Shaun Thomson, CEO of Sandler Training in the UK, asks where have the first six months of 2015 gone? We are halfway through the year, which means one thing – targets. How are you performing against your sales targets? Are you outperforming last year, treading water, or worse, trying to make up lost ground?
So many resellers still practice tired sales practices, such as ‘cold call and pray,’ hoping that the old ratio of one-in-ten calls converting to a sale will prevail. Increasing sales will not be achieved by getting more people to cold call, or by cutting prices. Sales is a skill, it can be learned and always improved. These five tips will set you on your way.
1. Improving Prospecting
Hard as it may be to accept, your products are not right for everyone. Why bust a gut and waste your time calling a business that you know won’t be interested? Play to your strengths. Do a full audit of your current customer base – are there any trends in terms of type of business that take a particular product? Look at all commonalities, such as business size, type, and location. Get some testimonials of similar businesses that outline real-life benefits. People are far more receptive when they feel that you have tailored a pitch to their business and that you have taken the time to think about whether a service can add value to them.
Also look at when calls are most successful; chances are a business will be inundated with sales calls on the last day of a month as other businesses are also trying to hit targets. As a rule, tend to be more receptive to calls in the afternoon, towards the end of the week.
It’s also important to not rely on cold calls as the main route for sales. Upselling to existing customers, referral programs and networking should also form key components of a prospecting program. Of course, calls have their place, by try and change the objective from ‘making a sale’ to ‘information gathering’. Think of them as ‘first contact calls’. Know who you are speaking too beforehand and have your questions prepared, so they will do the talking, not you.
2. Reducing Free consulting
‘Free consulting’ is the nemesis of a business. It’s when the sales process is needlessly extended, thus eroding margins by all the time that has been wasted. Just think about all those face-to-face meetings, the follow up meetings, the convoluted proposals, updated proposals, and the chasing phone-calls – it all adds up.
It’s also important to respect your products and services. Advice, intellectual property and products all have price tags. By giving into requests for free trials or price-cuts to get contracts signed the business ultimately loses – and sets a precedent for a future relationship.
3. Learn to Say No
The fact is customers do not want to buy from the most desperate company; they want the one that will add the most value. Many prospects are just window-shopping. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that they could be converted with a lot of persuasion and ‘good deals.’ The key is spotting them early, and parting ways before they put too much drain on the business’ time.
4. Eliminating Cheesy Sales Styles
If you look and act like every other salesperson, you will be treated accordingly. It should be an equal partnership – you aren’t doing them a ‘favour’ – your product or service will help their business and add value.
Also, don’t be afraid to be different. When it comes to competition you have two choices – either you can try and emulate what’s already on the market in the fear that you need to be seen to be offering a standard solution. Or you can stand out from the crowd and focus on your points of difference.
5. Establishing Systems
Hoping and praying for new business is not a strategy; the troughs will inevitably outweigh the peaks and it will drive the management crazy that they have no visibility or control over the sales process. Create a systematic approach to give you predictable results. A sales process that you can quantify and therefore you can track and adjust is a win-win for all involved.
Lastly, document everything. The successes and the failures. It all provides learning’s that you can implement as best practice in the future, giving new starters a clear overview of how the sales system works and how they can succeed within your business.
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