While it’s difficult to be prescriptive about the ebbs, flows and unforeseen ‘acts of God’ within a business or industry, a lack of orders generally means something is broken within the sales and marketing functions.
Or worse still, your product, service or technology is no longer ‘customer/market appropriate’, in which case it’s probably a much bigger issue. (However, for now, let’s not go there!)
One of my big breaks was being introduced by a client to an amazing sales training company run by ex-Xero sales director Dennis Sobey.
What he taught me – then my team of directors and sales support staff – was a series of tools and techniques, many of which I still use today.
This article first appeared in the February issue of The Manufacturer magazine. To subscribe, please click here.
Top Tips: Take-away, builds and subsequent learnings
- It is 10-times ‘easier’ to make a sale to a current or lapsed customer than to a cold lead.
- Intimately understand the eco-system in which you operate – the routes to market, the influencers, your USPs, your immediate competition, your customers’ customers and ultimately how you can make your customers succeed. If your customers succeed you succeed.
- Selling is not telling. One mouth – two ears; use them in proportion when meeting customers/prospects and ask lots of open questions.
- Find the right M.A.N. – the person with the Money, the Authority, the Need (two out of three doesn’t usually lead to closing sales quickly). Put another way, if you find the wrong M.A.N. you’ll waste a lot of time.
- Use personal recommendations and testimonials as a short cut. However, they only help you get a foot in the door. You, the product or service still need to be credible.
- Translate your product and service features into customer benefits. Make sure you translate these into your customers’ language and tell sales ‘stories’ which resonate.
- Preparation and rehearsal is critical, especially when meeting a new prospect/company for the first time. Do your homework! Especially if selling or pitching as a team.
- Use PowerPoint as a last resort. Far better to have face-to-face conversations with interactive/immersive sales tools to maintain eye contact and help you read body language.
Hunters and farmers
Every sales team needs a healthy mix of hunters and farmers. The hunters should be motivated to ‘explore the eco-system – the territory you agree’.
They enjoy the excitement of the chase, ‘the kill’ – bringing home trophies. They are very much self-starters, need careful management and regular structured reporting systems.
The farmers are relationship builders and include pre-sales and after-sales support, and customer care. In the agency world they are called ‘account directors’. In all cases, they are employed to ensure client-customer relationships are maintained, and as new opportunities arise they are in pole position to deliver the solution.
Hunters and farmers working in unison are a highly effective pairing.
Customer Relationship Management
CRM (Customer Relationship Management) systems range from paper ledgers to spreadsheets and all the way up to sophisticated applications such as Salesforce or SAP. In all cases the data by itself is useless, it needs to be brought to life and put into context.
Something I call creating ‘actionable insights’, which enable the business to be informed during strategy planning and for monitoring day-to-day activities.
This is a rich topic, but the bottom line is sales and marketing insights must include internal KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) such as turnover, profitability, profitability per client and product reliability.
Understand returns, your new business pipeline, sales conversions, customer satisfaction ratings and external KPIs such as industry challenges.
Last, but not least, change, key customer performance, staff movements, competitor introductions and insight from your suppliers all need integrating within a management dashboard to enable both short- and long-term management of the business.
Product planning and marketing
This can be an amazing way to partner with your customers to develop their and your next product. How many times have customers asked, ‘What’s new?’, or ‘Have you seen XYZ technology’.
So, rather than leaving the future to chance, beyond day-to-day hunting, plan ahead properly.
For effective ‘farming’ relationships there really needs to be an individual (or team) dedicated to looking a year-plus ahead at all aspects of what’s happening across your customers and their customers’ industries.
Be aware of trends and new technologies, changes in legislation and even changes in working practice. Rather than let your customer tell you what’s happening in their world, be proactive and come to them with ideas and insights.
Speed, integrity and spread risk
As mentioned above, if your product or service is in decline and your customer or customer’s market is resizing then unfortunately, even with the best sales and marketing systems you will have to ‘cut your overhead’ to match market demand.
This is painful but necessary for the business to survive and readjust. However, please do it with speed, with integrity and slightly deeper than you think. Then, in the grow-back stage perhaps consider not putting all your eggs in the same ‘market basket’.