Tips for Service-Based Small Business: Firm Up the Sales ProcessFriday March 19th, 2010
Sales is a numbers game. You will never find a salesperson that bats a thousand (in leads:closed business) because there are simply too many uncontrollable client variables. The best way to "Always Be Closing" is to populate your pipeline with enough strong leads to combat the likelihood that nothing will close.
Sales is a numbers game. You will never find a salesperson that bats a thousand (in leads:closed business) because there are simply too many uncontrollable client variables. The best way to “Always Be Closing” is to populate your pipeline with enough strong leads to combat the likelihood that nothing will close. More viable leads equals more closed business, so how do we improve our odds?
The first step is to scrutinize the nuts and bolts of the client acquisition process with a narrow perspective. Do you frequently have lengthy conversations with prospects about their projects, then spend time drafting a proposal only to find that their budget is way too small? The time wasted on the phone and drafting the proposal can be avoided by setting client-expectations early in the first discussion. After warming up to the prospect for a couple minutes, and before they describe their requirements, share your company’s background information and general price points to gauge whether their budget aligns with your services. This is a mutually beneficial measure that will put both parties on the same page. If you feel uncomfortable about addressing this topic, draft and rehearse a short summary to regurgitate, or simply say, “the service you require starts at $X and could cost as much as $Y.” Never assume that your contacts are familiar with service costs because it’s not common knowledge, and beginning a relationship with a miscommunication can lead to mistrust.
The next step requires an examination of the process from a broader perspective. You’ve increased efficiency on each individual sales attempt, but how do you increase the number of opportunities? Ask yourself a few of these questions…
- Am I making calls during peak sales hours and deferring less time-sensitive work for the early morning and late afternoon?
- Am I scheduling meetings around peak sales hours?
- Am I spending too much time prospecting (and not enough time on the phone) when another employee or intern could be generating leads?
- Do I need to transfer some responsibilities to another employee or intern to focus on more important tasks, like sales calls?
- Am I consistently leveraging alternative marketing opportunities like referral requests, event production/sponsorship, and networking?
Take what you discover from scrutinizing the system, and make it easier for yourself. If you’re someone that experiences increased productivity with self-regulating habits (I imagine most of us fall into this category), take 10 minutes before you leave the workplace to schedule the following day’s activity – a hard-copy daily planner or google calendar work well for these purposes. A well-planned day, everyday, will help you stick to your new sales agenda, and identify beneficial procedural trends that fit your industry and personality. For example, you may find that prospective clients are not receptive first thing in the morning AND you like to spend time in the morning on odd and ends AND you’re more energetic in the late morning and afternoon. This means that you should probably schedule sales time for blocks immediately before and after lunch.
Sales is an emotional roller coaster that requires mental and physical stamina. The more time spent feeling like you’re controlling each turn, and NOT derailing, will make the job much more enjoyable, not to mention success follows confidence. Examining your process and implementing changes, as small as they may be, will not only improve efficiency, but also contribute to a positive outlook.