Sunday, March 5, 2017

In With a Plan, Out With a Sale

I'd like to say this once and for all - Luck is not a business plan! "Talent" is not a business plan! Whew! I needed to get that off my chest.
I work with small to medium sized businesses, and sometimes really large ones, and I'm amazed at the number of times I hear that there is no skills review or specific process for the sales team to follow. Entrepreneurs hiring sales reps tell me, "they should know what they're doing." Um, yeah, but so should you. Luck is not reliable and repeatable, and without a reliable revenue stream, you're out of business.
Most people who start a business are not sales experts, just like I'm not an automotive expert. But your sales reps should be. They should be going into every sales call with a plan that helps them qualify the customer, and present that customer with the right product to fill their needs. If your reps don't do that, every sale they make is based on luck, intuition, or personality. Not good.
Every sales call should have the same purpose: lead to a sale. The sales cycle for each business is different; selling cars is different from selling medical equipment. Each one will have a different call plan. What are the necessary steps for a prospect to go from zero to sold? All of them are part of your sales process. What needs to happen in person? Those are the parts of a sales call plan. Every sales rep should be using every part of the sales process. If they aren't, they're not doing their job. They should be able to discuss it with you, and they should be able to fine-tune and improve it over time. That way, they can share best practices between them, and all improve steadily.
While we're at it, let's stop selling like it's 1995. There is nothing your customer can't learn or find on the internet. They can probably buy it cheaper, too. That means you need to be there, where your customer is doing their homework. Have some solid online support for your business and your reps. Have a great website, and include a FAQ page. Do some inbound marketing, with social media (anything retail), white papers (business and professional services, technology), a blog (food, fitness, arts, in-home services) or newsletters, all linked directly to your website. People don't buy from businesses. People buy from people. Create a web presence that helps your customer learn your business's personality, and help them know, like and trust what your business will provide.
So, to recap: have solid web presence to help your clients learn about, know, like and trust your business. Sales reps should have a specific set of skills and a plan to learn to "right size" the solution they offer your client. Your company should have a clear, repeatable sales process that evolves over time based on the successes of your sales pros. And you can't rely on talent or luck to provide a steady revenue stream. You need a plan.
Elisabeth Marino is an sales process adviser working in Buffalo, NY, and a frequent contributor to LinkedIn. She has worked in sales development and evaluation for 17 years, and helped dozens of organizations improve their sales numbers. Connect with and follow her here, on Facebook as Sales Dynamo Consulting, and follow her on Twitter @SalesDynamoNY.

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