PLAN | MARKET | SELL helps organizations bridge the gap between marketing and sales.


John Wessinger


What is the best way to create new and sustained sales growth?

The three questions this article attempts to answer are:

  • What is the best way to create new or sustained sales growth?
  • How do I keep the marketing-to-sales pipeline full?
  • How do I overcome the challenges of a long sales cycle?


This article describes three things you can do right now to: create new and sustained sales growth through full-year strategic planning, how to keep your marketing-to-sales pipeline full with a new customer segment and how to overcome the challenges of a long sales cycle by adding new marketing initiatives to the front end of the sales process.


The questions related to your own business to think about when reading this article are:

  • “Do we have a consistent method for planning sales and marketing activities in a full calendar year?”
  • “Is there a related or similar customer segment we could be targeting that would bring us new business?”
  • “What are some new or additional marketing activities we can explore that would educate and inform a potential buyer?”


This article is going to answer the above questions using a framework that consists of strategy planning, marketing and sales to give you a set of holistic solutions that can impact your entire organization.

These solutions will help you to feel more confident and encourage you to make time for more consistent sales and marketing planning. They will breathe new life into your marketing and sales activities by identifying a new customer segment to target. And help you overcome the ups and downs of a long sales cycle by using new marketing initiatives to better educate and inform your customer to shorten the overall buying process.

The main purpose of this article is to give you three new ideas that are simple, straightforward and provide you with a set of new solutions so that you think differently about your business.




We have a hard time creating new growth or maintaining growth over time


The challenge for any business is creating new growth and sustaining that growth over time. All businesses have some sort of built-in cycles or seasonal aspects to when and how customers buy, so the challenge becomes finding new ways to continue growing when it’s not historically your month, your quarter or your year.


A lot of companies will spend most of their effort focused on the time of year that best benefits their business. We “put all their eggs in one basket” and focus on the window when customers are supposed to traditionally buy from us. Issues arise when external influences like new competition or new regulations impacts your business and you miss out on your one chance during the year to make your sales numbers and grow your business.


The solution to growing your business throughout the year is to create similar growth opportunities that you would have during your best times of the year. In order to do this effectively and consistently, full-year strategy planning is helpful to develop a roadmap of how you plan to capture that new business and when. Create new and sustained growth with a full-year strategic sales and marketing plan that maps out each strategic initiative on a quarterly, month-by-month and weekly basis. An easy way to start this process if you do not do regular planning is around the basic calendar events and holidays during the year.


For example, let’s say you are the marketing manager at a consumer package goods company that sells batteries at retail. Historically, your best quarter is Q4 when you sell 75% of your total batteries for the year. What’s happening in Q4? The holidays. It’s the time of year when almost every product purchased uses some sort of batteries. So you focus all your advertising budget and marketing spend on the last 3 months of the year in Q4. Trying to make the most of your sales during the final quarter of the fiscal and calendar year.

However, what if the hot new that year toy doesn’t take batteries? Or a larger company with deep pockets owns your competition and they out spend you on advertising? It’s a risky proposition to wait to find out and you could be gambling when you don’t have to. Instead, what if you started looking for similar opportunities throughout the year and spread those opportunities out over a 12-month period. You could sit down with your sales and marketing teams to find other times during the year when you could replicate your holiday efforts, but on a smaller scale and on a more consistent basis.

Focus on dates that are universal and ones that everyone knows. This can provide you with a structure for strategic planning and you can use these key dates to start to plan your marketing and sales activities. Let’s say you try to capitalize on the events that make sense to market batteries during a full calendar year. You could easily run marketing and sales efforts on New Year’s Eve, Easter, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, 4th of July, Back-to-School and even Halloween. Add your specific industry and consumer event dates to the list and you now have a set of key dates and times throughout the year for you to find new business. Some months it may take extra thought or creativity to make it work, but that’s what will separate you from competition in the mind of the customer and it could be the strategy that helps to maintain your growth over time.




We can’t keep our sales pipeline full and we have gaps or slower periods


The challenge of keeping the sales pipeline full is something that almost every business has experienced and one of the most challenging obstacles to overcome when trying to grow your business. Most companies have a defined market they are targeting and work to attract potential customers through a conversion process often referred to as a “pipeline.” The goal is to ensure that the pipeline is consistently getting filled with new business prospects that can be marketed and sold to and that this pipeline is always “full” with potential new leads.


Most companies target a niche or specific customer segment with their sales and marketing efforts. The saying, “the riches are in the niches” is something we all have heard and makes a lot of sense for any business. It keeps the organization focused on a specific customer base and you become very good at solving problems for those specific customers. The problem with that sort of approach is that when something happens to that set of customers or within that industry niche you’re targeting, it could hinder your ability to add new customers to your pipeline and create sales gaps within it.


A solution to keeping your pipeline full could be as simple as adding a new customer segment to the marketing mix that is different from your current niche and is not tied to the same set of challenges within the market. By adding a new segment to the marketing mix, you could be filling potential gaps in the pipeline with a new customer that could keep your sales momentum consistent and create new opportunities for the organization to grow the business.


For example, let’s say you are the VP of sales for a company offering a sales platform and you have had success with med device companies in the healthcare industry. You are the market leader and own a significant portion of the market share versus your competition. However, recent regulatory changes within the industry have slowed your momentum and there are less new med device companies offering products and more consolidation of existing ones. Sales for your platform have slowed since there are not as many new companies within your specific niche and you are struggling to generate new business. You have tried to upsell customers with new products or offer ancillary services including training, but your sales teams are having a difficult time keeping the pipeline full and are not hitting their quarterly forecasts or sales goals.

Rather than continue to target companies from your primary niche, is there a similar group of companies within another industry that could benefit you’re your product offering? A possible lateral move into another industry could be an opportunity for you to find new business. Real Estate continues to experience new growth and it is an industry that has less regulation than healthcare or med device. And the industry is ripe for new technology and new platforms to help manage customer relationships and the home buying process. A simple shift from one industry to another could be a way to not only diversify your customer portfolio, but also help your organization fill the sales pipeline with a new customer segment that could benefit from your product.




Our sales process is too long and we are struggling to close leads


The challenges with a long sales process include the amount of time spent waiting on prospects to make a buying decision, multiple touches on customers either in-person, by phone or by email and a slower growth rate over a longer period of time can be more costly to an organization that is responsible for paying salaries regardless of sales performance. A long sales process can also cause frustration for sales and marketing leaders and lead to high-pressure tactics that could be a turn-off to customers who might otherwise be interested in buying form you.


Companies that struggle with a long buying process often see themselves as the drivers of a sale and think that the customer needs constant contact or multiple touches from sales in order to be moved through the buying process. What we have all seen over the last few years is that the buying process has changed and the way customers make a purchase decision has also changed. Customers are in a new position where they now walk themselves through the process of awareness and evaluation. And this is often independent of an organization or direct sales person that would typically trigger the start of that sales process. Customers now do the research on their own and reach out to a company when they are ready to make a decision.


The solution is to use the natural momentum created by this dynamic and provide easy opportunities for potential customers to learn more about your products or services. Instead of seeing your sales team as the starting point of the customer’s evaluation process, see your marketing team as the first point of contact for a potential customer. Use your marketing initiatives to educate and inform the customer, answer as many questions about the product as possible and shorten the sales cycle so that when they are ready to buy, your sales people can act as a concierge to close that lead and finalize the buying process.


For example, let’s say you are the sales manager for a manufacturing company that sells industrial construction equipment to contractors. Based on your previous sales results, you know that it takes roughly 3 to 5 sales calls to get a customer to buy and it takes about 6 months to 1 year for those calls to happen. The challenge is getting through the 3 to 5 calls as efficiently and effectively as possible and walking through the entire buying process. Including an introduction to your company and multiple demonstrations of how your products will benefit the customer in the field.

The problem is that this process takes time and you’re now at the mercy of the customer who is trying to run a business, manage existing construction projects and find time to go through this evaluation process with you. Instead of having multiple meetings over an extended period of time, is there a way for this customer to educate themselves on your offerings and increase the speed of this process to get closer to a purchase decision?

What if your marketing department created a set of 3 videos that provided a demo of the product in action, a testimonial from one of your loyal customers about the product and then a case study that was relevant to their specific type of construction projects? You could forward these videos to the customer through a link to your site, they could spend a few minutes reviewing the videos, share them with colleagues and get their questions answered while walking through a buying process in shorter period of time than it would take to set-up a meeting, meet with them in person, coordinate follow-up, set another meeting, etc.

Leveraging the new way that customers buy will fast-forward the sales process, build confidence in the customer before that meeting with your sales team and actually filter out the true buyers from those that may not actually be interested or not ready to make a purchase. Marketing can help drive sales leads through this new buying process, move it forward faster than sales can on their own and shorten the total time it takes to walk a customer through the full process and improve your results in the process.



This article discussed the three things you can do right now to: create new and sustained growth, to keep your marketing-to-sales pipeline full and overcome the challenges of a long sales cycle.

  • Create new and sustained growth with full-year strategic sales and marketing planning
  • Keep your pipeline full by targeting a new customer segment
  • Overcome long sales cycles by using marketing initiatives to shorten it

These suggestions can help you feel more confident in your strategic planning and encourage you to make time for a more consistent planning process. They can breathe new life into your marketing and sales by identifying a new customer segment to target. And help you overcome the ups and downs of a long sales cycle by using new marketing initiatives to better educate and inform your customers.

After reading this article, how would you now answer the following questions:

  • “Can we develop a consistent method for planning sales and marketing activities in a full calendar year?”
  • “Is there a related or similar customer segment that we could be targeting that would bring us new business?”
  • “What are some new or additional marketing activities we can begin that would educate and inform a potential buyer?”



Let us know what you think and share your comments below. And feel free to share with others using the social media buttons and links on this site.


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