Large companies have several people in their sales and marketing departments, dealing with different aspects of the sales process. If, however, you’re a one-man-band, you’ll be used to being the Head of Sales and Marketing, and Chief Tea-maker too.
This is why, for most small businesses, sales can be a pretty flustered affair. You can be forgiven for forgetting to call customers, for forgetting to send them literature, or for not adequately answering their queries or objections. That, of course is what a CRM system is for: keeping us on the straight and narrow by prompting us to keep in touch with our customers.
CRM does, however, require you to define your business processes in the first place. You’ll need to ask: how do you find customers? What dictates whether they are worth pursuing or not?
Product businesses are relatively straightforward in this respect: you may sell directly or through retailers; but pricing, conversion and delivery are reasonably well defined by the time you meet real customers in the marketplace. You’ve also got something you can show. In service businesses, though, life is very different! Prices are flexible, sales can take a very long time indeed, and you may not even have a physical object to demonstrate. It would be great if someone could offer a formalised process for helping service businesses drive sales and get customers effectively.
Rebecca Caroe is a business development guru and runs the respected “Creative Agency Secrets” blog. She reads all the business books so you don’t have to. So we thought it would be a pretty good idea to share her tried-and-tested eight step process for maximising deal-flow in service companies. It doesn’t matter whether you have twenty staff or work from the spare room – the process is still valid.
1. State Your business: what you do, who you are, what sort of customers you serve
This is the basic housekeeping which so many businesses forget. Can you recite your elevator pitch convincingly? Do you have a picture of your ideal client? If not, you’re still on the drawing board!
2. Review Your Marketing Communications: check all your marketing collateral
Marketing literature –even if it’s just a preformed email – is the sort of stuff you can prepare before a campaign blitz begins. So get it right first. It’s also the sort of stuff which goes out of date in the blink of an eye. Get your documentation ready before you go public!
3. Create the New Business Pipeline: list all your possible customers and track conversion rates
Put together a list of ideal customers. Pick, for example, your best-match 20% of clients in your best-match 20% of sectors. Decide who you’re going to go after, and then don’t deviate from the plan until you’ve analysed your ability to convert those targets into business. If they show interest, great. If they don’t, then revisit your pipeline.
4. Profile Raising: decide how and where to get noticed, make it easy to do business there
Now it’s time to put your head above the parapet. Work out economical ways to get noticed –these might not be expensive traditional marketing tools, either. Consider social media, speaking at conferences, appearing in the press etc. and, of course, bags of networking. And when you do get these promotional opportunities, make it easy to do business. That may simply mean having business cards ready or having some good client stories or anecdotes to tell. Either way, don’t squander opportunity through lack of preparation.
5. Relationship Development: keep the conversation going, build the database
Perhaps the easiest and cheapest problem to fix – and yet the one which so many small businesses forget – is to stay in touch with potential clients who haven’t yet made a purchase. Don’t sell obsessively to them; but do stay in touch. Try newsletters or occasional special offers. Call to ask them what they are now up to – learn about their business rather than telling them yet again about yours.
6. Create Opportunities: right people, right time, right price
A sale is the result of a client wanting what you have, wanting it now, and having money to pay for it. All that relationship development will give you a heads-up for the right time to make a sale, and the right people to do it with. Work on your sales pitches and know where you can afford to be flexible on delivery so that you don’t have to compromise on price.
7. Make New Business Happen: work out how to convert targets into sales not just once, but 100 times
Run your campaigns and put effort into closing business rather than just talking about doing business. Get comfortable asking for money! Also, don’t forget to think about new work for tomorrow – don’t just concentrate on one good client, instead have lots of pots on the boil.
8. Analyse: Track progress, always debrief after pitches, learn whatever you can and improve
Finally, even though it may be boring for most entrepreneurs, learn to love analysis. When you win business, discover what it was that worked so well. When you lose business, find out what went wrong and how you can prevent it from happening again. Remember: lost business is the worst outcome, because you’ve put in real effort for no result. Therefore, refine and improve your tactics for next time.