As a manager of a small business, your resources are limited. You can’t justify hiring a whole sales team and often are doing a large chunk of your company’s sales—if not all of them—on your own.
Sound about right?
As a company that’s in the business of helping small companies amplify their revenue, we’ve picked up a thing or two on the importance of sales strategy. So we put a list together of 10 sales strategies that actually work for small businesses—or any business without the luxury of a stacked sales team.
In this post, we’ll cover:
- What is a sales strategy?
- How to develop a sales strategy plan
- 10 sales strategies—and when to use them
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What is a sales strategy?
A sales strategy is a company’s game plan to connect their product or service with their target customer. That might sound simple enough, but there are a few nuances to acknowledge.
For one thing, you can’t simply make a target customer aware of your product—you need to present your product in a way that makes it meaningful to them.
For example, if you sell cloud storage and your target customers are businesses who work with large amounts of data, it’s not enough for you to send them a targeted ad saying you sell a cloud service. It would be more powerful for you to say, “We have somewhere to store all your data to make your life easier and your systems run faster,” immediately making a direct connection between your service and their business needs.
A second thing to remember is a sales strategy plan is not a static document. It’s an ever-evolving approach to the way you sell your product at a given time. Keep that in mind when reading through the 10 sales strategies later in this post.
Lastly, a sales strategy is not the same as a sales process.
It takes a lot of effort to become a good salesperson, but a solid sales strategy could make all the difference.
Let’s get into what it means to develop a sales strategy plan.
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How to develop a sales strategy plan for your small business
There are tons of tips out there on how to make sales, but not all of them are going to work for any business. To have an effective sales strategy plan, you need to understand what will work and what won’t for your unique business model.
Below we’re going to cover 10 different sales strategies, including what they are and when to use them so you can pick the right ones to make up your own sales strategy plan.
Remember: a sales strategy plan is an ever-evolving concept. When developing yours, just focus on what your business needs right now. You can (and should) develop this plan as your business changes and grows.
10 sales strategies for small businesses
Ready? Here they are:
- Build a pipeline of quality leads
- Sell to existing customers
- Do your research
- Set a goal for each contact
- Think win-win
- Keep following up
- Use a communication tool that manages itself
- Make signing paperwork easy
- Prioritize your prospects using lead scoring
- Keep your contact list up to date
1. Build a pipeline of quality leads
Best for: small businesses struggling to get (good) leads.
Get this: on average, sales reps spend up to 40%1 of their time just searching for people to try and sell to. Not exactly the most efficient use of time.
That’s where building a pipeline to generate leads for you comes in.
Investing in lead generation will eliminate (or at least drastically reduce) the time you spend searching for leads and instead bring them to you, saving precious time and already limited resources.
Here are some examples of lead generation tactics:
- Have a contact form on your website that captures leads’ names and email addresses.
- Advertise online (e.g., Facebook, Google, LinkedIn).
- Run a coupon deal.
- Host a webinar.
- Invest in content marketing (like a blog or email newsletter).
If you constantly have a pipeline of quality leads coming in, you’ll be able to shave time off your sales cycle and use that time instead to actually make sales.
2. Sell to existing customers
Best for: small businesses with a large number of existing customers who they can upsell or cross-sell.
Studies have shown that, on average, it’s about five times more expensive2 to acquire a new customer than it is to sell additional services to an existing customer.
Obviously, this doesn’t mean only sell to existing customers. To grow, you’ll always need to gain new customers. The key is not to forget about the customers you already have.
Say you’re releasing a new product, piloting a new service or feature, or just planning some sort of business switch. Your existing customer base is an excellent place to test it. Not only is it less expensive to sell to existing customers, but it’ll also show them you’re still interested in doing business together. Plus, because you’ve already established a relationship of mutual trust and value with them, it’s often easier to sell to your existing customers as well.
Here are some examples of what this could look like:
- You sell gaming hard drives and run a promo just for your existing customer base offering them $10 off the latest version to upgrade.
- You sell project management software and are about to introduce a more premium tier to your product model. Take a look at your existing customer base, choose the highest-spending ones, and shoot them an email or phone call asking if they’d be interested in switching to your newest plan, which could be more fitting to their team.
- You sell cloud storage. Reach out to your existing customers who frequently reach or exceed their storage limit and offer them more capacity at a good rate.
Note that all of these examples are beneficial for both the customer and your business. (Win-win.)
The key to selling to existing customers is that you first need a detailed log of their relationship with you so that you know precisely which products or services to upsell or cross-sell them on. Ideally, you’d have a communication tool or outbound contact center platform that lets you call and message these folks right from that database:
3. Do your research
Best for: small businesses looking to increase their prospect response rate.
Ever started writing a detailed email to a prospect but the effort seemed like a total waste of time, so you scrapped it and sent a quick, generic one instead? What’s the point? After all… they might not even reply.
If this sounds familiar, you could be doing your business a huge disservice.
Taking the time to write those well-researched emails could be the game-changer to your close rate and save you a lot of time in the long run.
Say you’re on the sales team in a B2B business. If you take the time to do a bit of research before reaching out to a prospect like the name of their company, who their competitors are, and if there are any industry problems or trends they’re currently facing, you’ll be able to paint a picture of exactly how and why your product or service would be right for them based on this information.
You can then share this picture with your prospect in an email, making it worth opening. Get them to open it3 with a compelling subject line that includes their name or company name. They’ll be more likely to read it and take you seriously enough to respond, since you clearly know your stuff. Plus, there’ll be less need for back-and-forth since you won’t be scrambling to figure out their situation on the fly, meaning a lower chance of losing them in the meantime.
4. Set a goal for each contact
Best for: small businesses who try to close too hard, too fast with little success.
Maybe you have a beautifully polished leads list. Before you call or email any of them, you’re going to want to have a goal for that interaction. And then repeat this process for every interaction after that.
When you’re coming up with these goals, think of them as incremental steps towards your ultimate goal of closing the sale. A good goal will benefit both you and your prospect, making both of you want to continue the sales process. Just what this goal is should depend on where your prospect is in the sales cycle.
For example, say your prospect is in the initial contact stage of the sales cycle. Your goal at this point could be to get them to agree to set up a time for a call. If they’re in the qualifying stage, your goal could be to confirm they have the purchasing power to buy from you.
This strategy will make the overall sales process less intimidating for both you and your prospect as you’ll be gradually warming them up versus hitting them with a sales pitch and trying to close them out the gate—which will make them that much more likely to seal the deal.
5. Think win-win
Best for: small businesses that find their prospects to be highly resistant to their product or service, despite the fact it can benefit them.
If you’ve read The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, you know that the fourth habit Stephen Covey talks about is “think win-win.” This habit can work wonders in your sales pitches.
Win-win scenarios happen when two goal-oriented people work together to accomplish more than what they could’ve done alone and both parties benefit from it. To do this, you need to think not only about what you want in a given situation but also about what the other person wants—in this case, the other person is your prospect.
If you’re qualifying your leads properly, your product is truly beneficial to them and likewise them to your business. So instead of it being salesperson versus customer, which insinuates a win-lose outcome, it becomes a win-win; you and your prospect have a mutual problem and are on the same team. How can you work together to solve it?
6. Keep following up
Best for: small businesses that don’t have a follow-up plan, or who follow up infrequently.
If at first you don’t hear back, follow up—and don’t just follow up “when you have time” either. Make time.
Studies have shown that five follow-ups is the minimum number required to close 80%4 of sales. So getting your timing and follow-up game on point is a super important part of your overall sales strategy plan.
Map out a sales cadence that outlines when and how you’ll send each follow-up to a prospect. Then set reminders in your calendar to action these follow-ups, or better yet, schedule them to go out automatically in your CRM. And don’t forget about integrations. Integrate your CRM with your phone system so you can call directly from your customers’ profiles. For example, here’s how AgileCRM links up with RingCentral:
And if you need help crafting all these followups – we don’t blame you! Check out our email subject lines for sales to get more clicks.
7. Use a communication tool that manages itself
Best for: small businesses without a dedicated IT team or spend too much time managing their communication tools.
Imagine not having to switch between multiple applications to grab your customers’ contact information, send an email, or make a phone call. We can make that happen.
… Plus it comes with other awesome features like online meetings, business texting, team chat, and online faxing. It also integrates with your other sales apps like Salesmate and Salesforce. The benefits of integrating your sales CRM with your communications platform can’t be overstated.
But you don’t have to take our word for it. Porch, a home service company based in Seattle with fewer than 50 employees, replaced their existing call center solutions with RingCentral with stellar results.
It made sense to go with RingCentral because the administrative capabilities are there and no development is required,” says Ankur Pradhan, Senior Salesforce Developer at Porch. “And this is me, as a developer saying this, because the nature of the development is that it’s always expensive.
Not only did switching to RingCentral result in a cost savings of 25%, but it also gave them much more functionality, including an omnichannel contact center, video conferencing, and a mobile app.
Want to find out how Porch saved a ton of cash—and started working more productively? See how they did it.
8. Make signing paperwork easy
Best for: small businesses that require their customers to sign documents (e.g., contracts or other paperwork).
PSA: No one—and we mean no one—likes printing out physical pieces of paper, signing them, scanning them, and emailing them back to the sender. Hardly, anyone has a printer anymore. No one has time anymore. And that includes you.
Make life easier for both of you and your customers by adding electronic document signing software like HelloSign or DocuSign to your sales arsenal.
A huge benefit of electronic documents is many of them integrate with your existing sales tools, which means less manual work, less time wasted, and less friction that could cause customer drop-off—all signs of a great sales strategy.
9. Prioritize your prospects using lead scoring
Best for: small businesses that have a whole lot of leads, but a low close rate.
Okay, we went over what to do if you don’t have enough leads. Now, let’s talk about what you do if you have too many. Lead scoring is a method of prioritizing your leads in order of strongest possibility to close quickly.
The key to lead scoring is to do it before even reaching out to your leads. This way, you’ll be able to contact them in an order that makes the most sense in terms of how wisely your time and energy are allocated.
Here’s how lead scoring works: You have a point system between 1 and 10. A score is assigned to a lead based on the value they represent for your company.
For example, a CEO is someone who has the buying authority to make a purchase, so they’d be scored a 10. On the other hand, a lower-level associate like a sales manager would get a lower score since they may not have the buying authority or will need to go through a few layers of approval, making them harder to close.
10. Keep your contact list up to date
Best for: small businesses that don’t have a system in place to keep their leads list fresh.
Earlier we touched on the importance of lead quality over quantity to put your micro sales team’s limited time and energy to best use. It’s important to keep your list of leads up to date for the same reason.
If you’ve sent several (at least five) follow-up emails and/or phone calls to a prospect and have yet to hear back, it’s safe to assume the lead is stale and either let them go or move them to the end of your contact list in terms of priority. The time spent calling that lead with a track record of being unresponsive could be put to better use by calling a different qualified lead or even an existing customer—someone who wants to hear what you have to say. Keeping your contact list fresh like this will maximize the effectiveness of your sales efforts.
This is another example of something that can be automated. A lot of CRMs have the functionality to set expiration dates for leads at which point they either get deleted or archived.
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Examples of small companies with big sales strategies
Here are a couple of examples of small companies that are absolutely killing it in sales. Both of these examples are multi-million-dollar companies that employ 50 people or less.
Spikeball makes equipment for the volleyball-inspired sport called roundnet. Based in Chicago, the company employs only 24 people and generated an impressive $19 million5 of revenue in 2018. When the company was first established, its CEO, Chris Ruder, would send personal notes to each customer along with their order. Since then, the company has exploded in growth and roundnet now has millions of enthusiasts around the world.
Spikeball uses several sales strategies, but one that stands out, in particular, is their loyalty program, “SpikePoints.” This is their way of continuing to generate revenue from their existing base (see strategy #9 in this post).
Waldron Private Wealth
Based in Bridgeville, Pennsylvania, Waldron Private Wealth employs 50 people and generated $16 million6 of revenue in 2018. They offer a long list of wealth management services including financial planning, trust services, and next-generation wealth planning and education.
When you look at their website, you can see they have a solid pipeline in place to capture leads regularly, including a live chat function, contact form, and blog (see strategy #1). Their messaging is also very customer-centric, focusing on how they can work with you to maximize your wealth (see strategy #5).
Which sales strategy (or strategies) will you use?
In a lot of ways, running a small business is tougher than running a large one, especially because of the low budget constraint.
By incorporating the right sales strategies, however, you can maximize the amount of time and resources you do have—and close more deals.
Originally published Jul 01, 2020, updated Jun 14, 2022