Want to be in a better revenue position this time next year? Start by examining your sales systems now. By SIMON LLOYD.
By Simon Lloyd
The beginning of a new financial year is an ideal time for anyone running a business to start considering ways to improve their sales performance.
Inevitably, this time of year means attention has to be devoted to tax matters, stocktaking and book balancing, but it’s also crucial to start examining every aspect of your sales strategies, techniques and systems.
To believe that all of these are already as effective as they can be is a big risk because the dynamics of sales are shifting all the time in an era when every facet of business is so competitive. So by looking now at ways you could hone your sales performance, you’re likely to find your revenues this time next year showing healthy growth.
But where do you start? Here are eight ideas that you could consider as ways of boosting your bottom line in 2007-08:
1. Adopt a cause
The evidence that Australians want companies to become more involved with community causes is overwhelming. The 2006 Grey Worldwide/Sweeney Research “Eye on Australia” study of social trends found that a whopping 90% of people thought business should be doing more to help the community, while 82% said they were more likely to buy products or services from businesses involved with charities and not-for-profit organisations.
For SMEs, the concept of corporate social responsibility should also be considered as corporate social opportunity. There are numerous ways to become active in community causes. For example, try identifying a few that work primarily to benefit the local community and contact them to ask how your business could help.
Alternatively, consider giving a percentage of your profits to a high-profile, national cause. And don’t forget to tell your customers you’re doing so. Some charities will even allow you to use their logos on your stationery and promotional material.
2. Update your database
No matter whether you use a desktop database product like FileMaker Pro or Microsoft Access, or a highly sophisticated server database such as SQL or Oracle, the same, simple principle applies: your database is only as good as the information you feed into it.
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For salespeople, one of the most critical aspects of using a customer database for marketing purposes is maintaining it. If your business has a sales team, no matter if it’s four people or 400, make sure all of them spend the next few weeks ensuring their database entries are up to date.
For customers who might not have been contacted for some time, updating the database is a great “excuse” for salespeople to contact them to make sure their details are correct, thereby reigniting the relationship with such customers.
3. Design an email promotion
There is plenty of research that shows customers appreciate communication with companies via email, as long as the email is relevant and personalised, and provides an easy “unsubscribe” mechanism.
What’s more, email is probably the least costly way of reaching your entire customer database with just a few keystrokes. Offer your customers a discount if they buy from you or use your services within a set period, and if your business is introducing new products or services, then use email to let your database know.
4. Start a newsletter
Many SMEs have a local focus and there are few better ways of engaging the local community than with a regular newsletter dropped into mailboxes. Real estate agents, for instance, have known for years how effective newsletters can be.
And they don’t need to be lavish productions as long as the content is of interest to your audience. Include a mix of local news or events (information easily obtainable from the local library) with more generic information about products and services in your industry sector.
Newsletters should also always include a call to action: that is, make sure you print your business name and contact number/email as prominently as possible.
5. Revamp your Yellow Pages advertisement
We might live in an online era, but when it comes to searching for a business offering a particular product or service, Australians still like to “let their fingers do the walking”.
It is almost commercial suicide not to have a Yellow Pages entry (“Not Happy, Jan”), but don’t make the mistake of believing that a bland boxed ad with your company name, address and phone number will be enough to draw attention. It won’t.
The best Yellow Pages ads are those that provide the most concise and complete information about the business. Get everyone in your business to look at your Yellow Pages ad and put forward a suggestion how to improve it.
6. Is your website tired?
The beauty of the internet as a marketing tool is its flexibility. Have a look at your own website as ask yourself a few questions. When was the last time you updated your home page? Is the pictorial/graphic material more than a couple of years old?
If you have links on the site, are they all still correct/functional? Could you make your site more interesting by including sound and even movies?
7. Get out and network
Salespeople are usually so busy trying to convert leads to sales they have no time or energy for extracurricular activity. However, some of the best leads come from after-hours networking, and your sales team should be encouraged to join at least one organisation that provides forums for this.
Networks such as Rotary might seem unexciting to a young sales force, but they are highly effective in generating leads. And don’t forget your local Chamber of Commerce: most hold regular lunchtime networking events.
8. Sales training
An unmotivated sales team is an ineffective sales team. One of the sharpest techniques for motivating your salespeople is through training. Gone are the days when sales training involved boring seminars in stuffy conference rooms with nothing better than a whiteboard as a visual aid.
For instance, have your salespeople ever attended a sales “bootcamp”? A wide range is available from specialist bootcamp trainers, from three-day intensive residential courses to one-day options.
The best bootcamps usually include an element of incentivisation (for example, residential courses are often held at a resort location) but all are designed with one objective; to rev up attendees so they can return to their sales jobs freshly motivated.