Growing your sales is always important, especially given the current climate. Over the past year many businesses will have been operating at significantly lower levels of sales. Now, as we emerge from the UK’s third – and with the vaccination programme underway, hopefully last – national lockdown, most businesses are looking to ramp up their sales quickly. Whether your business has suffered a drop in sales over the past year or not, any for-profit organisation needs to make more sales in the future than it is making today – that’s the point of a growing business. So, let’s discuss three ways to increase your sales.
More Selling Transactions
Naturally, the more selling conversations your Salespeople have, the more likely they are to progress leads and opportunities through the sales process. So, the first step to increasing your sales is obvious – you need to increase the amount of selling! In a previous article – ‘What You Think is Selling is Not Selling!’ – we define what selling is. Essentially, selling a product or service is to convince potential customers of the value it would provide them. A sale is made when the customer is satisfied that your product/service meets their needs and is willing to exchange money for it. Salespeople provide a unique skillset – they are persuasive. If selling is the act of convincing leads to buy, Salespeople should be spending most of their time doing just that. Do you know how many sales transactions or ‘convincings’ your salespeople are completing right now? If not, find out. You have to start measuring it. To measure it you need to do two things. First, you must get your Sales team to define what a sales transaction is, and what it is not. Then, you must measure how many of them are being achieved. If you want more of them, you must establish a baseline and increase them from there.
A simple method for increasing the availability of any resource – in this case selling – is to remove the causes of disruption. To increase the number of sales transactions completed within a period of time, you must prevent interruptions. Responding to customer queries, updating the CRM system, attending internal meetings… these are all important, but they get in the way of completing selling interactions and can easily fill a Salesperson’s day. A simple way to prevent this is to introduce protected windows of time where the only tasks allowed to be carried out are selling interactions. Encouraging resources to jump between different types of activity kills capacity and reduces output. For example, if a Salesperson is working on task A, then moves onto B and comes back to A later, this extends the duration of both tasks – but it will look like the person is very busy. Having a focused period of time where only selling activities are allowed will have two effects: more selling activities will happen per day, and it also creates capacity to do all the other tasks outside of the time windows.
So, the first thing to do when you are looking to increase sales is to increase the number of selling interactions being held. Define what is and is not selling and implement protected windows of time for doing exactly that! Measure your baseline and, soon, the improvement.
An increase in activity will be very useful, but it will be most useful when applied to only good selling opportunities. If your Salespeople have a say in deciding which opportunities to progress and when, interesting decisions are made. Salespeople naturally want to spend more time on opportunities they have already spent a lot of time with because they feel close to bringing it over the line. Someone with no emotional investment in the opportunity will have a clearer view of whether this is an opportunity that will be converted – if it’s been six weeks and the prospect hasn’t said yes, will they ever? You want your Sales team to be focused on enough good quality leads; not the ones they have invested the most time and effort in, not even the highest sales value. Sales need more and more good selling opportunities and spending more and more activity on them.
The answer is not to simply give Sales more and more opportunities to work on because the more opportunities there are, the more multitasking they will have to do. The opportunity will therefore receive less attention. Sales management are in the best position to say what a ‘good’ opportunity is, not the individual Salesperson. So, if you want high selling but only on good opportunities, you must apply a filter to your pipeline – and you should be ruthless. Examples of sales qualification include sales value, repeat orders, geography or capacity required; there are many you could choose from. As an organisation, you should define what a good opportunity looks like – and stick to it. If you and your management team sat down together and set out some criteria for a good sales opportunity – one that is likely to say yes – what do those customers look like? If you applied that criteria to all of the opportunities you currently have in your sales pipeline, how many would remain? If all of them stay in, congratulations – you have a fantastic sales pipeline! However, we can almost guarantee that most of the opportunities would fail on one or more of the criteria laid out. So, if you follow this logic through and remove the ones that don’t meet your criteria – regardless of how many there are – only good sales opportunities will remain. Then, your (increased) Sales capacity will be applied to those opportunities that are more likely to say yes and give you good business, quickly. Ironically, removing opportunities from your sales process will increase the number of sales you win – just make sure you only remove the unqualified ones.
A huge secondary benefit to removing all the unqualified sales opportunities from the sales process is that it will give you a much clearer understanding of the marketing processes in your organisation. Are they generating enough good quality leads? Allowing everything into the pipeline so resources are always working on lots of opportunities can mask problems…
If you need help generating more high-quality leads, get in touch at [email protected] for some advice on where to get started.
This is the last thing to implement if you want to increase your sales. Until you have good activity on the right opportunities, looking at your conversion rates might act as an interesting distraction. If you progress opportunities that are ultimately going to say no, it will lead to a ‘closed-lost’ opportunity. Our recommendation, therefore, is to implement the first two improvements (Transactions and Qualification) before turning your attention to this one. However, once you have a pipeline full of qualified opportunities, and you have good sales activities where Sales resources aren’t spread too thin, then any opportunity you don’t win is likely to be something you need to pay attention to. Why didn’t they buy? They should do; they are in the market for the goods/services you sell, and they are in a position to buy – so what went wrong? It must be something about what you sell, how you sold it, or when you tried to sell it that caused you to lose the opportunity.
So, you have the chance to upgrade your team’s skills, the process itself or your offer. You should begin recording two things. Firstly, you should note any opportunities that spend too long in any one stage of the sales process – this would indicate the opportunity has been blocked and needs dealing with. The other thing you should measure are the drop-outs at each stage in the process (the ‘closed-lost’). Record these continuously and very quickly a simple Pareto analysis will identify the common causes and points in the flow where you are systematically losing sales of good opportunities. Once these are identified they can be easily rectified via training, sales scripts, objection handling, etc. You can upgrade your process.
Whether your business has struggled over the course of the pandemic or has thrived, if you are looking to grow your sales you will need a higher amount of activity on the right things; don’t let your team work on the wrong things. You will then have to take time to understand why something is not working when you believed it should – for example, a good sales pitch on a good offer, to a good opportunity that doesn’t result in a sale. Those (and only those!) are the ones we want to analyse.
Do these three things and watch your sales skyrocket!
If you would like help or more information on any of these steps, get in touch at [email protected] or 01234 834510. Goldratt UK use the Theory of Constraints to help transform organisations – the Constraint of most businesses is the market, especially nowadays… Don’t hesitate to get in touch to ensure the market doesn’t prevent you from growing your business.
By Phil Snelgrove, Lauren Wiles