When the economy goes south, companies tend to retreat to their foxholes and protect cash positions. But when it comes to prying dollars from customers and prospects in poor economic times, diving for a foxhole isn’t the answer to improving sales revenues.
- Success Principles Here is advice I give clients who want — must have — more sales now. (Some of these may not fit your business perfectly, but look closely at the principle behind the tip.)
- Focus on your best customers. Those you have sold to before like you. If anyone is going to part with “precious” cash in these times, they are the ones. Focus your selling efforts here to ferret out any and all possibilities to keep these people supplied. Be creative in your selling propositions. (Remember, it takes five times more effort and money to sell to a new prospect than to sell more to an existing customer.)
- Concentrate your sales efforts on “real” prospects. Over the next four weeks, guide your sales people to ask those probing questions which help evaluate whether the prospect/customer is really ready to buy or is “just looking.” Do these prospects have authority to buy now? Has their budget been approved? Is their inventory low on what you sell? What has been their purchase pattern in the past? What is their current financial condition? If they don’t answer your questions positively, get up and leave. When you need sales revenue now, don’t waste time on those who aren’t ready or can’t buy now.
- Brainstorm with all your employees. Many companies fail to utilize the power their total work force can provide. Hold brainstorming meetings among select groups and seek ideas and advice on how the company can better sell. If conducted properly, you’ll be surprised with the energy and help that comes from these meetings. Afraid to tell your work force you are in real need? Don’t be! They probably sense it already and will be angry if you start cutting people without at least asking for their ideas and help.
- Look for partnerships or alliances. In tough times, it’s good to consider allying with other companies who are serving your customers/prospects and explore economies of scale for sales efforts. Could your sales force sell or qualify leads for an allied product? Would it be mutually beneficial to swap customer lists? Could joint advertising be cost-effective for both? Make sure the benefits and responsibilities are perfectly clear with your “partner” — not always easy to define, but critical if the partnership is to work.
- Excuses Don’t Make Sales So if these tips are so good, how come more companies aren’t using them? Good question. Here are reasons behind their failure to act:
- Fear of change. This includes such timeless statements as: “If we stop calling on new prospects, we might miss an order opportunity” or “We’ve always done it this way” or “How can we accommodate sales force compensation change if we dramatically change our selling plan?” If you acknowledge that you need more sales now, the old ways clearly aren’t working.
- Job insecurity. Many top executives see the need for change but can’t put the company in a “flying squad” mood for improvement. Personal insecurities cloud vision. Territorial imperatives appear insurmountable. Outside help is feared and no one is brought in to help put new sales actions into place.
- Can’t make the really hard decisions. Personal emotions obscure good business decisions. Eliminating a veteran salesperson who has lost the drive is considered “impossible.” Some CEOs can’t see that by avoiding obvious hard decisions they lose faith of other good employees.Virtually any company in need of immediate sales can benefit from several, if not all of the above tips. They aren’t “my” ideas, but have evolved through the trials and errors of past recessions. Rick Wemmers (TA 1001) is president of Wemmers Consulting Group, an Atlanta, Georgia-based firm focused on helping companies jump sales and revenues.