It seems that everyone is loaded with ideas on how to increase sales (so why shouldn’t I join the pack too?) Some of these ideas have to do with marketing tactics. Others deal with selling skills. And yet others have something to do with the phases of the moon and sacrificial goats. Most of these ideas are good and work to one degree or another. I, however, want to discuss three blatantly obvious tactics that may have alluded you.
Brilliant Idea #1.
The first obvious way to increase sales is to boost the number of leads you get. This just may be the most expensive of the three alternatives, while also having the potential of being the least effective. To acquire more leads, you have to market more. What the Marketing department does is increase awareness and expose your company/product to potential buyers. These buyers may by ready to purchase, which is the ideal situation. Unfortunately, the lions-share of leads tend to be unqualified because they are typically not qualified or the marketing message was sent to someone who is not a good candidate for your offering..
If your marketing efforts are performed accurately and precise, as they should, then the target audience matches the right profile of customers whom already purchased from you. Clearly, if that works, you want to increase the audience that sees your message, thereby increasing the number of qualified leads that respond to your message. However, as I already stated, most leads that come into a company’s Marketing department tend to be unqualified. This is because they rely on mass-marketing. The theory being that if they normally get a 1% response rate, then they should increase the total number of direct mails they send out, or get as many names as possible from the trade show they’re doing, or offer a free drawing to ANYONE who comes to their web site so they can capture their name and email address. These leads tend to be as useful as a screen door on a submarine. The key is to get qualified leads, not just leads, which brings us to our next brilliant idea..
Brilliant Idea #2.
My second most obvious way to increase sales is to improve the quality of leads. Now we’re making some sense. It’s not a matter of quantity, but quality that makes the difference. You can bring in as many leads as you can, but if they’re not qualified, then they are worthless. It depends on how you search for leads. In other words, your marketing efforts and campaigns should be geared toward the right audience in order to attract buyers who would be interested in your product or service..
When you decide to participate in a trade show, are the attendees the same people or businesses who would otherwise purchase your offering? When you hold a seminar, do you only invite the exact profile of prospects that match the customers who already purchased from you, or do you invite anyone (including your guests’ guests) in order to fill the room? When you purchase a mailing list, how close does it match the profile of your existing, profitable customers? All these factors, and more, affect the quality of leads you’ll acquire, which will affect your ultimate sales..
If you look at your existing customers and segment them into categories depending on their purchasing habits, how much they purchased from you, what motivated them to buy, their business or personal characteristics, and other such profiling information, then you should try to acquire similar leads. I spoke with a man once who owned a pizza parlor and he couldn’t understand why he hardly got any responses to a postcard campaign he mailed out with an attractive discount on his pizzas. It turned out that he sent it to a generic mailing list of “home owners” in a 20 mile radius. The ONLY qualification was that they had an address and it was within 20 miles from his restaurant..
Aside from the fact that this guy was clueless about geography and why nobody would travel that far for a pizza, he didn’t segment the data at all to match his typical client. Basically, one just had to have an address to get his mailing. Now, if this failed for a pizza parlor (and EVERYONE loves pizza), then think about what this flawed strategy could do to your campaign. You have to market to prospects that match the criteria of your most popular, profitable and preferred customers. I told you this stuff was obvious..
Brilliant Idea #3.
Once you figured out that it’s the quality of the lead that makes the difference, then it’s time to address my third brilliant idea – Improve Your Selling Skills!
Marketing, or Sales, can find the most qualified leads in the civilized world, but if your sales people don’t know how to sell to them, it’s a waste of time and money. Focusing on just increasing the amount of leads you get is just plain dumb. Making sure they’re qualified leads is smart. But making sure your sales people have the selling skills needed to further qualify the leads, as well as identify their specific needs, present the right solutions, negotiate successfully, handle objections, and close the deal, is priceless..
So why is it that so many businesses neglect sales training and seem to just focus on gathering more leads, qualified or not? I don’t know. But I wish they’d think about it more and address this simple, yet important, aspect of sales. I hear all the time about sales managers and business owners who get frustrated by hiring a sales person, only to fire them in 6 months because of poor performance. Yet these same business owners and executives have done nothing to help improve or build the skills of their sales people. Sure, they provide what they call “sales training”, which is comprised of product, market, and competitive training, but no selling skills are involved. They believe that the actual selling skills should already be ingrained in the sales rep’s head and that comes with the territory. I don’t agree..
Sales managers and business owners need to recognize that selling skills need to be reinforced and repeated for all sales people, even if they’ve been selling for many years. Over time, sales people forget things, they take things for granted, and/or they don’t know some of the new and changing selling techniques that are required in today’s economy. And new sales people (I mean new to selling, not new to the company) need sales training as well, and mostly, since chances are they never learned the skills needed for cold calling, asking questions, listening, negotiating, handling objections, closing, and even retaining existing customers..
I don’t know about you, but I vote on Brilliant Idea #3 as the best idea. It’s really a “Duh” moment because it’s so obvious. Yet I don’t see enough of it happening. Perhaps it’s not so obvious after all. I know that a lot of sales managers and business owners are so wrapped up in their daily activities and fire-fighting drills that they “don’t have time” to provide quality sales training. Somehow, though, they seem to have time to fire their non-performing sales reps and spend months finding and re-training new sales reps. I guess it’s like that old saying — There’s never time to do it right, but there’s always time to do it again. Some people never learn. I hope you do..
Good luck and good selling!
By Russ Lombardo