There are very few organisations that can rest on their laurels and say ‘we’re doing just fine where we are’. In bigger companies, there is always pressure from shareholders, business owners or the board of directors for growth. Competitors with new solutions are never far away. In smaller entrepreneurial organisations, maybe it’s simply that you want to grow the business to see a return on your investment or just have more disposable income from your ‘lifestyle’ business. Whatever the reason, it pays to aim for growth. If you don’t, you may find a new market entrant or established player has come up with something new to pull the rug out from under your feet and steal away your best clients. So, to help you focus on business development, we’ve come up with our 5 essential components of sales growth?
Sounds simple, doesn’t it? But, too frequently, organisations and individuals are too busy being busy. They often focus internally not externally and concentrate on doing stuff that doesn’t add to the top and bottom line. Now, of course, there are activities that are essential to the smooth running of every business and that provide a platform for growth to take place. But, what we’re asking here is ‘what regular activities are you carrying out with a view to growing your sales and bottom line?’ All too often, the status quo prevails since everyone is busy. Even in larger organisations, we’ve seen staff tied up with current customers and customer service issues, sometimes at the expense of deployment of resource to generate new business.
We all know that customer retention is less expensive than acquisition but a blend is needed. And, there’s no time like the present. So, make sure you do the following:
- Put together a robust sales plan and budget
- Identify key marketing and sales activities
- Allocate responsibilities and make sure someone takes ownership for growth
- Take action and implement your plan starting today
Build a Pipeline
When I set up my own business 16 years ago after a senior corporate career predominantly in marketing, I didn’t really see myself as a sales person. And, in the relatively early days, sales were hard to come by. I didn’t have a pipeline and had exhausted personal contacts. Therefore, I put a large amount of effort into every prospect. That’s absolutely right in many ways. However, I was, in many ways, investing too much energy into every single one and wondering why I couldn’t get them over the line.
I then had a meeting with Mike Southon, The beermat entrepreneur at The IOD in Pall Mall. I mentioned my dilemma to Mike. After only a couple of minutes, he stopped me and said that I looked good, smelled good and sounded good (me, using a little poetic licence here) and that he knew my problem. The problem, he said, was simply that I was over-reliant on too few prospects and that I needed to build a pipeline. At any given time, one or more would then be likely to come to fruition. That piece of advice transformed my thinking and I stopped focussing on individual prospects to the expense of everything else. I started to focus on building the pipeline and have never looked back. And, guess what, prospects can smell desperation. If your sales funnel is full of prospects and leads, you will come across more confident and you’ll be more likely to win more business.
Work on your Positive Mental Attitude
You really won’t go far without PMA. Have you ever been stuck at an event or a party with someone that is boring? What’s the first thought in your mind? I’ll bet it isn’t ‘Wow, let me chat to this person for a while’. It’s more likely to be ‘get me out of here.’ People still buy people even in this online age. That’s especially so when it comes to big ticket items and important corporate purchases. Therefore, you and your team are the catalysts for growth in every scenario when you interact with potential customers. Whilst we don’t want over-enthusiasm that turns people off, we do want confidence and energy. I’m going to include in this section the elements of positive body language (including eye contact), intonation when speaking and the ability to engage through questioning and listening. Whilst, these elements may not strictly fit a section on attitude, if your sales style is to sell at all costs, you probably won’t be as effective as someone that puts the customer first and listens to their needs before offering solutions. Nevertheless, however you handle sales, if you don’t approach the discipline every day with a ‘can-do’ attitude, each day will be a slog and sales are unlikely to flow as fast as they would have done otherwise.
Build a Robust Sales Process
I have spoken about the importance of process in past blogs. Like many things in business, selling benefits from a proper process. Whether that’s a robust CRM system to capture leads and your database of target contacts or the discipline of your sales team to follow-up each opportunity swiftly, the process is important. It may be that you have a strong marketing process from SEO or PPC that drive leads to a landing page on your website where there are data capture forms and calls to action. Or, maybe it’s inbound enquiry management when a prospect comes into the business and how the sales team handle that process. The key is that there is some form of structure to ensure that few enquiries fall through the slats and that the right questions are asked to gauge warmth and likelihood of conversion. It may be as simple as identifying review or renewal dates for future calls and recording those on the CRM system.
However you look at it, efficient sales processes will ensure that you win more business. So, take a look at your current modus operandi. Whether your business is large or small, there’s no excuse for not having a system that drives growth.
How Persistent are you?
One could argue that this tip also relates to the point above. You need a process for follow up. Earlier in this article, I mentioned the importance of capturing renewal dates where possible. Persistence, in this context, is slightly different to attitude (albeit connected) and to the processes you need. An interesting illustration of persistence is a situation that occurred with one of our long-standing telemarketing clients. In October 2015, we made an appointment for one of their sales team to meet with a major cruise line. They subsequently won a piece of business with that prospect that was worth not far short of £1m in 2016. On checking our CRM system, we learned that our first sales call to that prospect was in July 2012 and we had been making periodic calls since that time, never losing sight that this could be a valuable client in the making!
Now, we’re not saying that persistence means blindly carrying on when there’s no end in sight and no opportunities forthcoming. A proper approach to lead generation is required. You need to define your audience, work on the proposition and build the pipeline for call-backs as we suggested earlier, especially when review dates come up. That takes time and there are no easy short-cuts. You also need some successes to validate the exercise and to give you confidence that there is light at the end of the tunnel. After all, few businesses can continue to throw money at lead generation without return. Equally, I often say that lead generation is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s a continuous process that does take time, especially from a standing start where no pipeline has been established. Lead generation involves plenty of rejection. It means lots of No’s. It also means scheduling call-backs at the right time. And, that right time just might be 1-2 years hence.
Giving up isn’t an option. If we assume that you are targeting the right audience with a compelling message over the right amount of time, the odds should work in your favour. However, if you give up too soon, you may never know. And, you may have missed out on your largest potential customer. Incidentally, one of our clients advised us recently, that a new business appointment that we made for them, where nothing happened at the time, became their largest single client spending in excess of a six-figure sum. But, the first order arrived nearly 8 months after the first appointment. They had kept in touch following the initial meeting and their (and our) perseverance paid off.
Of course, these 5 Essential Components of Sales Growth aren’t the only things that will fuel your revenue growth. You need good people. If you use an external agency, like GSA, you need to brief them well. You also need to support any external activity by ensuring that your website and social presence does you justice. Increasingly, potential buyers check you out online. And, that extends to your LinkedIn profile and whether you post interesting content that showcases your skills. If you ant to be visible and get onto shortlists, you need to be credible. This blog is an example of this. We have over 280 blogs and lots of videos, podcasts and infographics on our site that support our sales endeavours. These have helped us generate organic leads via the search engines that are a much lower cost of acquisition than other methods. However, this is not a short-term fix. You might get lucky but, ultimately, there’s no substitute for deploying the right tactics if you want to ensure sales growth.
GSA helps businesses become more effective in their marketing and business development. We run outbound telemarketing campaigns into the UK, Europe and further afield. Also, with our experience, we provide telemarketing training to help sales teams improve their results. If you’d like to know more, give us a call.