Archive for category Sales Training

The Importance of a Sales Strategy

Sales functions are struggling in the internet led world.  Approaches that have worked for decades are no longer effective and many businesses have seen their digital investments fail to deliver expected results.

The importance of a sales strategy was discussed at a recent meeting of the Business Exposure Group and it led to a lively discussion with lots of questions being posed.

Do you have a sales strategy? – You can’t sell here and there, or pick up the phone when you have a spare minute.  Strategy is about making choices, about where we play and where we don’t.  Unless you have a solid strategy you are essentially flying blind.

Do you understand the sales process? – It’s not about money, you need to focus on the positive impact the product or service has on your customer.  Forget about hitting the numbers, make sure the right message gets through.

Your CRM system maybe hurting your cause.  Seeing the top 3 products your customer is interested in is far better than looking at the customer history.  Will your customer benefit from doing business with you rather than your competitor?  Explain to them why you are the best, why your product/service is better and try to create a bond so they will stay loyal.

Do you find yourself trying to get business without understanding the specific growth opportunities? – Define your ideal customer, know your USP, analyse your territory, know your competition and have realistic sales expectations.

Many companies think they have a sales strategy but they don’t.

One of our members got it very wrong.  He has a machine tool business selling to the automotive trade and he decided he wanted to break into the medical market where there was more business at higher profits.  The strategy was to bring in a new line for the medical industry.  He revamped the website, had new brochures printed and then nothing happened.  They hadn’t worked out how they were going to be accepted into the medical market, how they would train staff and what exactly they were selling, who to, which companies, etc.

One of our other members got it right.  They are an accountancy practice who wanted to target independent haulage contractors for business.  They found it was no good expecting hauliers to come into the office during the day as they were busy working.  The company defined a sales strategy offering home visits accounts preparation for hauliers and they now have 420 new clients from that niche industry sector.

How much time should you spend on planning a sales strategy? You need to consider some of the following points

How do you move from being pretty good to very good at generating sales growth

  • Take time to analyse problems then work out what your strategy needs to address
  • Change your mind-set to ensure you are better than your competitors
  • Ensure you are persuasive, but not arrogant or pushy
  • Always talk to the decision maker and build a relationship, get in early
  • Create a sense of urgency for their order, what can you offer them as an incentive to commit early

Management Consultants McKinseys have researched the SME market place and concluded the top 5 strategies for SME businesses:

1          Find growth where your competitors could not – practice micro segmentation of the market and find a pond where no one is fishing

2          Sell the way customers want to buy – focus on prospects for which you have something original to offer

3          Free up your sales people to sell – get rid of excess admin

4          Focus on developing staff

5          Expect exceptional performance – set stretching targets

Members who attended the Business Exposure Group Meeting left feeling energised and with lots of thoughts to focus on.


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How are you getting past the gatekeeper?

One of the fundamental skills an entrepreneur must learn if they are to develop a successful business is the ability to get past the gatekeeper; in other words, the receptionist, personal assistant or secretary who stands between you and the key decision maker of a company.

Most influential people or business owners will establish some form of shield to safeguard their time and relieve workload pressure.  This means your email, phone call or visit is likely to be wasted, unless you cultivate the skills which will enable you to bypass these defences.

Good salespeople tend to differentiate their voice so they don’t sound like they’re ringing from a call centre. Asking for the decision-maker’s first name will give the impression you’re already well acquainted.
A strong and professional tone will project an air of seniority and the gatekeeper may not wish to offend you by probing too deeply into your purpose for calling.

Successfully bypassing the gatekeeper involves more research on the prospect and fewer calls. You need to understand who you’re dealing with and identify an angle or common ground that effortlessly leads on to your message.

It’s important that during your research you identify the key decision-maker straightaway and make sure you talk to them otherwise your message is ultimately lost. Business owners should adopt a different strategy when communicating to corporate clients, SMEs or sole traders.

Be friendly with the gatekeeper and create a relationship. The more you can engage the gatekeeper, the more successful you will be at getting close to the decision maker. Ask the gatekeeper about the best time and method of contacting the decision-maker. Help the gatekeeper to look good in the business eyes of their boss by providing a solution to them.
Gatekeepers aren’t just there to field calls, their judgement can be key to providing added value to the decision maker’s business so their influence should be respected.

The first call should always be about research and not the sale. Gatekeepers will know and understand an organisation inside and out and will know who you should be talking to.

Friday afternoons are a good time to call especially if you want the senior decision maker.

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Techniques to control sales staff and make them accountable

Sales staff are a necessary component to all businesses and can influence whether your
business succeeds or fails.

If you’re considering taking on additional sales staff to help push your products or
services, there are important factors to bear in mind to ensure they bring value to your business.

When looking for sales staff, it’s important not to recruit in your own image. This
basically means employ people who use a different way of doing things and a different approach, so that they can complement your business offering.

It’s a good idea to use a professional recruiter to find sales staff because they can sift
through the good, bad and mediocre candidates more skilfully and effectively than you can and bring quality people to the table.

Many business owners simply think to themselves ‘this person’s in sales, I’ll try them out’ which can be an expensive process if it repeatedly fails. We should never take on people just because they have come to us with a sales background, it’s worth spending time and money on getting the right people in the first place and maximising your chance of success.

In any sales department, there needs to be a strong reporting infrastructure so the managing director fully understands what the sales staff are doing on a daily basis.
Sales should be about going and getting sales and maximising the opportunity, once you have got past the gatekeeper.

Owners of businesses should ask themselves when they last spent a day with their sales
force making calls. It’s impossible to set sales targets if you don’t understand the issues they are up against.

Overall you need to be more hands on and create realistic targets which people can achieve – so they are motivated.

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