Sometimes I feel like the preacher with too few butts in the pews! As a whole (particularly for smaller operations) when it comes to sales we operate in a reactionary manner. When we enjoy good times, we focus on the work ahead and during bad times we save what we can. For over 20 years we’ve preached the importance of playing a reasoned game that most always moves the ball forward or at least minimizes your losses. This requires planning, good execution and constant attention to the action on the field so that you can make the adjustments that current conditions require. Today, we challenge our readers to take advantage of a market that still has many challenges to overcome. For too many of us, selling and profitability sometimes go in opposite directions. But, it all starts with sales and that’s what we’re going to talk about today. Here are some actionable points we’d like you to take to heart:

 

  1. What do you know about your competitors? From time-to-time check them out and compare and contrast how you operate with those companies that you admire and believe do better than you.
  2. Keep track of your backlog on a spreadsheet. Note how much work, starts or whatever metric you have that allows you to appreciate where you stand at the end of each month. For obvious reasons, it’s important to understand whether the backlog is shrinking or growing.
  3. If you have an average sale dollar, a key unit selling price or two, put that on the monthly spreadsheet and see what is actually trending in your business.
  4. Talk to your competitors’ customers. Discover what they like (or don’t like) about them.
  5. Have a meeting with some of your customers (buy them breakfast or something) solely to discuss what they think you are doing right or wrong. If you are the owner, consider having someone a bit more neutral than yourself; ask the questions since many people won’t tell you to your face what they really think.
  6. Track the number of actual sales pitches your company does each month and put it on your monthly tracking spreadsheet. Even if you are busy as heck, make some pitches to new folks each month in an attempt to achieve higher margins.
  7. Keep track of your conversion ratios by everyone in your company who pitches business and record it on your spreadsheet.
  8. Do you get referral sales? Referral sales are the most important sales you can get because someone is essentially vouching for you and your company. Keep track of them as well and see how you do each month.
  9. What can you do to make your salesperson(s) or yourself more productive? Can you use someone in the office to help support you, make some calls, confirm appointments, etc? Leverage your time whenever you can.
  10. Use promotional activities to increase sales and conversions. Track the results of promotions and rotate them to reach different categories of customers so your promotions don’t become stale.
  11. Compensate your salespeople based on performance. Set targets and bonuses for beating those targets.
  12. Be professional. Make the prospect/customer feel like they wish they could look/act like you! Have good collateral materials (do you have business cards?) and make good eye contact. Follow-through with what you promise.
  13. Be available. Don’t make customers and prospects have to chase you down. Busy? Make a quick call to let them know they are important and make a follow-up time.
  14. Be polite. Too many salespeople lack manners and are way too abrupt.
  15. Measure, measure, measure. If you have salespeople, keep tabs on their productivity, profitability and more.
  16. Consider training your sales people professionally, at least annually, to review best practices.
  17. Always be prepared for the sale. Know what you need to know to close the deal on the first try. Anticipate the sale, never be surprised.
  18. Hire for these qualities, in order: Smart, good character, emotionally stable, economically stable, industry knowledge. Then, be the best boss they ever had.
  19. At least once a year test every salesperson. Sometimes called a “mystery shopper”, have someone talk to your salespeople as a potential customer.
  20. Support your team by consistent managing on your part. Be tough but fair. Realize that great salespeople are rare birds and go the extra mile to retain the good ones.
  21. Make it personal. Everyone must see and understand their vested interest is served by presenting an excellent sales face to the public all the time.

You may be asking yourself why do all of this? If you are a seasoned veteran you only have to ask yourself the question…”what did I do right or wrong in the past and how did it affect me?” Answer yourself honestly and try to do a little bit extra each week in your sales area.

Good Selling!

Allan J. Feifer

AllanF@DEC-International.com