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Sales Strategy & Management

That’s Not Going to Fly

Sales leaders share their wisdom on why a business will not grow without a sales strategy and a value-driven sales process.

Ivor Jones

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Yes, you do need a sales strategy

Here’s why: No strategy = no business. It’s that simple. With a sales strategy in place, research is better targeted, cold calls are more productive, sales resources are more cost-effective, and sales performance is more predictable.

The nuts and bolts

For a sales strategy to be effective it must have these key features:

  • The strategy must be specific and detailed
  • The strategy must be measurable
  • The strategy must be attainable
  • The strategy must be realistic
  • The strategy must be time sensitive.

Without a sales strategy, a business will chase its tail – pointlessly pursuing something and moving no closer to its destination. Without getting too complicated, a sales strategy simply describes a business’s approach to selling a product or service. Strategy is the most effective way to drive more sales.

Everyone believes that strategy is important, so it’s surprising to see how many businesses have no sales strategy at all. Regardless of the size of your business, the effectiveness of your sales strategy is what will determine success or failure. Without this fundamental element in place, it will take that much longer to get a business off the ground, or to grow a business that has set its sights higher.

As a framework for fine-tuning the marketing mix, the four Ps of sales strategy – product, place, price, and promotion – continue to serve sales leaders well.

1. Product

This is your tangible product or service. You need to think about the needs and wants of consumers, market conditions, how to keep production costs down, and quality high. When it comes to the product, can you improve on what your competitors are offering? Or can you add value in some way for the consumer?

2. Place

This is the location where the product or service is to be sold. It may be brick and mortar or online. You need to look at areas where buyers would seek your product, ways to access the right distribution channels, and differentiate yourself from your competitors.

3. Price

Pricing your product involves research, planning and careful consideration. You need to cover all expenses and have a reasonable profit margin. You will also need to look at elements such as pricing strategy, suggested retail price, volume discounts, wholesale pricing, seasonal pricing and price flexibility.

Determine whether you can price your product or service better, and how you want to position it – is it aimed at the high or low end of the market? The narrower your target market, the less you will sell and the higher the value needs to be.

4. Promotion

To reach your target audience, you will need to get information out there about your product or service. This involves a promotional strategy, advertising, public relations, publicity and media, among other elements.

Related: How to Build the Ultimate Sales Team

Identify the total available market

A common (and very important) item missing from many entrepreneurial businesses is a breakdown of the company’s total available market, which is simply everyone you wish to reach with your product.

Here’s an example: You live in Mpumalanga and you’ve decided to start a business that manufactures and sells fly fishing flies. Let’s say your town has 150 000 people. Through market research, you may find that the total possible demand for your business in your town is 15% (or 22 500 people), with spikes in demand occurring during the April and December holiday periods.

Bear in mind that if you have a competitor in your market, your total available market would be smaller since you will be sharing this market with another company.

This process is really about finding out where the opportunities lie, who your competitors are and whether or not they are doing a good job. Much of this type of research can be done electronically, thanks to the Internet.

I always advise entrepreneurs to take the time to go through this process systematically. In addition to more analytical research, talk to friends and family. Talk to people in your social network who you know and trust.

Customer segmentation

Most market sectors today are comprised of a diverse range of niche players who have varied needs and business drivers. Companies that target any market as one broad vertical run the risk of developing positioning that misses its mark, making the sales and marketing process more difficult and more expensive than it needs to be. To maximise your marketing and sales effectiveness and minimise selling costs, it is necessary to understand the market from a more detailed perspective.

Once you have identified your total available market, you should begin to segment your customers. This separates prospects and customers into sets of people or companies that are similar and related from a marketing or demographic perspective. For example, a business that practices customer segmentation might group its current or potential customers according to their buying habits, age group, special interests.

Use data sources that are freely available about companies’ lines of business, areas of operation, number of employees, IT infrastructure, fleet sizes and so on to give you an idea of what the potential could be. The ability to calculate or estimate the potential spend or purchases of prospects or customers in the target market you have chosen means drilling down to a granular level to calculate the average spend of each customer in each area or sales territory.

Prioritise the geographical areas with the greatest sales potential and the least cost to cover.

Sales force structure

Once you have prioritised the areas depending on size and potential within each, you can structure the sales team. How are you going to cover all prospects, from telesales through to taking care of existing business, and breaking into the lucrative new market potential within the area? Territory reps, product reps, major account reps – all must be aligned with the identified potential and deployed at micro market level according to expected future opportunities.

The one factor that will determine success is how well the sales people are trained with regard to handling the opportunities and the relative size of the organisation. Critically, they must also know their competitive position – are they breaking in, sharing or dominating?

Remember that circumstances change constantly. For this process to work, you cannot do it once and then forget about it. Continuous updating of data, either through research or a CRM system is essential. Your sales people play a huge role in keeping data up to date. Make sure that all new information is fed into your system all the time. Then, analyse, reassess and recalculate on an ongoing basis. There are many companies that gather, analyse and sell data to businesses of all sizes – it’s worth making use of their services.

Sales and marketing

Once you have identified your market, segmented your customers and structured your sales team, your go-to-market strategy becomes a lot simpler to implement than you might think: You have your product, your people, and your areas. Now you have to focus on how you will sell – that is marketing. People tend to grossly overestimate what is required here. If you have done all the previous steps properly, how you actually fulfil the transaction is easy – whether it’s through a direct sales force, tele-channels, distributors, retailers or online, the groundwork is done.

There are many consultants out there who will create marketing campaigns for your business, usually at great cost. Once again, remember that much of the information you need is available online. If you know what your business is trying to achieve, time and effort is all you will require to create the right marketing campaign for your business.

Marketing and promoting your business is after all where you can get really creative. Have think tanks with your team on how to promote your products better and as cleverly as possible within the budget you have.

Advertising, for example, can eat a great deal of capital. There are other imaginative ways to reach your target market. The point is that if you know who they are, you will know exactly how to find them.

One word of caution: Strategic sales and marketing is often where companies fall short, and where they can be extremely inefficient with budgets. This is because there is no concrete, definitive blueprint. So much depends on gut feel, experience and market knowledge. That is why it is so critically important to do your homework.

Whichever route you choose to take, remember that the online world has given people the ability to compare products and service and to decide what they want to buy, often before they even meet a sales person for the first time. Online has given everyone the ability to compare, which is why it’s critical to have a web presence that is professional, attractive, informative and easy to navigate.

Related: Don’t Let Those First Sales Go Bad

Ivor Jones is the chairman of ThinkSales Corporation. He was employed by Dun & Bradstreet from 1972 to 1981. In 1982 he launched KreditInform, building it into South Africa's largest business-to-business credit management solutions company. It was sold to Experian in 2008.

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Sales Strategy & Management

(Podcast) Are All Prices Negotiable?

Person, socialisation, product, place – what are the key differentiating factors between those who negotiate price and those who don’t? And who determines the value of a product?

Nicholas Haralambous

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What is up for negotiation? When should you be negotiating prices, and when should you be open to negotiating prices with your customers?

Person, socialisation, product, place – what are the key differentiating factors between those who negotiate price and those who don’t? And who determines the value of a product?

Listening time: 8 minutes

Related: (Podcast) Phone Calls Often Solve Email Problems

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Sales Strategy & Management

Sales Leadership: The New Frontier

The Leadership skill of Influencing people increasingly trumps “hard selling techniques” as people enjoy the feeling that they are forced into buying a certain product less and less.

Dirk Coetsee

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“Once upon a time only certain people were in sales. Every day, these folks sold stuff, the rest of us did stuff, and everyone was happy. One day, the world began to change. More of us started working for ourselves- and because we were entrepreneurs, suddenly we became salespeople, too. At the same time, large operations discovered that segmenting job functions did not work very well during volatile business conditions-and because of that, they began demanding elastic skills that stretched across boundaries and included a sales component.” – Daniel Pink

The transformation of sales persons to Sales Leaders is not only the essence of this article but increasingly becoming a necessity, considering the skills demand required to convince people to buy your product or service within an modern environment wherein the consumer is spoilt for choice.

Related: 3 Strategies For Closing Sales Without Picking Up The Phone

In general staples in the make up of old school sales training was and in some cases still is: Product knowledge, fielding sales calls in a friendly way yet creating urgency, learning the ability to overcome client objections and of course do not forget the all-important methods of upselling.

All those elements of selling are still important in general yet “soft skills” such as active listening, handling conflict, and above all removing the emphasis from selling a product or service to selling an enhanced lifestyle or life experience has become the new frontier for the sales game.

The Leadership skill of Influencing people increasingly trumps “hard selling techniques” as people enjoy the feeling that they are forced into buying a certain product less and less. The “parrot method” of drilling sales scripts into the salesforce of the company is slowly but surely becoming obsolete as people want to feel that they are being cared about and considered within the sales process as individuals. “Caring for the other person is the only leverage in any conversation”, Gary Vaynerchuk says.

The above theory calls for a balance between Sales Leaders whom inspires their sales teams to create a personal, professional, and vibrant environment for their customers wherein which they are highly motivated to buy, and Sales managers whom monitor the key sales metrics and checks that sales procedures are being followed. In the modern world both Sales Leadership and management are needed at each end of the balancing scale.

Still, to this day an unfortunate large proportion of sales people are like lambs put to the slaughter, within some situations, as the only weapon taught to them is product knowledge and wearing a smile and then suddenly a very unhappy customer unleashes their anger upon them, and now the poor sales person has no knowledge in terms of how to deal with conflict, generally speaking. How to cope with and overcome conflict and other negotiation skills has become paramount in sustaining very good client relations.

Ethical Leadership is also strongly put forward as a necessary component of any sales training or course through this article. Sales techniques filtered through the companies Vision, mission statement and value system to test its validity and alignment to the companies’ culture can be increasingly effective as opposed to simply applying generic methods of selling which is not always aligned to the company ethos. A high level of ethics amongst Sales Leaders can ensure that after sales promises are kept and that the product sold is in effect as good as propagated by the sales person.

Related: The 5 Best Actions You Can Take To Improve Sales Calls

When a servant leadership culture is prevalent within your company it goes a long way to ensure that your sales people create a caring and positive experience complimented by an enhanced after sales service. Servant Leadership within a sales context is to put the customers’ and teams’ purpose above the individual team members purpose and that by itself is a potential multiplier of sales performance.

A highly important factor within the context of sales performance is the sales Leaders’ ability to formulate the right questions to be asked of the client in order to create a very pleasant experience. Statements in general can be quite dangerous as it is normally viewed as final and very hard to take back once communicated. Questions on the other hand requires an answer and when posed in a caring way can quickly establish rapport with a client.

Subtle nuances picked up by the Sales Leader through asking the right questions can greatly assist in creating positive client engagement. A practical example would be to refrain from the very obvious question of:  how are you? People are so used to being asked this question that they are not likely to give you a very open and honest answer and will be likely to provide you with very generic answers such as, “Fine thank you, “Well thanks and you”, and so forth.

By very simply changing the question to: “How are you feeling today? “, the very perceptive Sales Leader can relatively easily pick up on the client’s emotional state and adjust the conversation from there in order to create rapport.

In Summary, this writing actually asks one question to all CEOs’ and/or boards that must take their companies forward towards a desired future state: Do you want sales people and managers whom are likely to maintain the status quo, or do you seek Sales Leaders whom will challenge the status quo and will always be willing to ask more of themselves in terms of increased skill levels and performance?

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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.

Charles Hsuan

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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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