Sales in tough times… and good times

Sales in Tough Times

Sales in tough times… and good times

If you are finding times a little tougher than usual, what should you be doing differently? I am not sure whether there is a magic formula but what I do know is that you should now be doing things brilliantly. For some, doing things brilliantly will provide a competitive advantage and that might just mean that you survive while your competitor falls away. For others, it might well provide a leadership position.

Here are some of the questions that you could be asking:

1. Strategic Plan

You need pointers that will keep you focused.

Are you going after the correct markets? Do you understand the competition? Have you got the right level of expertise? Do you know who the 20% are that will provide the 80% of business? Are you selling the right products? Where are you focusing your time and effort to get the most reward? Will repeat business and up-sell deliver the budget or do you need to find new channels and prospects? What is your unique selling proposition? Are you very clear on your product features and benefits relative to the competition?

What is the game plan?

2. Existing Clients

True, it costs 8 times more to attract new business than service existing accounts, but do you know your existing clients’ buying patterns? How many more orders are you likely to land from existing clients this year? Is it one big mega deal per annum? Who are the key 80/20 clients? We tend to spend disproportionate time with clients that we get on well with- that’s human nature. But which clients should you actually be spending more time with?

Are you sure that you know every opportunity for business within that client’s organisation? Are you sure that your client knows your full product range?

3. Prospects

While great sales operations put as much energy and skill into maintaining and growing an existing client base, the danger in such a single-minded focus can be sales lethargy and losing the skills and competitiveness needed to grow a business. Have you got the hunger, skills and patience required to pursue and acquire new business? Importantly, do you know which new business – dream accounts – that you want on your books and what they will yield? Have you done your homework – have they got budget, who is the gatekeeper, who is the decision-maker, why will your product(s) be relevant, what is it that will make them want to see you? When you ask for that initial appointment, how are you going to make the world a better place for the prospect?

4. Preparation

Now that you hopefully have all or some of the answers, how do you make sure that it starts happening? Is your CRM system set up and does it work for you? Don’t wait until an idealistic marketing guru has prepared a system so that you can drill down (how I hate that phrase!!) to identify the colour of your client’s grandmother’s eyes or until the IT boff has exhausted his world-wide search for software that the whole company can use. Keep it simple, it must guide you. Basically, you don’t want to waste time figuring who you want to phone or see that day – put it into a system, differentiate between Existing and Prospects, obviously contact details must be included, list how you are going to service the client (prioritise method and frequency of contact), and any special comments.

At the end of each week, evaluate the week that was and plan for the week ahead. Some discipline and organisation will automatically put you ahead of the game.

5. Skills

Great sales people are like athletes.

We have discussed having a game plan – we have discussed aspects like having a game plan, knowing your competition, discipline etc. But you do need essential skills.

Do you “tell” or ask relevant questions that uncover needs? Do you listen? Athletes know that different tracks often require different approaches – do you recognise that different circumstances require different approaches? Have you prepared?

And when the client or prospect is throwing objections at you, are you backing off and becoming defensive? Or are you seeing your response as one step closer to securing the deal? Are you comfortable asking for referrals? And when the magic door opens, do you know how to close the deal or do you shy away from it? How diligent are you when you follow up? Sales skills are extremely rare and those who have them win gold.

6. Sales Support

Are you happy that you have enough support behind you? If you need technical product support, is there somebody who will gladly support you? Will your MD help you to retain Key Accounts or land a Dream Account? Are your presentation and sales aids appropriate and slick? Is your website relevant, does it portray your company correctly and help or inhibit sales?

Does your sales manager’s conversation centre on the sales budget? Or does he or she ask a lot of questions about who you are seeing? And what you are saying to them? Or what you are asking them? Whether you are sticking to your plan?

What is the Marketing team doing to support you? Do they ever ask what you need or do they just do, well, marketing stuff? Overall, do you get a sense that the whole business is behind you and willing you to succeed out there?

When things go well, do they celebrate with you? When times are tough, do they rally around you with leads and encouragement?

Whether the market is running or experiencing tough times, it will always be competitive. The trick lies in making sure that you are always the best that you can be, irrespective of the times experienced.

Gary Hendrickse
CEO Sherpa
October 2008

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