Here, Strategic Sales Network expert Drew O'Brien walks through the four key cornerstones of a successful enterprise sales strategy: strategic priorities, financial pain, executive sponsors, and relevant use cases.
Drawing from 15+ years of experience in B2B sales and GTM strategy, Drew shares examples and best practices that will help you better understand what good sales strategy looks like in action, so you'll be well equipped to develop your own winning approach.
Pro Tip: For easy learning and fast time-to-value, we've combined written guidance with bite-size video clips (most are under 60 seconds!). Read, watch, and uplevel your skills right away.
Deeply understand your customer's focus.
The first cornerstone of a successful sales strategy is understanding your customer's strategic priorities. These are the broad areas of focus that the executive team has identified as being important for the company.
Where do you find strategic priorities?
- Company’s 10 K or annual report. Search for these on the SEC website, or if you have an SRM platform like Databook, just navigate to the financial reports.
- Quarterly earnings call transcripts. Many companies keep these on an investor page on their websites. Platforms like Databook offer them for all public company accounts.
But don’t stop with the top-level priorities. A good strategy goes deeper by recognizing the specific operational objectives or initiatives that are related to these priorities.
Let's look at this in context, using Nike as an example.
Now let's put these priorities into a functional sales strategy.
We recommend creating a value map that starts with strategic priorities on the left and moves towards your specific solutions or use cases on the right. This is a key part of any strategic account plan, and as we walk through the components of a good strategy here, you’ll want to refer back to this format.
The more elements you can attach to, the stronger your story becomes. And remember, you want to focus on the problems that executives care about the most. This is where the urgency and willingness to spend capital will come from.
And here's how that plays out in our Nike example.
Know why and where they need value.
Strategic priorities are intended to produce specific financial outcomes—which is why the second cornerstone of a successful sales strategy is understanding your customer's financial pain. You want to understand which financial metrics your customer is trying to improve so you can better align your solution toward helping them achieve those improvements.
Where do you find the source of financial pain?
First, look to the usual reports—10-K, 10-Q, P&L statements, earnings call transcripts—to pinpoint financial issues a company might be facing.
Yet while these documents are important to investigate, the secret sauce often includes looking at competitor performance. Why? Because how a company benchmarks against its peers is usually a telltale way to spot strengths and weaknesses. If a company is leading the pack against its competitors in a particular solution area, it’s not likely to be a priority to them. But executives do care about those areas of weakness. Those areas have the power to decrease investor confidence, lower stock value, and even impact executive compensation. That’s why most strategic priorities tie back in some fashion to financial pain. And that’s why addressing financial pain effectively and efficiently is your best bet to get attention fast.
Using our Nike example, here’s how competitor performance correlates to strategic priorities, financial objectives, and value drivers.
Build relationships with decision makers.
The third cornerstone of a successful sales strategy is identifying and building relationships with executive sponsors. These are the individuals within the customer organization who have the authority to make purchasing decisions. Getting through to them isn’t easy, but it’s essential to any successful sales strategy.
To truly connect, you first have to overcome traditional buyer hesitation by showing execs that you are human—not some sales robot or spam cannon. And it’s critical to demonstrate that you understand their priorities and pain points.
Here are a few ways to avoid the mechanized feel.
Now up your outreach game further by speaking in the executive's language.
And here's how that might look in an email to a CFO.
Relevant Use Cases
Demonstrate the value of your solution.
Finally, the fourth cornerstone of a successful sales strategy is demonstrating the value of your solution through relevant use cases. This involves showcasing how your solution has helped other customers achieve their goals in a tangible way.
When presenting use cases, make sure to focus on outcomes and metrics. This will help your customer understand how your solution can help them achieve their own desired outcomes. It's also important to tailor your use cases to the specific customer you're targeting. This will help them see how your solution can work in their unique context.
Let’s look again at the Nike example.
Did we mention relevance is imperative?
Sometimes you think you’ve mastered the formula. You’ve got outreach in play with a great executive, but you get zero traction in response. The likely culprit is your connection point—how you’re trying to engage this particular person, at this particular time, with this particular solution. You’re lacking relevance. How do we know? Because when you actually present a solution that’s relevant to the executive—truly meeting a specific need and driving a specific financial outcome that’s necessary to meeting an objective—you won’t get crickets in return.
Here’s an example of how you can spot a use case relevance issue, and then turn it around.
Putting It All Together
Good strategy goes a long way.
By focusing on these four cornerstones of a successful sales strategy, you'll be set to craft killer pitches that win deals and expand business.
Remember, it's not just about knowing what to do in theory—it's about putting it into practice in the real world.
A good strategy—a concrete, real plan for engaging an executive around the priorities and financial pain that’s most relevant to them, presenting use cases that can solve real business problems—is the essence of Strategic Relationship Management. It’s what separates average sellers from elite sellers.