When times are good and customers are rolling in, it's easy to stop paying attention to your sales process. Or even get by without one. Suddenly, bad habits slip in that waste budget and hurt your margins. If things ever slow down and reduce your working capital, this situation would leave you scrambling.
Taking the time to invest in your systems will not only help your profits today, it will help put your company in a stronger position to get through possible future downturns. Here are the top reasons to improve your sales process now, before it's too late.
1. Your sales team can deliver better results.
A sales process lays out each step for how your staff should manage leads, from the initial outreach to the sale itself to future follow-ups. Some points to include could be:
- The steps it takes to get someone from a cold lead all the way to a sale
- A script for what the sales team should say at each point
- The amount of time they should spend in each stage, along with the number of estimated contacts
- An explanation of your overall strategy and the mindset of customers.
When your sales team doesn't have a system to follow, the members could all be doing something differently, possibly wasting time, misrepresenting your brand and letting deals slip through their fingers. By clearly explaining what they should do throughout the entire process of making a sale, you may see more consistent results from every employee.
2. You'll focus on more profitable leads and customers.
Not all leads are equal in value. A sales rep could end up spending considerable time chasing down a prospect that keeps saying maybe, when that effort would be better spent on finding new leads. Your sales process should outline how many contacts a salesperson should spend on an undecided prospect before they move on.
You can also review your existing clients to see how much revenue each one generates, relative to their overhead. Chances are, you'll find some projects are less worthwhile than others, and some may not even be profitable at all when you consider all in the time spent managing their accounts. Since you only have so much working capital, you might be better off moving on from these customers and instead spending time trying to find more of your higher margin accounts/products.
While turning down sales can seem counterintuitive, these unprofitable accounts are the ones that will get you in trouble during a downturn, when you need to maximize all your time and business funding. Your sales process should focus on creating the most efficient company possible.
3. You'll receive valuable market data.
As part of your business process improvement methodology, you should also be collecting information on your customers and employees during the sales process. You can do this by having your sales reps track their results using customer relationship management, or CRM, software.
By seeing what types of customers are buying from you and for how much, you can fine-tune your target profile rather than relying on a hunch. For example, you may have thought that your best customers would be midsize businesses, but then you see that your smaller accounts have more of a budget than you thought. You can also see what marketing approaches work best for different segments of customers and adjust your strategy as necessary.
Your sales process should focus on creating the most efficient company possible.
For your sales team, you could track how individual employees perform versus your company average to find areas for improvement. Perhaps one employee is taking more calls than usual to set appointments and could use extra training, while another is great at landing meetings but needs help with closing the final deal.
4. You'll remember to raise prices.
Raising your prices naturally builds more of a profit margin, but figuring out when to do so is not always clear. You can build into your sales process times when you automatically try increasing prices. For example, every 20 new accounts or each time your revenue grows by 5%. This way you have a reminder to experiment with pricing strategies when demand is strong.
5. You'll save time through sales automation.
Your sales team has only so many hours in a week. By laying out each step of the sales process, you can find opportunities to automate the work, so your team can focus on other more important tasks. Some sales automation possibilities include:
Managing leads. As client leads pile up, your sales team may need help sorting through and prioritizing who to contact and follow up with. A CRM program can track this information and automatically tell your employees who to contact first.
Prospect research. Having more information about a prospect can help during a sales call. Lead-enrichment software automatically pulls information like a prospect's company, job title and contact information so your employees don't have to look this up.
Email follow-ups. If your process includes sending emails to keep in touch with leads and existing prospects, you may want to schedule these automatically. Otherwise, the number of emails will pile up as your sales efforts grow.
Scheduling meetings. Once a prospect is ready to talk, your sales team can coordinate using a tool to set appointments, rather than going back and forth with emails to find a time that works.
All these small improvements to your sales process, when repeated over the entire year with all your staff, can add up to big increases to your bottom line. Don't wait until a downturn forces you to improve when it might already ready be too late. By focusing on your business improvement methodology now, you can create a leaner, stronger and more productive company.
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