In order to make your business work, you have to sell something. You have to sell it at a profit and you have to sell a certain amount of it. You might have more than one thing to sell, and you might have a range of prices, offers and channels. But you still need to sell something. For a typical small business, sales management is the key to success. And to get that success, you need a strategy.
The difference between sales and marketing
It’s common for businesses to get confused between sales strategies and marketing strategies. At it’s simplest, this difference can be summed up like this:
- Marketing: is bringing together you, the seller, with the people who want to buy from you.
- Sales: is the actual transaction where buyers pay you for your product or service.
So marketing is critical to making buyers aware of your existence, and interested in what you have to offer. Sales is critical to bringing cash into the business.
So for businesses of all sizes – but especially small businesses, where effort can easily be expended elsewhere to the detriment of sales – having a clear marketing strategy, which has an equally clear sales strategy embedded into it, is vital.
The two main groups you can sell to
There are two clear groups your business can sell to: existing customers and prospective customers.
Existing customers have already bought from you, so they have experience of your product or service and a relationship with you. You can target your marketing and sales strategy to these customers so that they are encouraged to become repeat buyers of the original produce or service, or can be upsold or cross-sold other products or services you provide. They are also potential brand ambassadors for your business, referring you to others, which makes your sales management considerably easier.
Prospective customers are harder to win over, because they have no previous history with your business. You need to target these customers carefully – know your market really well, understand what those customers want, what emotions drive them to buy, what their price points are, what they expect for their money and anything else that helps you talk specifically to them.
Your marketing strategy should then be developed to help you reach these potential customers with your message – through as many relevant channels as possible. This includes your website, online advertising, social media or email marketing to name a few.
Once a potential customer has expressed an interest, your sales team takes over.
How to manage your sales process
Sales have costs associated with them. You should be aware of the costs of winning each type of business you do, and make sure that your pricing takes those costs into account and still allows you to make a profit. The difference between your costs and your price is your profit margin and you can make that margin bigger by reducing costs, increasing price, or both.
So, once your strategy has identified your target customers and how you are going to reach them, you need to consider how you are going to make a sale. This may include:
- Categorising customers and understanding the costs for selling to each category
- Appointment setting for sales meetings
- Sales materials and presentations
- Offers and discounts to entice new customers
- Strategies for cross-selling and upselling
- Online sales and e-commerce strategies where relevant
- Pre-sales relationship building
- Sales support service
- After-sales support service
- Resellers, white-label agreements, referral schemes
It’s important to remember that the right sales strategy for you depends on whether you need B-to-C or B-to-B sales lead generation. Strategies will vary – for B2C customers, you might be more successful with online advertising; for B2B sales, face-to-face meetings and product demonstrations could be a better route to winning business. Always look at what is most likely to make your target customer buy from you. Try these 3 Lead generation tips for small business to get you started.
How do you know it’s working?
Forecasting and reporting is an important part of keeping your sales strategy on track. You should produce a forecast and target for your sales on a regular basis – most businesses do this on a monthly basis. It should be broken down by individual product or service, key customers, customer type and sales person so that it is as clear as possible. You can use historical data to create your first forecast if you haven’t done this before. Be realistic rather than over-enthusiastic, although as you move forward, you can create more than one version of your forecast – one that is based on a pessimistic view, one that is middle-of-the-road and one that is optimistic.
You’ll also need to set targets for individual members of your sales team and remember that product cycles can affect how quickly or easily you can sell certain products. And finally, don’t forget to allocate resources. If it’s too expensive to hire a full-time sales administrator, for example, look at working with virtual sales assistant services – companies that will represent your business professionally, handle sales tasks efficiently, but only charge you for the hours you’ve used. For example here are some here are some benefits of outsourced order taking for small businesses.
Reporting is just as important because it is a key measure of how well your sales strategy is performing. Measure results against targets, look carefully at data to see where you could improve or where additional value can be had from existing customers. Where things aren’t working, find out why and then decide whether to change your approach, or look for a new opportunity.
Business is always changing and customers are always looking for something new. So, for your small business, sales management is also a moveable feast. Having a good grasp of your target customer, an understanding of how to reach them, and a clear process for selling to them will help you to keep your business on track and boost your growth with focused, profitable and measurable sales.
Is it time you improved your sales strategy? If you’re short on time and need help with help with outsourced telemarketing services, b to b lead generation services, or or any of our other virtual business assistant services feel free to call us on 0800 994 9016 or use our contact form in the menu above.