How to Use SWOT Analysis to Increase Sales
We’ve all been there—you’re trying to book more demos, hop on more discovery calls, and ultimately close more sales. But when nothing seems to be working, and you’re finding yourself stuck in a rut, it's time to step back, reevaluate your approach, and implement new strategies. That’s where a SWOT analysis can help.
A SWOT analysis is commonly used as a strategic planning tool for a specific project or an overall business. However, it can also be used by sales teams to help them to identify:
- Unique selling points
- Areas for improvement
- Untapped opportunities
- Potential challenges
In this article, we’ll explore the basics of SWOT analysis, go over some SWOT analysis examples, and uncover how it can help your sales team achieve its goals.
What Is a SWOT Analysis?
Developed in the 1960s and early 1970s by Albert Humphrey at the Stanford Research Institute, it’s still used by many organizations today.
Its four-quadrant design enables it to be versatile enough for any department within an organization to map out what they need to improve, capitalize on, or mitigate.
Now let’s dig deeper into each part of a SWOT analysis:
- Strengths: These internal strengths give an organization a competitive edge. Strengths can include skills, expertise, resources, or unique selling points that set them apart from competitors.
- Weaknesses: These are internal weaknesses that may hinder an organization’s performance. Weaknesses can encompass areas such as lack of resources, outdated technology, or insufficient training.
- Opportunities: These are external opportunities that can be leveraged for growth and success. Opportunities can involve changes in the market, new technologies, a new product line, or untapped customer segments.
- Threats: These are external threats that can negatively impact performance. Threats can include things like increasing competition, changing regulations, or economic downturns.
Utilizing this four-piece framework helps paint a well-rounded picture of the organization's current standing and future potential.
How Can a SWOT Analysis Help Sales Teams?
Now that you’re familiar with a SWOT analysis, you’re probably thinking, “Great, but how can I use this to improve my sales team’s performance?”.
Well, the SWOT framework is versatile enough to uncover multiple areas of improvement in your sales team's operations and workflow.
Here are a few examples of how a SWOT analysis can help.
See Where Your Team Needs More Training
Sales department heads should continuously re-invest in their team’s competencies and education. Otherwise, team members may not be able to perform to the best of their abilities. Plus, failing to invest in training will make team members feel undervalued and unappreciated—which is a recipe for decreased job satisfaction and increased turnover rates.
That being said, it can sometimes be difficult to determine what training type you should invest in.
A SWOT analysis can help sales teams identify where they need more training by examining their internal weaknesses and external threats.
For example, consider the following SWOT matrix for a software sales team:
- Strong product knowledge
- High closing rate
- Positive customer feedback
- Limited understanding of competitors' products
- Difficulty in addressing technical objections
- Inconsistent follow-up with prospects
- Growing demand for software solutions in the target market
- New potential partnerships with complementary businesses
- Upcoming industry events for networking and lead generation
- Increased competition from new competitors
- Technological advancements that may render the product obsolete
- Economic downturn affecting potential clients' budgets
If we focus on the weaknesses and threats highlighted in this example, we can see that one of the sales team’s weaknesses is a limited understanding of competitors' products. This could be an area where more training is needed to help the team better position their own product and address objections.
Additionally, if technological advancements or smaller budgets are a potential threat, training could be done to educate the sales team on how to handle those sorts of pushbacks.
Find New Markets to Target
It’s a great big world out there, and finding new untapped markets can sometimes be extremely lucrative for your sales team.
But finding a new market to penetrate isn’t always easy. You’ll need to determine if your ideal customer profile lives in the area. Depending on your niche, you’ll need to investigate multiple demographics and specific factors, a few of which include:
- Average salary
A savvy sales team can use SWOT analysis learnings to get a high-level overview of where to potentially begin looking. Here's an example of how a SWOT analysis can help a small business in the electronic health records (EHR) software niche find new markets to target:
- Established expertise in the healthcare niche
- Strong customer support and after-sales service
- User-friendly and customizable software
- Limited brand recognition outside of their current market
- No existing relationships with large healthcare providers
- Limited resources for marketing and expansion
- Expansion into related healthcare software markets (i.e., new products for telemedicine, practice management, or medical billing)
- Increasing market share by partnering with larger healthcare providers
- Increasing demand for EHR software due to government regulations and initiatives
- Competition from well-established EHR software vendors
- Rapid technological advancements and the need for continuous innovation
- Regulatory changes that could impact software requirements
Based on this SWOT analysis, the sales team could identify new markets by leaning into the organization’s strengths, acknowledging its weaknesses, and taking advantage of opportunities.
For example, they could leverage their established expertise in healthcare software to expand into related markets. This would allow the sales team to generate more revenue per customer by offering a comprehensive suite of solutions.
Additionally, they could develop marketing materials and use cost-effective solutions such as targeted ads or cold calling to specifically target large healthcare providers. The sales team could then showcase their customizable and user-friendly EHR software as a competitive advantage over more complex solutions.
Discover Which Lead Generation Strategies Aren’t Paying Off
It goes without saying, your sales team knows the importance of lead generation strategies. They help educate, qualify, and ultimately convert leads into customers.
But not all lead generation strategies are created equal, and blindly implementing them without tracking their success isn’t a sound business strategy. Being able to identify which strategies have a high ROI versus those that aren’t worth continuing ensures your sales team is making the most of their efforts.
Conducting a SWOT analysis for sales team to help discover which lead generation strategies aren't paying off can provide valuable insights. Here's an example for a B2B marketing agency:
- Expertise in content marketing and social media
- Large network of industry contacts
- Strong case studies and testimonials
- Low conversion rates from paid advertising campaigns
- Inadequate tracking and analysis of marketing metrics
- Limited success with cold outreach
- Growing demand for marketing services in niche industries
- Leveraging marketing automation tools to streamline processes
- Collaborating with complementary service providers for referrals
- Increasing competition from specialized marketing agencies
- Changes in marketing platform algorithms impacting visibility
Based on the company’s weaknesses outlined above, the sales team can conclude that certain strategies aren't yielding the desired results. Primarily, the team has low conversion rates from paid advertising campaigns and limited success with cold outreach efforts.
By focusing on their strengths and opportunities, the team can double down on what’s currently working for them. In this case, that means having the marketing team create more top-of-funnel, middle-of-funnel, and bottom-of-funnel content that ranks in search engines to drive organic traffic. They can also focus on their social media presence while scaling back on paid ads and cold outreach.
With this in mind, the sales team can focus their efforts on nurturing and onboarding leads that come through organic channels. By providing personalized and valuable content to these leads, the sales team can establish trust and build stronger relationships, increasing the chances of converting leads into customers.
Evaluate Each Team Member
A sales team is just that: a team. It can only get better if everyone on the team is able to identify where they excel and where they need additional support.
And you guessed it—a SWOT analysis can help with that.
Let's say a sales team is responsible for selling project management software to businesses in the tech industry. The sales manager decides to use a SWOT analysis to evaluate each team member.
For this example, we'll focus on one team member, Emily.
- Emily has a strong technical background and is great at explaining complex software features to clients
- She consistently meets her monthly sales targets and has a high customer satisfaction rating
- Emily struggles with time management and is often late to meetings and sales calls
- She has difficulty handling objections and closing deals with more demanding clients
- Emily can attend time management and punctuality workshops to improve her scheduling and efficiency
- The company can provide her with additional training on handling objections and advanced sales techniques
- Emily can be paired with a mentor within the team who excels at dealing with challenging clients
- A competitor's software product is gaining traction in the market, which may lead to increased competition and more complex sales negotiations
- The tech industry is constantly evolving, which means that Emily needs to keep up with the latest trends and updates to stay ahead of the curve
By conducting a SWOT analysis on team members, a sales manager can identify areas of improvement and leverage individual strengths to optimize team performance.
As a starting point, the sales manager could encourage Emily to follow through with the suggestions outlined in this example’s “Opportunities” section.
In this case, a SWOT analysis becomes a type of performance review. It helps in planning what each employee needs and identifies skill gaps or areas of improvement for human resources to address through hiring.
Build Stronger Relationships with Customers
So, you’ve got customers who are happy with your product or service. But you can’t help but think, “What could I be doing to build stronger relationships with them?”
After all, stronger customer relationships typically result in higher annual contract value, more referrals, and longer-lasting customers.
Figuring out how to build strong relationships with your customers isn’t always easy, or top of mind for that matter. However, taking the proactive step of creating a SWOT analysis allows your team to create a roadmap toward achieving that goal. This way, you know what needs to be done and can start chipping away at each opportunity as time goes on.
Here's an example SWOT analysis targeted towards building stronger customer relationships for a company that provides managed IT services.
- High level of customer satisfaction and retention
- Responsive and knowledgeable support team
- Proactive approach to problem-solving
- Limited personalization in customer interactions
- Inadequate communication during onboarding
- Infrequent follow-up with long-term clients
- Implementing a customer relationship management (CRM) system to enhance communication and personalization
- Expanding service offerings to address evolving customer needs
- Hosting webinars or workshops to provide value-added content for clients
- Competitors offering similar services at lower prices
- Customers shifting to in-house IT solutions
Based on this information, there are a few opportunities for fostering stronger customer relationships.
The company could address the limited personalization in customer interactions by implementing a CRM system. This would enable better tracking of customer preferences and communication history, leading to informed decision-making by salespeople during their interactions.
To improve the onboarding process, the sales team could develop a standardized communication plan that provides clear expectations and timelines for new clients. Regular follow-ups with both new and long-term clients ensure their needs are met and provide salespeople the opportunity for upselling or cross-selling.
To top it off, another opportunity in this example was to host webinars or workshops. This allows the sales team to provide value-added content to clients, further solidifying the relationship and setting up a competitive position as a trusted partner.
How to Perform a SWOT Analysis for Sales
Although examples are great for inspiration, sometimes we need a more concrete process to follow. So, let’s break down, step-by-step, how to perform a SWOT analysis for sales teams in particular.
We’ll use a fictional company called ABC Inc. and assume they're a mid-sized tech company.
Step 1: Decide What Your Objective Is
The first step in performing a SWOT analysis for sales is to decide your objective.
As shown in our previous examples, a SWOT analysis can be conducted on a wide variety of things.
ABC Inc.'s objective might be to increase their sales revenue by 10 percent over the next year. This objective will guide the rest of the SWOT analysis and help them focus their efforts on the areas that will have the biggest impact on achieving this goal.
Step 2: Gather Resources
To conduct a thorough SWOT analysis with the goal of increasing revenue by 10 percent, ABC Inc. will need to gather resources such as sales data, customer feedback, and information about its competitors.
- Sales data: ABC Inc. might look at its sales performance over the past year to identify trends and patterns. They might also look at their sales data broken down by region, product, or salesperson to identify areas of strength and weakness.
- Customer feedback: ABC Inc. might conduct NPS surveys to gather feedback on their products, customer service, and overall experience. They might also look at online reviews or social media mentions to get a sense of how customers are talking about their brand.
- Competitor information: ABC Inc. might research its competitors to identify their strengths and weaknesses and emerging trends or threats in the current external environment.
Step 3: Use a SWOT Template to Guide Your Answers
To help organize their information and conduct a thorough analysis, ABC Inc. should use a SWOT template.
A SWOT template basically provides you with guiding questions that will help you identify and categorize your company's internal factors (strengths & weaknesses) and external factors (opportunities & threats).
We provide a full SWOT template a little later in this article. It’s specifically geared toward sales teams, so you can use it to kickstart your own SWOT analysis.
Step 4: Get Feedback
No analysis of any kind is truly complete without value-added feedback. That’s why step four is getting feedback from key stakeholders and management.
Refining your SWOT analysis findings to only include only the best opportunities or highlighting the greatest risks is essential for crafting a well-informed strategy.
After all, if the goal here is to increase revenue by 10 percent, ABC Inc. will want to focus on the methods with the highest chance of success.
Step 5: Make Plans to Leverage Data
Once ABC Inc. has conducted its SWOT analysis and gathered feedback, it's time to move on to the business planning process and start leveraging the data they've gathered. ABC Inc. might:
- Develop a targeted action plan to address their weaknesses and capitalize on the company’s strengths and opportunities. For example, they might focus on expanding their product offerings to better compete with their competitors, or invest in sales training to improve the performance of their sales team
- Set measurable goals and milestones to help track their progress
- Monitor market trends and adjust their sales strategy as needed to ensure that they're staying ahead of emerging threats and opportunities
Free SWOT Analysis Template
To help you conduct a SWOT analysis for your sales team, we've created a SWOT analysis template complete with guiding questions.
You can customize the template to fit the specific needs of your sales team and use it to analyze your sales performance more effectively.
Power Up Your Sales Process with SWOT!
Now that you've conducted your SWOT analysis, it's time to take action!
Use the insights you've gathered to develop a targeted action plan that addresses your sales team’s weaknesses and threats while capitalizing on their strengths and opportunities.
Set measurable KPIs to help you track your progress and ensure that you're on the right track.
By leveraging your gathered data, you’ll have a better shot at driving improved sales performance and achieving your goals.