Sales is all about getting customers to buy from you instead of your competition across the street but sitting around and hoping it will happen is not exactly a sound strategy.
A well thought out sales strategy is going to mean the difference between your business barely surviving, if at all, and getting your slice of the profits.
“The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do.” ― Michael E. Porter
What is a Sales Strategy?
A sales strategy is your game plan. It’s a way for you to implement, measure and monitor your sales processes so that you are continuously growing, innovating and most importantly making sales.
The same way that a business and marketing plan are important when starting a business so too is a sales strategy.
Without knowing how you plan to approach customers, pitch your product or service to them and get them to sign on the dotted line, you and your sales team are going to be aimlessly making calls or attending meetings only to be told no. Many business owners make the mistake of thinking that a marketing strategy is enough to help them achieve their goals when in fact sales and marketing work hand-in-hand.
Developing a Strong Sales Strategy
There are several steps that you can go through as you develop your sales plan.
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- Determine Your Short and Long Term Revenue Goals. This section of your sales strategy will relate back to your business plan if you’re a start-up or to your annual financial goals if you’re already an established business. Keep a record of your financial objectives so that you can set targets for your sales team as well as refer back to it on a quarterly basis to make sure that you are on track.
- Determine Your Current Market Position. How are you positioned in the market in relation to your competitors? Your marketing plan should be able to assist you with this information. If you aren’t exactly where you want to be, set yourself new goals so that you can plan for how you intend to get there. In this section you can also develop or reaffirm your unique value proposition as this will be key when pitching to clients.
- Map Out Your Sales Process. Step-by-step, walk through the process that one of your sales people would go through from start to finish with a potential client. Are you making use of the best possible techniques and approaches based on your product, sales cycle and type of customer? You can even turn it around and walk through the process from a client’s point of view and ask yourself whether you would be happy with this approach. If need be, re-evaluate the steps in your sales process and what you can do to not only save your business time and money but also what can be done to increase customer satisfaction, speed up the sales process and ultimately boost your sales.
- Marketing Plan vs Sales Plan. It’s important to establish whether your sales and marketing plans marry to avoid conveying a different branding and sales message to your market or even the wrong market. Read through your marketing plan again. It might just give you ideas about which sales techniques would work best for your market.
- Brief Your Sales Team. Your sales people all need to be on the same page when it comes to company and financial goals, your unique value proposition and of course your sales processes in order for your business to have a fighting chance against your competition. Train your sales team on a regular basis and ask them for feedback to ensure that everyone has the best possible understanding of what needs to be achieved.
- Monitor and Adjust. By keeping an eye on your financial targets you will quickly be able to see if your sales plan is not effective so make a point of constantly reviewing incoming sales and how close you are to your revenue goals. This way you can find out what isn’t working and how your sales processes can be adjusted or improved upon.
A sales plan should be simple enough to be adjusted at any stage of your business should something not be working out. The point of having a plan is having the ability to keep track of your progress so refer back to your sales strategy regularly if you want to stay ahead of the pack.
How and Where to Find New Customers
Don’t feel bad if customers aren’t flooding you with phonecalls or flocking to your doors. Finding new clients is a battle that many new entrepreneurs face but with a sound sales plan and a few tactics up your sleeve you can overcome this rather quickly.
Here are a couple suggestions for how you can attract new customers:
- Attend industry events. Networking is a tried and tested way for connecting with potential customers in a relaxed environment.
- Open day. Promote a day or evening when customers can come and try your services or products free of charge. Make sure you wow them to get them to come back.
- Create a PR campaign. You don’t necessarily have to hire a PR company for this. You can send a press release to publications and websites that your target market reads on a regular basis for some exposure. You might even want to throw in a discount offer to the readers.
- Partner up. Find another business that targets the same market as you and find a way to team up with them in order to access the same database. Make sure that there’s a benefit in it for them too though.
- Try something new. If your business is really struggling to attract new clients, perhaps you should look at trying a new marketing method. Brainstorm with your team to discover hidden opportunities that you might have overlooked.
- Ask for referrals. If you already have a handful of clients, why not ask for a referral from them. You could even create an incentive for receiving new business via a customer referral.
- Get listed. Depending on the nature of your business, listing it in directories such as the Yellow Pages might be the perfect way to start developing a customer base.
- Design a brochure. Create a simple flyer advertising your special opening offer and hand them out in peak time traffic. This is a great low cost idea for retail type businesses.
Remember that in sales, as soon as you stop making an effort to attract new customers, the quicker you will run out of profits. You have to make an effort every week to find, impress and retain new clients if you want your business to survive so live your brand and get your team on board too.
Increase Sales & Your Customer Base
Just because you have a stable client base in place doesn’t mean that you can now sit back and relax. There’s always another company out there looking to give your customers a reason to leave you so you and your team need to do everything in your power to make sure that, that doesn’t happen.
Customer Retention Strategy
When it comes to retaining your customers you need to keep them as happy as possible and it all starts with outstanding customer service.
Consumers will always return to a place of business where they were treated well by all staff members. In some cases, great customer service even beats having a cheaper price so make it a priority. Train your staff on a regular basis on company values and how the business operates to provide your customers with the very best experience possible.
Give your customers a chance to provide you with feedback from time to time too. This could provide you with the most valuable insight into what you could be doing better and processes that could be improved upon. You can never receive negative feedback, just lessons on how to keep your business at the top of its game.
If one of your clients is experiencing an issue with your business resolve it as quickly as possible. Many consumers don’t have a lot of patience and would rather move to a brand that can offer them what they need.
Tip: Know which clients are bad for business. Even though turning away revenue seems ridiculous, there are some clients who will take every bit of energy that you have and still provide you with small returns. Recognise when you need to make the decision to remove certain customers from your list.
Landing Bigger Clients
Landing that first big client is a dream for many business owners but make no mistake that it will require some hard work and dog-headed determination.
Networking is going to play a key role in getting in touch with executives from the larger companies that you are looking to pitch. Sometimes you might even get lucky and connect with the decision maker themselves so know your elevator pitch and have a business card at the ready. Asking customers for referrals would be the next option for possibly getting a meeting with a larger firm so keep your current clients happy.
The lead up to getting your dream client means you have to think long term. Larger companies generally won’t spend a large sum of money with a business they don’t trust. You have to be prepared to build a strong relationship with them first before any decisions can be made and this can sometimes entail convincing multiple parties that your product is worth their while.
The first step will be to get your foot in the door. Know who the final decision maker will be and work your way up to getting them on the phone or better yet, getting a meeting with them. This usually means that you are going to have to get through a few gatekeepers so they should be your first priority. Impress the gatekeepers and treat them with respect as they could be the one thing that stands between you and your first big client. If you only manage to get the email address of an executive then send them an email introducing yourself and find out when would be the best time to give them a call instead of trying to sell them your product or service in an email.
If you do manage to get through to a top executive or manage to secure a meeting with one, make sure you know their processes and exactly how they go about doing businesses with new firms. Should you be speaking to someone from a specific department? What sort of turnaround time can you expect due to multiple sign offs that are needed? Showing a prospect that you understand their business and respect their processes will only increase your chances of a yes.
Since larger prospects are always a bit weary of doing business with someone new, why not offer them a trial run with your business or offer them a six month discount so that they can get a feel for what your business is like without breaking the bank.
Tip: Landing a big deal could take a year or two so don’t rely on one big client to help your business survive. Ensure that you are still getting smaller customers on board and that you are taking care of them.
Successful Sales Techniques
The number of sales techniques that you can use to promote your products or services is endless but there are a few key tips that you can remember that will help you along the way regardless of the type of business you are running.
Deciding on a specific sales technique will require a little trial and error so get as much feedback as possible from both your prospects and your sales team. How you sell to potential customers will also depend on your specific product or service and how it fits into their lives so keep this in mind when developing your sales strategy.
Ask yourself: Why should my customers care?
So you have a great product but why should your customers be interested and what value is it to them? If you don’t have an answer to this question, you’re going to have a hard time trying to convince potential customers why they should invest their hard earned money in your product or service.
What is it about your product that is different from your competitors and how will it benefit your clients. For example you might be able to offer a well-priced Photoshop course but what you really want to sell is the fact that your customers will be able to advance their own careers by completing the course and can eventually be earning a lot more money. Once you sell your prospects on this, the price will be a secondary though to them.
It’s hard work trying to get in front of a client so once you do, be ready to wow them. Selling is going beyond the basic PowerPoint presentation so find a way to make your sales pitch catchy and to the point. Don’t forget to make it more about how your prospect will benefit and less about product features.
There is nothing worse than someone who doesn’t let you get a word in or ask any questions so instead of diving right into a pitch, engage in a two-way conversation with your potential customer so that you can establish their core needs and how you can fulfil them.
Don’t Sell for the Sake of It
Your product or service is not for everyone. Sometimes sales people might be so eager to make a sale that they will waste time on the wrong prospects. This is where the importance of a sales strategy and training comes into play. Help your sales force to build a pipeline that consists of the right kind of prospects so that they can dedicate their time to what counts.
It Doesn’t End There
Making a sale is a great feeling but if you think it ends there then you are making a grave mistake. After-sales service is just as important as everything that comes before it. Why settle for one sale from a client when by looking after them you can get five more? Many companies tend to use a CRM system to assist them with this.
Preparation is Powerful
Going into a sale unprepared nearly always leads to a delayed decision or complete rejection so you aren’t doing yourself any favours by winging it. Be on time, dress the part and remember to smile. Confidence is directly related to how prepared you’re so know who you are meeting with, how their company operates and how you’re planning to close the sale.