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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Key Tips To Retain Customer And Improve Sales In Ecommerce Sites
If the ideas you are selling are fresh, innovative or even intuitive, you might gain customers, but retaining them actually determines the exact ROIs you can gain from your venture.
Ecommerce in simpler terms is the activity of buying and selling of goods and services over the web. With the increasing reach and accessibility of internet day by day, online mode of business transactions is gaining prominence. For any business, retaining customers is more advantageous than acquiring new ones.
The root of customer retention for any business digs deep. And here are few stats to show the depth of its importance:
- Almost around 41% of online revenues generated are from retained customers that too just by 8% of the retention rate.
- If an ecommerce site can increase their customer retention by mere 5% rate their sales can increase by 25% to even 125%.
- Unsatisfactory customer service takes a toll on a business. About 71% of unsatisfied customers end their relation with the vendor.
As the importance of customer retention is being cleared, the next question to pop up is the method of retaining customers. You have to keep note of the important aspects that lead to retaining customers effectively. Here are a few handpicked proven ways to retain your customers and thus improve the sales.
1. Gesture of appreciation
A simple gesture of appreciation or offer or discount can do wonders in enhancing sales. Unexpected surprises or gifts are something which is appreciated by everyone and can cement your relation with your customers.
For this you can add extra discounts, offer vouchers or can send the customer some gifts with a handwritten ‘thank you’ note couple of days after buying. This unexpected gesture of appreciation will divert customers’ attention towards your site.
2. Email marketing
Your customers already provide you with data about their choices and preferences. However continuous email campaign is a subtle but effective way of expanding your customer database. Expand the items that are being added in the emails.
Try to innovate the offers and discounts, add newer items to increase your customer’s preferences and keep tracking them. Track which sequence of emails is gaining the highest hits.
3. Gold membership
Probably the most used, yet efficient way of customer retention is VIP privileges and Gold membership etc. A policy including reward points and hierarchical VIP status enabling your customers to various privileges offers etc. act as significant ways of improving sales. The alluring offers and VIP memberships will entice your customers to shop more.
4. Customer Services
A seemingly consistent and personalised customer service is what controls most of the brands nowadays. Most of the market researches show that it’s the customers who modulate and decide the fates of the brand. So be where your customers are for cementing a professional relation with them.
5. Showing diligence
Just occasional email campaigning and gifts and vouchers aren’t enough for successful customer retention. In the era of high-end competition, if you are not careful about the needs, preferences, requirements and most importantly, the complaints of your customers, no matter how much offers or VIP privileges are provided, customer retention is impossible.
Being proactive to the needs of customers, engaging them continuously as well as collecting and reacting to their feedbacks are the three major steps for any customer retention scheme.
6. Create value for Customers
If you are buying online , will you choose to buy from a website that sells low quality products at a cheap price? The answer is certainly no because everybody desires for quality in terms of shopping. Also, cost alone isn’t valued by customers, there have to be multiple components of value addition to optimise the overall shopping experience for your customers. As an e-commerce company, you need to master the elements of making a successful e-commerce website and later work upon your plan.
7. Limited period offers
Almost all ecommerce sites nowadays follow the policy of giving limited period offers and big bash discounts etc. A large-scale promotion before the said offer period, and some lucrative offers along with VIP privileges can help.
Improvising the existing privileges too can lure the existing customers into more shopping and hence enhance online retail sales.
8. Transparency in sales
Honesty is the key to success in any field of life. An ecommerce business site is no different. It takes painful long period of time for building up a company’s reputation. The only cue card that vouches for the reputation is transparency in sales and company’s policy.
The more transparent you are the better feed you get in return. So, whatever be the service you provide, keeping hidden policies and hidden charges is a strict no-no.
9. Promise and supply gap
It’s good to aspire for more, for bigger contracts, more sales but aspiration shouldn’t blindfold your capabilities. Continuous offerings to customers, more discounts and bigger promise for retaining them shouldn’t go beyond your limits and you end up giving lower outputs in reality.
This, in long run, hinders your company’s reputation to a considerable extent as well. So, promise only according to your limits and not beyond.
10. Building up a customer community
Humans are social beings by nature. The brand you are selling can actually act as a platform for different customers. Add a community chat room in your site where your customers or the Gold members can login by their credentials and discuss the pros and cons, offer fresh ideas, match and compare their services etc.
This allows for a rigorous service assessment, customer needs, and fresh idea generation for increasing sales and knowing the pulse of the shopper.
11. Enhancing social shares
This is an add-on feature of the preceded one. Your clients are your potential buyers some of whom are even potential giant-scale buyers. To churn the need of buying in them, incentivise your social platforms. You can do that by putting brand ambassadors’ photographs and ask for a competition amongst the clients.
Alluring offers and gifts for the winners will also make it an enticing professional deal. This can act in both retention and outreaching to newer clients. Also, these gifts and competitions can enhance the word-of-mouth publicity as well.
To wrap it up
Retaining customer is as important as reaching new ones. In fact in long term, customer retention plays a pivotal role. So a proper, polite and courteous customer service, a prompt feedback and complaint resolving team, transparent policies and quality performance on-time are few attributes that can retain customers and take your business sky high.
The Pros And Cons Of Selling To Your Friends And Family
Don’t ignore the first stages of engagement, just because they don’t result in immediate purchases.
“When starting out in business, the first people that you rely on to test out a product and pricing are those closest to you or as we teach the kids in the FutureProof programmes, low hanging fruit. But what do you need to keep in mind when using this as your first customer set? The feedback loop from selling to these people will be skewed and if you know this, you can build a business that will survive outside of “easy targets”, says Lisa Illingworth.
1. Confidence Boosting
Starting a business is ridiculously hard. To take the plunge is often the scariest thing that we attempt and with the failure rates being heavily stacked against business survival, it should be the goal of every new entrepreneur to boost your confidence. And nothing boosts confidence like an eager customer.
Friends and family make great confidence boosters. It’s their mandated job to enthusiastically follow your business Facebook page and buy every product you have to sell, even if it is in early development phase.
2. Gentle Criticism
Intrinsically linked to the first pro, is the second pro that friends and family should deliver criticism in a gentle manner that will not break your fragile spirit. These people should be heavily invested in your personal growth and if this is true, they will be concerned about your infatuation with this business, and not breaking it.
And this may only be because they don’t want to field phone calls late at night after the idea tanks or pay your rent when the funds dry up.
3. Cash Flow
The life blood of any new business is the constant trickle of money coming into the business in the early days to keep yourself, the entrepreneur alive and fed. Don’t underestimate the necessity of keeping money flowing, even regular but small amounts. Friends and family are great sources of quick, regular purchases and they are more likely to choose your small business over a larger one because of the emotional investment in you.
1. Inflated Expectations
Please don’t be fooled by the outright enthusiasm that your family and friends have for your new product or service as the general sentiment carried by those that have no idea who you are. You will be sorely disappointed when you find out that all that hype was based on a personal connection and investment in you, the entrepreneur.
When people outside of your personal network see the value at the price you’re charging, you are then quite literally, on the money. Until then, keep your expectations in check.
2. False Feedback Loop
I think like most of us who could just not bare the deflated façade creep across a friend’s face if you gave them cold, hard feedback that the homemade mix of spices they have randomly thrown together and called ‘Chai Tea’ is not a tasty as she thinks it is. And thus, we buy a jar and stick it in the back of the pantry hoping it gets forgotten.
This type of feedback loop, whilst protects the relationship, does not protect the young business person from the harsh reality that their product is just not that good. You may be concerned about how a friend will take the news and the impact it will have going forward, a customer will not be that forgiving. The false feedback loop sets an entrepreneur up to fall even farther when the real feedback starts coming in.
3. Market Exhaustion
If the only customers you actually have are those purchasing based on their investment with you this market will quickly become exhausted. If you have not devised a strategy to tell others outside of your network about your business, you will not be developing a continuous stream of new customers through a customer journey.
In marketing, it is almost never that people buy on the first encounter with a business. There needs to be a ‘dating’ like process where customers get to know, like, trust and try before they make a purchase. If you have ignored growing these segments of your marketing and sales, you will eventually exhaust those in your network and be left with limited cash flow and little market awareness.
What then is the answer to this conundrum? By all means take the confidence boosters from those closest to you that will keep you afloat in the early stages of growth, but keep your expectations measured and seek out the harsh criticism from strangers to refine your offering so as to have real value at a palatable price point.
We teach the kids at Futureproof to find people to buy your service or product that are easy to get to without spending time or money but we don’t specify who they are rather to find the low hanging fruit in order to start but spend time marketing to a larger audience at the same time. Don’t ignore the first stages of engagement, just because they don’t result in immediate purchases.
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