Five ways to optimize strategic sales

The role of strategic selling in an organization is one of the toughest and most difficult. It is also one of the most expensive line items in any company’s financials. In my role as a strategic advisor, I get to see a lot of sales teams and their go-to market skills. There are a lot of great strategic sales teams out there, but there’s an equal amount of selling teams that could use some advice.

Here are five ways to optimize your strategic sales teams and, in turn, increase their revenue producing effectiveness.

  1. Make no mistake, the strategies listed above are not easy to instill in a sales organization. By doing so, your true opportunities will increase, they will have greater value, and your chances of success will increase. No hard work goes unrewarded. Strategic selling is a process. Like any process, discipline and milestones mark the way. Only through uniform use, iteration, and formal improvement will your organization, the sales team, and the salesperson become more effective. I don’t care what the process looks like…yet. Get a process that everyone can track inside your organization and stick to it. No loose cannons or end around players….they devalue the process.
  2. Your strategic selling process must include the following characteristics:
    • Assessing the selling opportunity
    • Developing a competitive strategy
    • Identifying the key decision makers and their motives/agendas
    • An action plan
    • Sales plan testing and improvement
    • An organization implementation process (it takes a village to raise a child…it takes an aligned organization to sell your solution)
  3. Create a compelling event inside your target customer. If your sales process relies solely on responding to RFPs, you are not strategically selling….you are responding to opportunities that every qualified organization will see and compete for.  The easiest sale is the one that your competitors never knew about in the first place. Creating a sense of urgency and need inside a customer is hard work and takes time, but that’s what makes it valuable to your client and your organization. Knowing your customers’ needs and how your solution fits makes you more valuable than a traditional “RFP responder”. Be there first, be relevant, and be action oriented and your customers will rely on your solutions more often.
  4. Time is money and both are scarce resources. Make the most of these precious resources and never fall in love with an opportunity unless it meets the following criteria. If it fits, engage fully and engage to win. No half efforts. Ask yourself these questions:
    • Is there a true opportunity that has been clearly identified and agreed to within your customer’s organization?  Said another way, is there a “compelling event” as mentioned above that everyone involved is aligned around?
    • Can you compete to win? Does your solution or unique business differentiator align to produce customer benefit? Can it be aligned?
    • Can you win? Are there any commercial obstacles that would stand in the way to your winning? These can be politically driven, relationship driven, or even solution driven.
    • Is the opportunity worth winning?  Does it have the desired ROI for the investment of selling resources? Does it contain enough profit to engage your organization? Is it too risky a fit (a force fit to your solution) or does the risk and reward balance? Can your customer pay for the service? Have they allocated funds?
  5. Stay away from “free trials” or “free pilot” engagements. In fact, run from them. If your customer is headed down that path, revisit number 4 above. It could be that they do not completely understand your solution and how it fits, or simply that they have no funds to undertake the engagement. In either case, time is money and it’s time to move on.