Making the Most of Sales Opportunities

Sales opportunities are the lifeblood of many businesses, yet too often they are either missed or salespeople drop the ball during the sales process. This can be because they neglect important systems that contribute to sales success. In this article, we focus on key business processes that should be undertaken to help you manage your sales activity.

  1. Evaluate your existing products
    Does what you are selling today meet the market? Is it relevant, profitable, offer upsell opportunities? Does it have longevity – can you see it flourishing in the market in five years’ time? For those products you decide to keep, do you have a consistent description of what they are and their benefit to customers for all people in your firm to refer to when they are talking with customers?
  2. Competitor Analysis
    What are your competitors selling? Is there something they have that you could do even better? How do they price their products? What is important to customers and how well do you provide those added extras relative to your competitors? If you can articulate your points of difference and how they benefit the customer, you will stand a better chance of growing revenue.
  3. Sales Forecasting
    How much do you expect to sell in the next six months? Is this linear, or are there seasonal variances? How do you plan to resource the sales that you make? Sales forecasting is important for budgeting, cash management and resource allocation, but also to create accountability within your sales team. If your team do not know what they are aiming for, there is little chance that they will hit it.
  4. Pricing
    How do you price your products or services? When was the last time you undertook an audit to ensure that everything you sell is profitable? Do you know how you compare with competitive products and can you articulate why you are more expensive – or cheaper? What methodology is used to compute a price for a particular customer? What is your business’s policy on discounting and payment terms? Pricing should be very transparent within your business so that salespeople are confident in answering the question, ‘What does this cost?’
  5. Sales Training
    Do your sales team know how to sell your products? Would they use (or are they already using) them themselves? Can they explain the business benefits of what they are selling in a succinct manner? Can they handle sales objections confidently? To what extent are you sure that each person selling to customers is saying the same thing?
  6. Sales Management
    Every opportunity should be managed in a sales pipeline. Each lead needs to be entered into the pipeline and monitored in a weekly sales meeting with a published agenda and internal accountability. This means someone needs to assume the role of sales manager. See the accompanying article on sales management for more details on this role.
  7. Sales Documentation
    What documentation exists in your firm in terms of proposal templates, contracts, engagement letters, master service agreements, template emails to welcome new customers and so on? Again, consistency is important in documentation. Businesses exude credibility when their documentation is underpinned with a strong brand book and the ‘voice’ of the business is coherent and reflective of the brand.
  8. Conclusion
    In terms of business goals, if you are aiming to increase revenue or profitability, the likelihood is you need to grow your top line. Whether you are focused on attracting new customers or better managing existing ones so that they buy more from you, it is clear that the systems underpinning the sales process should not be understated.

Feel free to get in touch if you would like to discuss your business’s plans for growth. We would be happy to help.

7 Questions to Ask the Sales Team

Success in sales is based on many things: good salespeople, good leads, good marketing, good products, good market conditions and so on. But what about sales management? That’s important too and it involves a senior person holding salespeople accountable for their actions.

Let’s explore 7 questions a sales manager should ask his sales team (or anyone involved in sales activities).

  1. Who are you selling to?
    Painfully obvious, right? And are you targeting the “right” customers? Do we even know who the ‘right’ customers are? On what criteria do we base our evaluation of customers? That they will be with us a long time? That profit will be high in the proposed transaction? That they will be good to work with? That they have a good reputation? That they will give us referrals? Perhaps it’s a combination of all of these … but it needs to be well-defined.
  2. Where did you get those leads?
    Sometimes salespeople get so caught up in the sale they forget where the leads came from. Are they “inbound leads” meaning the prospect initiated contact? Have they been in your marketing database a long time? Did you meet them at a social event? The point is, if we are finding good leads somewhere, we should replicate what we’re doing. If not, something needs to change.
  3. What exactly are you proposing to sell?
    This could be simple because your business has only one product or service and it’s well-defined. More likely, there are some complexities because discerning customers want a variation of your product. For example, they may want revised payment terms, a discount or a different specification. Salespeople, in their urgency to sell, can sometimes vary the proposal in ways which don’t benefit the business. And create problems later.
  4. This is the big one… What are you doing next to close this sale?
    Like everything in business, sales can get complicated. Sometimes even the most astute salespeople just don’t know what to do next. Shall I call the prospect (again!) and see if they’ve come to a decision? Should I consider varying the price or delivery terms? Should I go to someone different in their organisation to try and get more information? Should I just wait? Should I invite them for lunch? Successful salespeople make these decisions quickly and definitively. But everyone can benefit from an outside view on what will work best.
  5. How long have you been working on this opportunity?
    Part of successful sales is, of course, selling! But another important part is to move on from opportunities which linger on forever without any success.
  6. What’s the probability of you closing this one?
    This is related to the above question and “forces” the salesperson to consider their priorities.
  7. What’s stopping you from closing these deals?
    Sales can be lonely… And there’s a lot of rejection. The ability to talk about obstacles to selling is important. That doesn’t mean complaining. It means constructively identifying legitimate barriers to getting sales across the line and discussing them with people who can clear some of those barriers.

Why not test questions in your next sales meeting? While not ALL of these should be discussed in EVERY sales meeting, but alerting salespeople to these important subjects will add value in the long term. And that means…. more sales!