Brace yourselves, growth is coming

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A major referral source for us is gearing up for a big summer push. That’s the good news. The bad news is that they are worried if we can we keep up. This is a great problem to have, but we need to solve it. How do we assure them that we can meet their needs? This will be a big leap forward for us.

Thoughts of the day: First, make sure you want the influx. Assuming you do want the work, build plans to gear up and assign people to implement those plans. Put someone in charge of monitoring workflow and quality. Meet with your staff to fill them in on what’s expected. Build in time to celebrate successes and let off steam.

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Think like a detective when it comes to sales

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When it comes to selling, I’m figuring out that I have to think like a detective and not a typical salesperson. Do you have any suggestions on how to best do that?

THOUGHTS OF THE DAY: Decide on who is your best customer, then go get more of them. Work through a list of best customer suspects. Figure out where your targets hang out. Find out if you really are talking to qualified suspects. Have a way to circle back to the suspects who don’t seem to fit initially. Get prospects to turn themselves into clients.

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Teamwork leads to better sales

One of our sales guys has a habit of not following through with customers. He does a great job opening doors, but he’s terrible at going back to ask for repeat business or referrals. What should we do?

Thoughts of the Day: Make sure you understand the new normal for your customers and appeal to that. Use a team approach to meet the total needs of the company. Lower the company’s risk by involving multiple players. Set goals for each participant that helps individuals play to their strengths.

The pace of business is constantly speeding up. 24/7/365 connectivity is the norm. Information is everywhere, and so are interruptions. Busy people are trying to get their jobs done. If you have someone on your team who can break through the clutter, make the most of them!

Expand the volume of what this sales person is good, ask them to focus on making connections and have others follow up. Opening doors to lots of prospects should be highly valuable to your company, so long as there’s a way to insure that someone else follows up to move the sales process forward.

Recognize that different sales stages require different attitudes and behaviors as well as skills. Sometime sales calls for a tough skin and fearlessness, other times it requires empathetic listening and relationship development. On the backend, sales requires writing skills, and negotiation and closing skills. Learn what each member of your sales team does well; figure out who does best at each stage in the sales process. Build a complimentary sales team.

Set up a team approach to sales. Have different people to research target accounts, approach the targets, gathers information about prospect needs, documenting the company’s offer in a proposal, and someone does the closing. Make sure there is someone to take over to negotiate the contract, to insure implementation goes smoothly. Don’t forget to circle back to ensure customer satisfaction.

One person owning an account, beginning to end, is risky for a company. If that person leaves, the client may leave, too. It’s better to have a network of relationships between your company and your clients. Involve several people in the sales process. Streamline your processes to ensure that prospects and clients are well managed at every stage.

People in the office can do research, answer questions, get out proposals, and provide customer and prospect support. People out on the road can meet face to face to gather insights on what the client environment is like, to explain complex concepts to customers and prospects and to go eyeball to eyeball when it’s time to make a final decision. Consider inviting your customer to visit your office in order to show that your company has the ability to service long term needs.

Build a top team of performers by helping individuals play to their strengths in a complimentary way. Set goals to meet the company’s overall needs for growth, retention and profit. Figure out what that means in terms of new signings, renewals, referrals to folks who don’t yet know about your company, etc.

Make sure that your sales team is up for meeting the goals you set. Ask the team to work up the details of how they think they can best meet the overall goals. Ask the sales team to be forthright it they have concerns regarding hitting the goals you’ve set. Brainstorm solutions with the group, in order to build confidence that the goals are doable. Be clear what the overall team has to accomplish, and what that means in terms of each team member’s responsibility.

Regularly evaluate each person’s contribution to hitting the total company goals. For example, opening a ton of doors is good, but only if those are the right kind of leads for your company. Missing the mark by spending time nurturing prospects that won’t value what your company offers can be a waste of time for everyone.

If you’re going to build a team approach to selling, make sure your compensation plan rewards team goals. Have a bonus that rewards everyone for achieving the master goal. Or, distribute profits based on total company performance. Make it clear that superstars are only valuable if they can contribute to a winning team performance.

Looking for a good book? Smart Sales Manager: The Ultimate Playbook for Building and Running a High-Performance Inside Sales Team, by Josiane Chriqui Feigon.

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We Lost 2 Big Accounts, Now What?

We’ve just lost two big accounts. The loss of revenue is hurting us big time. Even scarier, it’s tough keeping business flowing in an upward trend. I know we’re supposed to grow sales, but I don’t know how we’re going to make this up.

Thoughts of the Day: Losing sales can be a waste of time and energy, or a blessing. Find out what happened and fix it. Decide what has to be done to build sales for the next 12 months and get going on setting that up.

Keeping an account should be easier than selling a new opportunity. To get a new client someone has to identify and make contact with the decision maker, identify needs and obstacles, write a proposal and take a guess on pricing, follow up to negotiate and close the business, get set up as a vendor in the client’s database, navigate the first time delivery issues, and follow through to get paid.

To keep an existing customer, most of those steps disappear. Competition is much easier. The players are known, the client’s business practices are understood, and the client’s needs and pricing constraints are already out on the table. You know how the client ticks.

In addition, because of switching costs, most customers are not eager to change suppliers. They find it’s easier to stick with an imperfect solution than it is to implement a new, untested option.

A lost account can be a major warning to your business: what was so bad that the customer was driven to find another vendor? Or, was losing the account a blessing?

Be strategic in the way you react. Review your current customer list. Assess the profit, ease of handling, and vulnerability of each client. Isolate customers that need to be fixed or eliminated because they are close to unprofitable or more trouble than they’re worth. Focus on top priority customers because of their profitability and strategic fit to the business now and in the future.

Debrief the lost account by a team from sales, marketing, operations and finance.
• Was this a strategic account?
• Was the client growing or declining?
• How will the loss in revenue and profit impact the business?
• What will the market think when it finds out?
• What went wrong that caused the client to seek an alternative?
• Who was babysitting the account, and what did they know, when?
• Is your company better or worse off without the account?

Based on the debrief answers, formulate specific strategies for retaining the best of your business base. Keep in mind that if a competitor is successful grabbing one piece of business from your company, they may come looking for additional opportunities. When customers hear that a peer has sought out an alternative, they may be influenced to take consider their options.

Once you know which accounts you want to keep, assign your best people to retention efforts. Make sure clients feel the connection to your company, not just from sales, but from finance, marketing and operations personnel as well. Fix overall issues related to perception and delivery. Reduce the burden on sales in the future by shoring up vulnerable areas now.

Next, set a goal for revenue for the next 12 months. Figure in a 10% to 15% increase on revenue. Compare that to the amount of recurring business that can be confirmed as secure, and the revenue expected to come in from new sales efforts. Any gap either has to come from selling more things to existing clients, retaining marginal clients, getting new clients, buying market share or entering another business.

Set a goal and build a plan for each of those categories. Not sure how to do that? Just ask. We’ll send you a business development framework to get your started on the path to a more secure future. .

Looking for a good book? Tilt: Shifting Your Strategy from Products to Customers, by Niraj Dawar.

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Definitely Need More Sales

Sales is the big thing for us – we definitely need more clients, more business. Am very confident I can help customers, but sales is not something I’m confident about – feel a little bit uncomfortable doing it. Up to now I’ve gotten all my clients through referrals and networks, which seems like a very different process.

Thoughts of the Day: If you’re worried about sales making you uncomfortable, think how uncomfortable you’ll be if there isn’t enough money coming in to make payroll. Networking and referrals are part of a plan to get leads, but only a part. Don’t go it alone – figure out who else in the company can help you work on sales. Assess your selling skills – they’re probably better than you think. Prioritize selling until you know the company can meet its goals for this year, next year and the year after that.

Sales is the lifeblood of any company. Without sales, there’s no need for a company to produce goods or services. Rarely do customers flock to a company because of the strength of what they offer. If that happens it only lasts for so long, until competitors figure out where the opportunity lies and try to horn in. Then it’s back to building sales skills to protect and build market share.

Many products or services get launched with a few select customers, a good reputation, and a lot of referrals. The owner does some networking, gets introduced to a target market. Some prospects show interest, decide to buy, are happy with what they receive and tell others about the experience. The company is off and running. And that’s good enough for awhile.

However, if the company is to continuously grow at a healthy rate of 10% – 20% annual increase in revenue, at some point it will take more than referrals and networking to get there. Also keep in mind that referrals from satisfied customers and a network of people who know your company are likely to move to closure faster, and have a higher close rate. Don’t get discouraged if cold leads take longer to close and appear to have a lower closing percentage.

Contacts with prospects who may be in your target market, but who are not familiar with you or your company need to learn about what it is that makes your company valuable and reliable. They need to evaluate the fit without the benefit of knowing someone who is like them and already doing business with your company. Be prepared to address the lack of familiarity with strong benefits and payoff statements, introductions to satisfied customers and persistence.

Take a look at all of the people in your company. Who really knows your customers? Who knows your products or services inside and out? Think about what they can do with new prospects. Can they do informational webinars or seminars? Can they arrange groups of customers into which you can sprinkle new prospects? Can they figure out a trade show strategy, where your target market is like to be on the lookout for new offerings?

Evaluate your own skills in sales. What are you especially good at? What do you need to push yourself to do? Across the entire company do the same evaluation. Figure out where the strengths and gaps are along the spectrum of sales, from initial introduction, to lead nurturing, to close.

Consider hiring or training to fill in gaps in the sales spectrum. Rather than hiring the next operations or administration person, put your money into sales. Check on the profitability of what’s being sold. Emphasize the most profitable sales. Work to perfect profitability on the products that will become the future of the company. Keep in mind that more sales, at higher levels of profitability will bring in the money you need to add staff elsewhere in the organization.

Looking for a good book? Is It What It Is, or Is It . . . All About Business, by Jeff Roziere & Cathy Snelgrove.

Want to print this article? Definitely Need More Sales

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