Picking up the phone when you have a free minute is a sure fire way to fail. Sales requires discipline, commitment and a process — a way to proceed that you can measure and monitor. Persistence, energy and focus are critical pieces of the puzzle!

Sales is a deliberate, thoughtful activity. When consulting with small business owners or salespeople who aren’t realizing the results they desire, the cause is usually the same: They have not developed a sales strategy.

Here are five steps to a successful sales strategy:

One: Define your target market. You aren’t going to do business with everyone.

Who are the people likely to want or need your product or service? Hint: it’s NOT everyone. Spend some time defining your ideal customer type(s). Then, create a list. This list should be large enough to allow you to really delve in and repeat your process a couple of times. If your target market is too small, your odds of success decrease. You may have to merge two similar target markets in order to have the numbers working in your favor.

Two: Determine your outreach. Will you cold call, email, network or create a combo attack plan? I have a system that works really well for my strategy. It goes like this:

Once you’ve defined your target and created the list, reach out to your networks to see if you are connected in any way to the person or organization you seek. Scroll through your social networks, scan web site board lists – any homework you can do to reveal a one-degree connection you have with your target. Remember, you are looking for an introduction. That’s it! You want the opportunity to meet with the prospect. When your friend or associate introduces you to the prospect, follow up and set up a meeting.

Next, take the ones on the list you don’t have a connection to and cold call them. This could mean an actual phone call or sending an introductory letter, postcard or email. If you start with the letter, postcard or email, you must tell them that you will follow up with a call – and then follow up!

Three: Be inquisitive. Before you go on a sales appointment, create a list of questions to ask the prospect. Focus on their pain and needs, not your product or service.

Four: Under promise and over deliver. Do what you say you will do – Plus, go the extra mile!

Five: Build and maintain. Create a customer care routine. Communicate on a regular basis.

Although they are now using your product, your customers’ needs will change. Perform routine check-in calls or send emails to see how you can make their experience better. The sales process doesn’t end with the sale.

Knowing what works and what doesn’t helps you tweak your process. Adjust or get rid of what doesn’t work, and keep what does. If you hit your numbers, celebrate, and repeat! If you don’t hit your numbers, determine what needs changing and change it.

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