In professional sales today it is easy to get confused or diverted in the complexity of the job. Things don’t need to be complex; the best salespeople solve problems for their clients in a simple and direct way. When you really understand that, you can see the ways to improve your career.
Consider these questions:
- What problems are out there today now to solve in your industry?
- Can you solve those problems better than your competitors? If so how?
- Do your customers or clients know that they have a problem to solve?
Three simple questions like this can lead to opportunity and business growth providing you really know the answers.
The sales opportunities open up for you when you can deliver a logical solution that helps your clients in some form or another. ‘Logic’ supports the sales process in business today. That could be in:
- Shorter turnaround times
- A better market share
- Cost savings in processes or raw materials
- Quality improvements in product or service
- Deliverable strategies that help with customer service
Here are some valuable marketing ideas and concepts to help your sales positioning:
- Specialise more than you generalise. When you specialise you create more value and lessen the impact of competitors from your market. When you really are the ‘best of the best’, clients need you more than you need them. That’s a great concept don’t you think?
- Have the best market information to use in your sales pitches and presentations. Use comparisons and stories from the market to attract and drive the interest of your clients. They like to know that others in your town or city have similar challenges; then they like to hear about successful outcomes.
- As a general rule don’t discount your prices unless absolutely necessary. The only thing that should drive a discount is a client with repeating orders or large orders. You can assess that when you strike a high value client.
- Take a strategic approach with your market so you connect with higher value clients or those that can be over time.
I go back to the point that a successful salesperson is generally a person that solves problems in a comprehensive and beneficial way for their clients. Revisit your personal business plan to see if that is your focus.
In sales today, many things will happen to distract your focus. Clients, market pressures, orders, seasonal changes in the market will all have an impact.
The only way to establish some progress is to track your sales results or ‘scores’. You don’t have to track a lot of things; only the ones that have meaning to your product and services. Small incremental increases in actions will compound your progress in sales.
So what can you track? If you have been working in a market or industry for some time you will already have facts and figures you can draw on. If you are new to a zone then you will need to develop assumptions based on real market trends; that will take research and investigation. Answer these questions in doing so:
- Where are the clients coming from?
- What are they looking for in obtaining service and supply of goods?
- How can you tap into the client segments in a regular way?
- What prospecting methods work better than others?
- How many prospecting calls are you making?
- What is the average unit of sale over the last 12 months?
- What is the average unit of commission or profit over the last 12 months?
- What is the volume of sales per person in your industry versus your business?
- How long does it take to connect with your clients and prospects at a level that you would regard as primed for new business activity?
- What’s your market share? How has that market share changed?
Questions like these help you move ahead. Success in professional sales today is a very personal thing. Results come from personal action and incremental improvements in doing so. Take action every day; that’s what sales success is all about.
When it comes to understanding your sales activity and opportunity you can learn a lot from looking back in sales history and forward in market potential. That then gives you the fuller picture of activity in your industry.
Let’s face facts; things do change. Your clients will have pressures, the economy will be fluctuating and the margins on your sales activity will vary. If prices can’t change, your margins are likely to. Constant tracking is required to stay ahead of the wave of sales and client opportunity.
Here are some tips to help you gather all the facts from the market:
- Define any problems that your clients could be suffering. Common problems are opportunities in disguise.
- Look into problem specific data to see what the impact may be on sales currently. A problem in any industry or market is likely to be the result of a number of things.
- Survey your clients to see and understand their industry and hurdles that they are struggling with.
- Identify what your competitors may be doing currently with their market share and their top clients.
- Find out what fellow salespeople may be experiencing with their clients and sales or orders.
- Understand any economic pressures that may be applying from the global and regional economy.
- Review the government pressures and legislation that may have relevance to your clients and their margins or operating standards.
- Are there any changes to consumer sentiment and if so how will that impact your industry and clients?
Top salespeople generally track and measure many factors from their area and industry. The history of sales and assumptions for the future can be very valuable as you seek to set your new marketing plans and territory targets.
In your business currently how do you treat your key accounts? Do you know who they are? Do you understand the value that they bring to you? They are interesting questions. In today’s business world your key accounts are the most important people to work with, followed closely behind by your staff.
What is the definition of a key account? In most cases they will be the small segment of your clients that make up 80% of your cash flow. Although small in number they are the clients that will do maximum damage if they move away or stop purchasing through your company.
Generally they will give you:
- Repeat business
- Growth of market share
- Referral opportunities
- Volume business and sales
Without key accounts your business would quite likely self implode? I am sure you would agree. Whilst the fact about customers is well known, so many businesses have no plan for their most important customers. They simply assign a salesperson or a team to a segment of the customer base. From that point the plan falls right away from the process.
So what do you need to do here? You must create a Key Account Plan. Here are some simple steps to get started in doing that:
- Review your current business to know exactly where the sales are coming from. From that point your database should be split up into clients of different categories and product ranges.
- Determine the levels of business coming in and in what categories. How are sales expected to change in those categories in coming years?
- Exactly what could be considered your core business? What products and services sit squarely in those categories?
- Are there any seasonal pressures on sales and service activities? How are the trends going now in those categories?
- Consider the level of sales for a client that would be considered above the ordinary level.
- Divide your clients into groups and zones. What zones and groups are the easiest to service?
- Review the financial data for each client and their sales activity over the last 2 years. How has that activity changed? What is expected to happen with that activity in the future?
- What are your competitors doing now and what pressures will they place on your market share and client base?
- What threats exist in your market currently and how will that flow through to your business base?
When you answer these questions you have the raw data to move ahead towards your Key Account Plan.
At the early stages of connecting with a customer, make sure that you are dealing with or talking with a decision maker. So many prospects like to think that they are the decision maker when it comes to ‘buying’, but in reality there is a head office or board of directors somewhere that will make the final move on any recommendations.
So how do you get around this? Through ‘selective questions’ you will get the facts; that is the right answer in most meeting and prospecting situations. You can usually ‘read between the lines’ when it comes to the responses that you get.
In saying this, be aware that some prospects are ‘doorways’ to the top people or decision makers. You may only have that ‘doorway’ to use in reaching into a business for a sale or order.
So what can you do here? Set some rules like the following:
- Research the business or the customer on the internet and in any other way possible before you start to approach them.
- Find someone in ‘management’ that can give you relevant facts about the business and the people.
- Get to meetings as much as possible as the personal approach allows you to read and interpret the body language as well as the words spoken.
- Find out what they are doing today and if any of your competitors are active with the prospect. If so, respect the relationship and find out how it works.
- Understand the ‘lead times’ to requirements and if any ‘pain points’ exist when it comes to the business or the prospect using your products or services. Can you save them any money? Can you make their business more productive?
- Practice your dialogue for prospecting and in attending meetings. The practice process will help you lift your conversions.
- Understand that all prospects and customers have pressures and challenges. Speak to enough prospects in the market and you will find that you can ‘open more doors’ on future sales.
Sales and customer service today will always have challenges, but the reality is that the challenges have always been there. Focus on the value that you bring to the market and the sales that you make will escalate.
In professional selling, the day that you have before you is the most important. With the 12 hours you have ahead of you, every minute should be optimised for the actions that will bring you the best results.
Top salespeople do not waste a minute, an hour or a day. They work to a plan and understand what should happen to help them build market share and sales opportunities. They then start the process and they control it to the very end. Yes, I know that some things will always happen that will upset the process and some of the actions that were planned, but most of the time the top salesperson got the right things done as part of their day plan; they knew that they were in control and they did not give that control to anyone else.
If you are a professional salesperson, the same rules should apply to you. Here are some questions and concepts to consider:
- How will you focus your energy all day to get the job done at a high level?
- What do you need to practice that will have great benefit on the results?
- What barriers will you strike and how will you handle them?
- How will you stay focused and ‘cool’ under pressure?
- What thoughts and actions will help you rise to the challenge?
- What are your goals to focus on and how are you doing that?
Have you ever noticed how top golfers approach their game? They practice for hours before the game, and then they approach the game with a sequence of focus. Every shot that they take is a planned event. They size up the shot, stand behind the ball and visualise the ‘drive’ and the ‘direction’. They are prepared for performance.
The same logic applies to professional salespeople. Here are some tips to help you:
- Plan the events of the day.
- Start every day with focus and practice before you get to your office or sales territory.
- Understand the key issues that will take you to the top of the ‘sales’ game.
- Every telephone call, meeting, proposal, presentation, and negotiation should be well crafted.
It is surprising just how many salespeople do not focus and practice their skills. That is an amazing opportunity for those that are prepared to do so.