Manufacturing is Slowing. The Economy is Wobbly. Financial Markets Are a Mess.
Now s the Perfect Time To Increase Your Sales and Profits!
That s the easy part! Here are six places you should look and what you should do to boost your sales and make more profit. You ll find them all right within your own walls.
Your proposal is the first place to look for more sales, because it s the place where the fate of your business is decided every day. And it's the easiest place to generate quick results.
Your proposal may be a written document, a verbal presentation, an Internet form, or some variation of these formats. Whatever you use, this is your last chance to convince your prospects you can meet their needs better than anyone else.
Your prospects may not care about much besides price; so, you have to give them something more important to care about! Every proposal has to tell a convincing story of why this customer should buy this particular project from you!
What to do
Make it sell. Give prospects more than a description of your product and a price. Offer convincing proof on every page that your company and your products meet their needs.
Illustrate benefits. Load your proposals with written and graphic illustrations of your products and benefits. Help your prospects visualize themselves in the future using your products and being successful.
Prompt for right answers. Buyers, line managers, foreman, and end-users usually have some voice in purchasing decisions, and their instincts are to say "No." Offer compelling arguments that make them comfortable saying Yes to you.
2. Customer List
Your customer list is a trail of your business success, so look here next. Forget buyers from two years ago; they re prospects again. Focus on customers who purchased from you in the past 12 - 15 months.
Your current customers like your product, and they ll buy again, if you deliver what you promised. Maintain frequent contact with them and be aggressive in identifying their needs. Your customer list is also the perfect template to use in identifying new markets and prospects who need your products.
What to do
Know their markets. Learn how your customers customers are doing. Concentrate on those customers who serve strong markets. Don t bet your future on the ones in declining markets.
Sell with purpose. Your best customers don t know any of your capabilities that you don t tell them about today. They won t come running to your door just because you re a good supplier. Discover how they make money and what they need, then develop creative plans to help them succeed.
Ditch the losers. By definition, good customers yield good profits: Drop all the deadbeats. Develop detailed profiles of your best customers, then start looking for more just like them.
3. Sales Process
Your sales process is your blueprint to turn uniformed prospects into profit-generating customers. Manage it with the same care as your manufacturing process.
A Sales Process Includes Several Phases:
Prospecting identifying possible candidates
Qualifying weeding out the ugly ones
Pre-Proposal Activities determining what the attractive ones need
Proposal Development establishing how you can meet their needs
Proposal Presentation explaining how you will meet their needs
Post Proposal Activities kicking down the door to purchase orders
Every phase of your process will include actions someone has to complete. Your task is to document these actions and make sure they re accomplished.
What to do
Define your process. Large corporations have detailed sales processes that leave nothing to chance. Follow their example and take control of your future by charting and managing every step of your sales process.
Focus on benefits. People buy benefits. Benefits have nothing to do with the way your products work. They have everything to do with how your prospects perceive your product can help them. Design your process to emphasize benefits.
Stalk purchase orders. The real competition starts after you present your proposal. Don t leave prospects to their own devices or to the influences of your competitors. Create ways to stay in touch with your prospects after every sales presentation.
4. Collateral Materials
Collateral materials include everything you use other than people to promote your products from four-color brochures to web pages to promotional items. This is NOT the place to flash your clever logo, feature action shots of employees, or insert big pictures of your buildings. Your prospects do not care about these things. Pack your collateral materials with riveting text that describes serious problems your prospects face and explains how you have solved those same problems many times.
What to do
Stay focused. One size does not fit all. Design every piece of collateral to fulfill a specific purpose, spelling out why you are the best choice your prospects can make.
Establish your image. Use your collateral to build the market image you want. If you re a high-end innovator in a cutting-edge market, your collateral should be bold. If you re the low-cost provider in a commodity market, your collateral should be efficient.
Make it sell. Your collateral material is you when you can t be there in person. Use it to make the case that people should buy from you. Highlight product and company benefits your competitors simply cannot match.
Your products have certain features, but your customers buy benefits. Features are tangible, factual things. Benefits are feelings people have when they think about using your products. It s up to you to identify lots of benefits. Every product you offer needs a long list of non-price benefits that show it s better than competing products. If you don t promote your product and company benefits, your customers will lure you into competing on price. If you re a price-only competitor, your profits will be limited.
What to do
Define discriminators. Even if you build "Me Too" products, you still have to prove you're better than everyone else. Discriminators can be anything color, packaging, delivery, or terms as long as they promise to benefit your customers in ways your competitors can t even imagine.
Add features. Find new things your customers need and add them to your product offerings. Look for opportunities to provide extra services, make sub-assemblies, or build systems anything that creates value for your customers.
See the future. If you make products for declining markets, your future is bleak. Begin to equip yourself NOW to build products that promise desirable benefits for expanding markets.
6. Marketing and Sales Plan
Big companies have marketing and sales plans. Little companies do not. Companies don t get big and profitable, and then suddenly decide they have enough extra money to write a marketing plan. They grow and make money on purpose following their plans.
You can t run your manufacturing line without a production plan, so don t try to run your business without a marketing and sales plan. A good plan documents where you expect to be within a specific time, describes the markets you ll serve, and lists the actions you ll take to convert prospects into customers.
What to do
Know your markets. Assemble all the details you can find about the specific industries, geographic boundaries, businesses, competitors, market preferences, and trends in the markets you want to serve.
Define actions. Describe exactly how you will educate and attract new customers in each targeted market. Design multiple marketing tactics for each market segment you plan to attack. Assign responsibilities and funds to implement each tactic on a specific schedule.
Expect results. Attach time-frames and expectations to every tactic, every dollar, and every activity of your marketing and sales plan. Not every tactic will generate sales: Fix or abandon those that don t deliver.
It is hard work to revise a proposal until it sells on every page, but it pays off in much higher win rates. It is a laborious effort to analyze your customer list and sales process, but it provides better insights into how to sell your products. It takes tremendous commitment to plan exactly how you should invest in your markets, but it pays off handsomely with increased sales.
These things take time and effort, but they offer greater potential to increase your sales and profits than anything else you can do in difficult market times.
About The Author: Doug Gregory is a sales and marketing specialist in Fort Wayne, Indiana. For more than 30 years his clear analysis of vexing sales and marketing problems, coupled with straight-forward, achievable recommendations, have been helping businesses increase their sales and profits. Call Diamond Group Marketing at 800-251-2353, email us, or visit us on the web at www.diamondgroupmarketing.com.
Reprinted with permission from the THE FABRICATOR