SWOT Analysis for Sales: How to Benefit from this Simple Tool

SWOT analyses are often used in business start-up planning to help assess the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats inherent in a business proposal. But once the business is underway, SWOT analyses are often overlooked as a simple, yet effective tool that can be used for planning and decision making.

A Sample Sales SWOT Analysis

SWOT analyses can be particularly effective in your sales organization. Done right, they generate productive brainstorming discussions that can drive decision making and next-step activity. They are also a great first step in developing a strategic sales plan.

For a more organized discussion, it helps to think of the categories in terms of internal and external influencing factors.

Strengths and Weaknesses typically focus on areas internal to your sales organization and company that you have control over (think “proactive”). Opportunities and Threats are factors external to the sales organization that you may not have control over (think “reactive”).

Tips for Effective SWOT Sales Analysis:

•  Have someone other than the Sales Manager or VP of Sales lead the SWOT analysis session. This will lead to more objective input and give all sales team members a chance to participate fully.

•  Invite key stakeholders from various departments. Staff from marketing, IT and warehousing might all have some helpful insight that can be gleaned by including them in a SWOT analysis discussion. A well-chaired meeting can allow voices from multiple departments to be heard, resulting in a more productive session. Another approach would be to do your SWOT analysis in two phases: 1)  A SWOT analysis with only the sales team members. 2) Invite other departments to review your analysis and provide input.

•  Ask team members to bring hard data with them, as available, so discussions are based on facts vs. assumptions as much as possible. If decisions are going to be made as a result of the SWOT analysis session, it’s important to be making those decisions on quantitative as well as qualitative information.

•  Be realistic and open about Weaknesses and Threats. These seemingly negative sections of the SWOT analysis often reveal the greatest opportunities for improvement and growth.

•  Ideally, your business culture will create a session conducive to open, honest input from team members. However, if you know going in that some sales team members will not feel comfortable speaking openly, give them the opportunity to share comments anonymously in advance. (Of course, it could be argued that this tip highlights a weakness in the sales organization, but that’s a topic for another article.)

•  If doing SWOT analysis with your sales team is a new idea, think of one particular decision you want to make in the sales organization and conduct a very focussed SWOT session just on that one topic. This will get the team used to the concept and build team cohesion with the discussions generated.

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