Selling - what's changed for 2012? Part II

I challenged you in my last blog to consider what you might need to change in your sales mix for 2012 in order to be better poised to capitalise on the exciting times ahead. Did you come up with any interesting ideas?


Here are some of my thoughts, broadly falling into two categories: “More” or “Less


1. MORE quality versus quantity: The old sales adage “sales is a numbers game” to some extent still applies. The more people you talk to, the higher the probability of success. Here’s the thing though: frenzied, superficial, pure numbers game-type selling does not reap the same reward as more meaningful, well-planned and executed activity.

Doing some real digging before making the first connection will significantly improve not just your confidence and professionalism, but more importantly your outcomes and results. I’ve just answered the phone to a cold caller who started the conversation by asking if she could speak to the decision maker in relation to X. Given that I answered the phone with “Jackie Wade”, she should have known it was me (by simply looking at my website) and that she had a golden opportunity to connect with me at a strategic level. Instead, she blew it by lack of preparation and knowledge – for her it was purely a numbers game exercise!

Spending MORE quality time with each customer or prospect, and actually identifying real need and opportunity, can bring more meaningful results, with higher conversions, shorter lead times and a larger average value of sales. Do your homework, ask the right questions, identify bigger opportunities, seek referrals, network effectively. Don’t be madly dashing on to the next call, appointment or networking event. This is not an excuse for low activity levels but rather striking the important balance between quantity and quality in selling.


2. MORE thinking and being strategic – less banging your head against a brick wall: Who’s buying, who’s not and why? For your product and service where are the growth opportunities? Don’t keep knocking on the same doors if they’re not opening. Yes, there’s a lot to be said for tenacity and persistence in sales, but don’t confuse this with being blind, deaf or stupid! If your customers aren’t buying for very valid reasons then it’s time to either look elsewhere or look at your offering (refresh, revamp, renew, revive…). If something ain’t working, fix it or move on! The marketplace has and is changing dramatically and all sellers need to adapt to these changes.


3. MORE sales focus across your business: This is truly a case of the sum of the parts. If everyone in the business is a little (or a lot) more tuned into selling and sales, then more opportunities get identified; more customers are engaged and getting a better service; more cross-selling takes place; and more referrals are generated. More of the word “selling” or "adding value to the sales process" should be included in people's job descriptions. Make sure everyone knows they have a role to play in the survival and growth of the business. To ensure maximum sales results at minimum cost it’s time to identify who can add real value to your sales. Whether it's your customer service staff, accounts team or HR, your engineers, IT people or administrators - consider anyone who engages at any point with your customers, suppliers or prospects and help them, train them, nurture them and motivate them to understand their true role in selling effectively.


4. MORE clarity about your value: Everyone is looking for more for less. This puts huge pressure on price and margins and, ultimately, having a sustainable long term business. Don’t fall prey to senseless price cutting. Seek to maintain or, even better, increase your prices. Seek to get across the real value of what you do and the benefit of this, and, above all, negotiate. It sounds obvious but I observe too quickly that the first reaction of the novice sales person when challenged on price is to offer to look at price again and review it.

There are many points I could make here but, in an attempt to be brief, the key ones are:

- Are you clearly getting across your value and the value of your product or service to the customer?

- Are you able to explain why you offer MORE return than cheaper alternatives and therefore justifiably cost a little bit more?

- Can you give more perceived value to your customer, which may not cost you much but has high impact (e.g. special service levels, 100% money back guarantee, personalised products, free product training)?

- Could you repackage or adapt your product or service to meet the required pricing parameters, without impacting on your margins?


5. MORE minding your existing customers: Take time to manage and ring-fence your existing customer relationships. Assume nothing! Remember what I said above – everything’s changing! Decide where you need to invest energy and time: where might you be vulnerable or exposed and where might there be exciting opportunities? The truth is you might not know the answers right now, but spend time finding out so that you don’t run the risk of spending time with “he who shouts loudest” and run the risk of assuming that because another customer is quiet, everything is ok. It’s your job to understand your customers and the threats and opportunities you both face and, furthermore, it’s your job to help them identify creative solutions that help them achieve their goals.


And what about less?


1. LESS “salesy”: Forget phoney, slimy, sales gimmicks. They don’t work and only bring you short term gain and long term pain. Focus on sincerity, real interest and delivering on your promise every time. Our customers are more informed, have greater choice and like to be in control, so don’t try and hood-wink them. It won’t work and will only backfire.


2. LESS time wastage: Your time is precious; use it well. Don’t get distracted with all the non-urgent, non-important stuff. De-clutter ruthlessly. Focus on your primary sales objectives, each day, each week, each month. Little and often is usually best. What will you achieve this week? Now go for it!


3. LESS procrastination: The time for selling is today. If business isn’t coming to you, you have to take action now and get proactive. Either do it yourself or hire someone else to do it for you. Putting it off is not an option. If you’re unsure, don’t worry - there are some valuable tools and tips in my book “Successful Selling for Small Business”, or speak to us about training or coaching to help you kick-start sluggish sales.


4. LESS doom and gloom: Hard I know when that’s all you hear in the media but believe me there’s plenty of business out there. Most of my clients who are taking proactive steps are experiencing real growth. There are opportunities, perhaps not as easy to find as in previous times, but often more rewarding. I’m a firm believer in taking control and being the master of one’s own destiny. Yes, 2012 will be challenging, but it will also be exciting, different, uplifting, inspiring, rewarding… bring it on!

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