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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.

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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.

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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

Why Creating Value For Your Customer Beats Giving Price Discounts

Customers want value for money. It’s time to rethink your pricing strategy (without losing your margins).

Ed Hatton

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Win More Sales

Businesses that can prove and deliver the greatest value can ask their price.

Pricing strategy may be low on the priority list, but complaints about competitors’ low prices get a lot of attention. It’s time to rethink your pricing strategy and rules.

For most of us, pricing is a cost-plus system, the calculated cost of an item is marked up by a percentage to get the selling price, which may then be discounted to match competitive prices. This method assumes that your cost is the lowest it could be, which is rarely true. It is likely you could drive down costs by smarter purchasing or more efficient manufacturing.

The second wrong assumption is that the mark-up percentage is correct; it is more likely to be a long-ago rounded off thumb suck of what you need to run the business, and out of date in this economy. Crucially, cost plus pricing ignores the value that a customer gains when buying the product.

Research shows that customers increasingly seek value for money and will even pay a premium for value. This is especially true of young people, but all classes of buyers, from giant corporates to very poor individuals, seek value over price. Many tenders are not awarded to the lowest bidder but to the supplier best able to deliver. Very poor people buy expensive branded food because they are trusted.

Companies hesitate to switch suppliers only for price, particularly where delivery and quality are vital. With all this evidence that value is important, it’s time to rethink your pricing.

Related: Take Your Sales Skills To The Next Level With These 5 Simple Steps

Determining value

Ask your customers what factors are important when choosing suppliers. Price will always be one factor, but focus on the others. Your goal is to become the supplier that best matches all their needs. In many cases, you may even be able to increase your price. Bottled water sells for anything from R5 to R50 a bottle, simply based on the buyer’s perception of the health and other values of that brand. You can get a website and brand identity for less than R10 000 or more than R1 million — neither are the wrong price, it depends what the buyer needs. Get all the information you can and don’t rely on your own or your sales team’s perception of customer needs.

What happens if you cannot make money at the price the customers see value in the item? Start a harsh examination of your buying or manufacturing efficiencies. At the same time re-examine the margin calculation — lean businesses need less margin than lazy ones. If you still cannot make or buy it economically, consider changing your pricing strategy.

Pricing strategies

Convenience pricing is offering a bundle of goods and services for a single price or monthly fee. The customer can easily assess affordability and decide if this offers value. Cell phone suppliers and motor dealers adopt this pricing method. You buy a car for a single monthly fee including the car, warranty, maintenance plan, roadside assist, financing and other items. Both customer and seller are satisfied.

Value-based pricing sees the price determined by the value of the product or service to the individual buyer. The most skilled value-based pricing experts are the street hawkers who are quick to assess the value a student, a businesswoman or a tourist may put on an item. Public speakers have different prices for different audiences like large businesses, start-ups and NGOs — I use this method.

Related: Accurately Predict Future Sales With These Two Things

Incentive-based pricing is widely used in the IT and construction industries. It works on the basis that the price is variable and depends on the performance of the supplier. An IT project may have a nominal price but bonuses are paid for early completion, being below budget or developing more than the requirements. Conversely, not meeting deadlines, delivering late, poor quality or incomplete systems will reduce the price eventually paid. Consider if your business can use one of these highly effective pricing strategies.

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Sales Strategy & Management

What Is Customer Intimacy And How Do You Use It?

If you think that maintaining a close relationship with customers is not as important as selling your products, you are wrong.

Clarissa Fleischer

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Knowing your customers well is a major part of being a successful marketing company. When companies do not connect with their customers, this is when they lose loyalty, revenue and positive customer sentiments. And in today’s world of hyper-connectivity and improved brand interactions, not being connected to your consumers can damage your brand in the long run.

If you think that maintaining a close relationship with customers is not as important as selling your products, you are wrong.Customer intimacy should be a top priority for any company who wants to maintain their success.

But, what exactly is customer intimacy?

Simply put, it is a business strategy that is based on paying close attention to the needs of your customers and ensuring that these needs are met and prioritised at all points of their journey with your company. It often involves close contact with customers using a variety of different channels and techniques. You need them to know that you care about their needs and understand what they are asking for.

You could think of it as segmenting your audience and creating specific offerings to precisely match their needs. If you want to excel at using customer intimacy, you will need to combine your in-depth knowledge of your customer with the ability to be flexible in your operations. This way, you can respond to any customer needs as quickly as possible, maintaining the high standards they have come to expect from your brand.

How do I use it?

Now that you understand what customer intimacy is, you are ready to delve deeper and figure out how to use it. There are some simple tips that you can use to implement customer intimacy in your current marketing strategy. Outlined below are just some of these effective methods.

Always prioritise your customers

This is the first step to any successful customer intimacy strategy. Prioritising your customers means that you need to set up operational processes which are “customer first” in their thinking. You will need to start by listening to customers and analysing their concerns. Only once you understand these concerns, will you be able to provide solutions.

It is important to look into processes that prioritise these concerns rather than react negatively to them. An example of this is avoiding looking at how many calls your client service team takes in a day but rather looking at the goals that they achieve when answering customer queries. Have they answered the customer’s question? Is there a resolution in sight for the problem? These are a more important metric to look at than how many calls are answered in a day.

Try to resolve problems

In order to become more customer-intimate, you should strive to solve the problems that arise rather than discourage people from coming to you with issues. And your brand should make customers feel as though they can share their grievances, either by contacting you directly or by writing a review on your social media page.

Statistics show that customers share a bad experience twice as often than they do a positive one, which could be highly detrimental to your company. So, when your customers do take the time to contact your business with either a positive or negative review, you have to have steps in place to resolve these problems. Use these complaints to improve your processes and your customer service section, so that the next time someone contacts you, it will be with compliments and not complaints.

Set goals that your entire company must follow

One of the most effective ways to become a customer-centric company is to set common goals that all of your employees must follow. For example, one goal could be to answer customer questions within 24 hours with a solution that is realistic and achievable. Or you could aim to improve your project turn-around time by gathering information from clients at every stage of their journey.

Whatever goals you set for your business, you will need to ensure that every employee adheres to them. Leaders need to set an example for their staff so that the customers, ultimately, reap the benefits. But be sure that your goals are attainable. You cannot expect your employees to reach the unreachable, as this will negatively impact the level of customer service you can provide consumers. Look at the data that is coming in from customer calls and interactions and use this to come up with goals that you can reach. 

The customer is always right

We often use this saying in a joking or derivative way, but it is truer than you might think, especially for marketing companies. In today’s world, the consumer wants brands to focus on them. In fact, if a brand ignores even the smallest form of contact with a customer, there could be an issue. And this is why you need to become a customer-intimate brand.

You need to prioritise the needs of the customer at every touchpoint in their journey with your brand, solve any problems that might arise and ensure that everyone is on the same page in your company. Soon you will see that your customers are singing your praises to everyone they meet.

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Sales Strategy & Management

How To Use Sales Skills To Build Your Business

If you want to build your business up, read on below for how to use sales skills to do so.

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Building your business from the ground up is no easy feat. You might feel overwhelmed by all the ways and methods that are available to you but there is one way that can help your efforts immensely, and that is by using sales skills. Sales skills might not seem like they are applicable to building a business, but what is a business without sale people?

You could look into a sales accelerator for business development course to improve your selling skills. Sales training courses can be useful, as they will teach you about sales techniques and sales strategy, which you can apply to other aspects of your business. So, if you want to build your business up, read on below for how to use sales skills to do so.

Listen to existing customers

An effective way to improve your business offerings is to listen to your existing customers. Listening is actually more complex than it seems, and it means that you have to do a lot less talking. This will help you to truly hear your customers and take stock of what they are saying.

Listening to existing customers is one of the best sales and marketing strategies you can use to improve your business. This is especially true if you have built a relationship and rapport with your current customer base, as this will encourage them to give you insights into any issues they might be facing. Whether you are a small business or a large company, listening to customers is always helpful.

Related: The 15 Characteristics of People Who Succeed at Sales

Try to solve a problem

Solving a problem is a marketing plan that is effective and sure to work in building your business. And a great salesperson knows that solving the problem of a potential customer is a sure-fire way to improving the conversion rate of their business.

You will need to do some research into the problems that your target market faces and then focus on how your products or services can be used to solve these problems. This ties into the first step of listening, not only to your existing clients but to potential ones too. Listen to what people are saying and learn to read what is being said. This way, you will be able to ascertain the problems your customers are facing and you can come up with solutions to fix them.

Use word of mouth

Existing customers can be a huge help to your business, in that they can provide you with positive referrals to use to boost your client base. If a customer is happy with the services or products you have provided them with, you can ask them for the name and contact details of other business owners who might benefit from your help.

You can also ask for positive testimonials from customers that you can place on your business site and social media platforms. You should always ask permission before using testimonials, and be sure that they are factual, true and relevant to your brand. Referrals and testimonials are common sales tactics that can be applied to boosting a small business or improving the reputation of an established company. And while nobody enjoys receiving negative reviews, it is important that you use these reviews to learn from your mistakes and improve your customer experiences.

Sell your vision

Building your business might involve reaching out to investors to help with monetary issues, and this is where your sales skills will really need to shine. This is because you are not only selling your business, but you are selling your vision of your business as well.

You will need to give specific details as to how your offerings will help customers to solve problems and answer questions. And you will need to sell a successful vision to your investors of how you want your business to success. Show them that your employees will be happy with how well they are taken care of and that customers will live a better life by using your services or product.

Related: Take Your Sales Skills To The Next Level With These 5 Simple Steps

Exceed customer expectations

When a salesperson goes over and above what the customer expects, it is likely that the customer will become a return customer. And this is what you want for your business, right? So you should look into ways in which you can meet and exceed customer expectations.

One of the benefits of always exceeding expectations is that you will no longer have to rely on the “hard sell” to encourage people to use your business. Word-of-mouth will travel about your excellent customer service, which will sell your business for you. If your brand is passionate about providing customers with the best possible service, you will be selling your business and improving it all at once.

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