All businesses sell. That’s what business is about – selling a product or service in exchange for money.
Not all businesses sell well, however. In looking toward 2011 it is worth setting up your sales plan for the coming year.
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Selling consists of two main functions – tactics and strategy.
Sales strategy is the planning of sales activities: methods of reaching clients, competitive differences and resources available.
Tactics involve the day-to-day selling: prospecting, sales process and follow-up.
The tactics of selling are very important but equally important is your strategy of sales. Smart owners of small businesses know a sales strategy can create a competitive advantage.
The advantages of strategic sales planning are too compelling to ignore. They include:
- Increased conversion rate by knowing your customers’ hot buttons.
- Improved client loyalty by understanding your customers’ needs.
- Shorten the sales cycle with outside recommendations.
- Outsell competitors by offering the best solution.
Three level sales strategy
The development of any type of plan begins with research. The insight gained for a competitive advantage comes from the marketplace, not from your mind.
One approach to use is the “three level sales strategy”. Look at your customers and the outside influences on their lives. Approach all three tiers to understand your customer.
Level 1: Groups: What type of groups does your target customer belong to? Contact membership directors and establish a relationship – not for selling but to understand their members’ needs. Their members are, after all, your customers.
Level 2: Suppliers: Identify non-competitive suppliers who sell to your customer. Learn their challenges and look for partnering solutions.
Level 3: Customer: Work directly with your customer and ask them what their needs are and if your business may offer a possible solution.
An excellent example of developing a “three level sales strategy” is a story of a small accounting business. This business decided to target independent truck drivers for accounting services.
The competition for this business was a large accounting company. This small business approached the Trucking Association and learned that one concern of their membership was receiving financing for a new truck.
A discussion with the suppliers of trucks revealed financing was only approved after the truckies supplied financial statements.
The financials were often prepared by a large accounting business who set appointments on their time and in their office.
The pieces of the puzzle were now coming together. The customer was the last piece of critical information. The truckies were frustrated by the inconvenience of visiting an accounting business – with its nine to five hours – because of the time they spend on the road.
The best solution was to bring the accounting service to the customer on their terms and time.
The small accounting office had defined a clear sales strategy – to offer in-home financial statement preparation for truck drivers wanting finance through truck manufacturers.
All sales leads would be referred from the supplier. This strategy was a win/win for the association, the supplier, the customer and the accounting business.
The moral of the story is to gain a competitive advantage by looking at both sides of the equation, tactics and strategy.
Use the three level approach to win business and outsell the big companies in your market.
As you can see, strategy isn’t that complicated, doesn’t take up lots time and isn’t about sitting through interminable seminars or meetings to draw up a piece of paper. It is about learning about your customers’ needs and wants and finding ways to fulfil them.
Have a wonderful festive season and a highly successful 2011.
One of Australia’s leading small business coaches and mentors, Debra Templar just hates stupid business practices. So she’s on a mission to change them. www.thetemplargroup.com.au