25 proven sales strategies from top entrepreneurs and startups
Having the right sales strategy will make or break your startup. From doubling down on perfecting your cold email outreach, to identifying profitable niche markets, leveraging storytelling, knowing how to follow up the right way and more—here’s how the best are creating winning sales strategies.
Some sales strategies come and go with the bestselling book of the week, or the advent of new tools & technologies. Yet others are firmly here to stay—rooted in hard psychological principles that explain what really motivates people to buy or not buy.
Today, we’re sharing the 25 most effective, proven sales strategies that real entrepreneurs and successful startups are employing to grow their brands.
1. Lead with what's in it for your prospect
So many salespeople, entrepreneurs, and even freelancers employ a sales strategy that ignores what they’re really selling their prospects: Solutions to problems. When you lead your sales pitch by urgently diving straight into the different packages, price points and special promotions your prospect can take advantage of by signing up this week, you’re immediately showing them that you don’t have empathy for their position. You’re not even trying to understand them—which is the first step towards providing meaningful solutions that’ll actually turn them into happy, loyal customers.
Your sales strategy needs to lead with a clear articulation of the challenge you can help your prospect solve. Here’s why: During the beginning of a sales conversation, your prospect likely doesn’t fully understand the benefits of what you’re selling. The last thing you want to do is immediately treat your product or service like a commodity, rather than a valuable solution to a real business need they have. Do your best to research their needs up front and start your outreach conversation by explaining what’s in it for your prospect.
Grab these free cold email templates and get started in the right direction today.
2. Clearly articulate end results
People buy results, not just products or services. Once you’ve captured your prospect’s attention with what they’ll be able to achieve by using your solution, it’s now your job to clearly explain how that’ll happen and what they’ll get after signing up. End results equal value. If you’re selling a premium CRM system to SMB’s that have never used one before, you’ll need to educate them about how the platform will work, how much of a time investment they should expect to make in managing it moving forward and the types of ongoing support they’ll have access to.
This sales strategy is particularly relevant if you’re selling a product or service that comes with an upfront fee, requires a complex rollout, time-intensive integrations or ongoing collaboration with your customers after closing the deal. Your prospect needs to know exactly what they’re going to get as far as deliverables, when those milestones will be met, and the downstream impact they’re expected to have on their business.
3. Start with small niche markets
You can dramatically increase the effectiveness of your cold outreach by targeting specific niche markets of people that share common pain points you’ll be able to uniquely address. Rather than reaching out to businesses of all different sizes, industries, and offerings, focus in on a narrow grouping of companies to pitch.
For example, if you’re selling inventory management software, choosing a small niche market could mean starting with pitching only to businesses that manufacture construction equipment. You could narrow your beginning niche by focusing only on these types of companies that are located in the western United States and have 100 to 250 employees. By working your sales strategy only with this homogenous group of companies, you’ll be able to perfect your pitch for this space much quicker than if you were mixing in businesses of all shapes and sizes.
Don’t worry that choosing a small niche could limit your options, either. Entrepreneur and marketer, Pat Flynn of Smart Passive Income shares, “Selecting a niche is a long-term decision, but if it’s the wrong one, it’s not a long-term loss. You may fail, but as long as you learn, it’s time well invested.”
Adding that choosing a small niche in the beginning allows you to specialize, Flynn continues, “It’s great to think big and shoot for the stars, but when it comes to niche selection you can get more results, faster, by thinking specialized. Start by picking a market that actually interests you. The competition doesn’t matter at this point—just pick something you like.”
The same principle applies to your decision of whether or not to invest in starting to blog for your business—pick a niche to own and become the ultimate resource for your readers. You can read more about how Flynn teaches his readers to find the right niche markets on his blog right here.
Here’s another example—let’s take a look at the email marketing software company, ConvertKit. They self-identify as, “email marketing for professional bloggers.” In the highly competitive landscape of well-established email marketing providers like MailChimp, Constant Contact, and Active Campaign, this small company has carved out a curated niche market of customers to go after—professional bloggers. By forging creative partnerships with big name bloggers and brands that reach an audience of bloggers, ConvertKit has gained invaluable brand advocates & affiliates to spread their message as a major component of their sales strategy.
4. Be flexible
During your sales conversations, you’re naturally going to come across new challenges and unique demands from your prospects. This makes sense, since each company you work with is structured a little differently, has a distinct set of internal processes and objectives. Since saying "you can’t," "won’t," "that’s impossible" and other variations of no to your prospect is a death sentence, your sales strategy needs to be flexible enough to adapt in the face of new challenges on the go.
As bestselling author and sales strategy coach Grant Cardone shares, “In selling you are seeking an agreement. Your customer is almost always distrustful and uncertain, not about you, but about themselves. Most salespeople think selling is about gaining trust, but in reality, selling is about getting the customer to trust themselves enough to take action and close—which often takes flexibility. Learn to close the sale not just make a sale."
It’s that simple: You can’t afford to say no. When you do, you lose your perception as a problem-solver and instantly close the door to a room full of possibilities. Instead of disagreeing with or flat out turning down a request from your prospect, use a response like, “I’d love to make that happen for you,” which will give you the opportunity to check with the rest of your team and see if there’s any possibility to accommodate their request. Even if that means coming back to the negotiation table with a minimum order quantity or project spend that’ll justify the out-of-the-box solution, you’ll keep the deal alive.
5. Use lead scoring to prioritize your prospects
If you’re dealing with a large volume of leads, incorporating lead scoring into your sales strategy is a must. After fully qualifying your sales prospects, lead scoring will help you prioritize your prospects based on the strongest possibility for closing the sale quickly—before even beginning your outreach efforts.
Lead scoring is simple. It’s a point system for ranking prospects on a scale of 1 to 10, that assigns a point to the value each lead represents to your company. For example, if a new lead comes across your desk and they’re a CEO, they’d likely be assigned a 10 since they have the ultimate authority and typically result in more closed deals. On the other hand, a manager level lead may be assigned a point value closer to 4 depending upon the relevance of their job title, since they’ll require additional stakeholder buy-in before signing up for your service. Work your prospect list from top to bottom so that you’re prioritizing time on the highest scoring leads who have the greatest potential for conversion and make sure you’re asking them the right questions.
Grab our free list of 42 B2B qualifying questions and make sure you understand your buyers—before reaching out.
6. Connect with the decision maker
It seems obvious that you don’t want to waste time spinning your wheels having countless conversations with lower-level managers who won’t ultimately be able to champion your solution through to implementation. However, there’s an art and science to the sales strategy of finding and connecting with the right decision maker for what you’re offering—whether you're selling complex software or launching a t shirt printing business.
The best prospect relationships are built upon a foundation of providing immense upfront value without expecting anything immediately in return—they’re not strictly transactional, which (surprise!) takes time to create. Inventory your company’s core competencies and determine how you can best provide value to your decision making prospect before opening up a line of communication with them.
- Can you get them featured in a story you’re writing for a major publication?
- What about a positive mention on your corporate blog?
- How about sharing their latest thought leadership piece through your social channels?
Strive to look beyond just a “recommendation” that can conveniently be solved by purchasing your solution; people who’ve been in business long enough to become a decision maker will see straight through that tactic.
When your sales strategy includes reaching out to your prospect to let them know about the cool thing you just did for them, rather than jumping straight into selling your solution, your chances of building a meaningful rapport go up significantly. Keep in touch, continue providing value over the coming days or weeks and make the ask when it feels appropriate.
Will you close a sale from that new relationship the day you reach out with this sales strategy? Probably not, but if your product or service has a long sales cycle with a hefty price tag, building meaningful relationships and listening to the unique needs of your prospect will ultimately lead to your best long-term results.
7. Perfect your sales pitch (make it exciting)
Once you’re confident that you’ve connected with the right point of contact, you need to have an effective sales pitch. One that captures the attention of your prospect and keeps the conversation moving in the right direction. Spend too much time talking about your company, the benefits of your solution, the clients you’ve worked with, why your prospect should sign up today and you’ll risk ruining the relationship straight out of the gates.
Entrepreneur, investor, and co-star of ABC’s Shark Tank, Robert Herjavec has heard an elevator pitch (or two) in his day. When it comes to delivering an effective pitch, he says it’s more about showing your expertise—not just rattling off the highlight reel of numbers and clients you’ve worked with.
Herjavec shares, "You have 90 seconds, if you’re lucky. If you can’t make your point persuasively in that time, you’ve lost the chance for impact. Facts and figures are important, but it’s not the only criteria, you must present in a manner that generates expertise and confidence. If you’re not prepared for it, you may just miss your next big opportunity."
How do you demonstrate your expertise within your elevator pitch? Lean heavily upon showing your prospect that you’ve already developed an understanding of the challenges they’re facing, as related to the area of the business your solution will help with. Do the research up-front and use your knowledge about your prospect’s business to take control of the conversation in your sales pitch by teaching, fine-tuning your message and not being afraid to share controversial views if they’re ultimately in the best interest of your potential new customer.
8. Use storytelling
Humans have been telling stories in the form of cave paintings, books, radio shows, movies (and more) for nearly 40,000 years with the goal of educating, communicating with, and entertaining each other.
Incorporating storytelling into your sales strategy can help captivate your prospects on a deeper level beyond just selling them strictly on the benefits, thus netting you more customers over time. Storytelling works well as a sales strategy because we’re wired to absorb information much better when we encounter it through stories.
As Stanford Graduate School of Business professor Jennifer Aaker explains, “Research shows our brains are not hard-wired to understand logic or retain facts for very long. Our brains are wired to understand and retain stories. A story is a journey that moves the listener, and when the listener goes on that journey they feel different. The result is persuasion and sometimes action.” When you tap into storytelling as a component of your sales strategy, you’re exploiting the thousands of years of evolution that have designed our brains for storytelling.
You can use storytelling at every stage of your sales process, even during the early formation phase after emerging with an idea from a design sprint—to help clarify your mission. Then, explain product features through highlighting real-life customer problems a particular feature solved.
An example of this is the story of a luxury furniture retailer that’s helping high-profile clients like Floyd Mayweather, Jamie Foxx, and Robert Duvall with their interior design needs. Their sales approach combined both highly targeted outreach and handling a high volume of inbound inquiries, often triggered when an Instagram influencer gave the company a shout-out from their Instagram account. Oftentimes, hundreds of inquiries about a certain piece of furniture would flood into the inboxes of the sales reps.
This presented its own unique set of challenges: How to move sales conversations forward with high-profile clients, while also responding promptly to a large influx of questions that come in through social channels. Close’s Inbox and Smart View features enabled the furniture retailer's reps to personalize their responses at scale while ensuring that no lead fell through the cracks. The result? An almost immediate 10% increase in revenue.
Handle objections by building trust and walking through a case study of how other customers moved past these same objections and now get positive results for their bottom line. Answer questions, negotiate and strive to use a diverse sampling of stories about your company, customers, product and yourself to keep them captivated along the sales process. Keep in mind too, that storytelling can be applied to more passive forms of selling by incorporating a captivating story into the sales pages of your eCommerce website.
9. Listen to what your prospects are telling you
Do you frequently get pushback from prospects on just one area of your pricing structure? How about requests for the same new features over and over again that prospects cite as a top reason why they’re not interested in signing up for your product yet? Are there specific competitor solutions that tend to be easier to win over new customers from?
By building your sales strategy around listening carefully to (and recording) the most common objections, feature requests, competitor software in use and other key bits of information, you’ll be able to perfect your approach and gradually increase your close rate.
Behavioral investigator and author Vanessa Van Edwards agrees. She shares, "One of the most important aspects of selling or even going into business for yourself is being flexible. Listening to feedback from your prospects, watching the data and making changes as needed. Sometimes having a rigid plan can limit you."
More than just listening, how are you actually sharing this feedback with the rest of your team? Don’t let your learnings slip into a black hole where they don’t reach other team members who are making product decisions that could potentially increase the effectiveness of your product. Since side comments are often forgotten, use these strategies for sharing meaningful customer feedback with your team.
- Create an internal Trello board
- Keep a series of ongoing Google Docs
- Host a public feature request page with voting options like Asana does
Granted, you’ll need to filter whether or not the prospect who’s giving you the feedback or making a feature request is actually a good fit for becoming a customer of your product before rushing to make accommodations. A common mistake many startups make in their sales strategy, is to make big decisions based on the sheer number of prospects requesting a specific function, even if they’re not an ideal customer. And if you're using one of the best CRMs for small business to track these requests, it can be tempting to make decisions based on the sheer number of feature requests—rather than spending the time to determine whether or not it's actually the best strategic move for your business in the long run.
Then, be sure to schedule a recurring review meeting with your manager and other key stakeholders at least once a month to compile & share this feedback in a productive manner.
10. Give your undivided attention to sales calls
Whether you’re making a cold call or following back up with one of your sales leads, it’s important to treat the call at hand as the most important thing you could possibly be doing at the moment. If you’re not engaging with your prospect, expressing interest while they’re talking or asking them questions that show your breadth of understanding, they’ll be able to see through your lack of attention.
Giving undivided attention to your calls, especially if your sales strategy relies heavily upon following a script, means that you also need to free yourself up to listen to your prospect. That requires removing yourself from distracting environments. If you typically make sales calls from a loud office space, try moving into an open conference room for your next set of calls and see if that gives you more focus. If you get sleepy at your desk, try standing up, walking around or making your next sales call from a quiet outdoor location.
Check out our list of 130+ motivational sales quotes, each with it's own video and action item to help you get into a winning mindset.
11. Negotiate for a win-win
The real purpose of negotiating for a win-win with your prospects is to demonstrate respect and the intention to work with them again in the future. It’s valuing long-term relationships over insignificant details.
For example, if you bring a new prospect all the way to the finish line on a big deal and allow yourself to get hung up on a minor detail request that won’t significantly impact the success of the sale, your lack of accommodation will likely turn the prospect away for good. You do, however, need to know your walk away number—the bottom line price you’re able to accept in a negotiation before you even walk into a meeting or pick up the phone. If absolutely necessary, having this foundational number in mind and being willing to share it with your prospect near the end of your negotiation will give you clear guidelines by which to strike a win-win scenario.
Providing additional value, rather than axing your pricing structure is a must. Prepare yourself ahead of time with a list of additional features, bonus add-ons and special offers you can potentially throw in to sweeten the negotiation if necessary. Keep in mind the higher the value of the solution you’re pitching, the more important it’ll be to remain flexible enough—and get your manager’s buy-in for leveraging win-win deals that overlook the minor details as much as you can.
12. Follow up until you get a definitive answer
For Steli, following up is the necessary backbone of any good sales strategy. Having a couple of good sales calls with your prospect, only to let them silently drop off the face of the planet signifies a death spiral for your sales strategy.
Steli explains, “I follow up as many times as necessary until I get a response. I don’t care what the response is as long as I get one. If someone tells me they need another 14 days to get back to me, I’ll put that in my calendar and ping them again in 14 days. If they tell me they are busy and they don’t have time right now, I will respond and ask them when they feel like a good time would be for me to ping them.”
As Steli continues, “The key here is to actually keep following up. If someone tells me they are not interested, I leave them alone. But here is the kicker—if they don’t respond at all, I will keep pinging them until they do. And trust me, they always do.”
The point of following up until you get a definitive answer is that you’re never leaving a maybe on the table. In the world of startups, maybe can kill your business and you need to strive for extremely clear outcomes with every prospect you speak to. Otherwise, if you have a great first call and you allow them to drop off the map without a clear yes or no, they’ll just hang around on your list of “people you should get back to” and you’ll never move on from them.
Get the definitive answer—no matter how long it takes or how many follow ups you need to send.
Grab your free copy of the book, The Follow-up Formula and learn how to become a priority for anyone.
Tip: Whenever a prospect gives you a follow-up date, make sure you set yourself a reminder to reach back out on their timeline. In Close, you can do this directly from the lead view so you never miss a follow-up. Try Close free for 14 days to test it for yourself.
13. Highlight risks and opportunities
Many salespeople tend to focus the majority of their conversations with prospects around highlighting all of the potentially amazing opportunities, benefits and quick results the prospect will get from using their solution.
Rather than presenting your solution as the sole solution to your prospect’s “problem,” be honest with them about any risks associated with making the switch to your platform or venturing into this new strategy.
The reality is that there’s no opportunity without some measure of risk in business, so why try and paint a reality that isn’t true for your prospects? That’s setting yourself up for failure. Instead, focus your sales strategy around proactively identifying the potential risks associated with using your solution—and present even more support that’ll show your prospect you’re already familiar with the risks.
For example, if you’re selling marketing software that includes a CMS platform for blogging and the prospects you’re pitching don’t currently have a blog, they need to be educated about how blogging is a long-term investment that typically doesn’t impact revenue overnight. In order to use your software, they’ll need to make a calculated risk of investing resources into people who can manage this new responsibility. If you close a client that isn’t fully aware of the potential risks associated with what you’ve sold them, there’s a good chance that they may close their account early or request a refund after running into their first speed bump.
Also, take the time to use research, share your own experiences or develop case studies with other customers in order to meet those risks head-on.
14. Sell yourself
Even if you have a great product that practically moves itself, if your sales strategy focuses solely on the product, you’re missing most of the equation that can turn doubt into trust.
Your prospects are buying more than just a product—they’re expressing trust in you and investing in that relationship. They’re also voting with their wallets and expecting your company to be around long enough for them to benefit from your solution.
Since most people you’re selling to likely don’t possess a strong understanding of how your product works from a technical standpoint, your sales strategy needs to get them to trust you—and your company. Build that trust by being completely honest, sharing both the good and the bad, sticking to your commitments and showing that you’ll be an advocate for them long after closing the sale.
15. Develop the right mindset
If you’re going to be spending a lot of time picking up the phone, knocking on doors or otherwise reaching out to prospects over the coming months, you need to prepare yourself for what’s coming your way.
- You’re going to hear no (A LOT).
- You’ll experience that rejection multiple times every day.
That’s part of the reality of being a salesperson, or even an entrepreneur focused on selling. What you’re selling isn’t going to be perfect for everyone—regardless of what you may think. Sure, it’ll take a degree of product or market education in order to close the majority of your prospects, but all the education or sales strategies in the world won’t turn some skeptics into paying customers.
Therefore, you need to develop a mindset of resilience. A thick enough skin not to take the inevitable dismissals personally. An attitude that allows you to dust yourself off and pick the phone right back up after hearing a hard no.
As the best-selling author, philanthropist and business strategist Tony Robbins explains, "The most painful mistake I see in entrepreneurs is thinking that just having a good plan or a great product is enough to guarantee success. It’s not. Business success is 80% psychology and 20% mechanics. And, frankly, most people’s psychology is not meant for building a business." He adds, “The biggest thing that will hold you back is your own nature. Few people are emotionally ready for the challenges of building a business.”
16. Be helpful
At the end of the day, if your sales strategy isn’t built around being genuinely helpful to your prospects, you’ll leave a lot of deals on the table. Being helpful throughout your sales process, whether through education, researching your prospect’s challenges ahead of time or coming up with creative solutions to present rather than simply pitching your product, is how you’ll win their trust.
SaaS founder and co-host of The Startup Chat podcast Hiten Shah adds, “The best salespeople have always been helpful. As humans, one of the most genuine things we can do is to help each other. When you're selling a product or services, it's hard to go wrong if you're genuinely looking to help the other person. That's really when selling becomes more than just sales. It becomes all about building a genuine, meaningful relationship instead of about just selling what you have to someone.”
By thinking of yourself as a proactive problem-solver for each prospect you engage with—especially if it’s primarily over the phone—you can shift your own perception of the role you’re playing in the sales process.
No, you don’t want to forget your sales goals, benchmarks and quotas, but if you set out with the primary objective of helping your prospects, you’ll naturally be leading them to the best solution for their business. If your product isn’t the best fit for their unique needs, be honest and point them in the direction of a more suitable solution—that’s how you create the foundation for relationships that have the opportunity to continue onward. You never know where your prospect may be working in a few months or a year, and you can’t predict whether or not they know someone else who may be a good fit for your solution after being impressed with how helpful you’ve been.
A good sales strategy is long-term; there’s no substitute for making a positive lasting impression. Don’t miss out on a future potential sale because you weren’t helpful.
17. Ask for specific referrals
We’ve all gotten the casual ask for referrals, whether in a LinkedIn message or over coffee with friends, asking you for introductions to anyone that “might be a good fit” for the product they’re selling. How often does that translate into new accounts? Not very.
In 99% of these scenarios, the person you ask for a broad referral from will tell you they need to think about it and get back to you—which rarely happens. Not because they don’t want to help, but because they’re probably busy doing their own job.
Unlike when you've got the backing of a franchise business to help with marketing and driving foot traffic to your business, if your sales strategy instead requires tapping into your existing network or leveraging current customers to get in touch with new leads, you can get more high-quality referrals by taking the time to identify prospects in advance. Check out their list of connections on LinkedIn and look through previous companies they’ve worked with to create a shortlist of strong potential referrals you can ask for.
Eliminate even more friction by giving your connection a quick and easy referral email template, like the one below that they can use to make the introduction right away.
Hey [first name],
I wanted to connect you with Steli, their company does XYZ. I think this could be really interesting for you, and a conversation would be mutually beneficial.
I’ll let you guys take it from here,
This direct approach of giving your connection a specific referral candidate and arming them with the tools they need to send that email right away makes it easier for them to take immediate action. You’ll be well on your way to getting more referrals with this sales strategy.
18. Give short product demos
Giving a product demo that sells isn’t just about knowing your product inside and out.
Summing up a recent interview on First Round Review, startup founder and author Robert Falcone of Monetate explains the purpose of giving product demos based on his own personal experience giving hundreds of them. He shares, “As quickly as possible, get to 'here's what you told me your goal is, here's the challenge you told me is in the way, here's what it will look like when our product takes down that challenge.”
By showcasing upfront how your product will specifically address your prospect's challenges, you’re leaving no room for ambiguity. Focus on showing the solution your prospect is most interested in rather than running through a laundry list of product features.
Rather than showing up to your next product demo meeting with the standard presentation you use for everyone, crafting your product demo to suit the needs of each prospect will translate into more closed sales. Personalization is what matters most and Steli agrees. He adds, “When you’re demoing a product, you always want to demonstrate value, not features or functionalities. Nobody cares about the features of your software—the only thing they care about is what it’ll do for them.”
19. Reach out to SQL's within 24hrs of sign up
Once you’ve qualified a sales lead, engaging them in direct conversation within their first day of signup is very important for keeping the momentum moving in the right direction.
Assume your prospect is also comparing competitor products, doing research and coming to their own conclusions—based on what they can see about your product from reviews, videos, and screenshots—about whether or not you’ll be the right solution for their needs.
By employing a sales strategy that allows you to stay on top of your qualified leads and get in touch with them as quickly as possible, you’ll be able to answer questions, meet objections and help walk them through the different ways your product will help achieve their goals.
Depending upon the amount of information you have about the qualified prospect and how much interaction they’ve had with your company up to this point, it’s usually best to keep your initial outreach email short. Engage them by asking if they have time to speak on the phone today or tomorrow about a few ways you think you can be helpful to them—make it easy to accept by giving a few options for specific times you’re able to connect.
Tip: Automate a “hot list” for fresh leads that’s shared with your team. Our team does this using Smart Views in Close to make sure that inbound leads get contacted quickly. Try it yourself with a free 14-day trial.
20. Address uncertainty when you see it
Let’s say you’re in the middle of a product demo and there’s been some head nodding so far, but not too many questions from your prospects. You’re starting to feel that there’s a little uncertainty about whether or not this is right for them, but you’re not exactly sure why.
Instead of pushing through your presentation or sales script for the sake of finishing up quickly, pause and use this as an opportunity to address the uncertainty you’re feeling in the room. The deal isn’t lost yet and demonstrating how your product does what they need can help you recover in this situation.
However, if you ask something along the lines of, “Are you getting this?” or “Did that make sense?”, most prospects aren’t likely to give you an honest answer because they don’t want to sound dumb in front of their peers.
Rather, when you’re sensing that uncertainty, call it out. If you notice a questionable reaction to something in particular that you just said, acknowledge it by saying, “I feel that might not have come across 100% clear. Would you like me to explain that more?” If your prospects sound relieved to hear a better explanation of how a feature will help them achieve a specific goal, take note and consider these potential changes to your sales strategy moving forward.
21. Use the PAS framework
If you subscribe to behavioral psychologist Adam Ferrier’s notion that humans are ultimately motivated to take action by either pleasure or pain, then the PAS framework should be at the core of your sales strategy regardless of what type of product you’re selling.
P-A-S stands for problem-agitate-solution. This sales strategy is defined by shaping all interactions with your prospect around the context of identifying their biggest problems and positioning your product as the best possible solution to them—if indeed that’s true. Here are the three stages of the PAS framework in action.
- Problem: Identify and clearly state the #1 problem your product solves for prospects.
- Agitate: Highlight how dangerous the problem is and remind prospects about all the negative implications it can have.
- Solution: Position your product as the solution to their specific problem.
It’s important to note that the PAS framework isn’t about generating false problems or convincing people to buy into your business idea out of misplaced fear—the goal of this sales strategy is to help your prospect identify their problems. To make their challenges more clear, which gives you the opportunity to agitate that problem with more context around further implications, how the situation can worsen and what would be different for their business if they could solve it.
Then, if your product can genuinely help your prospect solve the problem at hand, positioning it as the solution is the natural last step in this sales strategy.
22. Create urgency
Most people don’t buy until the last possible moment—until they absolutely need your product.
This makes sense. We’ve been indoctrinated with mottos like, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” despite this line of thinking being an excuse for inaction more than anything else.
However, creating a real sense of urgency for your prospect is built around the sales strategy of helping them realize why they need your solution right now. If your prospects aren’t sold on why your product is important for them to take action on immediately, they’ll push it off until the next quarter.
When it comes to creating authentic urgency instead of just employing endless tricks or tactics, small business coach and author Tara Gentile adds, “Urgency is about need. If you want people to feel a sense of urgency for buying your product, you need to know why they need it now. It’s not based on numbers or time. Sure, those things help people make a decision, but people buy now because they’ve reached a point of no return.”
Creating urgency is about helping your prospects acknowledge that they need to take action right now and do something about the area of their business or life that your product can have a positive impact on. This sales strategy is about showing them the understanding you have for their challenges, respecting their needs and getting them excited to take the leap today.
Once your prospect is fully on board with why they need your solution, here are three foundational strategies for creating even more urgency with SaaS sales:
- Limited enrollment: If your product is new or you’re rolling out additional features, frame your urgency around an offer to get them into your limited program of 10 clients who are testing out the new product.
- Upcoming price increases: If you’re adding more to your product over time, it’ll increase the amount of value your customers get. Be sure to announce price increases in advance to existing customers & prospects to encourage quick buying decisions.
- Custom offers: Consider offering prospects on the verge of making a purchase a special service, consultation, training sessions, plan upgrades or short-term discount in exchange for making a decision today.
At the end of the day, there’s no better sales strategy than guiding your prospects to a deeper understanding of the place your product can help them get to, and showing them a clear path to that destination. Feeding your prospects words of encouragement and motivational quotes alone, just won't cut it today. You’ll naturally create urgency without the need for employing flash sales, 24-hour discounts and other tactics that won’t work forever.
23. Sell more to your existing customers
Studies have shown that on average, it’s about 5x more expensive to acquire new customers than it is to retain and continue providing value to your existing ones.
Of course, gaining new customers is an essential part of growing your business, but when you’re considering piloting new features, expanding into new related markets or thinking about potential shifts in company strategy, it’s easy to overlook the value of selling first to your existing customers. For one, you already have an established relationship that’s been built upon mutual trust and value.
Beyond just new feature testing, if your existing pool of customers benefit from your product, what are some additional ways you can provide even more value to them? If it looks like they’re frequently maxing out on their plan limitations each month, reach out to determine whether or not you can strike a mutually beneficial deal for an upgrade.
If there’s a plan with features you know an existing customer would get a lot of use from, invite them to test it out for a limited time, give them the resources and training they need to experience real results and help them through the upgrade if it works out.
24. Intelligently use free trials
Incorporating a free trial into your company’s sales strategy can lead to massive gains in paid signups—if you do it right.
What constitutes a smart free trial? A short one.
The real purpose of giving your prospects a free trial should be to help the right people commit quickly to signing up, while giving others the opportunity to verify whether or not your product is right for them.
It’s a tool that needs to be used sparingly, which for 99% of startups means no more than 14 days in length, since usage statistics for most free trials show that only a small minority of people use products for more than three days in a row during trials. By keeping your free trial short (remembering that your goal is to earn more from offering the trial in the first place), you’ll also increase the likelihood of prospects taking it seriously and spending time truly evaluating your product.
On top of that, instead of just handing over the reins and letting your trial customers poke around completely on their own (which isn’t much of a sales strategy), invest in onboarding. Be sure to create the onboarding flow with a clear, simple goal in mind that’ll help your prospects get to their first small win using your product. If you can get them to experience real results and begin to invest in your product, their likelihood of conversion will go up significantly.
25. Employ email automation
Email automation will become an increasingly important component of your overall sales strategy as your organization grows. In the very beginning, you can get by with manual outreach to people who sign up for more information on your product, but that won’t last for long.
From delivering a timed sequence of educational content like a free sales course that introduces your product to new emails subscribers, to activity-based emails that get triggered when your prospects take a certain action, email automation is ultimately designed to create (or reinforce) the right behavior for encouraging conversion to paid accounts.
To get started with email automation, think carefully about your customer’s journey from first discovering your website to eventually paying for your solution (important: a slow website can lead to frustration early on in the sales cycle with your prospects, so if your site is hosted on a CMS like Wordpress, be sure to set yourself up with a high-quality provider of a managed Wordpress hosting plan that'll guarantee fast page loading and no downtime).
Interview your existing customers to get a consensus on what was most convincing for them to sign up—then construct a series of automated emails that are designed to get your newest readers and subscribers to experience that same positive effect or result.
At the same time, it’s also essential to humanize your automated emails. Your subscribers want to know that there are real people behind your emails and that when they hit reply to ask a question, they’ll get an answer. Make your automated emails appear to be coming from the email account of a real person on your team and write in a conversational tone that represents who you are as a company.
What’s your most effective sales strategy?
Whether you’re running a startup of your own, trying to increase your organization’s sales effectiveness, or just become a better salesperson yourself, these time-tested sales strategies will help you hit the ground running.
At the end of the day, however, you can try all of the sales strategies in the world, but the best way to improve your close rate is through real experience. There’s no substitute for emailing your leads, picking up the phone, and having conversations with your prospects. Learn what you can from every interaction and develop an understanding of what motivates your customers to buy or not buy.
We’ve been teaching sales strategies for years, but we want to hear from you.
What’d we miss? What’s working best for your organization?
Share with us in the comments below.
Ready to scale your sales? Download the 2020 Sales Success Kit. This free resource features templates, checklists, worksheets and step-by-step guides to make your life easier.
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