The most common issue found relating to sales growth:
Having presented many courses on various sales and business-related subjects in a variety of lengths, I have found a few issues that arise that prove common to all my clients. Perhaps the most important of these is the need for the sales individual or team to become proactive as opposed to reactive in their approach. In many cases, sales leads are obtained from responses to marketing effort or repeat business. This is excellent, as it means that the market has seen the value being offered and is keen to purchase. However, maybe due to new competition, or failing customers, this can result in reduced turnover. They have recognized that relying on existing clients or responses to marketing can become risky and unpredictable. Moving to a more proactive approach will help ensure all sales opportunities are found, targeted and won.
What do we mean by ‘proactive’? How can we be MORE proactive?
Identify two key aspects:
The markets you are serving already, and
The markets you would like to serve.
…or, put it another way….
Your existing or past customers, and
Simple strategy for being proactive in sales;
1/ Decide the best balance for you of existing customer and new customer business. You need both! One for ‘bread and butter’ income; to cover the ‘overheads’ and more, and the other for business growth and future strength.
2/ Revisit existing or previous customers on a regular basis. Calling is best; sending a newsletter is the minimum contact. Never miss an opportunity for repeat business or to cross and up-sell. Lack of such contact allows the competition to ‘move-in’.
3/ Choose your new markets and prospects carefully. Make sure they are likely to have the need, the money, and that they are likely to appreciate the value you offer.
4/ ‘Seed’ that market; make sure your business is known to them before you make contact, by;
- identifying likely decision makers and sending them publicity materials, or,
- using the internet, finding a mutual contact and asking for a referral, or
- invest in exposure in their trade press or institution website, or,
- any of the above and more…..
5/ Following number 4 above, any contacting now will be far less cold. If you have gained a referral, they will be happier to take the call. If you haven’t, you can at least refer to your article or letter in the publication or website related to their industry. It doesn’t have to be a ‘cold call’!
This is just one approach you can use to help you find new customers and win new sales.
Being proactive should also include actions to:
- plan where to target new prospects
- regularly monitor and review your carefully chosen KPIs to ensure positive progress and growth
- ensure customer satisfaction and loyalty
- prepare responses to possible criticism
- prepare contingency plans in case the unexpected prevents progress in your chosen direction
- There are many advantages to being more proactive, you have;
- Higher profile with existing customers and new prospects
- Warmer contacts!
- The chance to target and win far more business opportunities
- Greater credibility and respect in the industry or market
- More resilience against competition
- More market knowledge, particularly in future trends.
So, don’t wait for them to come to you. In market downturns, this can be fatal. Be proactive, ‘go-and-get-it’!
As my late Father used to tell me; “The door to success is labelled ‘PUSH’.”
Is it them, or is it you?
Here’s a quick check list for you to be sure it doesn’t happen;
To make sure it’s not you:
1/ Have you properly identified and agreed the need? – if you’ve assumed what they want instead of asking questions, then delays may happen while you clear up any confusion
2/ Have you managed expectations? – if they are expecting ‘A’ in 3 weeks and you give them ‘B’ in 5 weeks you may lose the business or at least have it delayed. Make sure they know and agree what to expect.
3/ Have you agreed the process? Their process for the purchase may be very different from your sales process. Talk to them, make it match.
To make sure it’s not them:
1/ if there is a delay from them – do you know all the decision makers and influencers so that any delay can be explained and overcome ASAP?
2/ if there is silence from them – have you agreed with the customer the best and most effective ways, and how often you can communicate with the key people in the sale?
3/ if it’s price – are you selling on value, not on price? i.e. stick tight to your quote and offer more value, rather than less price.
- Six common issues that can at least delay, and sometimes lose the business.
- Six simple strategies that will help to make sure they don’t happen.
- Smooth the way, win the business.
To find out more and consider other barrier solutions why not come along to the next Salient Seminar: ‘What’s Stopping You?’ Details HERE.
There may still be time to add to your sales this year
NOW is the time to put together your plan for next year’s sales
I meet many businesses that, if doing well, make no plans to ‘feed the pipeline’, to seek and win new business on a regular basis. At some stage, the feast will stop and famine will take over. At that stage it may be too late to ask these questions;
- Where will my sales come from?
– have you targeted specific markets and customers?
- have you followed up all previous opportunities?
- and be sure you’re given the chance to quote
- are you talking to the decision maker?
- Am I sufficiently skilled in pitching, negotiating and closing?
– enough to win the business?
- enough to ensure the best deal?
Did you have a sales plan for this year? If you did make a plan; you have now reached the fourth quarter of the year. Are you on plan?
DO YOU KNOW WHERE YOU’RE GOING?
You did make a plan? Good move; not enough businesses do. Too many rely on the ‘Field of Dreams’ principle of ‘If you build it they will come’. Unfortunately, business is never as simple as that. Building a business ready to supply the market is one thing, but;
- making it attractive to those who may buy from you
- developing an interest from those who could use your products and services
- showing how well you can fulfil their need
- securing the business by gaining their commitment, and
- delivering and exceeding their expectations
…are all skills that can be learned, developed and embedded into your selling process.
Selling need not be difficult, stressful or something to avoid! Selling can be ethical, simple, even fun! Being better at selling means winning more sales. But, you do need some useful skills and techniques to help ensure this happens.
So Plan – Action - Review. Review means measuring your progress against plan and making any changes needed to remain on, or exceed your plan. You cannot measure everything, but knowing where you are against your sales plan will help you to ensure positive progress and achievement.
So, you have a plan for next year? How about aligning it with you 5 year and 10 year plans?! Don’t rely on the short term view; turn that wish list into reality by making longer term plans for it to happen. Make sure you know where you’re going!
Salient Sales & Training - taking the pressure out of selling
(If you are not happy with your answers to any of the above questions, why not book on our next seminar? Details are on the website, under ‘Events’.
Communication and Buy-IN; are your customers and prospects fully engaged or merely notified?
I was training a group of 10 delegates a couple of weeks ago. They were a great bunch, very professional and clearly dedicated to the company. However, like many, they felt that contacts; customers or prospects; were not fully engaged with them. Their contacts would not respond promptly; weeks would go by with no response to a question, query or quote. Apparently, some quotes of considerable value were still outstanding and they had assumed that they had not been successful. Three things immediately sprang to mind:
FOLLOW-UP, ASSUMPTIONS and COMMUNICATION!
Any question, query or quote goes cold very quickly unless reinforced with a follow-up. They may be short of a single fact or simple clarification. ‘For a ha’porth of tar, the ship sank’ as they used to say….apparently.
This team had worked hard to offer what they felt the customer needed, but had stopped short of the follow-up. Looking keen and following up within a small number of days will only give good impressions and emphasise that yours is the company to engage in business.
This level of attention has three key benefits:
- It shows you’re keen
- It keeps you up to date with customer intentions
- It speeds up the sales process
Without effective follow-up, others will step in to take the business. The ‘personal touch’ will be lost and engagement will transfer to others who express more interest in working with them.
Rule 1 – follow-up, if you don’t, others will.
In each case assumptions have been made. It could be you are assuming you have little chance or the e business is not due to be placed yet. Maybe they have assumed that your lack of follow-up means you are less interested in the business. There are many other common assumptions and whichever side is making them, they are very dangerous and likely to damage your prospects of winning any business.
Rule 2 – never make assumptions; ASK! Summarise, clarify and confirm every time.
How you generally communicate can make a huge difference to the progress and success of the business you are chasing. I asked the team of delegates what forms of communication achieved the highest emotional connection or engagement, the most ‘buy-in’ from the customer. We produced this list in descending order. I then asked how they would usually communicate and in what proportion. The results speak for themselves:
Engagement % % usage of communication methods
Face to Face 90 5
Skype 50 5
Phone call 30 5
Letter 10 5
Email 5 90
The company relied almost wholly on email, but admitted this was the least effective when wanting to engage with customers or prospects. Despite the hard work and best of intentions, they had notified instead of engaged.
Rule 3 – if you claim to be a friendly and personable company to work with, don’t rely heavily on email for your communication. If in doubt, ask them, see them, call them, write to them; why not use two methods, write then call, or visit then write etc?
If your customers matter; and of course they do; work more closely with them to understand their need, to fulfill their need and to win the business. I am sure this team will now move forward by following up every contact and proposal as they certainly deserve the greater success it will bring.
It could be YOU!
- They might not like the look of you!
- Perhaps your opening line closed the conversation
- Your enthusiasm has overwhelmed them
- Your lack of enthusiasm has disappointed them
- Your garlic/coffee/curry breath has caused their spectacles to melt!
All these factors can have a negative result when attempting to sell. Have you noticed a common theme? They have little or nothing to do with your product or your sales skills.
In fact, many business opportunities are lost even before any attempt has been made to sell. This is simply because the seller hasn’t considered their own personal presentation. Such issues can also play a part in business conducted over the telephone or over the internet. Here the issue is ‘it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it’. We all know this to be true, but how often do we stop to think how this can apply to us and our business approach? First impressions are more about how we look, how we act, what we say and what we do.
Emotion has a huge effect on how we regard the people we meet. The emotion generated can have a positive or negative effect on any business being sought. Before we have even opened our mouths, the new prospect can have made a subconscious decision not to do business with us! Are we guilty of self-sabotage without realising it?
It is true; we do business with people we like. Often, we decide whether we like them or not within just a few seconds of meeting them. Yes, first impressions are very important.
Next time you want to approach someone whom you think may be a prospective customer, take a moment to consider:
- Do I look the part?
- Would a mouth spray help?!
- Am I prepared to listen before I attempt to sell?
- Do I have an interesting opening line and elevator pitch?
- Will my enthusiasm for my business be seen as being keen or aggressive?
- How can I help them?
……and only then, how can they help me?
Give yourself a chance! Once these questions are answered positively, you stand a good chance of winning their hearts and their business.
To me there are three possible answers to this.
(The ‘not quite hilarious’ answer is number 3.)
At the end I will challenge you to find a fourth!
3 possible answers:
1/ When I was part of the ‘corporate world’; field-selling and directing sales for larger companies; the glib answer to this was ‘None’, that’s the Marketer’s job’. This old chestnut was coined by territorial salesmen who neither understood nor respected the valuable work done by the marketers (or ‘marketeers’ as some like to call themselves). The reply was at best, mildly amusing, but, to me, it simply emphasized the big divide between the sales and marketing departments.
For whatever size of business, sales and marketing need to work together. Good marketing raises your profile and attracts new customers but does not ‘win’ the business. Sales skills are needed when the new prospects contact your business. Good marketing can result in a much faster and easier sale as you avoid having to find and make contact with new prospects. But remember; the sale will not just happen; you will still need to pitch, negotiate and close, and then manage the new client.
2/ The real answer to ‘how many sales people…?’ If the marketing has been done effectively, then the customer will have realised;
- the value of a light bulb (it’s gone dark), thus identifying the need, and….
- a good idea of how the product (the light bulb) is applied (screwed-in).
A helpful sales person may then show the customer how to achieve more light by buying and inserting the new bulb, thus, fulfilling the need. However, at the end of the day, it is the customer’s responsibility to actually screw-in the bulb. So, again, the answer is ‘none’!
3/ The answer is 2; one holds the light bulb still, while the sales manager makes the world revolve around him (as he likes to think it does)….
HERE’S THE CHALLENGE: let me know your suggestions for answers to the question:
HOW MANY SALES PEOPLE DOES IT TAKE TO CHANGE A LIGHT BULB?!!
Answers may be humorous, ironic, or simply thought-provoking. The best entry will win a half-day of one-to-one sales & marketing coaching, aimed at lighting the way ahead for your business and helping you to grow your sales. (This can be in person at the Salient office in Royal Wootton Bassett, or by Skype and email.)
The winner will be decided on May 31st 2015.