Where can you cut the costs of sales and improve sales performance?
Improving the performance of your sales people is business critical. Reducing the costs associated with sales is a good place to start in improving performance as it has a direct influence on your bottom line. It is vitally important however to make sure you trim back in the right areas so you have a positive influence on sales performance rather than the alternative.
1. Motivate your sales people
Sales people are the touchpoint with your customers and prospects that turn conversations, presentations, effort and costs into profit. They are often the most highly rewarded people because they impinge so dramatically on the bottom line of your business. Very often in fact, companies recruit sales people because of their motivation for earning money. I’ve worked in a number of different companies and there is often an issue with maintaining the motivation of sales people. When times are good and the money is accumulating, sales people are easier to keep motivated.
Although many sales people are apparently driven by money, is it this simple? I would be the first to say ‘No’, this simply isn’t the case. When motivated, sales people work hard. The best sales people are going the extra mile. They’ll meet prospects outside of working hours, they’ll jump through hoops to win deals. This is the sales hunger, the desire to do better. However, making hard cash isn’t necessarily the driver.
I would like to offer another explanation. It’s not my explanation either, it’s Herzberg’s theory. In basic terms there are positive and negative motivators, Herzberg refers to them as hygiene factors. Positive motivators are the aspirational drivers that make people want to achieve. Negative motivators are the things that drag peoples motivation down.
2. Engage prospects
How people make purchasing decisions has adapted. The availability of information and insight has driven consumers and businesses to form opinions of products and brands much earlier in the buying process. Successful brands and products are managing these opinions and the available knowledge through media channels that their prospects engage with. These channels will fairly obviously vary dependent on your target audience.
The thing you need to keep at the forefront of your activity is that if you don’t control the knowledge, information and opinion of your products and brands, other people will. The trick to engaging customers and prospects is to keep costs minimal, or should I say reflective of the value the activity commands. That equation will be determined by a number of factors, both qualitative and quantitative. If it’s something you’re unsure of, you should consider taking advice from professionals.
3. Increase order/customer value
If each customer spends more with you, the cost of sale naturally decreases. There are many ways to increase order value and/or customer value. The most traditional is the upsell. What else would your customer buy from you if presented to them at the right time? What else do they need? What are they buying from elsewhere that you could sell them?
It may be that you can’t increase an order value at the point of purchase. On the other hand, by statying in contact with your customer, thanking them for their business and providing them information that relates to their purchase and their circumstance, you are more likely to drive loyalty and recommendation. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that a happy repeat customer is worth more to you than a single non-loyal order.
Your business and sales strategy needs to encompass loyalty initiatives and the harvesting of existing customers to increase their value to you. Consider how you can gain the maximum value from every order you gain such as upselling, driving repeat purchases, using referral schemes and providing loyalty programmes. These things work and need not cost you a fortune. If you need any reassurance that these are worthwhile uses of your resources, take a snapshot of the leading ten businesses you deal with and ask yourself what they do to make you come back for more.
4. Work the inbound funnel
Inbound Marketing FunnelThe three preceding points aren’t really anything new in their theory. In reality they are basic principles adopted by most if not all successful businesses. Whether this is a pro-active effort or accidental, the theory still applies.
The inbound funnel however is something that point two refers to. How people make their decisions about you has changed. With over 50% of mobile internet traffic being the use of facebook, your strategy should include how to harness this. Many companies will pay for Search Engine Optimisation, a slick website and possibly some type of pay per click advertising strategy, all of which I would whole heartedly condone. The number of organisations who are applying similar budgets to their social activity is far fewer.
Let’s be honest, not all businesses will see value in being heavily involved in facebook but facebook is not the only social channel. Youtubeis the second largest search engine but do you use video? This article may help you see the value: 5 reasons to include video in your communication strategy.
5. Pre-qualify leads
Pre-qualification is nothing new. The way in which it is done most effectively has moved however. ‘Cold calling is dead’ is an expression I have heard many many times. Admittedly, much of the time this has been uttered by sales people who are struggling with motivation BUT the success of cold calling is limited compared with times of old. There are tons of reasons for this but the most prolific ones being:
You are entitled to unsubscribe from cold calls
Gatekeepers are more savvy than ever
People simply wont give you as much time as they used to
Now this presents a problem for businesses who rely on cold calling as a strategy. Outbound call centres are costly to set up and manage. Event the management of the centres themselves is fraught with challenges, not least of which, motivation referred to above which by design can result in high staff turnovers.
Offshoring this kind of facility has also shown limited successes. People don’t like being disturbed by sales calls, particularly if they can’t understand the person making the call.
So what should a business do?
If we take the lead of the large organisations who sell high ticket value products, they actually have ‘pre-sales’ teams. These are people who work with customers to specify their needs and provide technical information before the ‘closer’ goes in to negotiate the deal. In many businesses this isn’t practical but a valuable lesson can be learned from this practice.
By specifying a customers needs and planning the timing of the purchase, sales peoples’ activity can be more focused, increasing motivation, increasing opportunities to up the order value and ultimately increasing conversion rates. The underlying question is still how to achieve this?
The use of technology enables you to feed information to your customers and prospects that they can access on their terms. What you may not know is that you can be notified of customer interactions even without their knowledge.
Whether you clicked through from an email or simply hit this page from a search engine, we were notified of that action about 5 minutes ago when you started reading this.
How’s that relevant to you? Imagine your top sales people being notified of a customer’s buying signals at the specific time they’ve shown an interest. Would that help the conversion rate?
Improve sales performance and reduce costs by working smarter and harnessing the technology that’s available.
By Ryan Mullins