If you have been in business or in sales you likely have gone through some times when sales seem to stop coming in or your opportunities dry up in your sales funnel. Besides panicking, what can be done to change the course of your direction? What actions can you take to fill your funnel and bring back your sales revenues? Here are a few that I have learned over the course of 25 plus years.
Look to your customer or client base
Looking at your existing customers is the easy way to sell and find new business. They are already sold on your products or services. Try asking yourself these questions? Do you understand your customers or clients as well as you think you do? How does their business work? Have their marketing efforts paid off? What new business challenges to they face? What exactly do they do for their customers? What outside influences or competition has affected their business? I’ve learned that by asking good questions and genuinely caring about their business concerns, opportunities will start to fill my pipeline again.
Your best customers are your best salespeople
Most small business owners have four or five good customers or clients that are so happy with our products or services, that they are willing to tell others and sometimes believe more in our business than you do. Take these people out for a coffee or lunch and ask them if they can think of anybody that can use your products or services. All you need is leads or an introduction from them. Having these type of people on your side can increase your pipeline faster than you can on your own.
Resurrect old leads and opportunities
Look back into your CRM and find those sales opportunities that were abandoned from lack of interest, the timing was off or the funds were not there. Then review the reason and come up with a new solution for those who warrant a follow-up call. It’s amazing how a fresh set of eyes and new products or services can find solutions to old problems. Sometimes new people in the old accounts allow for new opportunities as well.
Schedule a follow-up week
Yes you need to find time in your schedule and prioritize and focus on digging up leads. Then start smilin’ and dialin’ as the old schoolers’ say. Now it’s time to comb through all those old leads and opportunities. So open up your calendar and schedule a week of follow-up calls. Contact those old prospects with the object to revisit and find new solutions with your new or improved products and services you now offer. I’m not suggested pushing products or services because you need to sell, but looking for opportunities where these fit in well and help your customers or clients.
Will you find problems? Yes but don’t let that stop you. Problems usually indicate to your customers and clients that you care about their business and are willing to help them out, not just make money through sales of your products or services. Sales means problem solving. Sales will come in based on your targeted efforts and your willingness to find solutions.
Most of us in business have heard about the 80/20 rule or principle and understand how it applies. Using this rule every day in our business sales, we know that 80% of our business comes from 20% of our customers and clients as a starter. It’s also true, that most of us miss the 80% of the business sitting right in “front of our noses;” the easy sales with our existing base of customers and clients.
I know it sounds so obvious, but most companies spend too much of their marketing budget and efforts to increase revenues with new business. That effort can consume your marketing budget between 16-20 times more than existing business relationships, thereby missing the easy, affordable target market. Existing customers and clients cost a minimal amount to reach, with far less effort, little sales resistance and usually without any competition to fight against.
So what would be the best marketing tool to use to reach this untapped marketing of opportunity? May I suggest as a trained, seasoned sales and marketing professional, using permission email marketing is still one of the most affordable and effective tools to reach your customers and clients you worked so hard to obtain. Harvesting opportunities can be as easy as reaching out on a bi-monthly basis informing your clients and customers of new products and services through email campaigns.
Applying the 80/20 principle to your valuable list of customers and clients will generate quality leads that are affordable, give you shorter sales cycles and provide you with a value-add to the services you offer them.
Could this be new “death of a salesman” or salesperson to be gender correct? I never thought I’d ever be writing this blog, but as our world changes, business processes evolve and the merging of sales and marketing is apparent. I wanted to share my thoughts as even my own business model had to change with this shift from sales training to complete marketing services. I have spend a third of my career as a successful corporate high tech sales executive. The last decade, I have provided business to business sales training teaching, coaching and strategic selling, but I believe the “wheels of change” have “rolled into town.” The role of salespeople is rapidly changing before our eyes in what I believe is due to economic reasons, business process change and purchasing environment method evolution. In my observations we are seeing a paradigm shift moving from hiring commission salespeople to contracting sales agents and more recently to more of a marketing and ecommerce process. You may not agree with me, but have a look at my reasons for making such a bold statement which are based on my observations and conclusions over the past several years.
Why are we seeing this model shift?
Economic Reasons – As we compete globally and profit margins on products dwindle from a healthy sustainable percentage, companies can’t afford to give away about a tenth of the revenue or even provide decent salary and bonus structure in order to retain business development or account managers. It’s also a payroll burden for benefits and for management to control the efforts of a sales team. Over all, it’s just too costly to use the old sales model in today’s marketplace.
Negative Role – The attitude toward salespeople is a negative one that has developed over the years. Many have tried to to re-brand these roles and give them new titles, but no one wants to to “bugged” by a sales call or for that matter to “be sold”. Unfortunately over the years we have all despised used car salesman, pesky insurance agents or pushy real estate agent who get in our faces. Even in the corporate world, resistance was there to avoid the office furniture agent, copier representative or insurance benefits salesperson. From my experience, no one likes the pressure of a self-serving commissioned salesperson. Even sales people themselves don’t like them.
Process Change – The processes have changed to prevent sales people from infiltrating into the company system. They do it by putting a stop to cold calls, not allowing salespeople in the front door without appointments, putting in phone systems that reroute unknown calls, email blocks to stop repeat offenders as well as purchasing agents being trained not to buy from a cold call. The internet was an improvement for buyers and purchasers providing more supplier information, product comparisons and pricing tables from a desktop computer without the need of sales assistance to educate consumers. Even the open market for purchasers to just buy off the web rather than see any value of a face to face meeting, changed procedures.
So what is the new movement?
What I have seen is the beginning of a new sales and buyer process? In fact, I would suggest it’s more of a marketing and buyer process. Two years ago I was offering a national health and safety training company assistance which included marketing efforts. The president made a bold move, fired his two salespeople and replaced lead generation and sales with per per click marketing, a landing page with a good call to action and ecommerce. Not only did he increase his revenues but he dramatically reduced his costs. Bringing it closer to home, I too was a product of these changes personally several years ago as the national distributor moved from account managers to an ecommerce model with marketing in order to compete with cross border purchasing and its competitors. Even when the products or services require more assistance, the trend seems to be hiring product specialists usually as an internal role to provide solutions and answer questions. Having written a blog and sticking out my neck with these bold statements, hopefully I’m not making any enemies in the process as viewers look at how I see the replacement of the death of the salesperson.
New Process and Conclusion
The new way of getting leads will give way to marketing efforts in order to attract new customers, clients and patients. This methodology will comprise of effective SEO of websites, a strong social media presence, blogging for credibility, pay per click ads to drive interest and email marketing to keep in touch with existing accounts. From leads to actual closed business will involve one or two processes more compared to a sales rep. Simple products or services only require a good ecommerce model to walk potential clients or customers through the process. The more complex solution may require the specialist or online support. I believe we will see good salespeople that are knowledgeable in their field and product or technical experts moving into a specialist role. Lead generation will be the role of marketing to bring in new customers or clients by way of informing and educating. Ecommerce will provide the financial transaction conduit with customer service and follow up with live chat messaging and triggered email for correspondence. Honestly, it’s all really quite frightening to see, but if you can’t fight it, join it and do it well.
Your thoughts are welcome!
Today we hear a lot about blended families or hybrid cars. In this post I want to share a bit about blended training for sales and marketing. Blended training can refer to classroom and remote training mediums. However, I’m actually referring to two related topics. As the lines between sales and marketing close in together more and more each day, I’d like to remind you how this happened and how it affects your sales team members today. Surely we have learned from the past common mistakes.
If you looked back 15 or 20 years ago, most sales and marketing departments stood on their own. The left hand quite often did not know what the right hand was doing. If you don’t mind me suggesting, I would submit to you that the president’s or business owner’s vision quite often never made it to the marketing team, let alone making it to customers in the streets. The good news is that this process has changed for most companies in today’ business environment.
Having said that, may I suggest that successful sales teams today have a close relationship with marketing members. Should you be in a small business or have a lean and mean sales force, then you most likely have needed to learn a few marketing tools. What tools are required by smaller sales teams?
To reach out on a regular basis to customers and clients, the task can be expensive and daunting. Getting leads from your website into your CRM and into your sales peoples hands in a timely manner can be frustrating. How much better would your day be if the hot lead was in your hands quickly and your potential customers was educated before you even reached out to them. Most have learned the power and time saving efforts of integrated email marketing which supports the efforts of the sales team member.
Are you good at what you do and consider yourself an expert? Do you need to establish credibility for your years of knowledge and service? Then set up a blog, learn some blogging skills and start posting on a regular basis. Blogging was never really meant for selling your services or products, but it is a great sales tool for creating a better image of your character or company image.
How good are your presentations? Do your clients fall asleep with boring details before you even made your point? Perhaps consider taking a few courses on public speaking and presentation creation skills. Learning some best practices for design and creation value propositions and sales proposals might not be a bad idea.
Last but not least, get good at social media marketing. I don’t advise spending all day playing around and messaging friends, but get real good at integrating your email campaigns and blog posts to regurgitate your message to a greater audience. May I suggest sticking to the major contributors such as Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus and LinkedIn.
I would love to hear your comments on this topic!