Shaun Thompson, CEO of Sandler Training, explains how growth is possible in frugal times.
With news on falling business confidence, it’s easy to assume that growth isn’t possible in the age of austerity. Wrong. Last year more than 500,000 people started their own business. Some of the largest and most profitable companies in the world are recession start-ups – having taken advantage of a time when many organisations were cutting back to look at things differently and invest in their people.
Often the size and sector of business isn’t the factor that holds it back. More often that not, it’s a case of changing the attitude and approach. Just look at Apple, which turned its fortunes around in the midst of the dot.com boom. Whatever your business, it is possible to buck the trend and take control in 2012. By starting the year with the right approach to sales and by implementing the best techniques, the opportunities to win business are endless.
Here are some tips for winning new business in 2012:
• Putting together a prospecting plan. It’s imperative to get the foundation right, to define the sales focus and agree best practice – as well as breaking the large annual sales down into manageable bite sized pieces. Gear the plan towards getting in front of your ideal prospect – it's a lot easier to go out to find clients when you know exactly what you're looking for.
• Learn from lessons. Debriefing is imperative, whether a sale goes well or not. If it goes well, analyse why so that lessons can be implemented across the board. If it doesn’t go well, identify what could have done better so that you can practice it thoroughly.
• The 'people element'. If you sound, smell, look and act like every other salesperson your prospect has ever seen, this is how you will be treated. So from the beginning, it’s imperative you personalise the whole experience. Focus every meeting on listening to them and their problems. Talking about you and the feature benefits of your product is a one-way track to protracted sales, stalling and objections and ultimately, failure. The number of sales you make is proportional to the amount of information you gather, not the information you give.
• Be picky. Unfortunately some people cannot be pleased – and to boot they can take up huge amounts of your time and resources and then pay you very little in return. Sometimes, it pays to be discerning. In the business world, there will always be time wasters; the trick is to spot them early and not let them waste your most valuable resource – your time.
• Relax and enjoy. The sales meeting or the sales calls do not have to be a gritty, hard-won, exhausting experience. You may need to be gutsy for a few seconds at a time, but learn to relax and bring some humour into things. If you enjoy what you are doing, it comes across in your speech, body language and your whole persona.
Believe in your business and your product. We are all human at the end of the day and the whole process is infinitely more enjoyable when the buyer and the seller treat each other with equal business stature. The best sales strategy has a screening process whereby the fit between your prospect’s needs and your solution is a 'win win' for both parties.