Foundations for a Digital Sales Strategy
Learn the basics you need for a digital sales strategy here.
If you want to start your own business, sales is one of the most important departments to help a company succeed. And even though “just go for it” is a popular credo especially in the startup scene, it helps if you think 2-3 thoughts about the sales process beforehand. In this article, I would like to go into some things that I wish I had known before I started my business, as they make your life a whole lot easier and speed up the learning process accordingly.
To help you know what the approximate goal is, feel free to check out this article on the Buyers Journey. Your goal should be to map a Buyer or Customer Journey for your company and thus create the foundations for a digital sales strategy. This will give you a little better idea of what we’re working towards.
1. User interviews to make you aware of the problem.
The most important thing for your sales strategy is the problem statement. You need to be very aware of what problems your stakeholders have. Only if the problems are “big” enough, will there be a willingness to pay. You can find different frameworks for validating the problem to be solved in this article. Most important, especially in the beginning, are the conversations with potential customers. When you talk to your potential customers the first few times, try not to sell, but to capture the problem of your target audience.
Question technique The-Mom-Test:
Let’s say your idea is to start an agency to manage entrepreneurs’ social media presence. If you pitch the idea beforehand, and then ask questions like, “Could you imagine using an agency to manage your social media presence?” the answer will most likely be “yes” because you asked a leading question. Better questions would be: How do you organize your social media profile? What are your challenges? Why are you on social media in the first place and what are your goals…?
These questions are not about your product at all, but solely about the user’s pain points. This will give you a much better quality answer to formulate your idea. You can find a lot of articles about “The-Mom-Test”.
2. Identify key pain points
From your conversations, you’ll eventually figure out what your target audience’s biggest needs are. Is your original idea really the right solution for the problems of the target group? If so, you’re on the right track. If not, where do you need to make adjustments?
3. Buyer & JTBD personas for sales
In order to make your approach as precise as possible, you should be as aware as possible of who you want to address in the first place. If we think of the example above, a buyer persona could be the following, for example:
- Family business owner/managing director
- Industry: Mechanical engineering
- 50 to 250 employees
- Still heavily involved in operations
- Knows that he needs to do more digitally and should model digital presence as
- a “role model” for his team
- Not a digital native
Most likely, your company will not only have one Buyer Persona, but potentially multiple Buyer Personas. In our example, that could be the marketing department, the HR department, or possibly the CEO’s partner, who is happy to spend more time with the CEO, in addition to the CEO.
JTBD Personas: A framework to further sharpen your understanding of your customer and your approach is the Jobs-to-be-Done (JTBD) framework. For each buyer persona, you should define the following:
- Jobs-to-be-done: What is the core task of your Buyer Persona?
In our example: representative to the outside world, sales, management, strategic placement, ….
- Pains: What keeps your persona from achieving these goals?
In our example: too much operational work, no time to post/comment, tied up in too many other issues, ….
- Gains: what would be the expected value your solution delivers?
Digital presence, employer branding, role model for employees, …
4. Buyer personas in the decision-making process
To successfully close a deal in sales, you should be aware of how your target audience makes decisions. In B2B sales, the final decision is usually made by the person with budget access. However, different buyer personas can ruin the deal for you. Therefore, you should make sure to consider the different needs of the buyer personas. A data protection officer needs very different documents and call-to-actions in a deal than a CEO needs them, because the goals of these people in the company are very different. My recommendation is therefore to create JTBD personas for all personas that play a role in the decision-making process and to create documents (as landing pages, presentations, etc.) for the respective buyer persona.
5. Minimum Viable Product
To validate your idea, you can build a Minimum Viable Product (MVP). You can make it available to your potential customers for free or for a fee and collect feedback.
My recommendation: Take at least a small fee for it to test your target group’s willingness to pay for your problem. This feedback will give you hints where you should improve and what should be prioritized and how. But: just because users want something doesn’t mean they necessarily need it.
For example, the following quote is attributed to Henry Ford: “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” It’s your job as a business owner to turn your target audience’s problem into an appropriate solution.
Once you’ve done (and validated) these steps, you should get a pretty good sense of what makes your target audience tick. You should also now be able to define a first version of your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP). Like all the items in this list, the ICP is an ever-evolving factor that needs to evolve as your business grows.
For the next 2 steps, let’s look more closely at your competitors and what’s happening on the Internet:
6. Competitor Benchmarking
Most likely you are not the only provider in your market and there is competition. If they are already a bit further than you, take a look at their communication/websites/ads etc. Probably your competitor’s idea is already better validated and you can be inspired by the communicated pain points, added values etc. Where do you see the weaknesses in your competitors and where can you position yourself better?
Tools: Use tools like Semrush, Ahrefs or alternatives to find out what is happening on your competitors’ websites.
7. Keyword research
If there is already a market, it is likely that there is search traffic on Google on your topic. Therefore, do a keyword research to know what exactly your target audience is looking for. The results that Google gives you are usually already pretty well matched to the searchintent. On the one hand you will find out how much traffic there is on a keyword and how expensive potential ads on this keyword are, on the other hand you will get to know the communication of your competitors better. By the way, you will end up with not just one keyword, but several related keywords or long-tail keywords.
Tools: Use tools like Google Keyword Planner or alternatives to find out the most relevant traffic.
All the steps taken so far are the basis to determine if you have a possible case to make money with. That doesn’t mean you’re profitable. To become profitable, your customer acquisition costs must be as low as possible. To do that, you need to be as specific as possible with your approach to target the exact people you want to reach. To sharpen your approach to your customers, now create your buyer journey:
The buyer journey is the core of your sales strategy. Everything else is derived from it. I have already presented a good framework for the Buyer Journey in this article, which is why I will not go into more detail on this point here. Once you have done these steps, you should have a very good know-how to fill out the Buyer Journey for you.