American led corporations have set the standard for success with years of revenue growth, strategic expansion through vertical markets and competitive dominance across world territories. The structure behind this business shift in thinking was born at a time of economic boom, however, with an ever changing economy, the old rules aren’t so relevant and there is a need for a more nimble and flexible approach.
During the good times customers are lining up to buy and are essentially completing the deal themselves. A tougher market means a tougher approach, sales structure that focuses directly on crude actions and results.
The 6 rules to a successful selling approach are:
1. Awareness of Segment Market
Where and why you have won business is crucial in the process of turning strategy into real results. Why have you succeeded in a particular vertical market? Is it really the vertical that is your definitive target market or is it one particular characteristic that could be found across other sectors or populations? A good example of this would be compliance legislation that affects multiple sectors rather than something like HIPAA, which only affecs healthcare markets.
By developing a profile of what constitutes a good customer and qualifying prospects in or out before the process of selling begins sales teams will have a better understanding of the true potential pipeline.
2. Confidence in Forecast
It is a necessary evil for the sales team to forecast which sales will close, and when. The forecasting process can be highly subjective and inaccurate, resulting in a negative effect from the ground level up.
Confident forecasting is key to making the right strategic decisions. CEO’s must take an active role in communicating regularly with their sales leaders to ascertain the true picture and not just rely on a process which passively feeds the information through a CRM system. The sales force must see how its daily actions affect the whole organization.
3. Avoiding a Decade of Under-Investment
In a buoyant economy where spending is high the sales process is about managing the customers’ needs. In a downturn economy the sales force must have the ability to uncover those needs first. The sales team must actively sell and not just respond.
When spending rates are high the cost of sales is lower. Training costs are reduced as high-level training is viewed as an overhead; account management skills replace true sales skills. In short sales teams lose the ability to actively get themselves in front of the person who can (and possibly will) agree to the deal.
4. Understand Market Conditions
During a downturn Boards listen to the argument that “everyone’s struggling” and that “the market is tough”. However, during these times there are companies who are succeeding. Instead of finding out about a customer need or project once it has already started, the successful companies are actively uncovering needs (and budgets) before the project is formalized and help those customers shape and define the project..
5. Sell the Sales Process; Don’t Buy their Buying Process
It is imperative that your sales force knows the enterprise that they are targeting and the priorities (business and personal) of the person that they are selling to. That’s where pre-sales qualification and sales training come in.
But that is not enough; the salesperson must have the ability to pick through the needs of the prospective customer and take control of the selling agenda. Yes, the buyer will have processes that must be followed, but a successful sale relies on the salesperson being able to take the reins. If the salesperson takes control from the outset then they have a greater chance in both finding a project and reducing the time taken to close the deal.
6. Compensating the Sales Force
During an economic boom sales salaries can rocket in a relatively short period of time. Conversely, completing the deal becomes less demanding and as a consequence the sales force becomes idle.
There needs to be a balance between the amount that is paid, the results that are achieved and the key is motivation. Motivation isn’t just about communicating a corporate message that has been written to inspire. By sharing the bigger picture and communicating real and tangible objectives, sales teams can be motivated to succeed and buy into the overall goals and ethos of the company.