HOW TO ACCELERATE SALES IN A SLOWING ECONOMY
Increasing sales effectiveness and growing top line revenues is frequently cited as a primary driver for the adoption of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and Sales Force Automation (SFA) software systems. However, an increasing number of new CRM software buyers are citing the need to use technology to offset or compensate for a slowing economy.
Many sales leaders indicate that sales processes that worked a year ago are failing to work now as corporate budgets get tighter and customers take a wait and see posture. Many marketing professionals are indicating that lead generation has become more difficult and more expensive. Many sales teams commonly speak of longer sales cycles and more frequent losses to inaction - no decision being made.
Forward thinking sales leaders recognize proactive steps can be taken and innovative solutions applied to the situation. Below is our Top 10 tip list for accelerating sales in a slowing economy.
- First, begin with your existing accounts. Strategies geared toward up-selling and cross-selling will be more successful than new customer acquisitions during a slow economic period. Also seek referrals from satisfied customers.
- Revisit prior customers. Customers leaving your company are an inevitable part of business. However, research and experience shows that many times the reasons customers leave for greener pastures turn out to be exaggerated or false. Re-connecting with prior customers shows you continue to be interested in them personally and interested in re-earning their business. Customer relationships with customers whom have left and then come back are generally much stronger than customers who never left.
- Sell to 'needs' and not 'wants'. In a down economy, spending on 'nice to have' items goes by the wayside. Any sales effort based on customer 'wants' and not 'needs' is likely to be unproductive.
- Deepen your exposure at existing customers. Unfortunately, middle managers are often a layoff target when times get tough. However, this reality presents an opportunity for you to meet with senior managers who might otherwise be inaccessible during boom times. Forget about pitching offers to senior executives at buying organizations and instead listen carefully to their concerns and the challenges impacting their business. Only then are you in a position to craft a meaningful solution. Also, senior executives are usually eager to hear about what other companies are doing to address tough times. Without divulging anything held in confidence, sharing success stories with these executives is a powerful way to build your credibility and your business relationships with company leaders.
- For new client acquisitions, begin by searching for prospects in recession-resistant markets such as energy, utilities, communications, pharmaceuticals, health care and consumer staples.
- Look outside your normal customer target market and sphere of influence. Go beyond the normal customer boundaries, possibly by going first to your customers' customers.
- Consider repacking your services or solutions to better accommodate smaller customers or reduced budgets. Similarly, you may find it valuable to offer free assessments and other road-mapping tools which align your solutions with your customers needs.
- Consider new financing options. Creative financing can turn a purchase desire into a purchase.
- Upgrade your Competitive Intelligence (CI). In a down economy you can bet your competitors are getting as aggressive as you. Failing to recognize your competitors current actions, strengths and weaknesses places you in a challenging competitive selling position. Well run sales organizations often assign a designated person to be the champion or most knowledgeable source for each significant competitor. Sales professionals that incorrectly reference advantages or differences to a particular competitor, due to having outdated or half-baked information, quickly lose credibility in the sales prospects eyes. By assigning a competitor champion for each competitor, competitor research is delegated and maintained centrally, redundancy of competitor reviews and investigation is reduced or eliminated and the entire sales team has the most up to date and accurate information available.
- Revisit loss analysis. Sales losses are far less acceptable in a down economy. The only thing worse than losing sale opportunities due to the same causes is not knowing why you lose sale opportunities. Loss analysis exercises provide the framework to learn from experience and change ineffective behaviors. Although few sales people like to be reminded or re-live lost sales opportunities, experienced sales managers have long recognized that without a formal win/loss analysis exercise, sales representatives repeat missteps, fail to capitalize on winning sales strategies on a recurring basis and continually lose to the same competitors time after time. Formal win/loss analysis exercises advance the sales professionals capabilities and skills and build a knowledge-base repository over time. Many well run sales organizations call for a mandatory win/loss analysis for all sales opportunities which were ever forecasted, even if the sales person won the sales opportunity. A win/loss exercise on a winning sales opportunity reinforces the basics of effective selling, demonstrates what works to the entire sales team and encourages repeating successful actions and behaviors. A semi-common best practice is to track win/loss history for each competitor down to the competitor sales person. Many veteran sales managers use this information to either create competitive sales strategies which cater to the predicted behaviors of select competitor sales people or actually use the information to hire-away the most effective competitor staff.
A NEW REMINDER TO AN OLD HABIT
Plan your time for effectively. Most sales professionals are notoriously poor planners and preparing to sell in a down economy requires more discipline than usual. While it's always important to effectively manage your limited time, it's even more critical to optimize your selling time during an economic slowdown. By pursuing only realistic, profitable sale opportunities, you can maximize the best use of your time. Keep in mind the infamous words of Sir John Harvey-Jones who offered this observation: “The nicest thing about not planning is that failure comes as a complete surprise, rather than being preceded by a period of worry and depression.”
ERP Software Turn-Around
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