By MediaBrains

What does it take to achieve sales success? A near-infinite number of experts have pondered, theorized, and philosophized about the answer to this basic question. But when you break down that mountain of opinions (at least the credible ones) it becomes clear that they all have some elements in common.

1. No dead-end leads
In a successful sales strategy, salespeople are not asked to pursue, or even to initially contact, an unqualified lead. Ensure the prospect is shopping for what you’re selling before the lead ever reaches your sales department. Otherwise, you’re wasting salespeople’s time, a valuable commodity. The best way to do this is to place advertising where buyers in your market are already searching for your product or service. Send only qualified leads their way, and salespeople will spend their time wisely and profitably.

2. A tried and true process
You have your sales team screened, hired and trained on the features and benefits of your product. Now it’s time for them to step up to the plate. But what’s their sales approach? Did you think through the possible sales techniques and make an informed choice about what would work most effectively for your product and market? If not, your team may not hit the home run you’re hoping for. Take the time to think about what approach would work best for the sales environment your reps will be facing. Once the process is in place, keep an eye on its progress. Determine what the salespeople do with those leads and (if possible) how many resulted in a sale.

3. Armed with the right tools
A sales team must have the tools necessary to complete the job successfully. If a rep has no leave-behinds or follow-up materials, they are losing the race before they ever leave the gate. Arm your sales team with the knowledge and materials (online and in print) they need to do their job effectively. And make sure your brand is represented…and easily reachable…online. Your brand should be visible on reputable websites where industry buyers go to do research before purchasing.

4. Data intelligence
To succeed, you must have a good handle on what’s working, and what’s not. Spend your budget on the right advertising – that which produces qualified leads. To make sure you’re doing that, track the performance of your marketing programs. No longer is marketing an ambiguous function that’s nearly impossible to track and measure. One of the draws of online marketing is that it has taken the guesswork and mystery out of measuring an ad’s performance. Pick your key metrics – focus on 1 or 2 metrics which show clear progress toward the goal.

5. Secure the future
Once the sale is made, the job shouldn’t be done. At least it’s not for successful sales organizations. Follow-up and relationship building should be a part of the sales process, not a “nice-to-have” extra. Strive to make every company you do business with a long-term customer. When new products and services come out, make sure your best customers from the past know about the new options available to them. To ensure this long-term relationship building happens, it is marketing’s job to provide salespeople reasons to keep in touch with customers. Newsletters, white papers and press releases keep your name at the front of the customer’s mind long after the initial sale is completed.

Make sure your sales strategy incorporates these tools and your salespeople will be on the road to success.

-Source: MediaBrains September 15, 2008 newsletter.