Written by Samantha Greathead for Succeed Magazine
June 2013 Issue
Any size business can have a sales strategy which is successful as that of a large corporation. There is hardly anything you can do in a large corporation that you cannot do in your business.
Successful sales specialist and executive coach, Bill Gibson, says what limits businesses from attaining as great a success with their sales strategies is owners who limit themselves with a small mindset. Just because your sales team may only consist of you and a few others does not mean you should not follow the same strategy as a large business. “The same principles apply no matter what size your business is,” says Gibson.
The tendency of small businesses is to avoid these techniques because the owner is too busy to spend time on a strategy or go to a sales meeting. “Even if it is only you, have a sales meeting with yourself where you focus on sales strategy.”
In early 2011 FNB started revitalising and repositioning their brand under a new Chief Marketing Officer. Since then the brand has seen great success with the “Hello Steve” campaign. The bank has seen tremendous growth and awareness even earning a place in the Sunday Times Top Brand Survey.
The head of growth at FNB Business Banking, Marcel Klaassen, says that any business can implement the strategies of corporations but small business can also use their size to their advantage. They can embrace the simplicity of their structure and are able to tweak elements as they go. “Smaller businesses have the advantage of speed and dexterity,” says Klaassen.
The first step is to segment your target market. Divide your potential customers into A, B or C categories where A customers should receive the most attention. “It is critical to put more energy into A because this group has a better return on investment,” says Gibson.
In order to categorise your customers you should look at factors which affect their potential as clients. Customers who rank A will be ones that you absolutely must have and keep, B clients are ones that are good to have, but need a little less attention than A customers. For example, if you analyse the possible geographic limitations of your business you may find that there are three potentially large clients right on your doorstep and another three further away. The closer ones would be A clients and the ones further away B clients.
You could also look at the client’s potential spend. You may find that someone is currently spending what a C or D client would spend, but they have the potential to spend much more and you would classify them as an A client. “Ultimately it is critical to decide who to favour,” says Gibson. “This classification is the first step to building a winning sales pipeline.”
Klaassen says the functions of the strategy need to be prioritised early on. “The sooner everyone knows the strategic intent, the sooner they can crack-on with sales and sales enabling functions.”
It is important to identify who you want to target and the frequency with which you want to reach them. By understanding your target market correctly you will spend your time and money on activities that count.
Just like a larger corporation, set targets and review them quarterly. Every sales person, including you, should have a goal to work toward. “All businesses should set targets,” says Gibson. “This gives you a goal to work towards. And reward yourself or your staff when they reach their goals. It keeps the team motivated.”
Corporates measure the results of a sales strategy. “There is a saying that, what gets measured gets managed and what gets managed gets done,” says Gibson.
There are a number of advantages to measuring. It will indicate whether your sales team is in need of up-skilling or not. You will also see if an employee is not right for a position in your sales team. If a sales person is not making sales then you need to transfer them or let them go.
Measuring results includes self-measurement. The same principles and advantages apply. “You might realise that you need to fire yourself and hire a new salesperson,” says Gibson.
Klaassen says he develops their sales strategy into a workable action plan. This has to be executed within a given time frame using existing and available resources. “We then ensure all strategies and respective actions can be tracked and measured accordingly.”
Gibson says corporates understand the need for continued sales training. Enrol yourself and your sales staff in training, watch videos or buy books that you can learn from. “Keep teaching yourself and your group. Hire a business coach. This is especially true if you are, or form, part of your sales team. A coach can help you set targets and then sit with you and review those targets. It provides a level of accountability.”
Another characteristic of successful corporate sales strategies is to have sales conferences. Even if it is just the owner and one or two people you should go away for two days to strategise. “A mistake that small companies make is thinking that they do not need to strategise,” says Gibson.
Every sales strategy must include some sort of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system. Even a paper-based system that gathers information on your clients will suffice. These systems remind you to look at the activities of your sales team like measuring how many calls are made in a day. It involves analysing whatever action is crucial to your sales strategy.
Such a system will allow you to form estimates or averages that you can use to create targets and cash flow projections. “Corporates know what the average size of a sale is. They also know how often people buy and why they buy. If big companies can do it why can’t all companies?” asks Gibson.
Klaassen says, “Customer management is an important part of the sales strategy. We understand our market, segment our customers, determine what our customer’s value is, look at ways to improve customer experience and the message portrayed to the customer.”
Something many business owners may not include in their budget is the finer points of their sales strategy. For example, you should set aside a portion of the budget for relationship building. This money is not for socialising with friends but specifically to bring in business. Another example is to budget for promotional gifts to clients.
Do not inhibit yourself by thinking a smaller advertising budget is a limitation. Advertising with a smaller budget just needs to be more targeted. This is why segmentation is so important.
Gibson advises planning for objections. “Think of all the objections a potential customer can have when you approach them and create a guide with objections and how to handle them. In this way there will be no surprises and sales people will always have an answer to objections.”
Create a motivation plan. You know which period of the year is the most difficult for sales and which are high points. Plan to have motivational sessions around both periods. Gibson says, “Using outside resources, like motivational speakers, is effective in motivating employees. If a business cannot afford the cost of a motivational speaker you can use free seminars, presentations on YouTube or use business aids. With a little bit of strategic thinking and discipline, you can create a culture of motivation and excitement.
Part of your processes should involve doing a credit check before accepting a sale. Gibson says, “Often businesses sacrifice this step just to make the sale. However, a sale means nothing until you have collected the money.”
Another strategy that corporates employ is to draw a careful distinction between sales and revenue. For example, if you make the majority of your sales in the last quarter the revenue is only likely to come through next year. Gibson says, “Without drawing this distinction you can make the mistake of relying on the revenue this year when it is only likely to come through next year.”
Your sales strategy does not need to be complicated to be successful. Klaassen says, “The most important thing to do is keep your overall strategic direction and message as consistent as possible. This will allow you to try new things and shift your focus where necessary. Remember your strategy is only as complicated as you make it.” Keep it simple and focus on actions which you can implement easily and measure.
Whatever size your business is it takes time, energy, ability and money to succeed in a sales strategy. Be careful of skipping crucial steps because you think it is not necessary for your business. “If it is being implemented in a big business it should be implemented in your businesses as well,” says Gibson.