If all you business owners reading this were not doing what you are doing, would you be working as an employee for a different company as a Sales Manager? I would probably hazard a guess and say the vast majority of you would not, in fact the thought of having a job title with the word “sales” in it probably sends a dreaded shiver down your spine. I often have conversations with business owners (usually when they are finding out more about my professional background) about their perception of sales, more often than not, I hear “one thing I could never do is work in sales, I’m not that type of person, I couldn’t sell stuff and rely on it to make an income!”. “Really!” I reply, “Why then, do you think your business has lasted all these years?”. “Oh that’s different, I have lots of good customers that buy off me regularly”.
If there is one thing I have learnt about being in business for yourself, you are the sales team and the sales manager, whether you have staff or not. The problem we have as business owners, is that the Sales Manager role is a 24/7 job, it never stops. Even when you are on the touch line watching your kids play footy, the Sales Manager is never too far away, you never know who you may be standing next to, you never know who you are going to speak to, who may need your products or services and because of this, everyone you talk to or interact with may well become a customer. Inevitably the pressure is always there, that feeling you always need to conduct yourself professionally always looking for that queue, someone has a problem that your business can help with.
As business owners, we have our own business because of the love of what we do (for the majority!!), the sales process is a process much like accounts, we know we have to do it but it doesn’t mean we like it or are good at it, for those of you that understand where I am coming from, I am going to shed some very basic rules on managing your sales and clients for (this article will focus on business to business, my next blog will have a business to customer focus), keep these in the back of your mind and you’ll find this part of the job will become easier.
If you are about to have a meeting with a potential client, do your homework. Websites are awesome sales tools, check out your potential clients website, go to the “About Us” section, see if you can get any details of the person you are about to meet. Check out the range of products and services that they provide, maybe have a question or two about some of these (shows interest in what they offer). If they have a link to a FaceBook page then click on the link, “Like” their page and see what information they post on there, they may have other activities being talked about that are not on the website but maybe more relevant. The more information you have the better, one word of warning, do not start drawing assumptions from anything you have found out prior to the meeting, it can be the quickest way to lose any chance of a sale!!
Set An Objective For The Meeting
Despite popular opinion it is not necessary or prudent to try and close the sale at every meeting you ever have with a customer or potential customer and in many industries it is just not feasible so lets remove that pressure now. If you are meeting a potential customer for the first time, the objective may be to gather as much information about this business, maybe you will have to take the information and ponder over it later and come up with potential solutions, in this case maybe the objective for the meeting would be to secure another meeting (possibly at your own business premises so the potential customer gets a better understanding of the type of company they may do business with) or secure the opportunity to provide a quote.
Follow Up & Stick To Your Promises!
Whatever was discussed at the previous meeting with your customer or potential customer, make sure you deliver, set expectations (especially with potential customers) on what you can do and how quickly but be warned, once you have set that expectation you had better stick to it!! Lets use my business as an example, as a business mentor, my first meeting is always at no charge, I use this meeting to gather information, what is my customer’s issues and plans? This meeting is also used for them to find out more about my skills and experiences, at the end of the meeting, all going well, I tell them that they will receive my “assumptions email” within the next two days. This email summaries the meeting (demonstrating that the information I gathered is accurate), clarifies their issues and goals and providing all this is right, outlines a plan to go forward, it finishes with a statement that says I will follow this email with a call (on a specific day) to get their thoughts. This is my window of opportunity to get things right and secure a new customer, if I don’t follow through on any of this, chances are, I will not have a new customer!!
Keep In Touch
It is widely accepted in sales that if you are not communicating with your clients at least every three months (preferably in person) you run the risk of losing them, either because you are not keeping up to date with their needs or your competition has been given the time to weasel their may in under your nose. You need a plan in place to ensure this does not happen, Customer Relations Management (CRM) packages are a great tool for this, you can record every interaction with your customers, you can add values of sales pipelines and sales achieved and you can schedule your next visit, ensuring you never leave them too long without a visit. However you manage this process it is important that you take the guess work out of when you should next visit your client and when you do, go back to the first step “Be Prepared”. Ensure you know what you talked about last time, do you have to follow up on anything specific, have you launched new products or services? If so you need to educate your customer about these, have they launched any new products or services? Again, if they have, can your business help them in some way?
As the Sales Manager to your business, remember, always be prepared, never assume anything prior to meetings, listen well, keep your promises and be sure to stay in touch, if you start this process today, within the next three months you will be back in control and actively managing your customer base.