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Three things small business owners can use to supercharge their sales

Oracle+Netsuite /

Sales can be one of the most frustrating aspects of running a small business.

While some small businesses can get themselves to a point where good word of mouth ensures a solid pipeline of leads, often systems break down and genuine leads aren’t treated with the respect or attention they deserve.

For financial services company IOOF, the existing system wasn’t being utilised to its full potential. While the national sales team had some infrastructure used to track sales, the activity along the customer journey wasn’t being documented.

Julie Wise, head of sales enablement at IOOF, says establishing a solid process for getting through the pipeline was crucial given the huge amount of competition in the financial space – attention to detail matters in a market where price and features don’t differ greatly between the major players.

The bottom line: IOOF needed a more consistent and transparent approach with regard to its sales process.

The business took three deliberate steps to ensure that they achieved more consistency and transparency:

  1. Established a uniform sales process
  2. Created consistent reporting processes
  3. Supported those new initiatives with the right technology

“This has created huge efficiency gains for us as an organisation,” says Wise.

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Step #1: Establish a uniform sales process

The first check on IOOF’s list was to make sure each sales team had a consistent approach when it came to converting prospects – so the full unit was put through a complete top-to-bottom training program.

Rather than relying on solution-based selling, the team adopted methods that based themselves more about educating potential customers and providing value through conversation.

“We’ve moved away from a solution-based sales model that is about uncovering what your needs are, then offering a product … and moved towards a new way to engage with potential clients. It’s about teaching and tailoring to the client.”

Using this method, IOOF salespeople strive to understand the business of their clients intimately and offer value.

“The methodology is really about teaching something they didn’t know about their business so that you can help them solve a problem.”

This new approach expedited the sales approach substantially.

“Beforehand we might have had four meetings before getting to the business problem,” says Wise.

Step #2: Create consistent and visible reporting

With a sales approach now in place, the team at IOOF got to work on the next step: creating a system that could allow sales people to report on their prospects and where they sat in the sales lifecycle.

Previously, IOOF relied on multiple systems and did not have one single source of truth or one centralised database. That’s now changed. All materials are now accessible anytime and anywhere, and the entire team can see who is focusing on what products. This influences major business decisions.

“Now, we have visual reporting on what our team is talking about and with who,” says Wise – something that has especially helped with new recruits.

“We can put them in front of all the tools and resources they need to provide that education and value.”

“From a marketing perspective we can now know we’re not getting traction in a certain area so we need a campaign, or we can see areas that are doing well, and then give the team a talking point to go out and have conversations,” she says.

“If the CEO asks what are the key products being reported, I can produce that information easily. As little as nine months ago we didn’t have that and couldn’t generate it.”

The result? A visible system that provides the opportunity for actionable insights.

Step #3: Introduce the right technology

While the first two steps were crucial, Wise says the underlying enabler for the entire change was choosing a CRM to empower the reporting process.

“You need something that everyone has access to in order to generate the reporting, see where everything is at, and so you can get that buy-in,” she says.

The results are clear: IOOF now have the ability to make faster more informed decisions by being able to see what is happening within its sales team at a granular level. The business can vastly improve its speed to market and competitiveness.

But there’s one last thing Wise recommends: getting an external consultant to set up the technology and make a tailored recommendation.

“If you’ve got an outside facilitator it helps you come to conclusions, whereas I think if you lead those decisions internally you can circle around for months at a time before you decide on something.”

“We hired an external consultant, and I’d recommend that to come to a fast conclusion.”

Oracle+Netsuite

Oracle+Netsuite is the industry's leading provider of cloud-based business management software. Oracle+Netsuite helps companies manage core business processes with a single, fully integrated system covering ERP/financials, CRM, ecommerce, inventory and more.