What is a Vertical Sales Strategy? [And How to Run One]

What is a Vertical Sales Strategy? [And How to Run One]

Table of Contents

Last updated on October 26th, 2023 at 08:05 pm

Organizations that want to grow revenue must have an effective vertical sales strategy.

The strategic focus of selling to a vertical market benefits companies that can’t compete with larger organizations using a horizontal sales strategy.

In this article, we’ll cover the main points to conducting a vertical sales strategy including:

  • What a vertical sales strategy is
  • Why organizations implement vertical sales strategies
  • The steps to penetrating a vertical market

Modern buyers are picky and prefer consultants to salespeople. In B2B, you’re often reaching out to a committee of picky buyers who need to see you understand their business problems.

With this in mind, the highly targeted outreach of vertical sales can give your company the competitive edge it needs to drive growth.

Two SDRs in front of a computer review vertical sales strategy.

What is a vertical sales strategy?

A vertical sales strategy is a strategy that targets prospects within a specific industry or market.

In other words, it’s a sales play that focuses on a niche audience of buyers.

Outbound efforts toward a vertical market are tailored to those customers’ needs.

Addressing those needs requires a deep understanding of your buyer persona and how to align your value proposition to the unique challenges they face.

In short, a vertical sales strategy is highly personalized.

An example in B2B might look like a SaaS company that sells HR software positioning their solution to a consumer base in healthcare.

Some examples of verticals are:

  • Healthcare
  • Real Estate
  • FinTech
  • Manufacturing
  • Retail
  • Insurance
  • Government
  • Transportation

Why run a vertical sales strategy?

Whether or not to adopt a vertical sales strategy for your business will ultimately depend on the solution you offer.

Nevertheless, there are several advantages to running a vertical sales strategy, not the least of which is greater revenue.

One of the key reasons businesses opt for a vertical strategy is to maintain long-term engagement with buyers. By specializing in vertical sales, businesses become reliable experts in those verticals.

The same principle that applies to marketing applies to sales: you sell more effectively when you focus your efforts on a specific audience.

The cost of business in a unique vertical can be cheaper because the process is streamlined and specific to one customer base.

Additionally, the experience and knowledge gained from selling to a unique vertical creates a game plan on how to succeed within it in the future.

This makes a vertical sales strategy scalable.

By being centered around a particular market, the tactics and expertise you used to break into it can be repeated and implemented throughout future campaigns.

Specializing a product for a niche buyer group is also a way to avoid heavy competition. There’s some risk involved as the more narrow the customer base, the smaller the pool of buyers, but typically a smaller market can support a higher price point.

From there your team of SDRs perfects their outreach to prospects they already know.

Prospects need to hear if what you offer will help them achieve their goals and grow revenue.

Like any other sales strategy, a vertical sales strategy must demonstrate you understand a buyer’s pain points.

How to penetrate a vertical

There’s no one-size-fits-all blueprint to penetrating a vertical.

There are, however, steps you can take to build a strategy that’s right for you.

To help, we’ll outline the main steps to a sustainable game plan you can adjust for the needs and goals of your business.

1. Get everyone involved

A vertical sales strategy must be a team effort.

Cross-functional support from product and marketing is essential in equipping your sales reps with the direction and content they need to be successful.

Product specialists or solution consultants can give your reps the details they need to align a solution with a customer’s needs.

Marketing will provide the extra content informed by their research into a customer’s industry.

Validate any supportive content by speaking with current clients in the target vertical. Strategic partnerships with influencers or thought leaders in your target vertical will also raise credibility.

Wherever you can bring vertical leaders and expertise into the fold to ensure your team is prepared.

2. Define a playbook

Creating a vertical-specific playbook is another way to guide your reps to success and solidify their familiarity with a customer base.

Relevant marketing content like whitepapers and use cases that illustrate how a solution fits a buyer’s needs are important but act more as support.

Review your buyer persona – what are their unique challenges, buying habits, and pain points?

Sales reps need to position themselves as credible thought leaders in the conversation. Aside from understanding unique value propositions, they need a playbook that covers:

  • How to engage with a prospect
  • Who they’re targeting within the buyer committee
  • Recent trends within the industry
  • The buying process of your target accounts
  • How to lead a conversation

Examples of resources in your playbook can include messaging templates, talk tracks, call scripts, and collaborative docs where reps on your team share personal best practices.

The idea is to prep your team with practical knowledge that answers any questions about what to do in selling situations related to your target vertical.

This way reps will appear credible and be more prepared to identify how your solution can solve their problems.

3. Standardize your process

One of the major benefits of selling to a vertical market is how granular you can be in the process because it’s tied to a specific buyer group.

This makes it easy to scale and implement into continuous sales enablement practices.

Salespeople must be confident before entering a new vertical, especially after moving from a horizontal sales strategy. Develop confidence and mastery through repetition in the sales enablement programs and exposure in the field.

Also, use attainable milestones and establish KPIs to create early wins and verify if your process is working. From there apply what you’ve learned to your vertical knowledge base and use it to train sales leaders.

Managers can use insights from past successes to shape the value proposition accordingly and provide role-playing sessions for reps to practice.

The result of this repeatable process is that it can be measured, tested, and improved for future outreach.

Final thoughts

To wrap up, let’s summarize the most important points of running a vertical sales strategy.

  • Collaborate with specialists, marketing, and sales leaders to build a strong support network for sales reps.
  • Design a situational playbook to train reps on what to while selling in the field
  • Create a scalable selling process that can be measured and improved for success

An informed and personalized approach to sales is the future.

A vertical sales strategy is how you get there.

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