Sales are the ‘life’ of your business. Without sales, all the other things that make your business great (quality, creativity, passion, efficiency, service, trust) won’t matter much in growing a long-term, successful company. If you can not generate enough sales and revenue your business will struggle for sure, but having the WRONG sales will definitely push your company out of existence. Here are the steps to take to develop not just a ‘plan’, but a strategic sales plan for growing both the top and bottom lines of your business:
Sales and profits need to be attached-at-the-hip
Sounds simple, but why have sales that are not contributing profits to your company. I have had to go into many companies over my 30 years in the industry, and it still surprises me to how many sales contracts or projects are unprofitable. If you do not have a sales compensation plan that is tied in with profitability (gross or net) we need to put one in place as part of the sales plan.
Identify and classify the most profitable sales and contracts you have now
This is by far the most critical early step in developing a STRATEGIC sales plan. There is no reason to start planning for new sales if you are not sure where your most consistently profitable sales or contracts are now. If you don’t have systems in place that will give you this data, you are going to need to put them in place – Knowing your past will guide your future. If you have to pull this data together from multiple sources to get this information then take your time to do so. We here at Cross Points Consulting Group have data analytical tools available that can pull together a lot of disconnected data that will help to determine this information. It may seem like a large investment of time now, but think of what it will do for your company for years to come.
Improve your existing sales or contracts first
Again, the difference between a Strategic Sales Plan and just a new business development plan is the most fundamental principle of Sales 101: your existing customers are easier to sell to than new prospects. The information from analyzing your existing data is really going to be crucial here. If you have sales, contracts or projects that are not as profitable as they should be you need to find out why. Classify these sales into different categories depending on the reasons you determined that they are under performing. The categories may be based on various reasons such as: production, contract structure, service expectations, changes in site conditions, or they were just plain bid incorrectly or undersold. Each category will need to have a plan to correct the issues, if there are reasons the sales can’t be improved you will have to look for ways to renegotiate the contracts. If you have performed well on your contract properties or projects, having an honest conversation with the customer that the contract needs to be adjusted is something that has to be done. I have been in these situations before and as unpleasant as they can be, continually losing money on them is by far worse.
Increase the add-on or enhancement sales from your contract work
Once again, your easiest sales are going to be to your existing customers. If you have contract sales, those sales are usually based on providing basic services. As easy as it seems regularly inspecting properties, meeting customers, and talking to your staff performing the contract work is the best way to come up with pro-active enhancement sales. Setting a very specific schedule to these activities is the only way they will get completed. If you do not have the staff with the training or abilities to perform these functions it may be one of the first sales hiring you make.
Clone your best customers and contracts
Who are your best customers and contracts now? After your analysis process you should have a better idea of what work is profitable and which isn’t. All your new sales need to be clones of those profitable sales and contracts. For new business development your company needs to be laser focused on sales and contracts that match that ‘clone’ template. Processes, training, and systems will revolve around the development of these new sales.
Set a specific prospect list
Be specific on the prospects, accounts, properties, and customers that meet your new sales template(s). There may be more than one template that prospects will match, just changing contract terms may move a prospect into one of your desirable classifications. Developing a list provides the initial focus and guidance on where to direct your company’s resources and time. Invest in a good CRM and sales management system that enhances your sales efforts. The list should stretch and grow over time but should also have a tight control system; new prospects added to the system should be categorized so that the best prospects receive the highest amount of resources.
Perfect your sales process
Every sales process should revolve around the ability to deliver solutions to your prospects needs based on your overall value proposition. This value proposition should answer the questions as to why someone would want to do business with you and how you are best at solving your prospects’ problems based on your company’s services or products. The sales process used by your sales staff should be developed to provide sales solutions that emphasize your value proposition as the best way to meet your prospects’ needs. Determining the best sales methods, systems, and responsibilities will be a crucial part of developing an efficient and successful sales process. Develop a sales training process that revolves around these methods and emphasizes the desired results of obtaining qualified sales and contracts.
Develop content that supports your Value Proposition
Create various forms of content in support of your Value Proposition that can be viewed, sent or discussed with prospects. Remember, in the new sales world we live in, prospects want to be educated during their research and discovery process when they are looking for new business partners and service providers. Developing ongoing, fresh and high quality educational content that supports this value proposition is key to meeting those needs. This supporting content material can be utilized in newsletters, blogs, whitepapers, websites, videos, webinars or other content inbound or outbound marketing pieces.
Provide guidance and leadership to the sales team
In many service industries there will always be many forms of sales opportunities, keeping your business focused on the right opportunities will be the most important role of a sales leader(s). By starting with a strategic sales plan that is transparent and objective in nature will go a long way in getting not just the sales team, but your entire organization on board with your processes and desired goals. Supporting and leading a sales team is far more enjoyable and efficient than trying to manage one, and will always be far more successful in the long run.