Making the Holiday Lulls work for You

‘Tis the season to be jolly. Unfortunately, the season can also mean a lull in sales, making holiday cheer harder to come by for sales professionals.

With so much activity going on around us—businesses wrapping up their year, decision-makers taking extended time off, attention focused on holiday parties and gift-buying—how can we make sure that the holidays bring tidings of financial joy to our companies and ourselves?

In thinking about the sales challenge the holidays can present, I’ve come up with a few helpful suggestions as to how you and your sales team can keep up your momentum into 2009.

The holidays can make it difficult to get face time with clients, but they are a great time to build or reinforce relationships with them. Send a gift basket, or even just a holiday card. Not only will they appreciate the thought, but it is a great way to get your name in front of the customer one last time before the New Year.

Speaking of the New Year, use this slow time to introduce to clients the new things you’ll be launching in 2009, such as new programs, pricing, strategies or products. Building up excitement for your company will surely start 2009 off the right way.

Focus on team building. Lead your team in an evaluation session where you examine the best and worst practices of 2008, and allow only the best to see the New Year. Look ahead to the opportunities 2009 presents and, as a team, plan the best way to achieve company goals. Use this time to strengthen the team. Continue to sell for 2008, but plan ahead to make 2009 even better.

When in doubt, most will agree that a holiday bonus is sure to motivate your team to sell hard. That, combined with special discounts for your clients, has the potential to give your company and your team a little end-of-year sales boost.

Tips for Generating Revenue in Tough Economic Times

With businesses facing tough financial times across the board, closing sales is more challenging than ever.  So how can we continue to generate revenues when our prospects and customers are scaling back their budgets? Make more phone calls? Lower our prices? Improve our sales process? Make better use of technology? Find better prospects?

I posed the question to my LinkedIn connections and got some great feedback, including this very valid point from one respondent:   “Unless you can help [your client] generate more revenue on every dollar they spend on your solution, none of the above will really help you generate revenue.”

Consider this before entering a conversation with a current or prospective client. Know how you can help their business before you approach the sale. Learn how their business specifically is being impacted, and identify the ways in which your product or service can aid them.

Refocus your sales tactics on value instead of cost. Lower costs will not attract people who do not have a need for your product. Find out how your product can bring value to someone else. If the value is there, cost will become secondary.

Lowering prices may be a strong tactic in the short run, but it is a slow and difficult process to raise them back up as the market improves. Instead, try limited time offers and make sure that yours is the most cost-effective solution on the market to drown out competitors.

One respondent suggested that making more calls will lead to more sales. More calls means more prospects and more opportunities to find a way in which to help that prospect and, if all goes well, turn them into a client.

Whatever tactic you chose to use, remember that value outweighs cost. Improve your client’s business and your business will also improve.

Seven Levels of Best Practices Sales Benchmarking

This week’s blog comes to us from Aaron Bartel of Sales Benchmark Index, a strategic advisory firm, and author ofMaking The Number: How to Use Sales Benchmarking to Drive Performance.”

Before you launch a sales improvement effort it makes sense to understand what level of Best Practices your sales organization is capable of leveraging.  These levels begin at the most basic and proceed to the most involved (but also most effective) form.

In reading about the definitions of each level of best-practices benchmarking, some might be tempted to think that it seems simple. Where is the complexity found in most corporate programs? If your thoughts tend to this direction, you are not alone.

Yet most organizations are not putting energy and commitment to these areas, so even if the concept is basic, the execution is lacking.  In fact, as the goal of a best-practices sales benchmarking effort is improvement – the dogma of any particular benchmarking approach is unimportant. Best Practices Sales Benchmarking is a business practice or skill with countless forms and applications.

With that said, each of the seven levels of best-practices benchmarking is described below.

  1. Learn from Past Success:  Organizations should perform the technique of success analysis. This encompasses the habit of documenting what went right as well as what went wrong on any number of corporate-specific tasks.
  2. Borrow Good Ideas: Small companies tend to be especially skilled at idea importation. Starved of resources, small companies naturally develop a beg, borrow, and creatively imitate mentality that enables them to leverage others’ experience and learnings.  The important concept is that these ideas originate from outside the organization and are freely available.
  3. Best in Company:  This type of benchmarking captures the follow-up activity that occurs in those companies collecting large amounts of data through CRM or other sales-related systems. Through the collection, assessment, and display of this data in various dashboard systems, sales executives can spot the best performers.
  4. Industry Standard: This type of benchmarking, and the next three that follow, all require comparison of internal performance to external performance. What differs in each is the degree of excellence represented by the external sample set. In industry-standard benchmarking, the goal is to bring some aspect of the organization up to the level of the relevant peer group.
  5. Industry Leadership: This type of benchmarking is not greatly different from the previous one, but it captures an element that sometimes can be missing from industry-standard benchmarking. As discussed previously in this section, the definition of a peer group for purposes of benchmarking may or may not contain companies that are directly or even indirectly competitive.
  6. Best in Country: Achieving this designation may or may not have significance to the organization based on its customer base, market, and geography. Those selling to government organizations or those in relatively closed economies will value this highly.
  7. World Class:  The urge to be the Babe Ruth of benchmarking is irresistible. Sales leaders particularly are always on the hunt for the Big Idea that is easily adopted and yields breakthrough results. These do exist, but they are a precious few. Most successes achieved through benchmarking are a series of modest improvements – singles, steals, bunts, and the occasional double – that, taken together, enable a sales organization to achieve world-class performance. To attain world-class status in benchmarking requires a deep and longstanding commitment, resources, patience, and a willingness to persevere through many obstacles.