Sales are crucial in any business. And to grow a business, you have to increase sales. This includes both winning and keeping customers.
It’s not just those with ‘sales’ in their job title who need to think about this. After all, there’s more to sales than simply selling products or services. The way we influence, negotiate and form relationships is based on our ability to sell. This goes from landing the career or promotion we want, to influencing our children to make the right decisions in life. The common measures of our overall success are firmly linked to our ability to sell.
For business owners and entrepreneurs, selling is always a part of their role, as at different points in developing their business they have to sell their ideas to funders, colleagues, and customers.
Some people are ‘natural’ at selling. But even they need to work to make sure they’re achieving what they need to do – not just shifting units but also looking after their reputation. This means keeping their promises, and keeping to high professional standards. This drives customer loyalty, and that means future sales.
Of course, there is no one size fits all – each business has a different profile. But there are steps within selling which will help any business increase sales.
So, let’s look at some practical ways to answer the question: how do I sell more?
- First, plan and prepare. The importance you place on selling must be reflected in your business strategy. What ‘mix’ of business do you require? How much revenue from new business and how much from your existing base?
- Invest time. Don’t rush to make sales before you’re ready. Your efforts will be far more successful if you take time to perfect your offering and the way in which you market and eventually sell it.
- Do your research. There needs to be a clear market need for your product or service, and a willingness from customers to pay at a price which covers your margin and provides some profit. Also research your offering; ensure your product or service is proven and tested.
- Have high standards. Be professional. Don’t forget the after-sales process (many businesses do forget). Once you’ve found customers, you don’t want them to walk away feeling unappreciated! If you have a robust system for quality customer service, then your clients will keep coming back for more, as well as endorsing you to others and helping you build your brand strength.
- Set targets. Work out the sales figures you need as part of your business plan. Then figure out the sales activity needed to reach those targets.
- Focus on your customers. Have a simple means of selecting and prioritising ‘best fit’ prospective customers so that you focus your efforts on those who are the most likely to respond to you. On a case-by-case basis ensure that your research points you at the right player/s in the customer’s decision-making process (which will often not be the same person the customer uses to face the outside world).
- Think about the challenges you know your customer is facing, or will be facing. (More research for you to do!)
- Clarify how you’re different from the competition, and how you will substantiate this. This is how you position yourself in the market so that prospective customers think of you as the obvious choice.
- Before meetings or calls, ensure that your preparation includes: a main objective and a ‘fall back’ aim (what you’ll settle for if you can’t secure your principal objective), and a short list of likely objections along with your response to each of them. Be prepared to ask good (usually open) questions which identify and quantify needs and wants for your proposition.
- The most common mistake in selling is presenting too early (making too many assumptions is a close second). Do not present anything until you have noted and understood the customer’s needs and wants and gained his/her agreement that you have understood them via a concise summary.
These tips should help you build and maintain a solid, loyal customer base. It’s always going to be more difficult to find new business than to sell to your existing customers, if they know and trust you. So remember – you don’t just want to make sales; you’re building relationships. Do everything you can to make those relationships work for both you and your customers.
At ABP, all our business mentors have built their own customer bases, and now help businesses like yours to do the same. If you’d like help applying sales expertise to your own business, we’d love to talk to you. We can match you with a mentor who has expertise in your sector and can help you with your own specific sales issues, for example:
- refining your target market
- perfecting your sales pitch
- helping your team improve both sales conversion and average sales values
- strengthening your customer retention and referral rates.
To discuss the needs of your business, and find out how we can help you increase sales, don’t hesitate to contact us today.
Daryl Woodhouse is a business mentor, author and Head of Strategy & Leadership at Advantage Business Partnerships.