Part 2 – How relevant is your current sales strategy?
In the last article, the first one in this series, we discussed the importance of having the “right people on the bus”. I also mentioned the exciting opportunity you have in front of you right now, without having to rush out and hire rainmakers and experienced sellers; because with the right tools and strategies, you can develop your own team of highly process directed and motivated sellers yourself.
As a sales leader it lies within your own locus of control to build a consistent, repeatable and predictable sales process, as well as train and develop a motivated and process directed sales team. Imagine a team made up of highly trained, motivated and process directed salespeople? Well, the good news is you can begin this practice immediately!
Key Code 1- Sales Strategy
The first element that will make an impact on the results you achieve is “Sales Strategy”. Before you even consider any of the other 3 Codes you must be sure that, as Stephen Covey says “Your ladder is leaning up against the right wall” Here’s the thing… whether you have a team of champions or not, if your sales strategy is wrong, in other words “if you are selling analogue systems and your market has moved to digital technology” then your ladder is leaning up against the wrong wall.
In this case, no matter whom you have on the team your sales efforts will fail. You’re heading in the wrong direction!
If I was sitting across a table from you and if you were sharing your concerns about your sales revenue raising efforts, the first questions I would be asking you are:
- Is your current customer acquisition (new business) and retention (existing customer growth) strategy both relevant and effective in the prevailing market? In other words is your current sales strategy working, yes or no? How do you know?
- Is your current market shrinking or growing or has it simply just stalled? How do you know?
Has your “Cheese” Moved?
In his landmark book, “Who Moved my Cheese?”author Spencer Johnson relates a simple parable that reveals profound truths about change. “Who moved my cheese?” is the story of four characters living in a “maze” that face unexpected change when they discover their “cheese” has disappeared. Let’s face it; it’s no secret that over this last year for many of us in business, our cheese too has moved. Many markets have shifted and some have even disappeared altogether. So pouring on more sales activity or investing money on more sales training or sales process improvement just means that your team will arrive nowhere quicker!
If this is the case for you, then it is an imperative that you look to implementing a new customer acquisition and retention strategy ASAP. The sooner you recognise that your cheese may have have moved and that you are existing on crumbs or in some instances only a whiff of what was once a whole storehouse of cheese, the sooner you can re-channel your sales teams energies into new markets looking for fresh opportunities.
This means re- appraising the value of your core capabilities*. It means clearly and objectively understanding what you are good at and what problems you solve and are your solutions still relevant? Then, if you suspect that your cheese has moved, you will then need to figure out who else has those problems. Having determined the “who else”, you will now need to assess what modifications you may be required to make at both a product and marketing collateral level to reflect your solution to the market.
On the other hand, if there is still strong evidence of an abundance of “cheese” in your existing market, then you need to be asking,
- How sure are we that our strategy for attracting new customers and growing existing ones is still appropriate? How do we know?
- If customer buying patterns have slowed or stalled, how can you help your customer to help their customers purchase more?
- Does your marketing collateral accurately explain how you solve your customer’s current problems or help them achieve their current goals? How do you know? When last did you review your sales messages? What exactly are your sales people saying? Are their sales messages compelling enough?
A year ago most companies were interested in how you could help them grow. Today’s markets are focused on saving money, cost reduction and reducing risk. Do your sales messages reflect this massive shift in perception? Has your marketing collateral changed with the changing needs of your market?
An Example of Changing Market Strategy
I have been working with a risk management organization that catered specifically to the freight industry. They set up profitable in-house insurance funds, effectively allowing the freight company to self-fund an insurance program for their customer’s goods and packages. Well, talk about a “cheese movement!” When the economy swung south his prospects all but shut shop, (in point of fact many actually did), and going into complete survival mode, most became completely insular and refused to even take my client’s calls.
Our challenge was to shift strategy and go in search of a new market. On reviewing and answering some of the questions listed below we came up a few new target markets. Some new market suggestions were a little too far right of centre and would have taken a whole lot of product development to ensure a good fit, but one market in particular, only a mere 5% shift left of his current existing market looked potentially very lucrative. On-line, web based merchants who ship product around the country seemed like a reasonable bet, without having to re-engineer the product too much. After a little research and within a few short weeks my client had a number of large opportunities in the pipeline.
In the next article I will unpack the details of sales strategy.
* Core capabilities – Alternative term for core competencies. Cluster of extraordinary abilities or related ‘excellences’ that a firm acquires from its founders, after consistent striving over the years, and which cannot be easily imitated. Core competencies are what give a company/organization one or more competitive advantages, in creating and delivering value to its customers in its chosen field. (BusinessDictionary.com)