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Kate Heron 8th June 2015

Sales Initiative Guest Blog: Finding the leaks in your sales process

If you're not happy with the outputs of your sales efforts – or are unsure if they could be more effective – how do you plan where to put your resources in order to improve?

We work as an integral part of our customer’s business development team and share some of our insights into finding where the gaps are in your sales funnel with Sales Initiative here.

Generating Qualified Leads

Too often, we see clients who – not wanting to exclude any potential prospects – end up adopting a scattergun approach to their lead generation. Consider your focus, who and what is your target market? What are the priorities of this target market and how can you implement your marketing strategy in a way that will appeal to them specifically? What are your key selling points and, more importantly, which of your key selling points are most significant to each individual prospect? Businesses can invest a lot of time and money into branding exercises and promotional activities, but if you’re raising awareness in the wrong areas, you may struggle to see any return on investment – you won’t get anywhere selling snow to an Eskimo!

A second issue we often see is generating plenty of brand awareness and interest, but failing to convert this into qualified leads ready for the next stage. Don’t wait around for prospects to approach you, use your marketing efforts to generate demand and create a sense of urgency – tell them why they should be taking action now. Once you know a contact is engaged, put your efforts into converting this into a qualified sales appointment, product demo or attendance at a seminar or event.

Collaboration between the sales and marketing team is a fundamental factor to align this process and in return, generate a lead which both sales and marketing can agree is qualified. This is a common area of conflict and constant communication between the two functions is necessary to ensure there isn’t a gap between what’s expected and what’s being generated.

Finding Opportunities

Too often, clients expect all leads to be ‘sales ready’. In reality, the strongest sales people are identifying the opportunities and making the lead sales ready. If you wait until a client is at the point of considering a purchase, the chances are a competitor has already beaten you to it. If you’re in touch early enough you can help the customer define what their need is, rather than trying to fit your solution around a need that they have already established. Guiding prospects to the point of sale can be a difficult and time consuming process, but is fundamental in capitalising on your lead generating efforts.

Once you have got a key influencer on board within the organisation, you should aim to support them through the whole buying process. Create a clear value proposition and demonstrate the cost-benefit analysis for the company so that there is a compelling reason for the person who holds the purse strings to consider an immediate proposal.

Closing Sales

If you get this far down the sales process and are still unable to close your opportunities, now is the time to assess whether this is due to your product, your sales pitch or due to an extraneous factor out of your control. Once this has been identified you can began to plan how to reduce this outcome in the future. What collateral is used for supporting your quotes? Do they convey the message you’re trying to get across to your clients and do you give the individuals within the business the resources and materials they would need to create the business case internally? What follow up processes do you have in place to stay in touch with a business once you’ve provided a quote, to guide them through the buying processes and nudge the sale towards closure? Equally, how do you stay in touch longer term if the opportunity doesn’t close? Underestimating the number of follow up actions and the timescales needed to close a sale is perhaps one of the most common mistakes we see.

Retaining Customers

There’s no rest for the wicked! A common problem within the sales cycle can often become evident after the sale has been closed and customers start to become neglected. There’s no point pumping your resources into generating new customers if all they are doing is replacing the ones you are losing. Make sure you are aware of how much each customer is worth to you, and that you are allocating an appropriate proportion of your time and effort to maintaining your customer relationships. Look for opportunities to upsell if possible and map out where your customers may provide additional revenue potential. In addition, more often than not you’ll find that a happy customer leads onto further referrals for your company, helping you generate those initial leads. Are you fully leveraging your customer relationships to proactively drive referrals? The best customer relationships are the ones that keep on giving!

The domino effect

To successfully generate a sale or opportunity for your brand you must treat each stage as a continuation of the last. If you are making mistakes early within the sales cycle this can trickle down and disturb your results further down the line. For example, generating leads which are not a good fit for you will affect how easy it is to close business, and even where you do close business. Maintaining a long term relationship will be harder if they are not a good fit for you as an organisation. Look at your pipeline and assess where the bottlenecks in the process are for you. Which stages have you found to have the highest drop-out rate and determine why these problems are occurring in the first place? The sales process is different for every business, but by breaking down where your process is strongest and identifying how to improve, you make it that little bit more likely that you will be able to get your foot in the door for that next all in important sale.

Written By Kate Heron
Kate graduated with a first in Marketing & communications. She supports delivery of multi-channel marketing campaigns, ensuring that communications are aligned across telephone and email marketing channels.

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