- October 23, 2018
- Posted by: Lloyd Skinner
- Category: Sales
I’ve been running Greyfly now for c2 years and we need more sales to meet our growth aspirations! I know we are not alone with this challenge as when I speak to all our clients, the smaller and larger ones, they want more sales too. For smaller companies, this may be even salient as they are both constrained by cash and resource but also lack existing clients they can rely on for referrals or cross / up-selling.
So with this constantly on our mind we can feel nevertheless bamboozled or bombarded with what and how to win more business so we thought we would pull together some insights.
However, before you buy your time share in the Algarve here is the reality check…. unless you are lucky, or you have the ‘X Factor’ or serendipity happens to be shining, the plain truth is that there is no Silver Bullet and it requires effort and time to grow sales – if it was easy everybody would be succeeding!
So, the below provides some good stuff to consider when building your Sales & Marketing strategy and has tips to cut through the noise to get your sales growing.
Define and know your market
Ahead of leaping head long into marketing most people understand that you need to firstly identify your market and its characteristics. In this stage, you need to concentrate on defining your business’ vision, the typical make up of your ideal buyer (a buyer persona), what you are planning to sell to them and what makes your company so special and how it compares to the competition – easy really?
i) Defining Your Company Vision
Lets’ not debate about mission versus vision or go for some text book answer – we believe in pragmatism so lets’ get something down that describes the future state of your organisation and about what you are trying to achieve. If needs be a Vision can be refined later once you have further defined your market but we suggest a vision is based around:
- A set period of time to create realism and the platform for your wider Business Plan i.e. In 3 years…
- Financial status – is about size of turnover and/or, profitability
- Product [service] offering – what are you planning to sell and what makes it so special i.e. your Unique Selling Point (USP)?
- To whom are you trying to sell to i.e. what is your key target market place (s)
- Key attributes of company capability i.e. a flexible highly skilled team E.g. A Greyfly vision may look something like this: “In 3 years Greyfly will significantly increase size and profitability to £1m by delivering business growth and project delivery services to create client growth and project success; supported by a high integrity, scaleable, motivated team.”
ii) Buyer Persona(s)
Now you have your overall vision time to consider who you are going to sell to by defining a buyer persona, you may find there is more than one persona. Try not to have too many as how you reach these will as ever be constrained by your marketing budgets. Try to answer questions like:
- What size of company is a good fit, or not a good fit, for your product?
- How do you define company size? Number of employees, revenue, customers, or another metric?
- Which industries are ideal and not ideal?
- Which geographic locations are ideal or not ideal for your product?
- Are there any other attributes to consider that make your buyer ideal or not?
- What are the typical job roles/titles of the buyer?
- What are their age and gender?
- What are their likely goals / motivations?
- What are their challenges / pain points?
- What do they value?
- What are the best ways to communicate with them?
- Will they need approval by a committee before making a purchase?
- How will variables like supplier diversity affect their vendor selection process?
- Where do the buyers hang out?
- What do they read? Both online and offline?
- What do they search for online?
Now as you can see some of these questions are easier to answer with some reasonably rapid research but for others you will have to build intelligent systems and processes so perhaps if starting out you may wish to focus on the upper part of the list. E.g. For Greyfly, one buyer persona for Business Planning services may be, “Small companies turning over between c£200k to £1m, who employ 5-10 people, are based in the South West and have lead shareholders who are c32 to 48 years old and wish to grow or turnaround the business although they are likely to be extremely value conscious but aware they need independent advice.”
iii) Define your product and USP
It is important to really understand what your product and/or service is. Sometimes you may have to cluster products together to create categories. You can define your product / service by asking questions like:
- What are the key product / service goals? What are the benefits to the company purchasiing it?
- Why does the customer need the product? What features are critical to the customer?
- How will the product perform and what are the functional characteristics?
- Will the product interface with other products outside of your control?
- What are the industrial design requirements (the look of the product)?
- What are the human factors requirements (the feel and human interaction of the product)?
- Are there any installation, support, service, and maintenance requirements?
- What type of qualification, regulatory, safety, and standards compliances are required?
- Should the product be compatible with other products and if so what are these requirements?
- What are the packaging, shipping, and labelling requirements?
Once these are defined it should be clearer what your unique selling point in the market is? What makes this product different from the status quo, or the competition, or both? Why should someone choose to do business with you over your competitors? What are your strengths and weaknesses? Actually, it makes sense to undertake a specific piece of competitor analysis.
iv) Competitor Analysis
So now you have your vision and understand your likely buyer(s) let’s think about Competitors, which informs your business proposition and its’ marketing plans. The benefits of undertaking competitor analysis are:
- To assist in developing marketing strategies
- Identifies under-served opportunities in the market
- Help takes advantage of competitors’ weaknesses to grow market share
- Understands the current market trends among competitors
- Contributes to make better-informed decisions about strategy and enables the creation of sustainable competitive advantages
- Helps to plan future investments
We recommend a 4-step approach to the creation of a competitor analysis assessment:
- Initial Research conducted to identify potential competitors
- Create a Positioning Map for the long list of potential competitors. This is a visual display of how your company compares to potential competitors i.e. number of products provided to which industries served may be a way of comparing
- Using the Positioning map identify the short list of direct competitors and undertake further profiling including a review of the company construct, products, marketing, facilities and personnel as well as comparing to typical industry success criteria.
- Use all this Information to determine a set of conclusions and a set of prioritised actions.
Competitor analysis should be undertaken regularly and we recommend an annual update is scheduled as part of the company diary.
i) Market Sizing
Armed with all of this knowledge about your product, the buyer, your competitors you should now be able to size the market[s] for your product. We have found that although there is work involved in scaling the market size the much bigger challenge is the level of market penetration you can assumed. For those in the “know” the old TAM versus SAM! This is key information to inform your business plan, funding requirements and level of capital you and others may be willing to commit on marketing.
Ultimately you must identify if the price you set ensures the audience will pay for it or not? You need to determine where your product or service will be positioned in terms of price. For example, do you require large numbers of sales with a low profit margin per sale, or a small number of sales with high profit margins? If you understand your margins you will know when you are prepared to walk away from a sale. Now you may have to trial and learn what the optimum price is and this again is about building up your intelligence system. You also don’t want to under-price your product, devaluing it in the process.
Develop your Marketing Strategy
So now you know what your aiming to do, what your selling, why its unique, how it stands against your competition and the potential size of the market. So how are you going to reach your potential customers? The following is not a definitive list of marketing channels but gives some ideas to establish your preferred channels. We encourage clients to understand the which channels have historically worked for them and which do they and us perceive will work in the future.
- Offer classes/workshops related to your products and/or services — provide value to potential clients and even possibly “plant” some supporters in the group.
- Similarly, you can establish “Ask the expert” speaking or create your own network. Positioning your company or a key individual as an expert in a certain area can draw your potential customers toward you and is a great way to build your pipeline. Think about what you know, that you don’t mind sharing which will provide value to your potential customers.
- Join local business organisations and networking groups which are relatively inexpensive and benefits are potentially huge. Once they get to know you and what you do, the other business people in your group may mention your business to others and may even give you referrals. Local business organisations are also great opportunities to create and participate in some cooperative marketing strategies, such as holding special Market Days or other events. Remember there are so many networking groups these days so be sure to focus on the ones where your potential buyers are likely to be hanging out!
- Join and use Social media e.g. LinkedIn. If you have time to get to know and use a variety of social media, do. But if you only have time for one, choose the one where you are most likely to find your buyers. Depending on the persona of your clients this may be a fundamental part of your marketing.
- Create your own blog and use it to build an audience of people who would be interested in your products and/or services. Then write regularly about topics related to your business and what your business is doing. You’ll start connecting with other bloggers, business people, and potential customers.
- Create Partnerships. Consider which companies also serve your buyers. Although sometimes they will plug a gap in your service offering, partnerships are not always with companies that you consider to be directly complimentary. Partnerships like all relationships take time to mature so don’t rush into these things or expect instant results.
- Ask for referrals. If you operate a service-based business asking for referrals is the easiest and least time-consuming of all the marketing strategies. You should ask your satisfied customers for referrals.
- Create or become part of a charitable event. You can get huge amounts of press for events like this which can translate into new customers.
Of course, there are lots of other potential marketing channels not mentioned here like advertising, exhibitions, email and / or direct mail campaigns, telesales or good old PR. However, nothing goes as well as Word of Mouth so make sure you are always delivering a service your customers will rave about!
Build your Sales Capability
Now all the above marketing activity is ultimately about generating leads for sales and you can see from the above even once a lead is generated the sale is not yet closed. So, working hand in hand with your marketing efforts your company should consider building its sales capability. Building this capability again is not an overnight task but the below provides some further ideas as to how you may accelerate capability development:
- Set up a sales incentive program. Give your [sales] staff a reason to sell, sell, sell. Offering healthy incentives works, whether this is commission or “luxury” items such as trips and/or TVs for x amount of sales.
- Encourage your sales staff to up-sell. Essentially, up-selling involves adding related products and/or services to your line and making it convenient and necessary for customers to buy them. Does your company have a standard up-sell product?
- Give your customers the inside “scoop”. For example, if you have a discount period coming up encourage your customer to wait for that as they are both likely to return and refer your company to others. Don’t forget you can provide your customers the inside scoop by emailing, calling them, or posting on social media.
- Tier your customers. There should be a difference between your regular customers and other customers whereby your regulars perceive it shows that you value them. How can you expect customer loyalty if all customers are treated as “someone off the street”? Regular customers can be further categorised, for example in to Gold, Silver, Bronze. There are all kinds of ways that you can show your regular customers that you value them, from small things like being in regular contact to larger benefits such as giving extended credit or discounts.
- Set up a customer rewards program. Most of us are familiar with the customer rewards programs that many large businesses have in place. But there’s no reason that smaller business can’t have a customer rewards program too. It can be as simple as a discount on a customer’s birthday or as complex as a points system that earns various rewards such as discounts on merchandise. Done right, rewards programs can really help build customer loyalty and increase sales.
- Distribute free samples to customers. Businesses include free samples of products when you buy something from them because it can increase sales. The customer who bought the original product might try and like the sample of the new product and buy some of it, too, or they may pass the sample to someone else, who might try the product, like it, and buy that and other products from the company. At the very least, the original customer will be thinking warm thoughts about your company, and hopefully telling other people about your products.
There you go a whistle stop tour as to why there is no Sales and Marketing Silver Bullet and unfortunately you need to roll up your sleeves, get a plan together, get on with it, monitor results and adjust accordingly!!! All of this whilst balancing the care and attention existing customers need.
We have provided some insights to hopefully give you some inspiration to get cracking but do remember to Focus! We haven’t even covered related subjects such as processes, building the intelligence system required, recruiting and developing resources or establishing the funding required to undertake all of this activity. Therefore, consider this as a set of examples of what you need to do and don’t think you can do it all – not that you would want to anyway as you need to FOCUS defining your market before for example working out which marketing channels which are likely to contribute the best return.