It’s just the nature of the beast. Customers change. Competitors disrupt your market. Seasons change. No team can sell like a beast and be profitable forever.
Sounds gloomy – but this is actually very reassuring. Because when it comes to sales numbers and profitability, what goes down can also go up again.
If you’re down, you can pull it around. And we’re going to show you how.
Take a friend of mine, Geoff, for example. Geoff has always worked in sales. He started out at an aftersales call centre for Dixons, the electronics chain. He was salesperson of the month over and over. Next, he moved into plant hire for a smaller company. It was a tougher business, but Geoff still beat his targets.
He then took a step up to become a regional sales manager at a large manufacturer. A year into the job, things got tough. Leads dried up. Existing customers left, blaming efficiency drives. Geoff started to miss his targets.
And then he got a call.
There was going to be a special meeting with his boss and sales teammates. They were all floundering.
Now, as a top seller, Geoff had been to his fair share of training events. He knew techniques that get pro-active, hard-working sellers out of rough spells. And he had a great track record. So he wasn’t too worried. He could get another job.
But Geoff’s boss didn’t fire him at that meeting. Instead, the whole team got together and created a new sales plan, using all their combined sales experience.
Geoff and his team soon got back to winning ways. And today, we’re going to share 5 of the best sales and profitability-boosting techniques they used with you.
Excited? You should be.
What’s the difference between sales and profitability?
Before we start, a reminder: sales are not the same as profitability. Sell a small quantity with a large margin, and you’ll be in profit. Sell a bundle at a loss, and you’re screwed.
The 5 top tips in this article are designed to help you improve your sales and profitability.
1. Make the most of cold callingLet's start by going back to basics. Cold calling is how many new businesses get off the ground. But when they start to feel established, cold calling is also one of the first tools they drop.
- Cold calling can be awkward, as you’re interrupting someone who might not want to hear from you.
- Cold calling ends in rejection often, which doesn’t feel nice.
- Cold calling is time-consuming.
It’s also worth saying that many companies that move over to what is now referred to as an Inbound Sales model stop cold calling, as that model suggests that you focus on getting potential clients looking at you when in the awareness of a need stage.
But cold calling also works! It lets you re-connect with old customers and discover new prospects. It also reveals which prospects are NOT interested, saving you cost and energy in future sales efforts.
If your team has stopped cold calling, it’s time to get back on the phone. It’s better than email, because:
- It begins a personal relationship with the customer
- It’s a real conversation – you can answer customer objections and questions, warming up prospects who might have junked your email
- You can identify and qualify leads in one go
For companies that are now focusing on inbound sales, that’s great for clients in the awareness stage, but how do you reach people that have already established relationships, and are no longer doing research or looking around? Without calling them, how are you going to win them over to yourselves? How will they know about you?
So, stop wasting the opportunities cold calling has for you.
2. Know your team’s strengths, and use themA sale rarely happens in one conversation. It usually follows a well-worn path or pipeline, consisting of:
- Finding prospects – identifying new customers and their needs
- Qualifying leads – are they hot or cold?
- Closing the deal – which may include negotiation
- Account management – repeat business is often the best kind
All of these are sales tasks. But they all require different skill sets.
It’s very unlikely that all of your salespeople will be good at all these tasks. It’s much more likely they’ll be stronger in specific areas.
So, get to know your team’s individual strengths. And make sure they can use them every day.
Yes, it’s time to reshuffle your sales team.
Your sales will improve. And you’ll be getting more value, and profit, from their salaries.
3. Know your prospectsIf you want cold calls and other prospecting activities to succeed, you need to put in some groundwork. That means spending the time to understand which types of prospect are worth targeting.
With no preparation, you might...
- Spend time and energy talking to people who just don’t need your products
- Fail to progress the conversation or the relationship, because you don’t understand the prospect’s needs
So, spend time and use research to work out:
- Who you should be talking to in terms of job roles and types of company. These people you identify as your buyer personas.
- The motivations that will drive prospects to buy from you. This you call the buyer’s journey.
- The biggest pain points you can solve for customers.
When they understand these three things, your salespeople will connect with prospects much more easily. It’ll be like you know them already!
Your prospecting will then be much more successful, cost-efficient and profitable.
4. Start a REAL conversationStill, on groundwork, you also need the right opening for conversations with customers. It’s not enough to say, “I’m calling to ask how we can help”, or “I’m calling to touch base”because your lead will peg you as a boring telesales caller. They’ll get off the phone as soon as they can.
A real conversation starts when you prove you can give the prospect what they want or need. Only then will you really have their attention.
You’ve already spent the time to understand your prospects’ pain points and motivations (see above). You know what drives them.
So plan a conversation opener that really connects. Consider...
- Selecting a product, plan or offer you know will solve their problem
- Offering a useful piece of content – a white paper, TCO calculator, or e-book – that shows you understand their business
- Discussing a new problem in their industry, which you have a solution for
In other words: always be focused on how you can add value.
5. Start planning and measuringThis should’ve been the first tip, not the last. Because you shouldn’t do anything without a sales plan. At least this will be fresh in your mind when you finish reading!
Your plan is simply your goals and how you’re going to achieve them, written down. Simple. But the beautiful thing about a written plan is...
- It provides a map of sales activities your whole team can follow
- It formalises your goals and methods
- It helps you measure your success and improve results, especially if you measure in enough detail
How does measurement lead to improvement? Simply, when you measure results you know how well your activities are working. (If you don’t, you’re working in the dark). Over time, you can compare your results and know if results are getting better or worse.
- The time of each call
- Which salesperson is calling
- The outcome of each call – quality discussion, meeting or nothing?
Just with these three simple measurements, you can learn the best times of day to call, your most effective salespeople, and how well your team is performing over time. This will allow you to make changes to improve results and profitability.
You should also have a raft of measurements that you use for each individual so that you can help them improve on their own specific skill set (but that is a bigger issue, to be addressed at another time.)
Don’t stop measuring. Don’t stop trying to improve.
There’s no time to lose!You might have had a bad run lately. But as we said at the top of this article, every salesperson in the world goes through that at some point. It’s nothing personal.
Now you have a fresh outlook and a proven recipe for success – what are you waiting for? It’s time to recapture your sales and profitability success. Good luck!