A sales perspective provided by Russell Dalgleish of Exolta Capital Partners
I recently held a range of meetings with leading, international sales Directors and Managing Directors of SME businesses in London and Edinburgh. During these sessions we typically got onto the subject off the challenge of finding good, talented sales people. What came out of these meetings were a number of common mistakes companies make in trying to secure new business. Do any of these ring a bell with you?
Little understanding of why the prospect would want to buy
What your product or service does is of much less importance to the prospect than what problem you solve for them. Ensure that you have total clarity of the prospect’s problem or issue and ensure all your marketing and sales collateral is tailored to exactly how you will fix this problem, use where possible your prospects language. To test this theory look at your top prospects today and see if you understand what challenges they are trying to address by using you – why not call and ask them now? If you don’t know the answer you will find decisions being delayed and sales guys failing to hit target.
The Sales Silver Bullet doesn’t exit!
Have you done this? Hired a sales person with an industry rich, address book. But after a few months he hasn’t sold anything, leaves the business leaving you with limited data on what he was doing. Many of us have. The way to address this is to ensure there are clearly defined activity targets in place that are agreed up front and measured on a regular basis, eg. Number of calls, meetings, events, conversion ratios etc. That way you will at least have an insight into what is happening, how you can assist in the process and the status of each prospect.
Also take advantage of some of the simple customer relationship management systems (CRM) available (at the very least, a simple spreadsheet, through to systems such as Streak, Sugar or Salesforce) to ensure critical sales data is captured. Sales people have the hardest job in the company but they are not magicians and the they are not forged in Silver! They need your help to deliver new business. With this approach, you’ll at least have something to work from.
Take care with your proposal.
Many of us have been trained to produce detailed sales proposals which we supply to a prospect to move the sales process forward. Many proposals simply go unread and are basically produced to satisfy an unrequired need, or your prospect requests them to show their superiors, if this is the case your sales people aren’t engaged with the actual decision maker.
An effective sales proposal should be jointly developed with the prospective client. It should be short and to the point and focused on the outcomes you can deliver and the costs involved to make it happen. So instead of producing a detailed proposal train the sales team to “problem solve” with the prospect. Trust me this works.
Route to market
Today partnerships are the route to reducing the sales cycle. If you wish to sell into a new geographic market or new sectors then locate a company which already operates there selling complimentary products and partner with them. Yes margins may be reduced, yes it may present a risk but the cost of acquiring new business should be dramatically reduced.
Refuse to Lose
This is the Exolta mantra. Historically we have all followed a simple linear sales process resulting in either “Deal or No Deal”. However, today, you need to change how you operate. Whether you are selling a product or service it is likely that during the process you may have experienced the prospect not taking your calls, or you’re told the decision has been delayed. What happens is that many sales staff will simply drop this prospect and move on to something new.
The successful sales professional will stay in touch at regular intervals with the prospect, perhaps over months, maybe years and eventually a contract will be secured. Each time contact is made with the prospect, share information relevant to their problem, that’s the key to proving expertise and creating trust.
We are currently considering running Sales Master class evenings around the country in 2014. These will be no-nonsense practical events where real life issues around winning new business are discussed and hopefully resolved. If you would like to take part in these then please contact us here.Download this article as a PDF