Creating the right sales growth strategy for your business
7 min read
31 March 2015
When you’ve launched your business and are just starting out selling your product, it’s easy to get bogged down in the busy day-to-day sales activity without a thought for how it fits into your company’s development.
Although focusing on the task at hand is important, it’s equally vital to develop a sales strategy that helps you structure future growth. Otherwise you risk leaving your business exposed to problems that can prove debilitating. Planning ahead will help you realise potential issues and bottlenecks before they arise, and enable you to avoid them altogether.
But not all sales growth strategies are created equal, and you need to give some thought to what’s right for your business, backed up by constant evaluation and iteration. Don’t try to run before you can walk. Below are some of the key things to consider.
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1. Partner with your first customer
Building a great product that people actually want sounds simple but it’s surprising how many people get it wrong, so use your first customer to test your assumptions about what you’ve made and why people will buy it.
At this stage you may be the only one handling sales, so your first customer needs to be someone who you can work with as a partner as much as a client. Together, you can build a product that can scale. Expect to make up to 500 calls to get to this point; it is a major stepping stone for your business.
Before even trying to sell, try to understand your potential customer’s industry and business inside out. Spend time with them, watch how they work, demonstrate your product’s value – i.e. how it helps them improve efficiency, reduce costs or increase revenue. If you find your product is not quite ready, it’s not the end of the world. Work in partnership with your first customer to improve it, iterating the product until they are ready to actually pay for it.
2. Achieve product/market fit
Once you’re sure you’ve nailed the product it can be tempting to go after an entire market with a multi-billion dollar value, i.e. If I could sell to just one per cent of the population of China… This may look great on paper to inexperienced entrepreneurs and investors, but is entirely impractical and most likely a poor use of your limited resources.
The best entrepreneurs approach their market with laser focus and build something that works amazingly well for a niche segment, rather than catering badly to everyone. Achieving product/market fit is important before you spend money attempting to scale the business and expand its sales.
Customers that love your product will play a key role as advocates to help you scale, so spend time ensuring you’re giving them exactly what they need as this will be incredibly beneficial in the long term.
Continue reading on page two to understanding initial scale, and discover a key sequence to build and refine.
Image via Shutterstock.
3. Reach initial scale and go to market
Understand each of your potential sales channels, how much they cost, what you expect them to return and then build a sales model around them. Forget the 30-page business plan and move straight to crunching the numbers, focusing on the cost per acquisition for each new customer, in each channel, against their expected return.
These metrics change for each business type, but you can use common examples of telesales, field sales, pay per click (PPC), print media and television as a guide. Remember that this is just a forecast and that things may not go to plan. It is important to assess how each channel is performing; cut those that don’t perform and update your model. Be prepared to do this throughout the process of growing your sales, as your strategy will be all the stronger for incorporating important lessons you’ve learned along the way.
4. Build, analyse, refine, repeat
Alongside experimenting and working out which channels work for your business, it is important to understand the steps involved in actually completing a sale before you dive in. Map them out, figure out the length of your sales cycle and tweak it so that it becomes slicker and more efficient. Then test it out and use a CRM tool to record and understand all the data; they are tremendously helpful when it comes to processing and analysing vast quantities of information.
Review the results and refine your approach if necessary. You also need to make sure your winning formula is repeatable and works every time before implementing it as a tried and tested strategy for all future sales outreach. Even then, always review the formula and apply new approaches when necessary.
Once you have achieved product/market fit and understand which of your sales channels work and how much they cost you are ready to build your strategy. It will be based on achievable, real world numbers rather than theory. At this point if your product is set, and your model works, you are ready to scale!
Ben Brown is the CEO and co-founder of Shopwave, an easy to use iPad Point of Sale system, enabling retailers to focus on delivering a great customer experience. To date Shopwave has secured over £300,000 investment through crowdfunding and has recently been accepted onto the Wayra accelerator programme. The company is working with over 100 customers across London and beyond.