TALKING SALES 15: "Sales Strategy: Where the rubber hits the road" - Sue Barrett

John Smibert

Sales Strategy rubber hits the road5

Sue BarrettIn this interview Sue Barrett talks to John Smibert about the need for an effective organisational sales strategy.

The company sales strategy is often overlooked, incomplete or not updated regularly enough in many selling organisations.

Sue also outlines the components that make up a sales strategy and how the sales strategy relates to the marketing strategy. Most sales directors will find value in this discussion.[private]

Sue is an authoritative thought leader and an accomplished author on the selling profession. She's also founder and CEO of Barrett and

See more of the 'TALKING SALES' series here

Interview Transcript

John: I'm here again with Sue Barrett. Sue's an authoritative thought leader and an accomplished author on the selling profession. She's also founder and CEO of Barrett and Welcome back, Sue!

Sue: Thank you, John!

John: Sue, I know there's a lot of effort put into building business strategies and marketing strategies, but sometimes building the sales strategy gets lost in all of that. What is involved in building a sales strategy, and how should we make sure it's done more effectively?

Sue: Okay. Well, for many years, unfortunately, sales has lived under the skirts of marketing, and oftentimes people have just been told "There's your revenue target, off you go, here's some target markets." - and we all know how sales blames marketing for the poor leads and all that kind of stuff.

Sales strategy is much more complex, and it actually needs to sit alongside marketing strategy, particularly now in a digitised world. We have to really be able to make sure that they work in concert together.

John: Right.

Sue: The easiest way that I describe and differentiate the two - just to put them into perspective and then look at sales strategy more specifically - is that marketing talks to groups and sales talks to individuals.

John: That's a great summary of what it's all about. So, in building that strategy to talk effectively with individuals and to sell effectively, what sort of things do they need to build into a strategy?

Sue: Well, we need to have a sales mission which guides and directs our sales force, that they actually know what target markets we're going for. There's a lot more work done around micro-segmentation, where we really do need to look at certain markets. Sometimes you've got sales teams going out after an industry sector, but in fact they should only be going after a certain sector of that industry sector.

John: Right.

Sue: Sales strategy does a lot of work in analysis, around understanding the dynamics of those sorts of markets, so that when as a salesperson I'm out there and I really understand the messaging and the value proposition I need to deliver to that segment, and then specifically to the individuals I'm dealing with, not just a marketing slogan that comes out from marketing.

John: To some extent, I think what you're saying is that there's a bit of a grey area between sales and marketing, and we need to be very clear where the strategies are.

Sue: Yeah. Now, there's more than just market segmentation and sales messaging. Sales strategy, the direction that you decide to take and how you want to go to market also dictates the structure of your sales force. Do you have people in the field, do you have key accounts?

John: Inside, outside.

Sue: Absolutely, and online as well. It also dictates too if you like the sales processes that you need to have in place, so we need to have different levels of capability. It also dictates then the technology and governance, CRM - we won't even go there - you know, the different ways that we use CRM, the governance, the ways that we actually do bid, tender and those sorts of things.

And also, it dictates what sales management capability and the structures you need to have in place, and then, of course, learning and development and all the different ways we can actually engage and develop people, and then metrics. Unfortunately, most people think that to fix the sales team you just throw more training at them, or a CRM.

John: And I want to talk on that subject perhaps in our next interview.

Sue: Yes.

John: A lot of thought needs to go into the sales strategy, and I hear that it's very different in structure and concept from the marketing strategy, although the two relate to each other.

Sue: Absolutely.

John: So, in summary: what would you say?

Sue: Well, let's put it into perspective. Compared to a business strategy that might be three-five-ten years long, sales strategies are only designed for 18 months to two years because of the dynamic nature.

John: Right.

Sue: So they need to be done on a regular and consistent basis and we need to get baselines to know where we're at; it's much more dynamic. Sales management need to learn how to do sales strategy, and then the rest of the organisation needs to work in concert with them, rather than just looking at changing incentive schemes or restructuring the sales force.

John: The bottom line is that sales strategy is a significant component of the overall business strategy.

Sue: Well, it's where 'the rubber hits the road' and where we actually get results.

John: Sue, thank you very much!

Sue: My pleasure!


See more of the 'TALKING SALES' series here



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