Whilst it’s not unusual for large companies to have specialist roles for sales development, sales operations and sales excellence, this luxury is rarely possible for SMEs. In fact, sales management is typically done by the business owner, or shared between willing and capable multi-role staff.
The purpose of this blog is to help SMEs carry out some simple activities to get structurally better at selling and make it easier to scale. We include some good reads to help the journey.
Even the quickest and most intuitive moments of reflection will soon reveal that some customers are more likely to buy from you then others. Listing the 4 to 5 factors that make for your target customer profile will help enormously in retaining the best ones and pursuing new customers.
“The new rules of sales and service”
David Meerman Scott
Once you have a portfolio of more than 10 to 20 customers, it’s time to get analytical about where most growth and profit will come from. Large organisations typically do sophisticated analyses of their customer attractiveness to arrive at a customer prioritisation scheme. This enables them to focus sales team’s time on the best opportunities. SMEs can do the same by creating a scoring system based on attributes like growth potential, profitability, willingness to engage, product fit etc. Then, by working through your customer base, you can establish different sales / service / visit frequency / attention protocols for different customers.
“Customer Relationship Management”
Buttle & Maklan
Sales organisations can grow by managing these activities:
Customer retention (losing less revenue)
Cross-selling (sell new products / services to existing customers)
Up-selling (sell more premium products to existing customers)
Price increases (Yes, simply increasing price!)
Finding new customers (new revenue sources)
Clearly it does not make sense to invest lots of energy chasing new customers whilst losing existing ones for lack of attention. A good growth plan will carefully consider the mix of time and activities required to optimise growth.
“Sales Excellence – Systematic sales management”
Christian Homburg et al
Large organisations typically do a lot of work to define a desired sales process, i.e. the steps they would like to lead their customers through to increase the chances of sales success. Taking time to reflect on why you have won business and why you lost it is a very valuable exercise, as it enables an ideal sales process to be derived. The devil is in the detail here: Your business will have unique practices needed to sell your product / services. For example, the critical information you would need to ask a customer about, before recommending a solution. For example, an optimal way to demonstrate your product / solution. Mapping these out, and consistently carrying them out, is a good way to structurally embed best practices.
Javier Marcos et al.
“What gets inspected gets respected” is a useful mantra in sales. You will need a mix of ‘activity’ measures e.g. ‘product demos booked next week’ and ‘outcome’ measures e.g. ‘orders received for product X’. Activity measures are manageable. This means on a week by week basis, we can drive progress by focusing on getting them done. Outcome measures are like rear view mirror moments. They are useful to see results, but we cannot change them.
Regular review meetings to discuss the measures are vital. Weekly sales meetings are a good frequency to drive progress, even if done by telephone / web conference.
“Cracking the sales management code”
Jason Jordan & Michelle Vazzana
Don’t be hoodwinked by those that will tell you sales is an artform. More and more, research is becoming available that is decoding how we can design and implement effective, predictable sales approaches.
Income generation is often critical for SMEs and the simplest way to improve it is regular focus on effective sales management.