Sales—More Can Always Be Done…
A sales professional colleague once told me “The good and bad thing about sales is that there is always ‘more’ that can be done.” Perhaps he was saying this out of sheer frustration or as a prediction for unlimited opportunity. Whatever the motivation for his comment, there is no doubt that the sales function is most important to your business. The more efficiently you and your team can plan and process sales, the greater chances you will have for business success and profitability. If neglected, not managed, or not given adequate attention, the sales function can bring your business down, and quickly.
Whether you have a team of sales employees, outsource your sales to a professional organization, or act as a one-man-band for all functions of your business including sales, a heightened focus on the sales function is one of the best things you can to minimize risk and optimize opportunities for your business in the New Year. So, where do you start? How can you do this with minimal time, growing demands and increasing competition? And, how can you organize a proficient sales plan with little or no sales training or expertise? Following are a few suggestions to get started:
(Please note: this should NOT be a shallow New Year’s resolution but rather a commitment that is followed through on throughout the year. Remember, your business is dependent on it!)
Plan Your Sales Efforts
We’ve all heard the cliché before “Fail to plan and plan to fail.” It is no different with your sales efforts for upcoming year. Planning where, when and how your sales will, or will not, come in can determine your company’s position this time next year. Some questions to answer:
- Where will your business growth/contraction come from? (in terms of units, revenue and/or profitability)
- What new market segments and/or customers show areas of opportunity to explore and exploit?
- What existing accounts can be grown?
- What new products or services can you offer to increase share of wallet and gain new market share?
The more you know about your business, your customers, the competition, and the market, the more you can minimize risk and better sustain or gain a competitive advantage. Here are some ways to do this:
- Survey your customers. You can do this easily by creating a simple questionnaire or feel free to email one to a sampling of customers (I like surveymonkey.com; it allows you do create and distribute a questionnaire to a number of customers for free)
- Read trade journals and articles on your industry and market to find out what experts predict.
- Research the competition. What are they doing, planning and marketing could have a significant impact on your business.
- Know what position your business has in your market. Is your business the market leader, number two or other? Are you the low cost/high value provider? What market share (estimate) does your business own?
- Take a sales and/or marketing class. In my opinion, everyone in an organization can benefit from some sales training. Let’s face it “we’re all in sales” and at one point or another have to deal with customers and/or sell something to someone else (i.e. plans to management, financial forecasts, etc.).
Organize Your Contacts
It’s true that 20% of your customers usually account for 80% of your business. Just how well and how often are you working that 20%? What amount of resources are you extending to the other 80%? What strategies and/or tactics are you implementing to acquire new customers? How are you managing all of your contacts?
Here are some suggestions to better organize your contacts this New Year:
- Segment your customer list. Be sure you and your teams know who are the VIP’s, who are emerging VIP’s, and who the other important segments are (either by # of orders, frequency, profitability or however else you choose to prioritize your customers).
- Use contact management software. If you’re not doing this already, do your business a favor and invest in one. My favorite is ACT! Some prefer Goldmine whereas larger organizations have more sophisticated CRM systems in place such as salesforce.com. All of these allow for easy searching of accounts and notes as well as frequent reporting/tracking which can be invaluable when dealing with sales teams and/or outsourced sales organizations’ accountability. Whatever your database management software weapon, having the ability to manage contacts, enter/keep track of call notes and keep oversee who is interacting with your clients, how often and with what form of communication will not only help increase efficiencies but will also safeguard your business should a key sales employee leave or be terminated.
- Determine where you can impact large numbers of your most qualified existing and prospect customers such as trade shows, events and/or online special interest forums.
Streamline Your Process (and the Sales Cycle)
The company with the fastest, most efficient and most frequent sales cycle from lead generation to close will command a competitive advantage. Knowing your sales process, or sales cycle and how long it takes and the resources involved is the first step. Here are some other questions/tactics to better streamline sales activity:
- Analyze parts of the sales cycle such as how leads are generated, how leads are processed, how long it takes, on average, to close a sale and payment terms.
- Is your marketing aligned with your sales? In other words are your marketing tactics successfully supporting specific objectives such as generating new leads/response, brand equity, etc. that translate into sales?
- What are the order, frequency, and profitability of an average sale?
- What is the cost of a lead? The cost of a sale?
- What is the lifetime value of your customers?
Understanding what is working and what is not with the sales function are key to organizing your sales efforts. Sales representatives should be held accountable with reports and call logs so management can react and be proactive to. Not all sales tactics work so it’s important to know when to ‘cut bait.’
Write down your goals and answers to some of the questions above and see how they compare 1 month, 1 quarter, 6 months and 1 year from now. Having an organized sales function will minimize risk and better position your company for business success leaving you time for the “more that can be done.”
About the Author
Angelo Biasi is General Manager of SMART Marketing Solutions, LLC, a leading full-service integrated marketing company in Naples, FL since 2001. He has helped create and execute marketing plans and integrated marketing solutions for companies such as Playtex, Bic, Rogaine, Tauck, and over 35 colleges and universities, to name a few. Angelo has an MBA in Marketing from the University of Connecticut and has taught Marketing at New York University for over five years. For more information or to learn more, email him at abiasismartmarketingllccom (abiasismartmarketingllccom) , visit www.smartmarketingllc.com or call 239.963.9396.