Why Your Sales “Strategies” Aren’t Working

Last week I wrote about taking stock of the state of my business—a common practice among companies during the first few weeks of a new year. Figuring out what did (and didn’t) work in the past year is a critical step toward formulating a plan for the year ahead.

If you, too, are taking some time to evaluate your organization’s current practices and direction, don’t forget to challenge the status quo. I’m not saying to ditch everything you do. Rather, examine your practices critically. Ask yourself, “Is this really effective?” and “Is there a better way to do things?”

This is especially important when you’re trying to increase your staffing sales. How many times have you heard a salesperson say, “This strategy always works” or “That strategy will have the clients knocking on our door”? No doubt you’ve come across plenty of sales strategies, suggestions, and practices during your career. Whether you’ve just heard about them, seen them in action by others, or tried them out yourself, though, they actually weren’t strategies.

  • Having recruiters pick up the phone during a lull in job orders to see if any former clients are hiring is not a strategy.

  • Hiring a new sales representative is not a strategy.

  • Undercutting your competitors’ rates is not a strategy.

  • Sending the 5,000 contacts in your sales database a marketing e-mail that teases them with a list of “hot candidates” is not a strategy.

  • Sponsoring thought-leadership events is not a strategy.

  • Advertising on the side of a bus or buying billboard space out in center field is not a strategy.

  • Riding the elevators in an office building to drop off cards or make in-person cold calls is not a strategy.

  • Religiously attending monthly meetings at your local SHRM chapter or even becoming one of its board members is not a strategy.

  • Developing and sharing with your clients a local salary guide for your market is not a strategy.

  • Posting on social media relevant information about your company and fun pictures of the office is not a strategy.

  • Offering better pay and benefits than your competitors is not a strategy.

  • Sending a hard-copy HR-themed magazine published by your company to your clients and prospects is not a strategy.

  • Writing a monthly blog post is not a strategy.

“What do you mean?” you may be thinking. “Those sure look like strategies to me!”

Here’s the thing: each one of those practices is actually just a tool in your sales toolkit. In any field—whether you’re doing carpentry, marketing, baking, sales, whatever—some tools are more effective than others (especially under particular circumstances). But in all cases, tools are what you use to achieve a goal. To achieve a goal, you need a plan for how to get there. And that plan is a strategy.

The tools listed above can be used to develop relationships, build your brand recognition, augment your web presence, and even bring in new business. But if you use those tools without a strategy, at best your results will suffer—and at worst you’ll find yourself spinning in circles.

So as you take a good hard look at your company, if you get the impression that your “strategy” is actually is a hodgepodge of techniques that lack unity and direction, then it’s time to reevaluate the current state of affairs. Figure out what your goal is, then figure out your strategy for getting there. And then decide what tools to use.