want to increase sales by 20% next quarter—you need to have a solid plan for how you're going to make that happen.
Consider “the four Ps” of sales: price, product, place, and promotion. In other words, you need to know what products or services you'll be selling, how much you’ll be selling them for, who your target market is, and what marketing channels you’ll use to reach them.
If you’re still feeling stuck, there are sales plan templates available online, including free sales strategy templates. Using one can be a great way to get started on creating your own sales process.
5. Assess and iterate
Finally, assess the results of your sales strategy and team performance in order to make changes as needed. Don’t be afraid to try new things or adjust your approach based on what is working (and not working). The most important thing is to always be learning and growing so you can continue to improve your sales strategy over time.
5 examples of sales strategies
- Upselling and cross-selling
- Free trials
1. Upselling and cross-selling
Upselling is a selling pitch where you attempt to sell a more expensive or higher-quality product to a customer who is already interested in your product, increasing the perceived value proposition of the sale. For example, if you own a coffee shop, you might upsell a customer from a regular to a large size by simply saying, “Would you like to upgrade to a large for only 50¢ more?”
Cross-selling is similar to upselling, but instead of selling a more expensive or higher-quality product, you sell a complementary product. For example, if you own a hardware store, you might cross-sell to a customer who is buying nails by also offering them hammers.
Bundling is when you offer products or services as a package deal at a discounted price. For example, if you own a hair salon, you might bundle together a haircut, color, and style for one low price. A retailer specializing in ski gear, meanwhile, might sell ski pants, boots, and a hat together at a discounted rate.
3. Free trials
Free trials are an excellent way to generate interest in your product or service. They’re also great for lead generation, as they show who’s interested in your product. Free trials work by allowing potential customers to try out your product or service for free for a limited time. For example, if you own an online subscription service, you might offer new subscribers a free multi-day trial.
Discounts are another great way to generate interest in your product or service. They work by offering prospective customers a reduced price on your product or service. For example, if you own an ecommerce website, you might offer new customers 10% off their first purchase.
5. ReferralsAsk your satisfied customers to spread the word about your business, and offer incentives like discounts or freebies to sweeten the deal. This is a great inbound sales strategy, which means customers come to you looking for something specific. (In contrast, an outbound sales strategy is when you go to the customer first, like through sales calls or email campaigns.)
Sales strategy examples FAQ
What are five sales strategy examples?
There are many sales strategies, but five popular ones are upselling, bundling, offering free trials, using referrals, and guerrilla marketing.
What are the four Ps of sales?
The four Ps of sales are price, product, place, and promotion.
What are the five steps to determine your target audience?
To figure out your target audience, you’ll have to define your product or service, consider your current customer base, conduct some market research, create buyer personas, and finally, test and refine your approach.