By Diane Helbig
Successful sales is a deliberate, thoughtful activity. You need a process that you initiate over and over again. Whenever I talk with small business owners or salespeople who aren’t realizing the results they desire, the cause is usually the same: They don’t have a sales strategy.
You can’t sell here and there. You can’t pick up the phone when you have a minute. Sales requires a strategy, a process, a way to proceed that you can measure and monitor. Sales is something you have to commit to on an ongoing basis. You can’t just try it for 30 days! It takes persistence, energy and focus.
Think of the sales process in terms of bike riding. When you ride a bike you have to gain momentum. When you first start to pedal, it takes extra energy to get the bike to move. Once you’ve been riding you develop a flow; you can even glide at times. As you ride you build up steam. And when you hit a hill it is easier to climb it because you already have that momentum going.
That’s what an effective sales process is like. Starting out takes extra energy. You have to put the plan in place and start the ride. Once you get that energy going, it becomes easier to maintain. You still have to pay attention to what you are doing, but sticking with it and realizing results becomes easier the more you pedal. However, if you start and stop, and start and stop, you’ll be exhausted … and have nothing to show for it.
There are 5 steps to a successful sales strategy:
1. Define your target market.Knowing this is critical to your sales success. You aren’t going to do business with everyone. And even if you were, you have to start somewhere. You have to have a place where you can focus in order to build up that momentum we talked about.
Once you have the market defined, create a list. This list should be large enough to give you the opportunity to really delve in and repeat the process a couple of times. If your target market is too small your odds of success decrease. You may have to merge two similar target markets in order to have the numbers working in your favor.
2. Determine your outreach. Will you cold call or network or both? I have a system that works really well for my clients. It goes like this:
Once you’ve defined your target and created the list, reach out to your networks to see if you are connected in any way to the person or organization you seek. This includes direct outreach – emailing or calling them – and exploring your LinkedIn contacts. Remember, you are looking for an introduction. That’s it! You want the opportunity to meet with the prospect. When your friend or associate introduces you to the prospect, follow up and set up the meeting.
Next, take the ones on the list you don’t have a connection to and cold call them. This could mean sending them an introductory letter or postcard, or picking up the phone and calling them. If you send an introductory letter or postcard, you must tell them that you will call to follow up – and then follow up! You can’t leave the action in their hands. The process is yours to conduct, not theirs.
3. Know your questions. Before you go on a sales appointment, create a list of questions to ask the prospect. This is the time for you to really get to know them, their needs, their business practices. It is not the time for you to talk endlessly about your product or service. If they look like a qualified prospect, provide them with a quote. If they don’t, walk away.
4. Deliver and build. Deliver on what you said you were going to do for the prospect. Then make sure you build the relationship. Don’t expect them to stay with you or use you for other needs if you aren’t taking the time to build the relationship with them. The sales process doesn’t end with the sale.
5. Monitor. This is one of the most critical aspects of a successful sales strategy. As you move forward with your plan you must keep track of how well it is working. On the first day of each month, take a look back at the previous month. Ask yourself these questions:
- How did it go?
- What worked?
- What didn’t work?
- Did I hit my numbers?
Knowing what works and what doesn’t gives you the opportunity to tweak your process. Adjust or get rid of what doesn’t work, and keep what does. If you hit your numbers, celebrate! Then prepare for the coming month. What’s the goal? What’s the plan?
If you didn’t hit your numbers, determine what might need to be changed and change it. Then add the missed amount to the coming month’s goal. You don’t want to give up on the overall goal by just letting the past month drop. You want to take the sales dollars you didn’t get and add them to your goal for the coming month. Now plan for how you are going to achieve that – and get going.
This is a process that will work over and over and over again. You’ll find that the momentum builds with each step, so it becomes easier to do. Moreover, you’ll realize results from this sort of structure. Implementing a sales strategy keeps you focused and succeeding. And it makes the whole sales process easier to do. So do yourself a favor and give it a whirl! I’m sure you’ll notice the difference.
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