Category Archives: Sales Strategy

Why Today’s Sales Professionals Need a Good CRM System

I’ve worked with many companies over the years and have often had to implement a sales CRM (aka sales software) system, simply because what was in place was just not working.

Not working in terms of simplicity, ease of use, speed of response time, ability to analyse and manage the pipeline. In fact,  it was quite an eye-opener for me to see companies allowing their sales execs to manage and maintain all of THEIR (I mean the company’s) precious customer information on their personal laptop or in hard-copy format which meant that no-one else at the company had access to years of meaningful lead, prospect and customer history.

More often than not, when those sales execs left for greener pastures, so too did the precious details of many customer relationships. Their replacements had to start from scratch. Which would be rather annoying from a customer point of view don’t you think?

These days, it’s seriously a no-brainer that you need a CRM system. I’m a huge fan of Maximizer CRM – especially the new hosted version with the quote module now built in.  It’s just over R600 ex VAT per user per month and worth every cent. You’ll easily see an ROI from increased productivity and visibility into where you’re going wrong in your sales process.

Having said that,  I’m still happy to advise customers with zero, zero, zero budget to at the very least investigate some freebie CRM systems that are out there. Anything is better than nothing. The catch of course is that

a) the info you can get out is a tad limited and

b) most are pretty expensive in dollar terms if you want to upgrade to the paid option and

c) you’re literally back to square one if you want to move on again.

Talking about moving on … if you’re In the job market then please, if you consider yourself a professional, then only join a company that already has a great sales system in place. Ask the questions at the interview. Go into detail. It will make a huge difference to your earning potential. If there’s a mention of spreadsheets, paper-based systems or something that still uses on Windows 97, then run for the hills.

With the pace of business these days, you’re seriously shooting yourself in the foot if you are still going ‘old school’ with lists and scraps of paper and/or the company is only keeping track of sales in an accounting system. The days of thinking that a CRM system is there to police you are long gone. A well-configured, slick, streamlined CRM system is an excellent sales tool.

Quality sales tools are as important to a salesperson as razor-sharp scalpels are to surgeons. Sales tech is no longer optional. It’s essential.

Choose wisely. But choose must you. As Yoda would say.

It’s Strategy Time …

istock_000000442151smallIn my recent SalesBrief newsletters (hope you’ve subscribed) I have been waxing lyrical about sales strategy.

Tony Manning defines strategy as

“the process of thinking through what today’s business is and what tomorrow’s business should be and then getting there.”

It’s still one of my biggest beefs with sales managers i.e. most don’t have a sales strategy  – and it’s a huge problem. It’s their job to create a sales roadmap, to plan, strategize and guide their team in the right direction whilst making continuous improvements along the way. It’s the documented “who what, why and where” that is the foundation of the “how” we are going to hit or exceed our sales targets as a consequence of delivering value to our customers.

It’s a sales leader’s job to ask questions like:

Where is our growth going to come from?
Which market segments are expanding?
Which markets are declining?
Who are our customers?
What do they need?
Who are our key customers?
Who are tomorrow’s key customers?
What triggers their buying decisions?
What value do we deliver?
What value that we think we are delivering do our customers actually value?
How did we do this year?
Where do we want to be this time next year?
What are our values?
What customer service offering will we commit to?
What do we do better than our competitors?
What do they do better than us?

… and so the list goes on. Strategic sales planning is not a ‘nice to have’ or a luxury. It’s a must have. Even for a sales team of 2 or 3.

Get going on your strategy – the new sales year is just around the corner and you need to hit the ground running. At the very least, work out your personal sales strategy.

 

Three Ways To Increase Your B2B Sales (and Profits)

Tough economy, yet many B2B sales teams are still doing extremely well here in South Africa. What’s their secret?

graph and man

Here are 3 ideas to help you to increase your sales:

Idea #1   Run your sales analytics for the past 5 years

Looking back in order to plan forward is a good starting point. Take a  look at your sales stats in terms of how big your customer pool is in total and what number of customers are active on average every year.  Export your accounting database (which is often a far cry from your CRM database) into Excel and look at it from all angles. Frequency of purchase, average value, size of customer spend etc etc. For example: if you have 1500 customers on your accounts base and only 250 were active in the past 12-18 months, you most likely have a goldmine of neglected, inactive customers that could be a source of new sales.  It requires poring over customer details of those inactive customers line-by-line and separating out the “once-offs” vs. potential repeat orders, but it pays  dividends once you start targeting and reactivating those accounts.

 

Idea #2   Thorough research your active customer accounts

Figure out what your current ‘share of wallet’ is and if/how there are other products or services to offer each active customer. You’d be surprised how many times that my clients share their frustrations about their sales reps not getting their full ‘breadth and depth’ of offerings into their customer accounts.  This needs intense interrogation of what you are (and what you’re not) selling –  but should be selling – to each and every customer you have.

 

Idea #3  Prepare and plan like a sales professional 

Set a ‘commitment objective’ for each and every sales interaction with a prospect or customer. One of the weakest skills sales folks have is knowing that they should be advancing a sale but not being able (or having the discipline) to implement this effectively. It’s not enough to have an objective for a meeting – (many reps don’t even get this far), you need to have a crystal clear commitment objective for every interaction with a prospect or customer i.e. What do you want THEM to commit to i.e. a first appointment, organising a meeting with their CEO, a site visit to assess your strengths, etc etc.

If you need some assistance with this, then visit www.actionselling.com for great tips on advancing the sale. They’ve also got some short YouTube videos that will seriously improve your prep skills. Winging it is not going to increase your sales, if anything you are most likely losing hundreds of thousands of rands in sales because of lack of research and preparation.

Commit to actioning at least ONE of these three ideas in the next few days – it will, without doubt, increase your sales revenue.

For more insights into sales and sales management, be sure to request our weekly SalesBrief newsletter, sent to thousands of sales professionals in South Africa and around the world every Monday.

 

 

Set Your Salespeople Free … To SELL

What’s your current sales team set-up based on?

Is it …

# 1 : Each sales rep being essentially self-sufficient i.e. get their clients, keep the clients and do all that needs to be done, including process the order and collect the payment?

Or is it …

# 2: Configuring your sales “production” process much like you would in manufacturing/factory environment?

I favour the latter. For years, I’ve been calling for companies to start isolating sales tasks and activities and to set up individuals to manage this for the external sales team. Specifically when it comes to sales research (aka qualifying new prospects and opportunities). By doing this, you will free up your external sales team to do what they were employed to do – be out there, all day, every day seeing quality new prospects and making meaningful appointments.

Ten years ago, I thought we would be seeing job ads posted on LinkedIn and on career portals for specialist “Sales Researchers”within a few years. People whose job it is to literally tee-up potential opportunities from prospects as well as existing clients. People whose job it is to stay on top of all new developments in market verticals. People whose job it is to provide insights to the external sales team who in turn use the information to provide even more value to customers.

But this has not happened. We are nearly all still stuck with outdated sales thinking which requires a salesperson to manage the entire sales process on their own – even dragging them into pre-sales social media marketing and post-sales customer care responsibilities too .

Justin Roff-Marsh, based in Australia is the guru behind re-engineering the sales process. I highly recommend that you take a look at his work. This ‘division-of-labour’ principle is working wonders for many companies around the world. Sales have soared and costs have plunged.

In simple terms, the system is based on separating the admin of sales from the face-to-face of sales. And then going further by employing internally-based specialists for every phase of the sales process.

When you release your sales executives from having to do all of their own pre- and post sales admin and shift most of the account management/customer service activities to a slick in-house support team, your sales will increase.

Sales and Marketing: Two Departments Perhaps, But One Team

Believe it or not, many companies forget to keep their receptionist and their sales team well-informed as to when media ads or web-based marketing campaigns are running. Some don’t even let everyone know when they have updated the company’s website or LinkedIn pages with valuable new white papers, case studies or client recommendations that could benefit the sales team.

It’s absolutely crucial that marketing and sales work hand-in-glove to achieve the results from expensive marketing activities. That ONE lead, that ONE phone-in from a small internet ad or PDF download on your website might just be your next biggest client.

By the same token, your marketing team needs accurate and detailed feedback from sales in order to fine-tune future material to support your team’s efforts. Are you satisfied with the information you are providing? Do you make a concerted effort to collect recommendations from your clients?

Get and then keep your sales and marketing folks talking – they are on the same team.

Remember To Dump Your 2012 Sales Baggage

There’s no use in holding onto old sales baggage. Whilst it’s best to do a mental sales “detox” on a daily basis, sometimes we forget and before we know it, we’re carrying a whole load of sales junk that weighs us down mentally. It’s a sure way to dampen our spirit and enthusiasm for this brilliant career path we’re on. Selling is as fun, exciting, interesting and rewarding as we make it.

So forget the orders that didn’t happen, the delivery frustrations, the missing documents, the duff up with the commission calculations and all those little things that can side-track us from doing what we love – being in front of prospects and clients, trying to help them to offer a better service or product to their customers.

Start 2013 off on a clean sales slate. Dump last year’s B2B sales trash and take only the lessons learned and the very best memories into the New Year.

Here’s to Your Abundant Sales Success in 2013 – we’re with you all the way.

Thinking under Pressure

As salespeople, when month-end or a deadline looms and those “definite orders” don’t materialise, we may go into panic mode and start phoning as many customers as possible, literally begging for business and giving away unneccessary discounts.

Alternatively, we may shift into strategic thinking mode, then calmly and carefully work out where to concentrate our best efforts. As a result, we pull in worthwhile orders just in time, without giving away all the profits.

What type of a thinker are you under pressure?

Consistency Keeps Clients

Consistency. Defined in the Oxford Dictionary as ” The quality of always behaving in the same way … happening in the same way and continuing for a period of time”.

Delivering quality, consistent service keeps clients happy. Happy clients stay with their suppliers. (Note the emphasis on “quality” – it doesn’t help to be consistently pathetic by not returning calls, not delivering on time, not invoicing correctly etc, etc.)

No matter how much new business we B2B sales folks bring in, if the company as a whole doesn’t deliver consistently once the honeymoon period is over, the potential value of that account is lost.   A tad frustrating, especially when commission earnings are based on annuity sales or spread over a lengthy time period. Not to mention the personal embarrassment experienced by salespeople who then have to apologise, make excuses or even feel forced to lie to their clients on their company’s behalf. It’s enough to make someone resign.

Ridiculous, isn’t it? To allow a business scenario to evolve where, after such a happy-smiley start to the relationship, clients end up having to nag and nag and then literally throw their toys to actually to get something that they are paying hundreds, thousands if not millions of rands for. In some cases clients should be sending their suppliers an invoice for their time.

Be consistent in every way. It says “You can count on me”.

Are Your Clients On Your Competitor’s Sales Meeting Agenda?

Of course you’ve realised that just as you are holding your weekly or monthly sales meetings, so are your competitors.

Right now – on your competitor’s sales meeting agenda, it’s more than likely that they are busy “plotting and scheming” on how to take your biggest clients right from under your nose.

Sound dramatic? Not really. Just as you have their existing customers in your sights, they have yours in theirs. When you’re discussing when THAT big contract comes to an end and what your strategy is to jump in at the right time, chances are that they are doing exactly the same with your biggest contracts too.

The sales lesson? Make sure you are looking after your existing clients really carefully. Your competitors are always hoping that you mess up really badly.  They are looking to get their foot in the door. Your job is to keep it tightly shut. Locked and bolted.

There is absolutely no point in working your butt off to create new opportunities in your pipeline when your  client base is dwindling due to bad service. It’s like filling up the bath and taking out the plug at the same time. Your net sales gain at the end of the year will be almost zero.

A case in point: I consulted to a large organisation a while back and was tasked with helping the sales team focus on new opportunities, tracking them with laser-beam accuracy.  By monitoring their overall sales efforts, it soon became obvious to me that the folks managing their ecurrent client base weren’t doing their jobs particularly well and/or perhaps management’s will to address the problems was lacking.

Their customer service was so bad that they were shedding clients regularly – almost on a monthly basis. The new business folks were taking a great deal of flak from prospects about their name in the marketplace for poor service and standards. This made the acquisition of new business even more difficult.

Although I brought it to their attention, senior management still insisted on concentrating all their efforts on the sales pipeline as a way to increase their market share and sales figures.  And no, the contracts that their competitors were taking from them  were not ones they wanted to lose – far from it.  Now, a few years later they are still in the same boat – healthy pipeline, unhealthy overall net sales results.

If your type of sale is repeatable, expandable, annuity-based, contract based or similar, invest in your client base. Guard it carefully.  AND go after those rather appealing new prospects.

Collaboration Counts

Would you agree that prospecting for new customers as well as looking for opportunities within existing accounts is often the sole responsibility of salespeople, without any detailed strategic input from senior management?

Sure, we all have a general idea of what type of customers or new deals we want to close, but we need to align our prospecting activities with the strategic direction our company is taking. Whilst in London last week, I noticed that anti-recession prospecting seems to require even more collaboration between senior management and the sales team than usual. Quite a trend that’s paying dividends by the sound of it.

Why not ask your CEO and FD to sit in on your next sales meeting when you’re discussing your Q1 sales pipeline?