Like many ultramarathon runners, I will frequently carry out a systems check, which is a great technique in any endurance event and one which is also used in meditation. You start at the top of your head and mentally scan from head to toe, focusing in turn on each part of your body – each organ – so that you can assess how your body is doing from head to foot. If there are areas of concern, you take action (counter measure). This technique can be a valuable tool in both our business and our personal lives, regardless of where we are on the sine curve. In this blog we’ll turn our attention to business: how can you ‘systems check’ your sales strategy?
Applying the theory to ‘sales’
The demanding nature of our work often means that we only revisit our sales strategy when the numbers are off-plan – but as we all know, this is usually all too late. So here are seven sales imperatives which have worked for me and will help you to take thorough stock of where you are and where you’re heading:
1. Strengthen your team
Never stop building your team. By helping to develop your people to be great individuals and great contributors to the team’s goals and strategies, you will be best placed to succeed. When was the last time you got your sales team together to share your vision and ambition? Do you actively seek the input of your team to achieve your goals? By collaborating on your team’s values, standards, and what you expect from one another, you will build increased levels of trust and the team will be better aligned behind the overall strategy.
2. Motivate and incentivise
All successful sales teams enjoy the right motivation and incentive packages. Ask yourself whether the existing commission structure rewards the sales team for what your business actually requires: increased sales? Increased margin? Does the company require a different product mix to help production or improve margin? Should the team be developing sales to a new customer segment? Would a different sales phasing bring financial and practical benefits to a production facility?
Importantly, get to know and understand your team members. We all have big external motivators, so how can you support your team members to achieve their personal goals? When we are nourished and fulfilled personally, we have so much more energy and drive to focus on work.
3. Put the right skills in the right place
There are a number of online tools which can help you train large numbers of people in basic skills and knowledge: sales training, product benefits or customer insight. What’s more, the results of this training will provide you with an invaluable baseline of the team’s knowledge and capabilities. Improving your team’s phone, F2F and B2B skills requires more time and investment, and you can best judge where to make these investments (who you are going to train) from assessing the results of your online training.
4. Build relationships with distribution partners
Ask the opinions of your key distribution partners on new strategies and products and actively involve them in setting the direction of your plans. Each key partner will have valuable knowledge in their sphere of expertise. Gain an understanding of their KPIs, how they differ from yours, and what you can apply across the wider network to improve the performance of the sales channel. Consider using social media to develop a community for your key partners to facilitate better exchange of knowledge and ideas.
5. Develop communications and customer segmentation strategies
Ask your sales teams and distribution partners to define their customer segments and the drivers which appeal to each customer group. What does each segment need and what do you have to offer? What makes your company, product or service unique? Is this relevant to the customer? How can you be relevant to a wider audience? Develop a sales and marketing proposition targeted to appeal to each of your customer segments and work with your marketing colleagues to ensure you target your messages to each audience.
6. Foster new clients
Do you have the right balance between retention and acquisition? If not, then challenge your team and distribution partners to make improvements. Every business needs new clients – not only to expand your customer base, but to ensure your products and services remain relevant within a changing marketplace.
7. Create a winning sales process
The final step in a systems check of your sales strategy is to ensure you have the right conversations with the right distribution partners and potential clients to make your strategy work for you. An effective Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system will be key to help you manage these relationships and contacts. Not only will you save an enormous amount of time, you and your team will be so much more effective thanks to the focus and transparency offered by a real time, real world sales funnel.
Success in sales is part-art or learnable skills, and part-process – consistently doing the right things right. Regardless of where you or your sales team is on the sine curve, if you have not recently carried out a systems check on your sales strategy, then make some time at your next sales meeting and build this in to your management process.
I’d love to know if this resonates with you – connect with me on social media.