How did you fair in 2014? Did you meet, exceed or – dare I say it – fall short of your sales targets? Whatever the outcome, it’s that time of year when you need to sit down and review what you did, how you did it and what you need to change in 2015 to blitz those targets.
Here are 7 ½ ways to give your selling that edge it needs in 2015 so that you not only meet your targets but you exceed them.
1. Get your prospects to call you
It’s no good having the best products or services if no one can find you. Many companies are identifying solutions and researching suppliers before you even know they are looking. If you can’t be found or your marketing is poor, prospects won’t find you when they search for you. And you’ll never know they were in the market for your products.
You need to get involved while the prospects are going through their research phase. You need to leave breadcrumbs everywhere. Breadcrumbs are pieces of content or thought leadership resources within your industry that ultimately lead back to you and your company. Be everywhere so you can start to influence that research. This will help prospects make a decision while they are researching, or at least put you on their short list. Posting blogs, white papers, LinkedIn articles and the like before the sale and then during the sales process proves that you are valuable before buyers have made a decision. This is the point where you need to educate prospects about what’s best for their business and the fact that you have the answers to questions they hadn’t thought of before.
It’s a lot easier when they call you!
2. Identify how you can increase value at every touch point
In the absence of value, or the perception of it, every sale will revolve around price. That’s it, in a nutshell.
Prospects’ perception, understanding and comprehension of value won’t stand out and bite them; it needs to be described in ways they hadn’t realised before. Michael Webb defines value as ‘that which the customer will take action to get’. If prospects don’t see value in what you have, they will always ask you to reduce your price.
So recognise the value points in the process for every person involved in the chain, whether they are making decisions, influencing the choice, evaluating the solution or the end user. Assess the most important element of value for each person at each level at each time. Build that value by focussing on the results they will achieve by using your products. Show how the value outweighs price by concentrating on what the end results will be. Show how it prevents problems, reduces risk or improves quality, efficiency and effectiveness. Do you know how they might be able to get more value if they use it differently? Give them advice on how that would work.
3. Be social
You need to leverage the power of social media more effectively. Tweets, Facebook posts, LinkedIn articles and posts and other forms of communication require you to be proactive in the way you distribute your time and efforts to be effective in what you do. So much info is being posted online and, if you are to keep up with developments happening within your prospects’ companies, you must be up-to-date with the direction they want their businesses to go and offer the support needed to build the relationship at the point when it is needed.
Are you prospecting using LinkedIn, identifying company Facebook information and listening in to tweets from prospects? Top salespeople proactively use their time to build value in prospects’ minds by posting interesting articles or sending third-party articles to prospects on subjects that would be interesting to them. Look out for how you can prove yourself an expert in this field. Keep yourself up-to-date with advancements in LinkedIn and other social media formats, which will enhance your reputation. Write an article for a specialist magazine and get it published. Pass that article on to specific prospects so they can see how partnering with you would benefit them.
4. Become an expert
Prospects are used to hearing sales pitches that ‘big-up’ the seller’s products and services, and they get bored of the extravagant claims made about how this is the next big thing and is ‘simply the best, better than all the rest’. The fact is they probably know more about what they need than you do, and your claims often fall on deaf ears. What they need is someone who can help them overcome their current and future problems, achieve their goals and make them look good.
You need to have a complete understanding of the processes the prospect’s company goes through to make decisions. This is just the start, however. Businesses tend to listen to experts who give them ideas on how they should be structured or positioned in their particular marketplace. With your extensive knowledge of how other companies in their industry work, you have the background to suggest and recommend the steps they can take to be more successful. Remember, they may be too close to the action to see the big picture. If you’re able to assess their current position, identify the flaws in what they are doing compared to others, offer your help in showing the direction they need to go to get ahead of their competition and help them formulate actions to achieve an improvement on their business plans, you will become their ‘go-to’ person for future projects and solutions.
5. Accelerate the achievement of results
You need to increase the emphasis and focus on the value of doing business with you and your company, long-term. By increasing the perceived benefits they get by dealing with you rather than your competitors, you reduce the emphasis on price and long-term costs. The definition of value is by how much your products and services can accelerate the achievement of results that prospects are looking for. So your value proposition is how quickly those desired results can be achieved. You must concentrate on those results rather than trying to justify your price.
The perceived value prospects receive must be measurable in terms of results they will get, so work out how they benefit in real terms from using you. This has to overcome the perceived price they are paying and the perceived costs they are incurring.
You can do this by creating value in your prospects’ eyes. Here are some tips:
- Strengthen the value of your proposition to their customers.
- Improve their business process, enabling them to be more efficient and effective.
- Solve specific problems that their business is experiencing.
- Fulfil an actual need with your product that couldn’t be found elsewhere.
6. If you build it, they will come!
What am I talking about here?
I’m talking about trust and credibility.
Whenever a new person is interviewed on the news or in a documentary, the programmers will place their name at the bottom of the screen, accompanied by a definition of what they do. Sometimes it’s as simple as ‘Financial Expert’ or ‘Construction Expert’.
This lends credibility and legitimacy to what the person says. Even though you may never have heard about them in your life, you tend to believe what they say and even quote them because of the label ‘expert’.
Building expertise in your field isn’t that difficult or time-consuming. What it does, though, is turn you into someone who is sought after for views, opinions, ideas, solutions, comments, recommendations and suggestions. You’ll get people coming to you instead of the other way round.
Find out the main questions that prospects and customers are asking about how to make their business more successful. Take these questions and formulate short, medium and long answers for the short and long-term. Spread these answers around where people will see them. Send articles to trade publications. Become members of LinkedIn groups where your prospects frequent and add your comments to points others have made or add your own comments and invite reviews of the big business issues for customers today.
Write newsletters addressing prospects’ biggest issues and get them out to decision-makers. Don’t try and overtly sell; your expertise will shine through and influencers will pick up on the fact that you offer value in the free advice you give out. When they see how good your opinions are for their business, they’ll contact you, reducing the need for selling and increasing the need for you to be a consultant to their business success.
7. The best way to predict the future is to create it
Too many businesses live in the present or the past when it comes to determining their needs and wants. They look at what they have achieved with past purchases and want to be successful using the same basis. Or they see what their competitors are doing today and want to match them or beat them today.
What they sometimes fail to see is their success only lies in the way they are set up for the future.
If we, as sales consultants, can concentrate and focus on future results, we can convince our customers to plan effectively, identify changes required and create ideas for how they can match their customers’ future needs.
To be successful yourself, you need to be future-focussed and solution-driven. 2015 is a year of opportunities as you seek to build relationships and develop sales patterns related to how your prospects wish to succeed. Discuss the structure of their business and the direction it needs to take to firstly match and then beat their competition.
Foretelling future opportunities doesn’t have to be guesswork. By following the previous tips, you create an abundance of ideas that help you build your solutions in ways that support your prospects’ aspirations. By emphasising the business-building strategies that this year offers to your prospects, you get them to focus on the activities and actions they need to take that will address today’s issues and attract future business created by your ideas for development of products and services supported by your company.
7.5 Get others to do the selling for you
I’ve given this a half point because this will only apply to some industries.
Think about all of the people from your company who get involved in the sale or the fulfilment of your products and services. Why? Well, if you think about it, these people are in regular contact with your clients and they always have the inside track.
They hear of a gripe that your client has with another supplier or they tell the service engineer that they wish the product had a maintenance plan. All of this information is very valuable to you as a sales person.
So think about whom your “insiders” can be and then approach them to have a regular update or chat about what they find out during the normal course of their work. Of course, you may need to incentivise them for this but if you do it correctly you can have a whole sales force of undercover sales consultants giving you the information you need to make more sales with very little effort.
Start to think about implementing these strategies into your plans for 2015 and make sure you exceed your targets.