Sales strategy guide for SMEs

You may have a fantastic sales team behind you but their experience, knowledge, talent, and personal je ne sais quoi will only get your company so far. Even the most skilled sales professionals can flounder if they don’t have a cogent strategy behind them. If you run an emerging SME generating a sales strategy can be tricky. If you’re unsure where to start, fear not. 

We’ve divided an easy-to-use sales strategy template that will help you to devise your own strategy that gets the most out of your sales team. This guide will help you to pack our template with a personalised strategy that’s attuned to your broader operational goals. 

Although every company is unique, we have tried to create a template that lends itself to any industry and business model. These are the elements that you’ll need to consider when composing your sales strategy.

Your mission statement

Your sales strategy needs to have a broader goal beyond simply making money. If you’re in need of a guiding force behind your sales strategy, look no further than your company’s mission statement. 

Your mission statement should:

  • succinctly explain your overarching operational goal
  • differentiate you from your competitors

If you have yet to formally compose a mission statement, now’s the perfect time to do so. If it’s been a while since you last revisited your mission statement, it may be worth dusting it off and potentially retooling it to ensure that it reflects the realities of your current operations. 

Your target market

It’s vital to understand your buyers. If you haven’t already, it’s worth compiling a set of buyer personas that represent your typical or ideal customers. Some companies even create negative customer personas to identify the types of consumers that they definitely don’t want to target.

Outline specific demographic groups, referring to their:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Income brackets
  • Education
  • Aspirations and goals
  • Job role responsibilities, needs and pain points (especially if in the B2B market)

Your team

Before you compose a sales strategy, you need to take stock of the resources at your disposal. This includes your human resources. As well as listing the sales professionals you have, you should take stock of any administrative support, ops specialists or managers that can help you to marshall your team.

Are your sales team completely autonomous, or do they have access to administrative support so that they can spend less time on paperwork and more time closing deals? 

It’s also worth considering where your team will be located and the impact that this will have on your ability to coordinate your sales team, track their progress and keep them in the loop. 

  • Are they office-based? 
  • Remote? 
  • Hybrid? 
  • Or working on the road? 

The answer to this will have implications for the amount of free time they have to dedicate to admin and communications. 

Your available assets and resources

As well as your human resources, it’s essential to take stock of the digital tools that you’ll use to get the best out of them. Or suggest new tools to add to your IT infrastructure.

For instance, what Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platform do you / will you use to track the progress of leads and customers through your pipeline? Will you incorporate Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) with your CRM? 

This can help to simplify the sales pipeline in a number of ways. For instance, it can help sales teams to track inventory in real-time, improve outreach speed, and avoid making promises that your company can’t fulfil.

Digital tools can also be used to incentivise and motivate sales teams. For instance, employee recognition software is a great way to share the achievements of sales professionals within teams and your organisation. It can also help you to manage monetary and non-monetary incentives, bonuses and even contests. 

It’s also worth considering what data, documentation and tools your sales team will need to access from wherever they are. This will guide your decision-making when choosing software tools to help your team achieve peak performance in and out of the office. 

Your company’s position within the industry

Your company doesn’t exist in a vacuum and neither should your sales plan. 

When considering your company’s position within the industry, it’s a good idea to list all of your competitors. If possible, try and ascertain an idea of their market share. You can do this by dividing the total sales of the industry (or comparable products) by the sales of the individual company over the same period of time. 

Make a note of how your competitors’ products and / or services compare to yours. Be honest and realistic, but make sure to document instances where you can prove that your company outperforms the competition. The more tangible data you have, the more compelling an argument you can make in your marketing. 

As well as keeping track of your competitors, it’s important to consider any industry or consumer trends that could give you an edge in your marketing and sales. 

Your goals

Goals are the foundation of an effective sales strategy. Every company wants to turn a profit. But the more specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-based (SMART) your goals, the better chance you have of not only achieving them, but effectively tracking the progress of your sales strategy. 

Many sales goals are revenue-based (e.g. increase profits by 10% in Q3). However, some may also be volume-based (e.g. gain 1,000 new customers by the end of the year). Compile a list of achievable but challenging goals and list them in order of priority. 

For each of your goals, it’s important to establish a reasonable timeframe, as well as assigning one or more Directly Responsible Individuals (DRIs) to each. These are the people who will report to you regularly so that you can track your team’s progress. 

Your marketing and prospecting strategy

Marketing and prospecting are important components of any sales strategy. They generate brand awareness, interest, demand and (crucially) qualified leads. When marketing and sales departments are not coordinated, sales professionals often find themselves addressing colder prospects. This can yield erratic or negative results, demoralising sales professionals. 

As such, it’s worth considering how your latest marketing campaigns will generate opportunities for the sales team. 

  • Will you offer special promotional pricing or offers? 
  • How will it reinforce your value proposition and establish you as a better option than your competitors?
  • What lead generation strategies will you use, and how will they build value in your brand? 

For instance, you may want to use lead magnets like unique voucher codes for prospects who are willing to fill in a simple lead gen form. Or, you may wish to offer valuable content such as e-books, white papers or video seminars for B2B prospects. 

Find out more on marketing strategies by checking out our guide to marketing strategy for SMEs.

Your action plan

You’ve taken stock of your resources. You know how you’ll warm up prospects with your marketing endeavours. Now you just need to decide on a plan of action. Ask yourself:

  • Will you be using outbound sales strategies to reach out to prospective customers in the digital and physical realms? 
  • Or will you focus on inbound sales, driving more traffic to your online presence? 
  • Or will your strategy incorporate both? 
  • If so, which teams or individuals will you allocate to inbound and outbound sales?
  • What commissions and / or bonus schemes will you use to motivate your sales teams? 
  • And how will you check in with them to ensure that they’re meeting or exceeding their targets?
  • What logistical or administrative support will you be able to offer your sales teams as they strive to close deals? 
  • And how will you identify and address any team member who appears to be lagging behind the rest of the team? Additional training, coaching and mentoring can provide individuals with more support. But first, you’ll need to work with sales professionals to identify and address the root of the problem. 

Your budget

Finally, it’s important to ensure that your sales strategy is properly budgeted for. The last thing you need is for a huge sales push to run out of momentum because it’s exceeded your operating budget. 

Needless to say, you need to factor in the salaries, commission and bonuses of your sales team. However, you’ll also need to consider:

  • Salaries for any administrative support team members
  • Ongoing training costs
  • Teambuilding and enrichment activities 
  • Prizes for sales contests
  • Travel costs
  • Food and entertainment budget(e.g. Taking clients out to lunch)

Keeping your sales strategy on track

Take some time to consider the points above and gather the right data, and you’ll have everything you need for a winning sales strategy. However, if you’re worried that your sales strategy has gone off the rails, here are some tips to keep it on track:

  • Use hard facts and data to justify your budget and decisionmaking
  • Ensure that marketing and sales teams are aligned, and ensure that the marketing team is involved in creating your sales strategy
  • When carrying out competitive analysis, take note of what they’re doing well, not just the areas in which you outperform them
  • Keep a close eye on industry trends and use them to strengthen your plan
  • Talk your sales plan through with your team and listen to any concerns or objections they may have. They will be best positioned to tell you if an idea looks great on paper but proves unworkable in the field

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