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Project Sales Strategy – A 7 Step Plan

It’s no secret that selling into capital expenditure projects in the process industries is harder than ever before. No-names policies, highly trained gatekeepers and an unwillingness to consider new suppliers make it tough for the modern sales professional.

In this article, we take a look at how applying a simple and robust strategy helps organisations win more business. This article was compiled using material from our recent webinar, which can be watched in full here (or view the slides here), including the Q&A section toward the end of the presentation.


project sales strategy chess

Strategy is vital to sales success.

Sales strategy is a broad subject, with many frameworks and methods claiming superiority or promising quick fixes. However, for the busy sales or business development team it’s best to keep it simple. Picking and sticking to a strategy; tailoring it your product, service and capabilities is far superior to attempting to over-complicate this essential part of the modern sales environment.

So where do we start with sales strategy? Our 7 step plan aims to break down this daunting process into manageable chunks.

Step 1

Qualification – The current situation

When confronted with a multitude of inbound and outbound leads, a sales team can often get bogged down. Often, too many unqualified opportunities (leads) is as bad for sales success as too few. Cutting through this to only cherry pick the very best opportunities is key to success and starts with one important step: qualification.

To start, we must qualify the current situation. Not all project opportunities will suit your company’s products/services so it is important to be honest with your capabilities, strengths and weaknesses. There are many internal factors to weigh up which depend on your individual organisation, but here are some ideas (all of this project information is included on our bulletins and makes qualification easy).

  • Location – Where is the project?
  • Technologies – What’s required? What solution can we provide?
  • Project scale – Is the project scale compatible with the resources we have available?
  • Project scope – Does the project requirement present a good opportunity for our products/services?
  • Potential order value – Does the available budget justify our time?
  • Resource requirements – Do we have the time/human resource to service the opportunity?
  • Incumbent suppliers – Are we likely to persuade the end user to consider alternatives?
  • Timescales – Fast track or still pre-concept?

hitting sales targets

Step 2

Qualification – Buying motives

Once the current situation is understood and the opportunity passes muster, we must then focus on the external factors involved in qualifying the opportunity to determine lead quality. It is best to approach this from two areas, the client company and the decision maker (these may or may not be the same organisation/individual):

The Client

What are the client’s pain points? For example:

  • Is the end user looking to improve productivity/efficiency?
  • Is the investment driven by cost saving or environmental criteria?

Understanding these pain points is essential in beginning to better determine quality of the opportunity and eventually tailor your approach.

The Decision Maker

Who is handling purchase decisions? This is the team or individual on which to focus. Their identity and the type of decision maker go far toward determining whether to target an opportunity:

  • Are they looking for an easy life (looking at existing tech/suppliers)?
  • Are they hampered by uncertainty (unwilling to consider new suppliers/solutions)?
  • Are they looking for glory (cost savings, efficiency, environmental improvements)?
  • Do they need support (problem solving)?

Step 3

Grade the opportunity

Once all of the necessary factors have been considered, we must score the opportunity. This can be as simple as a matrix, assigning a score to a number of criteria which must pass a certain score.


grading the opportunity

Grade opportunities to avoid inefficiency.

For example, if we have 15 criteria (selected from some of the ideas above) all scored out of 5, an opportunity can receive a maximum grade of 75 – the higher the score, the higher priority the opportunity. A level of activity can then be matched to different scores.

A low score might mean no activity on an opportunity. A minimal score, some low-impact form of sales activity (e.g. a campaign or mail shot). Medium score might involve some field sales activity. High scoring opportunities should receive the most attention and be bumped to the front of the sales queue – bring out the big guns.

Step 4

Establish the strategy

So now we know which project opportunities to prioritise and target and in which order. So how do we target them? It is likely that rushing in without a clear strategy that is tailored to each opportunity will get the door slammed firmly closed before you’ve had a chance to begin selling. Prior preparation is therefore essential.

Some things to consider:

  • Who are the decision makers?
  • What is our route into the project? What is the client’s vendor approval process?
  • Match needs to benefits – consider your products/services
  • Technical seminars – if a problem needs solving, show you have the solution

As an expert in your sector the challenges associated with your industry are well known to you – so aim to become a problem solver. You’ll find the reception you receive from new companies much warmer if you can make their lives easier.

Step 5


Having determined the best way to approach the opportunity, it’s time to start selling. We’re over halfway through the steps and yet now only consider picking up the phone, firing up the campaigns or deploying field sales personnel. Prior preparation and strategy will beat pure enthusiasm of approach every time. It’s now time to:

  • Schedule activities and actions.
  • Accountability is essential; determine who is going to do what and when.
  • Establish a clear reporting structure. How do we make sure activity is progressing as planned?
  • Establish timescales and work to them.

It is now that you must sharpen the tools to get your foot in the door and impress on new and highly scored opportunities. Consider the following:

  • Refresh & tailor communications, be this digital or print.
  • Match presentation materials to highlighted needs (both sales & technical).
  • Make sure documentation is up to scratch (technical, quality, financial).
  • Proposal / bid processes. If successful, you’ll want to able to be an effective & serious bidder straight away.

Step 6

Actions & outcomes

Process and procedure is integral to strategic sales. The important point here is to follow these processes in a structured manner along a widely agreed (and codified!) manner. By establishing accountability these actions can be maintained and seen through to completion. Through rigorous evaluation, they can be improved.

action plan

It is important to always be nimble, adapt your approach based on your qualification and improve your subsequent approach based on evaluation.

Step 7

Closing the loop

What next? Once you’ve qualified, graded, targeted and implemented push for the close. If your approach has been suitably tailored and meets the needs of the opportunity you will inevitably find success.

One key point we always like to stress is: Don’t be afraid to ask for the order! Often this last (and most important) part of the process is overlooked due to the focus on strategic detail.

closing the loop

Whether successful or not, always strive to learn from the sales process. Be candid about successes and failures and use these to constantly improve your sales effectiveness.


This is a huge subject – this article merely scratches the surface of applying a strategic framework to your project sales process. However, the most important thing to remember is any strategy is better than no strategy, and the best time to start becoming strategic is yesterday.

Protel project bulletins will help give your sales team the opportunities they need to fill the sales funnel, but positive strategy is integral to moving opportunities into closed orders.


If you’d like to talk sales strategy and think our information may help your organisation, get in touch.


This entry was posted in Tips on June 22, 2016