Building The Foundations for Sales Success – Overachieving Your Sales Targets Series

[In my last post, I covered how important it was to take a little time to review your previous sales performance and think about what had worked really well for you, and what could be improved on in your future sales engagements.  If you missed it, read the full article here.]

This second post is all about how you can build the foundations for sales success.

I see this as essentially three key points:

  • How to best approach your sales territory with thought and consideration
  • What to get in order before you go out and approach your customers
  • Consistently putting your best foot forward with customers to increase your sales success.

Defining your sales territory

How do you decide which customer to contact first?  Where do you start?  Some people look at which brands they recognise, and target them initially.  Some look at revenue figures and go for the biggest first and work their way down.  There is no perfect approach, as high turnover figures don’t always translate to spending lots on your type of product (for instance, SMB businesses probably spend more en masse on individual printers than large corporates with mature paperless-office strategies in place).

Before you start reviewing your client’s financials, the first thing to do in order to get a high level snapshot of where you are today, is to segment your sales territory into 4 categories.

These four categories are commonly called:

  • Acquire
  • Develop
  • Farm
  • Dismiss

In this scenario, to help you think more broadly about where your customer base sits, we are going to call the categories:

  • Acquire – Non-spending customers who currently buy from a competitor
  • Develop – Spending customers with low to mid share of wallet
  • Farm – Spending customers with high share of wallet
  • Dismiss – Customers who do not purchase your product at all or have no need for your type of product.

Too often, we see all customers as sitting in the “Acquisition” or “Farm” camps.  We try to win one set of customers, and we leave our support and help desk to run the other set.  This strategy doesn’t always go to plan, so what I am advocating here is that for each of the four categories, you put in place a different customer approach method.

Unless you are living on a yacht and have hit all your sales targets for the year already, it is probable that most of your potential customers sit within the “Acquire” and “Develop” areas.  This is great news – there are lots of possibilities for your product of service to reach new customers.

But Acquire and Develop customers are different, and have different needs – so you need to work on what will fit for each customer type, and what activities work best.

For instance, Acquisition customers need to be introduced to your brand through marketing efforts and new sales activities; this could take the form of:

  • Social media interaction
  • Cold calling
  • Introductory offers
  • Event invitations and specialist interest group formations
  • Media and PR activities in their industry

Whereas Develop clients will already have some form of interaction with you already, so the question is about how you can take the relationship to the next level:

  • Creating an executive relationship map and working out who you need to speak to, via your current contacts
  • Improving the services of the existing contracts/products in place in order to expand out into new service offerings for the client
  • Setting up workshops to introduce the customer to other services that you offer that could complement their current solution in place

It sounds incredibly obvious, but all too often we tend to lapse into treating every customer in the same way – offering the same set of resources, and inviting them to the same things – hoping that something will stick.

Before you approach your customer

Now that you have a high level view of where each of your customers sit, and a basic structure in place about what sales activities could work in each of the different categories – now start to map that onto each customer by thinking about:

  • What is stopping X customer moving from this category to the next category (i.e. Acquire to Develop, and Develop to Farm)?
  • What does the customer need to know/have/see in order to move to this next category?
  • What resources can I employ to help the customer transition to that new category?
  • What are the activities and steps I need to take to make that happen?

Sometimes, you can ask these questions of an existing customer directly – and it will give you a view on why they haven’t previously moved all of their spending for XYZ product over to you.  You could even map it out for the customer to show where you are in your current relationship with them, and what steps it would take to convince them that you are the right supplier for their organisation.

Once you are armed with this information, you can start to build a Sales Plan for each of your customers.  This is best to do for your top 5 to 10 customers individually, and then have a more general plan in place for your smaller customers.

Building a Sales Plan

The Sales Plan can be split into two – with one section being a business plan that you share with your customer that shows them all of your plans and initiatives – and how you are going to help them solve their challenges over the next year.  This is the document that shows them why they should make a change, rather than continuing with the status quo (Corporate Visions have a really good webinar on improving sales messaging from being about “Why your product” to “Why Change”).

This document also forms the basis of how you engage with the client, providing you with a clear structure – I call it a Plan of Mutual Success (rather than a Plan of Attack – no one likes to be “attacked”, especially not your customer).

The second part of the document is for your eyes only (and maybe your manager’s too).  This part shows how you are going to physically enable the deliverables you outlined for the customer in the first section.  This is your to-do list for that particular customer over the coming year.

So in summary, you should end up with:

  • A Plan of Mutual Success for you and your customer
  • Section 1: Overview of your customer’s challenges and how you, your product and your company are going to help them to achieve those challenges to build a stronger and more valuable client-supplier relationship.
  • Section 2: Your personal plan detailing the steps you are going to take to deliver on Section 1; detailing the resources you are going to employ, the activities you have to carry out and the help you need to do these activities.

Best foot forward

This sounds like a lot of work.  On top of all of your existing work.  But it isn’t additional workload, it’s just noting down what is probably going round in your head millions of times a day – but in a more formal and actionable manner.

It also means you will have a considered and thoughtful approach documented to show to your sales management to “show your workings” and to give you a clear structure for how to approach your job day in, day out.  It clears away all the noise to leave you with a focused path of execution and helps you to quickly determine if a task or activity is critical to your customer’s success or not.

By employing this method you will develop a more disciplined approach to your sales role and the effects will trickle down to all of your accounts, even if you don’t create an individual plan per account – which is often just not feasible.

I hope this has been of interest and use in helping to plan your sales territory over the coming year.

In the next post, I will be covering how to develop and hone your sales and product messaging so that your pitches deliver impact each time and resonate with your customers.

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