The best sales strategies to increase sales

The best sales strategies to increase sales

Seven of the best sales strategies to gain increased sales results and sales effectiveness in 2011

Strategy 1 – Are you sales people working harder or smarter?

The pressure is on at the end of year to get as much revenue in as possible. There is no time for slacking and mangers want to see their teams being productive and taking positive action everyday towards achieving the team targets. However, with the increased pressure to perform, are your sales people really taking positive action that will actually help them to achieve targets or are they simply keeping busy?

When I visit sales organisation, I like to spend some time listening into sales calls and identifying how sales people are utilising their time. In order to check if the are using their time effectively, I generally ask the sales people to show me their ‘to do list’ for the day.

Once we have, the ‘to do list’ I then go through each item and ask them…

  • Why is this task important for you to do today?
  • How will it help you to achieve your goals and target?
  • What is the benefit of taking this action today?
  • What is the consequence of you not taking this action?
  • How long have you had this on your to do list for?

I promise you, you would be amazed at the results I get. Approximately, 30% of what is on their list is actually important for them to do today and the other 70% is simply keeping them busy.

Try it today, Sit down with your sales people and ask them to show you their ‘to do list’ and ask the above questions.
By completing the above exercise, you will undoubtedly improve the effectiveness of your sales people.

Strategy 2 – If you fail to plan, you plan to fail

If you have completed the above exercise with your team, and the results show you that you team are not working smart, this may mean that your sales people do not have a plan. It could also highlight that they are not sure of the best way to spend their time or the approach they should take to make the most of the next 8 weeks. Therefore, this is a time when effective sales management and coaching is required.

Sales people who do not have a plan are planning to fail, which will have a knock on effect on the teams performance and your performance therefore, take the time to help your team members create an action plan that will ensure they focus on the right tasks in the final 8 weeks. One very important aspect to remember here is that you should not create the plan for your sales people or you should not be telling them what they should do in their plan.

By telling them or creating the plan for them, you are making it your plan and in the eyes of the sales person it will be your fault if it fails. To get sales people to take ownership and accountability for their actions coach them to create their own plan so that they own it.

To coach simply ask them questions that will help them to identify the following:

  • Their target and their performance to date
  • Their revenue gap
  • What has worked well for them in the previous quarters and this quarter to date
  • What strengths they already have which will assist them in the final 8 weeks
  • Their current pipeline value and the status of each opportunity
  • The amount that will definitely close before year-end, the amount that is likely to close before year-end and the    accounts that are at risk.
  • The amount of opportunities/revenue that they will need to develop from now until year end
  • Their current close rate which will let you know how much they will need to generate to close the required amount of revenue
  • The target market/customers they should focus on
  • The product /service they should focus on
  • Their key priorities for the next 8 weeks and how they could utilise their time better
  • Barriers they may face along the way and how they can overcome them

Strategy 3 – Introduce a prime selling time

In sales it is simple, the more customers you talk to, the more likely it will be that you will hit target. For me this is a no brainer, however I see so many sales people that are actually spending a lot of their time on non sales related activities and in the prime business hours they are doing admin instead of calling the people who can help them to hit target; their customers.

Admin in a sales team is a necessary evil, sales people will undoubtedly have some admin that they will need to do in order to complete customer orders however, the key to having a successful sales team is to ensure that you separate the admin time and prime selling time.

In every sales team I have run, I have always introduced a prime selling time so it was no surprise that my team won the awards for best call times, best target achievement and best new business team. The way I look at it is; if customers are more available in specific hours during the day, it makes good business sense for my sales people to call customers in these specific time periods. In the times when customers are generally too busy, to take calls my sales people can then complete their admin.

Introducing a prime selling time and separating call time and admin is by far the best thing you can do between now and end of the year to improve the effectiveness of your sales people and gain increased revenue.

If you would like to introduce a prime selling time, I would recommend the following:

  • 9am – 9.30am: Admin
  • 9.30am – 12.00pm: Prime selling time
  • 12pm – 1pm: Lunch
  • 1pm -2pm: Admin
  • 2pm – 4.30pm: Prime selling time
  • 4.30pm – 5.30pm: Admin

I would even go as far as asking them to shut down their email systems in prime selling times. Your team may resist this idea to start with. However, the increase in their productivity and sales results will eventually help them to see that making more calls is making them more money.

Strategy 4 – Identify your revenue tap and turn it on

There are two main ways to gain increased revenue by end of year, firstly you have your existing customers that you can gain additional spend from and secondly you have new business customers.

The best approach for you to take and focus your time and efforts on will be heavily dependent on the products and services you sell however, before you decide on the best approach for you to take I would urge you to consider the following.

Generally, new business takes a lot longer to close and it is a lot easier in some cases to get more revenue from your existing customers than it is to sell into a new business account. I am not saying that you should not focus time on generating new business; instead, I am saying that you need to identify all possible revenue streams and identify the revenue tap you can turn on that will generate revenue and close within the next 8 weeks.

If you have identified that, the revenue tap to turn on is your existing customer base then the first step I would recommend for you to take is to book a one to one with all team members and ask them to provide you with an overview of the key accounts that they are responsible for.

In the account review, again I would suggest that you do not tell them the approach they should take. Instead, you should be coaching them and asking them the right questions, which will enable them to come up with their own creative solutions. This way they own it and they take responsibility for their success.

In the account reviews what you are really trying to get your team members to review and identify is:

  • The last time they had contact with each account
  • Each customers real business needs
  • The pain or gain they currently have
  • Which products/services you have that will match their needs
  • Which products/services they have already purchased
  • Which additional products/services you have that will also meet their needs
  • What would encourage them spend additional money in the next 8 weeks.
  • What actions could they talk that would enable them to gain more up sell or additional revenue form their customers in the next 8 weeks.

If the revenue tap that you can turn on is new business then I would suggest that you coach your sales people to identify the following:

  • The industries/markets that have the biggest GAIN from your products/services
  • The industries/markets that have the biggest PAIN, which your products/services can remove or reduce.
  • The industries that are not spending money at the moment.
  • The industries or customers who have seen the most ‘value add’ from your products and services
  • The competitors of your existing customers whom are already using your products or services and have seen success from using them.

This may take you some time to do with your team and the all of the individual within your team however, it is time well spent! A coach that I work with myself once told me “there are times when you have to go slow, in order to go faster”, and in this case, this is very true. Take the time out to plan a strategic approach, identify your target market, and create a plan with your team and the increased sales results will happen much quicker than easier than if you were to simply continue working hard.

Strategy 5 – Get your team out of the mentality of “If I call enough customers some of them will buy”

An old classic that I see happening in many sales teams is many of the sales people calling up customer after customer telling them about how good your product or services are, when really what they need to be doing is asking customers the right questions to establish the value add that your product or service will bring them. We all know that customers do not buy products or services; we know that either they have a real business gain from using your product or service or they have a business pain that they need your product to reduce or remove.

Therefore, if we all know this why do sales people still sell products or services instead of value add. Well its simple, they fall into their comfort zone, they are so busy, keeping busy that they lose touch with what they are really trying to do and some are off the mentality that if they call enough customers some of them will buy.

This type of mentality and sales people that are stuck in the comfort zone will only limit your team’s performance rather than maximise it.

Therefore, take your team into a meeting and ask them to identify the following:

  • Why do customers buy your products or services?
  • What are they really buying when they buy your products & services?
  • What is the real ‘Value-Add’ or real business benefit that customers gain from your products?
  • What is the pain that customers currently have and that our product or services can reduce or remove?
  • How do you differentiate from your competitors?

Once you have established all of the above, then ask your team to role –play. The objective of the role-play is to deliver an introduction that grabs the customers attention and includes the value add your products or services provide.

Even if you have a sales team, that have been with you for years, and even if you think they know the value add, I would still encourage you to complete this exercise with your team. Having the right introduction and ensuring your team are reminded that they are selling value add, not products or services will massively increase the number of customers who take your call and let your sales people complete the entire steps of the sale.

Strategy 6 – Gain focus, momentum and get as many qualified opportunities in your pipeline as possible.

When you have completed all of the above exercises, you will have:

  • Ensured your sales people are only taking actions that actually help them achieve target
  • Coached your sales people to create a plan to succeed
  • Introduced a prime selling time and your sales people will now be spending the majority of your time calling the people whom can make a difference to your results; your customers
  • Identified the revenue tap that you can turn on in the next 8 weeks
  • Ensured your team know the ‘value add’ you are selling

The next step is to ensure that you can gain the required focus to build your pipeline with opportunities that can close before end of year. To gain focus and momentum in a sales team, teamwork and direction is going to be key. Telling your team to focus on building the pipeline is not enough and you run the risk of only your top performers taking action. To get every individual in the team on board I would suggest that you make a team effort and you hold a focus day to gain momentum and excitement.

Holding focus days is a fantastic way to ensure that everybody in your team is on board and as sales people have, in most cases, a competitive nature, team focus days are a great way to gain momentum.

To hold a successful focus day with your sales team you will need to:

  • Decide on the product or service you will be focusing on
  • Hold a team meeting so that you can all agree on the target customer market you will be calling
  • Get the team members to identify the pain & gain and the value add customers will be buying
  • Agree on the introduction you will all use to get into more sales calls
  • Identify questions that will identify the pain or gain
  • Agree on how you can create urgency with customers to gain some form or commitment on the day. This may be a customer incentive, a limited timeframe or limited stock availability.
  • Set a target for the focus day and gain the team’s commitment to the target. The target can be the number of sales achieved, quotes sent out, brochures sent out etc. They key is to set some sort of target so that you can measure success.
  • Gain their commitment that they will spend prime selling time on calling customers, not doing admin. I would even recommend that you ask them to shut their email system down until the agreed admin times.
  • Launch a reward and recognition program to recognise the first opportunities to come in, the most effort, the highest opportunity value, number of calls of customer visits etc.
  • Ensure all sales people have their customer data available before starting the focus day so that you can maximise their time talking to customers and limit the amount of time they spend in your internal systems looking for customers data.
  • Make the focus day fun & exciting.
  • If you are the sales manager, please do not spend the day in your office. It is crucial that you are part of the day and that you are with your sales people.

Strategy 7 – Ensure your team know the “what’s in it for them”

Let’s get this straight; sales people do not come to work to keep their managers happy and a sales target is not a sales person’s goal! A sales target is a means for the sales people to achieve their personal goals and they come to work for themselves so that they can achieve their goals.

Although some managers fail to recognise this, sales people are just like customers, in terms of, a customer would not buy your product or service unless there was a pain or gain and ‘value add’ in it for them, and sales people don’t take action when there is no pain or gain and no ‘value add’ in it for them. What really motivates sales people is identifying what it is they personally want to achieve and understanding how working with you and achieving their sales target are aligned to them achieving their personal goals.

By setting goals with your sales people, you will enable them to have more focus, motivation and direction. Therefore, take the time to get to know each of your sales people and coach them until they identify personal goals of their own. Once you have identified personal goals you can then align the team goals with their personal goals, and help your sales people to see how coming to work and taking positive action everyday in work will actually help them to get what they want out of life.

I often compare managing sales teams to playing a game of dominoes, in terms of if one falls it is likely that they will all fall. Personal goals, is what truly motivates each individual in your team; it is what sets them all apart. In sales, negativity breeds negativity so to ensure all individuals in your team stand tall, take the time to help them set personal goals, as you will then know what buttons to push to sustain their individual motivation in tough or challenging times.

By implementing all of the above steps, there are three key things that you will achieve:

  • You will gain increased sales results in the next 8 weeks!
  • You will hit target!
  • You will get the best from your sales people in the run up to year-end!

We have already helped many leading sales organisations to implement sales strategies that have enabled them to achieve increased sales results and sales effectiveness. This is what some of our clients had to say about working with the team at Sales & Sensibility…..

Our management team were beginning to believe increasing volume sales would be impossible; the approach we used increased sales results by over 400%. The sales campaign was a tremendous success & the processes & principals implemented by Fiona are now the Enterprise Solutions departmental standard in selling our general product & service portfolio to the SME market in Nigeria.’
Evan Garricks (GM, Head of Sales – MTN Enterprise Solutions)

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

FERNANDO June 19, 2013

One of the best every sales strategies articles I came across. very precise and detailed for any sales team members and senior sales officers to read.

Thanks for the share Fiona.

Mel Entwistle August 6, 2013

Many thanks for the strategies, you have made me re-think my tactics, I am now planning my sales completely differently for September. I completely agree about prime sales times, I have also found days to be a factor too. Monday and Fridays always difficult and found Thursday afternoon to be my must successful day. Many thanks again, heres to making the next quarter the best yet.