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Sales Strategy & Management

How to Give Your Sales Strategy the Winning Edge

A sales plan that will sky-rocket your profits.

Casandra Visser

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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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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:

  1. Attend industry events. Networking is a tried and tested way for connecting with potential customers in a relaxed environment.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.

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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.

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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.

Recommended Reading:

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.

Feedback!

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.

Recommended Reading:

Sell Value

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.

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Killer Presentations

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.

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Listen Up!

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Casandra Visser is a Digital Marketing & Content Strategist and writes for Entrepreneur Media SA.

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Sales Strategy & Management

You Have Less Than 7 Weeks Left To Turn Your 2017 Around

Implement these 5 steps and achieve 2017 revenue targets and set up a great start to 2018.

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It’s no secret that 2017 has been tough for the majority, with less than 7 weeks to go before business winds up for the year. I’ve summarised an effective sales plan that will help you accelerate your way to success before the year ends.

Referred to as the “championship rounds” in boxing, the last few meters of a 100M sprint, be smart with the last bit of mental energy you have left and sell, sell, sell.

Implement these 5 steps and achieve 2017 revenue targets and set up a great start to 2018.

1Be Laser Focused on Your Customers

You’ll never be one size fits all to everyone, review your client base and define 3 to 5 groups of customers that your business serves, and solves problems for.

Grouping Map

  • Customers that behave similarly, have similar problems and face similar circumstances.
  • Define the groups by age, volume, category, geographic location, and similar demographics. The more components you assign to each group, the better you understand them, and effectively communicate your services to them, ultimately solving their pain points.
  • Personalise with a name it e.g. Sarah is a 30-year-old white collar worker that lives in the urban area, earns R30 000 a month in household income, she sends money back home each month “Black Tax” to support family members that lives in a rural area.

Related: Have We Lost Our Face-To-Face Sales Ability?

2What Goes Through Their Minds Before Making a Purchase?

  • Whether it’s subconscious or psychological, people buy solutions to problems, especially in a tight economy.
  • In order to stay relevant to your customers yesterday today and tomorrow. Continue to evolve and develop your products and services to ensure you are solutions driven.

3Build The Right Pitch

As each of your customer group face their unique challenges. Build a pitch that positions your communication for each customer group to maximise effectiveness.

Follow these 5 important pitch building steps

  • Who is the consumer?
  • What is the pain point that you’re looking to solve?
  • What is the setback for your consumer to not have that pain point solved?
  • What do you do to solve that pain point?
  • What is the result for your consumer, of having that pain point solved?

Once you’ve built the pitch, utilising them adequately, and start selling!

4Implement Your Strategy

This revenue-generating strategy has 2 aspects: hunting (Active) and farming (Reactive)

  • Hunting takes on the form of outbound action. Searching, meeting and engaging with your potential clients. In short, stepping out and finding your customers.
  • Farming is more reactive, it is known as inbound selling. You farm by leaving breadcrumbs that lead your customers towards your services. This is done by generating practical content and using digital platforms to attract attention towards your services or products.
  • Build a calendar for your hunting and farming activities, for the next 12 weeks, and specify tasks for each day.

Related: Savvy Sales Skills To Grow Your Franchise Footprint

5Execute, Measure, Adjust

  • Hunting: Make 10 calls before 10 am each day, make use of a sales script, this forms part of your daily activities.
  • Farming: Schedule a week’s worth of social media content to post.
  • After week one find out which group gives you the best response, tweak it & carrying on.

This plan will help you to notice which approaches yield the best results. You’re able to remove what doesn’t work and focus your time on what leads to the most sales. May this help you turn the last 7 weeks of the business year into a profitable one.

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Sales Strategy & Management

Email Is Great But Face-To-Face Meetings Are 34 Times More Successful

If your goal is to communicate, talking is a lot better than typing.

John Rampton

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We have all of the advances in communication technology – Skype, FaceTime, Slack. etc. Yet, nothing beats a good, old fashioned email. It’s quick, easy-to-use and, best of all, it’s free.

Email remains one of the most effective and important marketing channels for brands. It’s even popular among millennials since they don’t enjoy talking to people on the phone. I love email but recent research has found that it may not as persuasive as talking to someone face-to-face.

The research was reported in Harvard Business Review and published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. It suggests the success of a face to face is due to the lack of personal connection we experience today. The lack of actual one-on-one connection to someone can ultimately cost us what we really want.

For the study researchers Mahdi Roghanizad and Vanessa K. Bohns instructed 45 participants to each ask 10 strangers to complete a survey. Half of the volunteers sent their requests via email while the other half found people to ask in person. The exact wording was used for both groups.

The experiment found that the face-to-face requests were 34 times more likely to garner positive responses than the emails. As Bohns explained in the Harvard Business Review: “In our studies, participants were highly attuned to their own trustworthiness and the legitimacy of the action they were asking others to take when they sent their emails. Anchored on this information, they failed to anticipate what the recipients of their emails were likely to see: an untrustworthy email asking them to click on a suspicious link.”

However, the researchers did not look into how these results would have differed if the participants had contacted acquaintances instead. It’s possible that asking someone you know as opposed to a stranger through email would have better results.

Related: From Bane To Boon: How To Turn Email Marketing To Your Advantage

There’s something about face-to-face communication that email, or any text-based communication for that matter, just can’t top.

Personal communication seems best – whether you know the person or not. You should never underestimate the power of face-to-face communication.

1Nonverbal cues

Body language is extremely important when it comes to communication. It’s not how you said something, but also your facial expressions and body posture. All of these cues are lost in emails.

In fact, around 93 percent of communication effectiveness is determined by nonverbal cues. And, that’s not limited to strangers. Studies have have found that even you closest friends can’t interpret your emotions in emails.

2Authentic, trust building experience

All people, even millennials, still demand intimate and face-to-face encounters to build a more authentic and trustworthy relationship. At some point we should communicate with other people through a webcam, FaceTime, or conference tools like GoToMeeting.

3The power of touch

the-power-of-touch

According to Psychology Today, humans are wired to interpret the touch of our fellow humans. Touch can promote bonding and cooperation. Studies have found that seemingly insignificant touches yield bigger tips for waitresses. People shop and buy more if they’re touched by a store greeter. Strangers are more likely to help someone if a touch accompanies the request.

4Drives participation

Maybe it has something to do with mimicry and mirroring. When you’re in the same room with someone else it encourages them to engage and participate in whatever action is going on. So, if you ask a colleague to do a task, there’s a good chance that the person next to them is going to get moving instead of sitting there doing nothing.

Related: Email Campaign Wisdom From South African Digital Marketing Sages

5More efficient

Face-to-face meetings are usually shorter than conference calls. That’s probably because when on the phone everyone sits there quietly with their phones on mute until the discussion is over. I’ve been guilty of this numerous times.

Since you can’t pick-up on body language, you can’t see how disengaged the audience is. This action can keep you rambling on while the attendees start to drift in and out.

With face-to-face situations you can pick-up these non-verbal cues, which in turn pressures you to get directly to the point.

6Easier to sell yourself

It’s much more difficult to sell yourself over an email. Take Marie Forleo and Gary Vaynerchuk, for example. They’re both extremely charismatic people who were born to be in front of the camera. No matter how knowledgeable they are, reading a piece of text from them is nowhere near as engaging as watching one of their videos.

The takeaway

Make face-to-face communication a priority whether it’s meeting a prospective client for the first time or scheduling semi-regular meetings with your team.

If you can’t do so in person, then at least use your webcam or apps like Skype. It’s not exactly the same, but it’s going to be more effective than only email communication – especially when you have a request.

Related: Email Campaign Wisdom From South African Digital Marketing Sages – Part 2

According to Bohns:

“If your office runs on email and text-based communication, it’s worth considering whether you could be a more effective communicator by having conversations in person. It is often more convenient and comfortable to use text-based communication than to approach someone in-person, but if you overestimate the effectiveness of such media, you may regularly – and unknowingly – choose inferior means of influence.”

Getting rejected in-person sucks. But, is that fear of rejection really worth avoiding a face-to-face when it’s far more likely that you’re going to get a “yes” instead of a “no?”

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Sales Strategy & Management

Why Selling Is More Important Than Building

Don’t start a business unless you know how you’ll sell your product. Once you start selling, you can build a track record. Once you have a track record, the world is your oyster.

Alan Knott-Craig

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Everyone told me I had a great business idea, but I’m finding it very hard to get traction in the market. How do I get people to know about my business? I can’t afford a big advertising campaign. — Anonymous

Most people think building product is the hard part about a start-up. Bad news: Building is the easy part. It’s sales that takes real hard work and brains. If you can’t afford to market your product, you can’t start a start-up. Before you start a business, make sure you have a customer. Minimise your downside risk by ensuring there is demand.

If you have a consumer product, the only way to grow without pushing money into marketing campaigns is by word of mouth. It takes a long time to build critical mass via word of mouth, so you need a long runway, ie. cash in the bank. Don’t start unless you have two years’ funding in place.

Finding your customer

If you have a B2B product, it’s a bit easier. Finding one or two customers is usually enough to pay your overheads. The trick is finding the customer. If you have no potential customers in your personal network, then find a partner that does.

I’m not making much traction with revenue generation. Everything hinges on conversations that are either not happening, taking too long or happening with the wrong people. Am I missing something or is it my lack of relationship capital? Should I get a job again?
— Anonymous

Related: 8 Tips for Dominating Online Sales

Here are some thoughts:

  1. If you don’t have enough cash, you have no choice but to opt for safer income and build a buffer before chasing your dream.
  2. If you can squeeze in another six months, do it. Give it 100% for six months, if you still have no success then give up. You’ll just feel foolish if you find out you gave up just before the finish line.
  3. There is no shame in quitting. Sometimes you’re on the wrong path. Don’t let your ego stop you from retracing your steps and taking another fork. You have one life, don’t waste it.

Keep chasing meetings with new people

I can’t give any advice or contacts that could increase your odds of success, except to encourage you to keep chasing meetings with new folks. Let your passion show and maybe someone will give you the break you need.

Success is a game of finding one backer. Forget about the 100 dead-ends, all you need is to find the one winning path.

What do you think of the experience paradox? Everywhere I look, you need experience to get a job, but a job to get experience. It seems you’re finally hitting the right level of experience as you’re getting ready to retire. Jobs are not my path. Your thoughts? — Josh

Which comes first: Sales or track record? How do you get your first sale without a track record? How do you get a track record without your first sale? It’s like trying to figure out whether the chicken comes before the egg.

The answer is: Your first sale comes first. When it comes to your sale, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. Somewhere along the line someone needs to give you a break. A stranger won’t take a chance on you unless they have a reference from someone they trust. You need to shamelessly work your network to get your first sale.

Related: 5 Tips To Generate Sales Leads Through Social Media

You need to develop a network

If you have no network because you went to a crappy school, or your parents are poor (or dead), or you’re in a brand new country, or whatever, then life is tricky.

The only way to break into the system is to pick a company you admire and do whatever it takes to get a foot in the door. Work for free as the floor cleaner. Work so hard that it’s impossible to be ignored.

While working in that company, you are building a network of people that can one day potentially buy from you. When you’re ready, sell to that network. Once you start selling, you can build a track record. Once you have a track record, the world is your oyster.

Ask Al

Do you have a burning start-up question?
Email: alan@herotel.com


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