I have said it before, but I do spend a great deal of time talking with people about their businesses and their approaches to marketing and sales. What strikes me time and again is how businesses often have no formal business development platform or strategy. I have seen this both in businesses that are struggling to keep their head above water, (they simply need more – or at least more profitable – business so why no clear focus on marketing and sales?), and in businesses that are very successful – typically these companies have strong and profitable relationships with a modest number of significant customers. Fine for now but potentially a case of too many eggs in one basket? Having a clear business development platform doesn’t need to be complicated, in fact there can be just 4 core elements:
- Define your sales process
- Define your key business message
- Get your message out there
- Monitor and refine in the light of market response
Over the next few weeks, we will look at 2, 3 and 4 in greater detail but to kick things off, let’s take a look at 1
Define Your Sales Process
Selling has (IMHO) two distinct phases First you need to….
1. Look for people to sell to
When you have found and qualified these people only then should you…
2. Sell to them
These two phases often get confused or simply rolled up into one when the sales rep is instructed to ‘go forth and sell!‘ Yet they are very different
Looking for people to sell to
There are really only two places where you can look for contacts to sell to, amongst people you know and amongst people you don’t know! People you know are normally the best starting point as they know who you are and may know something about your business and the products/services you offer. What is more if you get used to ‘making the most of people you know’, then as you make more contacts you will hopefully make the most of them too! People you don’t know, i.e. everybody else! Here is about focusing more traditional criteria:
- Business Activity/Sector
- Business Location
- Business Size
A good approach is to profile existing customers. If you can find more people who are similar to companies where you are already doing business it can be easier to find a ‘fit’ between your business and theirs. The first job is to properly qualify your prospective customers by answering 2 core questions:
- Am I interested in them as a potential customer?
- Are they interested in me as a potential supplier?
If the answer to both is YES, then you should be well on the way to doing business. If the answer to 2 is NO, then that needn’t be the end of the story. So long as the answer to 1 is (realistically!) YES, then you have a qualified prospect to work on….
Selling to people you find & qualify
You should only (again IMHO) sell to qualified prospects. Once you have a qualified prospect you need to build contact and relationships, making sure that they get an ever better understanding of what you offer and how it can benefit them while, at the same time, you learn more about their needs so you can make sure that your sales and marketing messages as as relevant to your prospect as possible. If you have a strong proposition that really delivers value and benefit to your target contacts and they understand that fact, they will do business with you. Not all of them, and not all the time but the business is there. It really is that simple!
Maintaining, reselling and upselling to customers
Making the most of people you know
I talked earlier about ‘making the most of people you know’. This is just as important when you want to grow your business. Your customers know you and (hopefully!) like you and what you deliver for them. If your business can generate resales, make sure you don’t just take the first order then move on to the next customer. It is normally easier (and more profitable!) to make a second and third sale to the same customer. Even if you don’t have a business with a lot of repeat sales, you can introduce new products and services as new options for existing customers, or use customers as advocates to refer you to others. From beginning to end, the key to an effective sales process is making the most of what you have and who you know!