Increasing sales is at the frontline of growing any business, while predictable, robust and sustained sales are key to maintaining a healthy, prosperous business.
For the majority of business owners however, increasing sales is (simultaneously) their…
#1 constraint in substantially growing their business.
There are 6 components that play an essential role in optimizing sales success. All are mutually dependent on each other; meaning that the weakest component becomes the ‘weakest link’ and can substantially impact overall sales effectiveness and performance.
“Maximizing your sales requires:
1- the right solution
2- targeted at the right market
3- with the right message
4- to the right audience
5- using the right approach
6- delivered by the right people.”
Let’s review each component.
1- The Right Solution
“The right solution” requires a clear understanding of the market’s or your client’s problem or need, and offers a superior solution that sales can truly run with – one that generates substantial value and traction in the marketplace.
It’s hard to sell “mediocre”. You need to intimately understand the problem, its impact, and extent of ‘pain’ on your client in order to provide the right solution.
The right solution also needs to provide sufficient value (now, be objective…) and differentiation above other options, and be difficult to copy or duplicate. It must be relevant to a sufficient number of people and size of market, and massive appeal is best. The equation is simple: the greater and more obvious the value of your solution is to the client (ie. “a no brainer”), the more likely it will be adopted. The faster your solution solves the problem, the easier it is to adopt or use, and the more its effectiveness has been demonstrated (number of satisfied clients, market momentum, testimonials), the greater the adoption rate. People like to know who else is using your solution or what other applications.
Lastly – trust is a major factor in buying decisions – reputation, credibility and experience play a major role in offering the right solution. We’ve all experienced disreputable firms that we’ll never go back to. As they say “Your reputation precedes you.”
2- Targeted At The Right Market
“The right market” defines who are most likely to derive the most value from the solution (whether they know it or not), and who will be most compelled to act once they understand the value. The higher their pain or frustration, the greater the value they will see in the solution and motivation or likelihood to adopt (ie. your “perfect customer”). Focus resources on highest value and likelihood of adoption by prioritizing prospects in descending order – you don’t have the time or resources on everyone, focus on the clients that matter.
Defining the right market goes much deeper than identifying your ‘addressable market’ (market pool). Focusing your efforts on the most promising/lucrative prospects substantially improves sales effectiveness (see Strategy Execution: Reduce Your Churn), creates much higher ‘close’ rates, and ultimately achieves much faster growth.
3- With the Right Message
“The right message” means describing your solution in the client’s own language (what they value or view as important) and their level of knowledge, rather than your own. Messaging can easily be lost if it fails to resonate with your audience.
Simply put, many sales people love to talk about their product or service, the unique features, technical capabilities, sleek design, low cost – it’s what they know best. But they risk losing the client’s interest. Focus on what is most important to your audience, not you. If messaging requires a business case, technical discussion won’t resonate; if it requires more technical explanation or discussion, business discussion won’t resonate. In almost all instances proper messaging requires a blend, but always let the client take the lead in determining that blend.
“Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” – Stephen Covey. The right messaging means engaging the client for their input and advice to determine what is important to them, then demonstrating how your solution can best satisfy their unique needs better than others. This discussion not only helps you assess how closely your solution fits their needs, but positions you to tailor your solution to their requirements, and to substantially improve the likelihood of a sale.
4- To the Right Audience
“The right audience” refers to finding and focusing your efforts on potentially three audience segments – the ‘user’ (requiring the solution, deriving the value, or creating the justification), the ‘influencer’ (influences adoption or choice of the solution) and the ‘decision-maker’ (has authority to make the decision and commit) – each with their own participation and weighting in the decision. The right audience can quite simply be one individual in some organizations, or more complicated with numerous individuals or even departments/committees in others.
Business review and justification (subtly or formally) plays a constant role in client decision-making, so always anticipate business discussions to be part of your audience. The value, cost or sophistication of the solution will always dictate the extent of business involvement and justification required (go/no-go decision based on ROI, strategy, competitive options, risk, governance, etc.) and the extent of user or technical input needed (choice selection based on best solution, technical capability, integration, etc.). Your preparedness should be commensurate with the value, cost and/or sophistication of the client.
While identifying and engaging the right audience(s) can take considerable effort (and sometimes persistence), taking the time to do so early will save considerable time, effort and frustration and almost always improve your close-rate.
5- Using the Right Approach
“The right approach” speaks to using a disciplined proactive sales process and approach that aligns with your client’s decision-making/buying process, has been proven effective for your industry and clientele, is measurable and is consistent with your brand.
A disciplined multi-staged sales progression (“sales funnel”) is often used to manage (and measure) the progression of sales opportunities, and might include the following simplified stages that can be modified to suit your business or industry. There is a predictable increased likelihood of securing business with each progression in the process. Continued refinement of each stage of the process can significantly increase your close-rate.
It’s important to touch on the use of websites and social media. The sales process/funnel begins with awareness and profile. The role and emphasis that a website and social media plays varies significantly by company and industry – from a minimal presence (google search) to a fully interactive e-commerce site.
Many businesses will spend significant money and time on website creation and content with the “build it and they will come” approach, only to become disappointed with the lack of traffic and new business. Be strategic (and realistic) about the creation and expectations of your website – for most (other than e-commerce) it will be used primarily as a ‘passive’ marketing tool (i.e. clients find/come to you) to maintain a competitive market presence (i.e. show up on google searches); educate the client; create awareness about who you are, what you do, and how you are different; and engage the client to call you rather than the competition (stages 1 & 2 of the sales funnel).
6- Delivered by the Right People
“The right people means finding, keeping and motivating individuals that can best leverage the above 5 essentials unique to YOUR business. It’s a tall order. “Anyone can sell” I was once told by a business owner, yet the majority of owners feel it is lack of sales or sales growth that is holding their business back.
Like most, your generic list of sales attributes might include ‘a good communicator, independent, self-starter, goal-oriented, driven/passionate, curious, good listener, client-centric, product/service/industry knowledge, demonstrated sales experience, team player, organized, authentic, trustworthy’. But there are always requirements that are unique to your company, solution or industry.
Other considerations that can play a significantly role in determining the right sales attributes and skill sets to optimize the effectiveness of your sales might also include:
- Sales Structure – direct sales vs distributors/representatives vs channel partners; individual vs team selling; in-the-field (travel) vs in-house (office); employee vs contract; salary vs commission.
- ‘Hunter’ vs ‘Farmer’ Expectations – the ‘hunter’ is motivated by new business development and growth opportunity; the ‘farmer’ is motivated by managing and growing existing relationships.
- Length of Sales Cycle – a typical ‘two year’ selling process/negotiation requires a very different skill set and sales attributes than a ‘two week’ process.
- Sophistication or Value of the Solution, Negotiation or Sale – skill set, attributes and experience should match sophistication and value of the solution and process.
- Industry Requirements or Norms – minimum technical knowledge, education or licensing/certification requirements, experience or background, networks or contacts.
- Level of Decision Making – matching/aligning your sales seniority and experience with your client counterpart.
There is nothing ‘generic’ about building a superior sales team with the right sales skills or attributes for your industry or company. Choose, direct and mentor your people wisely – your business and company growth depends upon it!
‘Sales’ is the front line of any business. Growth and success is dependent upon its sales performance and effectiveness.
So often we attribute sales performance to the sales person’s or team’s effectiveness and ability, yet there is so much more to the process. The most effective sales performance is achieved by leveraging a structured sales process that is disciplined, orchestrated, team-driven, and pertinent to your marketplace and your business.
As business owners, it is clearly in your best interest to position your sales with the right solution, targeted at the right market, with the right message, to the right audience and delivered by the right people. The 6 essentials to catapult your sales growth has shown us how.
Increasing sales does not need to be your #1 frustration and #1 constraint. It can be your #1 strength.
We don’t have to settle for mediocre.
Be Bold, Think Big, Be Curious, Keep Focused
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