When the sales efforts of the company fail to bring the desired results, and to consistently achieve the sales goals and objectives, it is time to check the fundamentals. It is like taking your car for the annual tune-up and oil change. It provides an opportunity to analyze and correct the mistakes that are being made, and to stimulate the sales force with some new ideas and directives. The lead should be taken by the sales and marketing managers, but it must eventually involve the whole sales team. Arranging a special meeting adds drama and urgency. Seeing that the top sales and marketing people are passionately involved, acts as a stimulus. To ensure that the talk actually turns into effective action at all levels of the sales and marketing department, regular follow up meetings must be held. These subsequent meetings must focus on measurable results on an individual and team basis. Obtaining feedback from the sales people, who are actually contacting customers, makes them more involved and motivates them to improve. Check these fundamentals:
Market Targeting – Review the targeted markets to make sure that the sales efforts are properly channeled into the best opportunities. This should be incorporated into the marketing plan at the outset, but may now need some adjustment to ensure that the focus is maintained by the whole team. Sales people sometimes drift into low conversion probability areas and need to be redirected. Ensure that all sales people know the extent and limits of the company’s product/service offering. It is helpful to revisit the customer profiles that best match the company’s products/services. List all potential customer segments that will generate the optimum opportunities to meet the sales goals.
In evaluating this list, consider: Geographic areas of concentration; best fit based on customer profiling using SIC industrial designations; best opportunities for future growth in existing and new segments. Review the strategy for penetrating these markets, developing leads and making sales calls.
Review the marketing strategies – The actual marketing function and activity should be closely matched to the budget allocated to sales and marketing. Unproductive time spent by salespeople adds to cost and reduces funding of other marketing or sales activities. Marketing focuses on the four “P’s” of product, promotion, price, place (distribution). Reconsider the strategies for each of the four and tie it to cost/benefit. Weed out or curtail the ones with poor ratios and provide more support and funding to the winners. Redirect the sales team to concentrate on the activities which maximizes benefits. In combination with the Controller, direct the budget to areas with the best returns on investment. The review decisions must then be tracked for best results, at least quarterly.
Preparing for the sales calls – The most important aspect of a sales call, aside from personal appearance and professional conduct, is knowledge of the products and services that your company provides and how that fits into the customer’s needs. Do your homework on your customers prior to the sales call. There is so much available data on the customers’ websites. There are also profiles of key executives on professional sites like Linkedin, and on Wikipedia. There is no reason to be unprepared. In doing this homework, you are showing the customer that you care and know something about their situation and needs
Check the quality of the message -Everyone that you call on, or come in contact with, is a potential customer – whether the sales call is made in person, by e-mail, post or by phone, put your best foot forward. Check the quality, accuracy, persuasiveness of all communications with customers. This must become a carefully crafted habit that involves the entire sales and marketing team. The individual styles of the salespeople must reflect this. Always pay attention to what your customers are telling you, and what they really want, and find a way to satisfy their needs through a well managed sales force.
Improve record keeping – Reliable records offer others in the organization the possibility of making suggestions and recommendations on how to approach and handle specific sales issues and problems. Good record keeping gives the individual salesperson a means to determine if and when follow-up is required. Records establish an effective control mechanism for sales managers, and offer the capability to assist the sales team in improving results. Detailed sales records help every sales person to provide better metrics and avoid duplication of sales activity by competing personnel.
Manage time better – Aside from generating sales leads, making sales calls, reporting sales activity and follow-up, a crucial function is the management of time. This task, when properly addressed, will increase productivity and success. As in any effort, strict scheduling of sales visits and communications is essential. Prioritize your call list by separating them into three categories(A,B,C) in terms of the best potential for conversion, urgency, and solid new opportunities. The A list is to take precedence in a particular time period, followed by the B and C list. Redo this list on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. Don’t completely neglect the C list by placing at least one candidate on the top priority list.
Evaluate the sales personnel – Goals must be reviewed with every single salesperson. Successful market penetration must be assessed in terms of growth ratios. Ensure that the sales people are properly prioritizing the potential customers who need the company’s products and services. Perform an in-depth review of every salesperson on their method of actually making a sales call, communicating the appropriate message, and obtaining a commitment from a prospect. Show them how to improve by randomly accompanying them on their scheduled sales visits. Use this as a coaching opportunity.