8 Sales Strategies to Drive Profitability
It’s a jungle out there
Disorder and confusion everywhere
— Randy Newman, singer-songwriter
There’s no doubt about it, 2023 is a turbulent time for the world of sales.
The economy is unstable, competition is intense, buyers are extremely cautious, and your industry is constantly changing. Moreover, with minimal or no growth in budgets, everyone is expected to accomplish more with their existing resources.
Despite all of that, it’s still possible to win deals and drive growth. But everyone in the company must be more strategic. That includes your onboarding, training, and marketing teams—in addition to your sales team.
To help you, we asked some of the brightest minds in the sales world to offer their advice. Folks from companies such as McKinsey & Company, B2B DecisionLabs, RAIN Group, Sparxiq, and Smith+Nephew shared insights and strategies that were included in a special issue of Selling Power magazine.
This issue focuses on sales strategies to guide you through these uncertain times and drive growth and profitability.
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8 Sales Strategies for Profitability
1. Prepare for Any Possibility
In uncertain times, things are, well … uncertain. For 2023, some analysts say we’re heading for a recession, while others forecast growth. Not knowing who is correct makes it difficult for you to plan. So, you need to prepare for every possibility, writes Selling Power’s Margaret Littman in her article, What Lies Ahead for Sales.
That means “empowering knowledge sharing, conducting continual training and upskilling, and fostering bottom-up innovation, among others. A resilient workplace is one that is populated by people who are adaptable and flexible,” she says.
2. Invest in Your Frontline Sales Teams
Combating inflation requires concrete action to reset priorities and change selling behaviors to ensure profitable growth, according to McKinsey & Company.
To do that, McKinsey analysts suggest sales teams take these three steps:
- Close the Information Loop: Provide frontline sellers with all the facts and insights needed to do their jobs.
- Invest in Capability Building: Create learning and development programs for your sellers and managers to ensure they have the knowledge and skills to succeed.
- Rethink Compensation and Incentives: Tie incentives to outcomes that individuals can influence directly.
“Resilient organizations don’t just bounce back from misfortune or change; they turn shocks into opportunities. And the most resilient invest in their talent,” McKinsey says. “This may be a good time to invest in your frontline sellers, build new capabilities, and empower them to help your business thrive in difficult times.”
“Resilient organizations don’t just bounce back from misfortune or change; they turn shocks into opportunities. And the most resilient invest in their talent.”
— McKinsey & Company
3. Invest in a Comprehensive Sales Enablement Platform
The number of learning and sales enablement tools has skyrocketed. Hundreds of SalesTech vendors offer collaboration tools, mobile learning tools, content development tools, and analytics tools. And in striving to be ahead of their competition, companies bought them.
It’s too much, though, writes Bob Basiliere, vice president of sales at Allego, in Overcoming Digital Overload: 4 Benefits of Consolidating Your Sales Tech Stack.
“Salespeople are crying ‘uncle’—there are simply too many tools,” he says. “Companies are hamstrung by redundant systems that don’t talk to each other, unnecessary subscription fees, administrative overhead, low adoption rates, rep confusion, and lower productivity.”
Instead, companies must take a holistic approach to meet long-term needs. Innovative sales enablement technology can help you deliver a single interface to sellers for learning, content, collaboration, conversation intelligence, and virtual selling.
With a comprehensive platform, multiple functions can deliver insights to drive results in the next normal—while lowering both cost and seller frustration.
4. Motivate Sellers to Use Your Content
It’s a constant problem—even among the best revenue teams: Marketing creates content for sales, but sellers don’t use it. According to research conducted by Allego and B2B DecisionLabs, there’s a relatively simple solution: Ask a seller to share it.
“The results of this research show that even if you start with identical content, the presenter you choose—and the story they tell—significantly affects your sellers’ willingness to use it,” writes Leff Bonney, Ph.D., research director at B2B DecisionLabs, in his article, How Do You Get Sellers to Use Marketing Content?
The research revealed two interesting findings, Bonney says:
- Sellers were much more likely to use content when they learned about it from a high-performing peer vs. a sales leader or marketer.
- Sellers were significantly more likely to use content after watching a high-performing peer demonstrate how to use it in a customer conversation, as opposed to only providing basic details.
If you’re struggling to get sellers to use your marketing content, ask one of your top performers to lend a hand.
5. Coach Sellers for Action and Accountability
It’s clear coaching is highly correlated with performance. But what exactly should sales managers coach for?
According to Andy Springer, chief client officer at RAIN Group, the goal is to “coach for a transformation—both an action (e.g., better deal management) and accountability from the seller to see it through.”
In his article, Take the Lead: Coach Your Sellers for Top Performance, Springer explains four ways sales managers and coaches can hold sellers accountable:
- Overcome a Lack of Motivation: Help sellers set goals and reconnect with their core motivations for success.
- Deconstruct the “Not Enough Time” Excuse: Guide sellers to use personal productivity tactics.
- Limit Distractions: Have sellers block out “do not disturb” time or turn off notifications altogether, for example.
- Close Productivity Gaps: Behaviors, habits, and consistency play key roles in increasing productivity.
“Sales coaching done right—with accountability built in—can have a significant impact on team performance. The reason is simple: Accountability systems help guarantee consistency over time,” Springer says.
“Sales coaching done right—with accountability built in—can have a significant impact on team performance.”
— Andy Springer, chief client officer, RAIN Group
6. Future-Proof Your Sales Force
You’ve likely heard the proverb, “If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. If you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime.” There’s a similar adage in business that says it’s better to receive advice about how to figure out what to do than to be told what to do.
With that theme in mind, Mike Kunkle, vice president of sales effectiveness services at SPARXiQ, offers 10 steps you can take to future-proof your sales force and transform your sales results:
- Strategy First, Then Tactics, Then Talent & Execution: To ensure success, start with strategic planning. Everything else should support that strategy.
- Build Buyer Acumen: Research your buyers and document critical information that help marketers and sellers generate interest and sell more effectively.
- Align Sales Process with Customer Lifecycle: Ascertain where your buyers are in the sales process, where they’re headed, and how to adapt and respond appropriately.
- Adopt an Effective Sales Methodology: Adopting a sales methodology and getting sellers to use it will increase revenue, quota, and win rates.
- Develop Buyer-Centric Messaging: With effective messaging, your sellers can have far more personalized, compelling, and influential buyer conversations.
- Build a Buyer Engagement Content Plan: Base your buyer engagement content on the preceding steps.
- Use a Sales Training System: With a sales training system, you will ensure sellers do everything as you planned.
- Develop Sales Coaching Excellence: Sales coaching is critical, so make sure your coaches have the right skills.
- Implement a Sales Management System: This system ensures best practices are in place and executed effectively.
- Use a Continuous Improvement Cycle: Once the nine steps are in place, regularly review them and update as needed.
Keep in mind that “future-proofing has an expiration date,” Kunkle says. “As things change or evolve, whether it’s buying behavior, new products, ideal customer profiles, economic conditions, your competitive set, or other factors, you should flow back through the 10 steps and continually improve your plans, execution, and ultimately, your growth and success.”
7. Simplify, Guide, Collaborate
Chief revenue officers (CROs) want to grow their business, but they face several challenges. Sales teams struggle to hit quota, it takes longer for sellers to become proficient, few sellers are able to sell their companies’ new offerings, and teams aren’t signing on new customers.
Sales leaders can help drive growth by doing three key things, writes Ken Valla, president and co-founder at The Valla Group, in his article, Sales Leadership in a Downturn:
- Simplify Your Sales Process. Define how you want your sellers to work, determine the actions you need them to take each day, then deploy technology to enable those actions.
- Guide Your Sales Team. Train sellers how to get from point A to point E in a conversation and how to progress a deal through a series of conversations.
- Proactively Drive Structured Collaboration. Enable sellers to learn and share with others who are doing the job and face the same obstacles.
“Enabling your sales team to drive business growth in 2023 and beyond is about these three things: Simplify – Guide – Collaborate. Don’t let the other noise get in the way,” Valla says.
“Enabling your sales team to drive business growth in 2023 and beyond is about these three things: Simplify – Guide – Collaborate.”
— Ken Valla, president and co-founder, The Valla Group
8. Create a Growth-Minded Sales Culture
Top sellers are always learning and seeking growth opportunities. So, to hire those types of salespeople—and keep them from leaving—you must offer them a continuous growth journey that has multiple levels of learning.
Kaleb M. Sunwall, senior vice president of Global Commercial Training + Education at Smith+Nephew, and Stephanie Ibarra, Global Training Operations Director, explain why in their article, Know More, Sell More, Be More. And they share six lessons about creating a growth-minded sales culture:
- Know More to Sell More: The better a sales rep performs during training, the more they will sell.
- Better Coaching = Better Engagement: Manager coaching and reinforcement increases rep satisfaction, engagement, and sales performance.
- Remediate to Rejuvenate: Remediation training leads to exponential return on investment.
- The More You Learn; the More You Earn: Higher engagement in training leads to higher sales and higher sales rep earnings.
- For Learning to Stick, You Must Not Quit: Sales performance declines over time, making reinforcement training essential.
- Train to Retain: Participation in advanced training courses leads to lower turnover.
“Employees now recognize that learning is a lifelong journey, not an event,” Sunwall and Ibarra write. “Learning is an engine for growth and enables higher performance. Training is a leveraged investment, where every dollar is a positive multiplier to profitability.”
Download Sales Success in a Turbulent World and get practical advice and insights for building resilience and empowering sellers to drive growth in uncertain times.