Every business should have a solid and defined system when it comes to finding new clients and converting them to customers over time. I like to split the system up into just 3 stages of;
- Follow up
At the end of each week you can do your numbers analysis of each of these pipeline phases. In that way you will know that you are moving forward. As a business or as a salesperson, you have to be moving somewhere positive over time. It takes about 3 months of prospecting to build positive momentum and new market share. It takes the same amount of time for a business to slide backwards in their market.
Great salespeople prospect continually so the 3 months factor never seems to be a problem; the good salespeople just keep driving more market share.
Ultimately the follow-up phase will be the precursor to an order or a sale. This ratio of sales success will change from salesperson so salesperson and will largely be established on experience and relevance of each salesperson to the client.
Most clients will base their decision on the value of the deal and the quality of the product over the experience of the salesperson, but the experience of a salesperson will greatly impact the factors of repeat business. If you want repeat or referral business then the quality of your sales team will have a lot to do with the results that you get.
Here are some tips for new salespeople in any industry:
- Make prospecting your lifeblood so that it features in your diary every day for at least 2 hours.
- The best time to prospect is first thing in the morning before the day gets away from you.
- Focus on making calls to new people for at least 50% of your prospecting time. In this way you will grow your client base.
- Spend more time in face to face meetings each day. The office paperwork can wait to the end of the day.
- Clients like to trust the people that they do business with. Would your prospects regard you as ‘trustworthy’?
In any business at any point in time, there will always be challenges that will arise. If you can be a ‘solutions based salesperson’ you will find that the deals are easier to find and close. Most clients like to work with experts that can relieve the pain of any decision. When you negotiate or close on a deal with a client, provide facts and figures that support their agreement and order to be placed. Top salespeople do that all the time.
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When it comes to your career in selling anything, the skills that you develop in lead generation are really important to the outcomes that you get with customers and ‘Key Accounts’. In itself, lead generation can be an entire system or process that you use in your business every day. If you get the system right, you will have a steady pipeline of leads and new clients. Consistency is the key to lead generation.
Without this ‘lead’ system, your business or customer base will eventually contract and shrink over time. Customers will leave you for all types of reasons. So of those reasons you can control, and others you cannot.
So here are some tips and ideas for building a system of contact that will help with future leads and prospects for you and your business:
- Understand you market by both type and location. Exactly where do your customers come from and why do they come to you? When you know the answers you will know how to improve the rate of enquiry or opportunity.
- Who are your customers? You will need to profile your customers into segments of value and relevance to your business.
- Why do your customers come to you? What are the top 5 reasons most of your customers come to you?
- When do those customers come to you? Seasonal selling can be a real challenge if the space or time between selling seasons is quite long.
Taking all of these facts into account you will find that a profile of you customer can be built. The demographic of the ideal customer can be inserted into your sales team business plan and prospecting strategy.
Here is a very important question for you. What is the difference between a basic customer and a ‘Key Account’? There should be a real difference of response and service when it comes to helping a ‘Key Account’ in your business.
‘Key Account’ customers can impact your business in a major way; the loss of a key customer can be devastating to the cash flow. Far too many businesses operate with a small number of key accounts, and that then exposes them to great risk with competitors continually chasing their key account for new business.
So the message here is clear. Find new leads for your business by developing a system of contact, and then move the basic customers through your contact pipeline to convert them to ‘Key Accounts’. Over time this basic process will strengthen your business base and market share. Service your ‘Key Accounts’ with the due care and relevance that they deserve.
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In business today I see far too many sales people that take things the way that they are. These salespeople fail to adjust to the market and learn more skills to build better market share under changing market conditions.
Let’s face an important fact here; the market is always changing, and yet if you keep doing the same old things, nothing will change for you. One of the toughest things to change in business is your habits. You have spent years building on your habits; whilst that can be a protection process to keep life under control, it certainly does nothing for you in getting more sales and better customers.
The best salespeople know that adjustment is a wise process; everything we get out of business and our market will come from our efforts. They are the only things that we can control.
In most locations, towns or cities, the selling season is limited to no more than 11 months of the year. In some cases it is far less than that. All of your effort has to be directed into the core selling time in the best possible way. That will include the right factors of:
- Target market in your town or city
- The right products or services
- The right time of day
- Product and service knowledge
- Knowing what people will want and when
- Building strong relationships with the right people
- Keeping on top of the competition and their activities in your area
- Capturing all of your contacts into a database of relevance and quality
- Communicating frequently into your market and customer base
Now would be a good time to look at just what you are doing in your business and customer base. Can you improve any of the above items? What will it take to change old restricting habits to a new process of growth and change?
As a final tip in this topic it is worthwhile noting that most customers will move on to others at some stage; you cannot keep the same customers forever. All things being equal, some of your customers will move location, change business focus, or be attracted the competitors in your market. On that basis it pays for you to develop a process of new client growth as part of your prospecting processes.
Plan to lose some of your current customers each year, so you then fill the void with new customers. It is a fact that new prospects and customers in some industries will take time to nurture and convert. Top salespeople know how to do this; they have a system to support the entire process. Develop the focus and start to build your market for the long term.
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In business today there are many types of customers and yet we forget to handle each of them separately and specially. It is important to have a customer communication and contact system specifically designed for the different types of customers.
This then says that every customer type should have a dedicated part within your customer contact program. The strategies between customers types will differ based on some of the following criteria:
- You will have some loyal clients that have been working with you and purchasing your products or services for many years. They will bring stability to your business with consistent purchases and orders. Some of those loyal clients will be key accounts by definition, and also by volume of sales and orders.
- Your service and response should be different between ordinary customers and key accounts. Differentiate the ways in which you will work with key clients. Senior sales staff should be dedicated to each particular key account to ensure relevance and responsiveness when it comes to the supply of goods and services.
- From time to time you will get referral business and new clients from a number of sources. Referral business is built around the relationships, leads, and opportunities that you have with other people. When you have been given a referral, it is necessary to specifically and productively work through the referral opportunity. Only your best salespeople should take on the referral contact and potential conversion. It may also be necessary to give feedback to the person that made the initial introduction as the referral relationship changes and grows.
- Some of your existing customers will benefit from an improved version of your product or service. Working closely with your clients throughout the year will help you identify these special customers. Over time they can be converted to key accounts.
- When any new versions of your product or service are being considered for release, an industry briefing or prelaunch presentation can be organized for your key customers.
- Some of your current customers will be very happy with the existing levels of product supply and service. They will however never reach the purchasing or order levels of a key account. They still require special attention to ensure stability of customer relationship and ongoing sales.
- The profit margins that may exist on a typical customer sale will differ when it comes to a key account. Purchase volume and purchase amount has a lot to do with setting the lower margins for the key customers. To simplify the matter, set 3 simple levels of key account profit margins based on levels of sale and volumes of purchase. It is usually sufficient to have three levels of pricing relating to key account interaction. As part of this process it is important to understand the orders placed and purchases made by each key account throughout the year.
- Some of your customers will be seasonal in their purchasing activities. They may only require your product or service once a year. That being said, when they place an order and purchase it is likely to be in large volumes for a short period of time. They can therefore place special pressures on the staffing and supply chain, and on that basis will require unique understanding and communication systems.
Protect the relationships with each and every client within your business. Competitors will be chasing your clients and threatening your market share most of the time. It is quite easy for a client to move their product or service requirements across to another supplier. Business today is quite dynamic and demanding. Ensure that your product and or service are of the highest quality at all times. Any weak links need to be removed or rectified.
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