James Wong, CEO of Avidian Technologies
In today’s struggling economy, maintaining strong sales numbers is becoming a greater and greater challenge for businesses. One of the most efficient solutions to this problem is to focus on boosting current sales and streamlining already established processes.
Here are six tips to help maintain revenue and improve current selling methods:
- Organization is key. Know who your current customers are, who your prospects are and how you became aware of them. Keep all information regarding customers and prospects up to date so that you have accurate data available when needed. The best way to do this is to use a program readily accessible and tailored to this task. A perfect example is your e-mail contact list. You can also keep an Excel spreadsheet of contact information. Or you can purchase one of the major contact management solutions in the market place. If you search contact management on Google, you’ll find some of the tops ones to use. Contact management or CRM applications are relatively inexpensive and you can usually recoup your initial investment quickly.
- Focus on the funnel. At any given time, your sales cycle will include various deals at different stages of completion. Tracking where specific clients are in this sales cycle is vital to ensuring that none of these deals fall through the cracks. To keep track of your sales pipeline, develop a list of milestones that you would like achieved by your sales team. These milestones will be different for every business, but should include three to five decision or contact points. For example some contact points might be the initial contact, a follow-up, a verbal agreement and finally a written contract. CRM programs typically have this type of capability. To ensure better cohesiveness, these programs should integrate directly with your e-mail contact lists. Otherwise, you can create a spreadsheet listing each individual sale, where each sale is in the sales process and the estimated date of closure.
- Track who your evangelists are and thank them. It is important to keep track of your customers, but it is also essential to maintain relationships with your referral sources. By noting which sources have referred the majority of your sales, you can begin to see which of them are providing the most sales opportunities and focus your attention more directly on them. Being able to see this documented will help make it clearer who your lead referrals are. If using a CRM solution, see if it has this capability to tie referral information to sales in the pipeline. Every time someone refers a customer to you, thank them immediately with a hand-written note or a quick email. This is a common courtesy that many are guilty of neglecting.
- Measure your progress. Make sales expectations known to employees and make achievements measurable. One way to do this is to use the stages of the sales cycle as levels of achievement. More sales will be finalized and more revenue will be made when an employee is well informed and knows what is expected. For example, a sales employee might be expected to make 10 new contacts and move three accounts onto the next stage of the sales cycle each week. This will make expectations clearer, allowing employees to effectively meet them.
- Get out there. It is essential to keep your company and your product in front of customers. One way to do this is to create and distribute a newsletter with items of interest to current and potential clients within your industry. Another tactic to help keep you on the frontlines is to host an open house to get better acquainted with your local customer base.
- Streamline existing processes. Established tools and processes are already being used by your sales team to acquire new customers. Another way to boost sales is to capitalize on what your team is already doing and streamline it. If an individual salesperson is using a certain tool or has developed an efficient process that they’re using on their own, find a way to expand it to a corporate level. Reward individuals for sharing their best ideas with the entire sales team.
Enduring tough economic times can be a challenge, but it is not an insurmountable task. By using the six tips outlined above, you don’t need to wait around for the storm to blow over before your business gets back on track; instead, you can come out on the other side stronger than ever.
James Wong is President and CEO of Avidian Technologies, the maker of Prophet CRM for Outlook software.