Sales Leaders -- What is ONE best practice I can start this week that will help increase my sales or effectiveness in this quarter? As the economy tightens up there are fewer precious budget dollars to go around. From your experience what is ONE thing a sales professional can do in this quarter to get more of the customers available budget?
[The question was asked by Mark Taylor - please check out his profile]
Explore extending relationships with your existing customers, especially those that have "gone away" for some reason or another. These people know you, know what services or products you provide today and may need more immediately.
Your existing customer base is usually an explored gold mine for most companies. Depending on the relationship, I would begin having a very open and honest conversations with your best customers - get their feedback about how to improve your "service to them". Remember, unless you are selling a very commodity, low end, product or service to millions of people - it is your responsibility as the product or service provider to "engage" the customer and create an intimate relationship. They are not buyers/purchasers/clients/customers - they are people - and people like to buy from other people.
Here are a couple other things to consider....
(1) Offer discounts to your best customer - we have a tendency to offer discounts to "new" customers and forget about our existing customers, don't do it
(2) As mentioned above, start contact your customer base/list - segment them however you want - but have a very tactical plan in your contacts. You may segment by (a) when the purchased from you (b) how much the purchase (c) geographic location (d) estimated wallet share.
(3) When talking with your existing customer base - always ask who they know that might be interested in your product or service - by name, company, position, etc. Then ask if they would provide an introduction, if can you use their name - always ask this question.
(4) Always know which products or services you offer are the "easiest" to sell (and collect on). If you are in the consulting business - it does no good to sell a bunch of services that require 90-days to get the money - look at way to accelerate the transaction - that may be discounts, a small up front fee (backend loaded), shorter project times, terms, etc. Be creative, but keep in mind how to create a "frictionless transaction" between you and the customer.
Last - automate your sales as much as possible. Use some Sales Force Automation/Customer Relationship Management application. And get into the professional habit of using it (and demanding your sales force use it also). If you can do that, then some of the ups and downs of the economy will be smoothed out.
Now, in case you are wondering -- yes, I have done this one in the real world and it works. My suggestion for anyone in sales or has their own company is to always stay in touch with your customers - remember them, remember how often the buy, remember what they buy, be human in your interactions. In th end, they may or may not purchase more today, but they live and work and know people - they have value beyond the few dollars they spend with your company [in other words, they are more than a commission check]. They deserve your respect and your best efforts.