Every tradie dreams of closing big jobs and earning loyal customers, but achieving that kind of success is much easier said than done. It takes a clear set of plans, a level head, and a sharp, scientific eye to gauge the success of your efforts. Most of all, however, it takes an excellent sales strategy.
Working without a sense of direction is a great way to run yourself out of business. After all, without direction, you’d be hard-pressed to form coherent ideas, keep the quality of your efforts consistent, and measure your success for the sake of improvement.
Looking up sales strategies online, however, can lead to just as much confusion. There’s simply so much that’s been written about the subject, and every opinion on the matter comes with at least two or three contradictory accounts.
To help you make sense of the mess, we’ve prepared the ultimate guide to understanding the ins and outs of sales strategy. We’ll be taking a step back and getting the basics right before linking you out to articles detailing particular strategies.
Read on to learn what a sales strategy is, how to integrate a new strategy into your operations, and a strategy about strategy that could save you a lot of pain.
What is a Sales Strategy?
Before we dive into what it takes to be strategic, we have to make an important note: a strategy is not a plan.
Getting the two mixed up is a very common mistake—hell, it took us a while to catch on to the distinction. They’re often used interchangeably and rarely distinguished from one another, so it’s really no big sin.
Knowing the difference, however, can go a long way towards smarter decision-making and better business.
In simple terms, a strategy is a broad direction you would take in order to arrive at a goal.
It isn’t a detailed list of action steps, but a general set of ideas formed by understanding the game you’re playing, the pieces you control, and how your competitors are situated. If business were a game of chess, then a strategy is asking, “How do I play given the state of the board?” rather than, “What are my next three moves?”
The best plans are made using strategies, and the best strategies, in turn, are based on facts and assumptions about:
- Your services
- Your target market
- Your competitors
- Your goals
- Your challenges and obstacles
A strategy is right for you if it takes all these factors into account, and presents appropriate responses to them.
Take the following example: a home repair and renovation business wants to increase their sales but lacks the budget to expand its slate of services and cast a wider net. Instead of playing wide, they play up their strengths and work to position themselves as experts in their strongest niche: home expansion.
|Factor for Consideration||How the Sales Strategy Responds|
|(Services) We do repair and renovation work for homeowners.||Focusing on home expansion falls within the services we provide.|
|(Market) Majority of our clients are private individuals looking to expand their existing homes.||We’ve established that expansion work is a strong source of business.|
|(Competitors) We’re one of a handful of businesses that offer repairs and renovation.||We have an opportunity to stand out as experts in a field of generalists.|
|(Goals) We want to increase our average monthly revenue by 50% by year’s end.||Establishing expertise can justify raising our price point, and keep us ahead of the pack for this type of work.|
|(Challenges) We don’t have the resources to expand our range of services and reach clients with different needs.||This sales strategy would take reallocating (and maybe expanding) our marketing budget. That’s less expensive than hiring new people and buying new equipment.|
Naturally, this isn’t the only strategy available to them—they could focus their efforts on generating referrals, upsell more aggressively, or take any number of alternate paths. You’ll find yourself with many different options, and no way of evaluating them beyond picking one and testing it out. Note that when deploying a sales strategy, you want to make sure you hit the sweet spot between broad and narrow. Take it too broadly, and you’ll find yourself with useless fluff like, “Our strategy is to make more money.” Adhere too strictly, and you lose the chance to take advantage of sudden opportunities and adapt to changing circumstances. So to recap, a strategy isn’t a plan but rather a general direction for your business activity chosen to address your position in the wider scheme of things. It’s useful because it grounds your decisions in the reality of your situation—without boxing you into a set path.
How to Adopt New Sales Strategies
This section will provide you with a framework for adopting new sales strategies. It’s an important topic to go over because adopting a strategy isn’t as easy as skimming a guide and having at it. In a perfect world, you’d have the time and resources to test out every sales strategy you encounter. Seeing as this is the real world, however, you have to take every promising suggestion with some foresight. Here are a few steps to save you the costs of choosing and implementing new strategies.
I. Identify Your Key Factors
Different situations call for different sales strategies. If you’re low on cash, your strategy should involve minimal cost. If you have a lot of competitors offering a specific service, you should think twice before offering more of the same. The examples stretch on for every situation a tradie business owner might face. The first step when brainstorming a new strategy (or checking if one you’ve encountered would work for you) is to situate your business using the factors we mentioned earlier.
Assess your range of services to keep an accurate sense of your strengths and limitations. This goes beyond a list of offerings, and into detail about your staff’s competencies, and other factors that determine your operational capacity.
We can’t stress the importance of understanding your target market. Everything revolves around the people in your area of operation: what they need, how they choose a provider, and how much they’re willing to spend. Precise market data is among the hardest (and most costly) to obtain. We recommend looking upmarket research methods that are within your means, and keeping a strong habit of getting to know your customers—their reasoning, fears, and expectations should help you better understand people you might serve in the future.
Keeping an eye on your competitors is vital to forming a sales strategy that works. It’s a great exercise for finding inspiration (i.e. I know why my business is good, but what makes it better than the other guys?) and it helps you understand the options available to your target clientele. Assess their strengths and weaknesses as you would your own, and be sure to measure your strategies against theirs.
|My Competitor/s…||An Appropriate Strategic Note Might Be…|
|Have very effective customer loyalty programs.||To make sure we acquire new customers faster than them.|
|Dominate the market for our core service offering.||To try strengthening our other competencies.|
|Lack a strong digital presence.||To consider shifting some of our resources from traditional to digital marketing.|
Since the prime goal of any sales strategy is inevitably to generate more sales, it’s worth digging deeper into your priorities and objectives.
Your priorities determine what concessions you’ll end up making as you pursue your wider goals. Resources are finite, and making plans is always a zero-sum game—taking stock of your priorities early on will save you the trouble of grappling with difficult trade-offs down the line.
Your objectives are specific outcomes you’ll have to achieve in order to reach your goals. Most objectives are tied directly to strategies, and it’s important to understand your benchmarks for success before committing your resources. Mapping out objectives is the part of a strategy that involves asking, What will it take to pull all of this off?
Finally, it’d be naive to rush headlong into executing a sales strategy without first asking yourself, What could go wrong?
Some strategies are bound to fail because they’re simply a poor fit for the reality you’re facing—you have to take care to accept challenges that you can overcome. One clear sign that a strategy is a poor fit for you is if it provides no compelling solution to problems that have kept you from growing in the past.
II. Ask What Your Sales Strategy Assumes
The reason why you can’t have a strategy without risk is because every strategy rests on assumptions. When it comes to sales strategies, these assumptions usually involve your market.
For example, if your strategy is to go digital, then you assume that a good number of your would-be customers can be found online. If your strategy is to generate more referrals, then you might assume that your clientele would respond positively to rewards in exchange for spreading the word about your business.
We call them assumptions because achieving even a passable degree of statistical certainty can be very expensive. Most tradies don’t have the resources to commission a think tank to conduct a study, so we’d say that this makes educated guesswork a fair alternative.
When choosing a sales strategy, make sure that the assumptions underlying it are aligned with reality. It’s tempting to jump aboard the digital bandwagon, but if you have it on good authority that your customers trust the local classifieds, then it’s clear where your money and effort should go.
III. Draft Sample Plans
If a strategy aligns with your business’ situation and makes the right assumptions, then the only question left is one of feasibility: does your business have the cash and skills needed to see the strategy through?
Take some time to draft a set of sample plans and see if everything checks out. Your plans should be achievable given the resources you have at hand: your manpower, your finances, and most importantly, your time.
As you do so, make sure to temper your enthusiasm—it’s easy to mistake an impossible task for one that takes a lot of effort, especially when the reward seems great.
People-First Strategies: Boosting Sales with The Right Mindset
Since we’ll be tackling specific strategies in other articles under this theme, we’ll cap this one off with a bit of meta-strategy, or the winning strategy for building a winning sales strategy.
Let’s clarify that.
If you ask any economist, they’ll tell you that their field is more of a social science than a hard science (like math or physics). The same rule holds true for sales: a strong sense for numbers and analytics can take you far, but real success means understanding people.
Whatever direction you end up taking for your sales strategy, you can’t go wrong putting people first. Sales is a matter of influencing people—what they want, what they feel, and ultimately what they choose to spend on.
As such, any strategy you build or adopt should attend to three core elements behind every sale. Every sale can be broken down into parts, with each one linking closely to the ways your customers think and feel. These are your customers’ needs, their wants, and their trust.
The best sales strategies account for all three. While you might net some business hitting a minimum of two, your chances increase significantly if you’ve convinced your clients that they want something you offer, and trust it to solve a problem for them.
I. Your Customers’ Needs
People spend to address their needs. They have problems that are causing them grief or inconvenience, and it’s your job to supply them with solutions.
Need primarily applies to reasoning (or logos, if you’ve ever taken up rhetoric). It’s a matter of problem-solution matching, and you’ve got it covered if you can convince your leads that your services are a perfect fit for them.
Need is the easiest of the three elements to nail, since most tradie work involves compelling needs (as opposed to, say, selling the latest drone-mounted camera). With that being said, it’s best not to take this step for granted as there’s more to it than making sure you’re selling to the right crowd.
You can establish need through clear and consistent marketing. We don’t need to tell you to try and generate awareness of your business, but it helps to align your sales strategies in a way that keeps your efforts consistent within and across the different platforms where you have a brand presence.
Your strategy should have you maintaining a consistent tone when building your website, running print ads, and marketing on social. We know that each of these platforms comes with its own nuances, but they should all carry your a consistent tone of voice for your business.
Better sales strategies give you room to play up urgency: convincing your market that they have renovations that need doing, or broken equipment gathering dust. When selling your services as important, it helps to let them know that assets in need of repair can cause more problems down the line, or that the cost of renovation never gets any cheaper.
Great ones allow you to position your services as the obvious choice. They set you up to look like the perfect people for the job because you’re cost-efficient, highly skilled, timely, or any persuasive combination of the above.
II. What Your Customers Want
People spend on things that make them feel good. Emotion is a big part of our spending decisions, and you can find plenty of studies that support that. Tradie services are no exception—if anything, the fact that we work with assets that feature prominently in people’s lives and livelihoods means that emotion matters more.
Still, leveraging emotion in a sales strategy is where most tradies experience the greatest difficulty. There’s nothing exciting about removing mildew, and a person can only feel so good about getting their plumbing sorted—as you can imagine, it’s easier to generate excitement and joy after the work is done.
Since it’s important to try and hit the right emotional notes with your clientele, keep an eye out for strategies that allow you to position your business as something your leads want.
Positive engagement is the heart of emotional persuasion in sales. The sales strategies you implement should leave room for you and your tradies to make the sales process pleasant and, dare we say it, fun for your prospects.
With this in mind, it’s important that you and your team members agree with your strategic direction. They can’t demonstrate confidence if they aren’t on board with your vision, or if they’re being obligated to work under conditions that make them feel hesitant. A unified strategic direction leads to eagerness and assurance.
All tradie work is a stepping stone to some wider benefit—whether it’s a brighter or safer home, better business thanks to functioning equipment, or even just plain joy at getting overdue work done.
Aim to develop strategies that help you build excitement among your clients, and lead them to think about the rewards that are waiting for them should they choose you. These can take the form of sales training for your client-facing employees, a results-focused angle for your marketing, or any number of variations that encourage your potential clients to look to the future.
Likewise, it helps to take a step back and remind yourself and your tradies of the effect that your work has had on the lives of your clients. Grounding your operations on the impact you make can inform better strategies, and pave the way for stronger execution.
III. Earning Your Customers’ Trust
People spend on solutions that they know will solve their problems. For most tradies, earning trust is the hardest yet most significant part of the sales process—your clients wouldn’t want just anyone handling their assets. They may know what they need and like everything about you and your team, but you’re out of luck if they don’t trust that you’re the best fit for the job.
We’d go as far as to say that any sales strategy you opt for should work towards increasing customer trust. It’s the most basic premise of securing business in the trades industry, and it’s an important part of building customer loyalty: the secret sauce that turns the business you get into even more business down the line.
The fastest way to earn a client’s trust is to have a ready answer to each of their questions and hesitations. Doing so takes a fair amount of active listening, and a keen sense for when your leads think or feel differently than what is obvious.
As much as possible, make sure that you and/or your team members get the chance to interface directly with your potential clients. Conversations held in person are the best way to gain an accurate sense of how close or far your business is from making a sale, and they give you the chance to respond to your would-be clients’ issues before they have a chance to hunt for alternatives.
It’s easier to trust in a business when you’re sure they’re out to make you happy. Luckily, there are endless ways to accomplish this through value-adding products and services.
Sales strategies that involve offering your customers more than what they were expecting without additional cost can go a long way towards building a reputation for sincere care. Whenever possible, offer gestures of goodwill: if you see work your team can get done with next to no effort, then go that extra mile.
You can even aim for strategies that provide value to your market-at-large. Blogging, lead magnets, and other forms of content marketing pave the way for new customers by offering them useful information in exchange for nothing, except perhaps the occasional email address.
Being present goes a long way towards putting your prospective clients at ease. As we’ve said before, tradie work can involve major assets with great sentimental or financial value—assets they’d rather avoid staying in the dark about.
For this reason, sales strategies that leave you and your team members free to communicate at any reasonable hour of the day are preferred. Offer an open line of communication between you and your potential clients whenever possible, whether this is a dedicated hotline, cell phone number, or instant messaging platform.
Also try to make sure that your clients are assigned account managers to handle requests, questions, and concerns. Continuity builds rapport, which can eventually snowball into customer loyalty and avoid the unnecessary frustration that comes with bouncing from contact person to contact person.
The Bottom Line: Put People First
This meta-strategy revolves around the idea of putting people first. As you’ve seen, working to draw a person’s interest and loyalty is much easier said than done. We are, after all, a complex lot.
Take this section as a reminder to see the human side to sales, and take every challenge as a call to dig deeper into the psychology of your clientele. We’ve outlined a handful of points to keep in mind while strategising, but note that this isn’t by any means an exhaustive list. There are as many nuances to people-oriented sales as there are… well, people.
What matters is that building your sales strategies on a clear understanding of people can save you a lot of trouble as time goes by. Work your sense of empathy, and be mindful of the needs, wants, and fears that must come with seeking the help of a tradie.
There’s no excuse for working without a proper sales strategy. The trades industry can be as competitive as any field, and having a firm grasp on the game and how it plays is essential to success.
Keep these ideas fresh in mind, and never mistake a set of well-laid plans for an effective strategy: you could spend weeks planning the best way to run in eight different directions, only to wind up back where you started.
Adopt new strategies with caution, and treat every golden suggestion as an opportunity to revisit the nature of your business, your services, and your wider market. You waste time forcing pieces together when they don’t fit.
Finally, remember that there’s no reasonable way to run a sales strategy without factoring in the human element. Despite how frustrating they can be, your clients are all still human (trust us, we checked). This means they want and need things just like anyone would. Use that knowledge to build empathy, and win them over with smarter strategies.