Did you ever read the articles that predicted the end of the recession? Newsweek’s front cover stated that the recession was over but that recovery would not be easy. Economists believe that the fundamentals of deep recession are over. What’s next?
Everybody is looking for the winners and losers, just like the handicappers at horse racing tracks. What industries will be able to rebound first, and which are at risk of going out of business forever? Either you can take the optimistic approach and hope that things will turn out for you, or you could take steps to break through the tunnel and get back to the light. It all depends on your perspective – whether you are half-full or half-empty.
Your competitors and businesses are focused on the future right now. Reduce expenses, delay hiring, and perhaps even consider reducing staff to weather the storm with a skeleton team. Your survival as a business depends on your ability to make today’s numbers. But if you place all your eggs in the “today” basket, you will lose tomorrow. These are simple reminders that will help you make 2010 and your fourth quarter brighter than they seem today.
1. Dig deeper
Take a look at your active customer list for the first quarter. What’s your plan to up-sell, renew or refer these clients? You have done a gut-check with them to find out what has changed since you last did business with them in the winter. The current business climate is so different that I bet they have changed a lot. Don’t wait to see if another vendor comes along with new ideas.
2. Have a plan.
Create a written sales plan to guide your team. Lock the doors and go off-site. Have a meeting. Make it fun and interactive. Get input from your team to set goals, timelines, and an action plan that will help you reach your 2010 sales targets. You can include milestones so that you can track your progress and rewards for your team’s efforts. It is crucial to get their support and participation in the process.
3. Tune it Up
Refresh your sales materials and presentations. You will be outsold if you continue to use the same templates and ideas as three years ago. Consolidate, adapt. Use these best practices to retain and up-sell your top customers.
4. Be visible
get out there. To ensure that your top customers are visible to your management and sellers, you should set aggressive benchmarks. Face-to-face meetings with clients are the best way to discover objections, find out about your competitors, identify new opportunities, and resolve any issues that may have been “stuck.” It is impossible to have genuine customer interaction with a client if you only send an e-mail or call “to check-in” at the last minute.
5. Go Richer Go deeper
Set a goal for increasing the number of contacts within your customer’s company. This is preventative insurance against aggressive competitors, pricing wars, and sales turnover. You have a better chance of retaining and growing your client if three or more people in your company are involved with your customers.
6. Be ahead of the Game
The budget season is upon us, and everyone is getting ready to get into Excel and engage their advisors in planning for 2010. Ask your customers for feedback and get in touch with them. Do not wait; some companies have already begun planning for next year.
7. Keep in touch
Contacts that are not “ask for the sales” Companies may do business with sellers but not have a “connection.” Over and over, the common refrain I hear is that sellers only call to inquire about business or to offer special deals to me. Businesses need value. They want a partnership. A partner who will help them navigate what could be the most challenging selling environment they’ve ever seen. You should consider holiday gifts, birthdays, anniversaries, and thank you cards. These small gestures show your customer that you care beyond the order.
8. Keep your eyes on your “hedgehog.”
Too many businesses are trying to increase sales by offering more services and bundles. This is a “paintball” approach to winning clients. You should get rid of any business that is not profitable and not your core business. You can focus your time and resources on the #1 or #2 position and make every moment count towards this. It is possible to focus and win every time. The bad news is that your competition may be distracted and reeling trying to make it “today.” Mining your hedgehog is doing what you’re best at – and repeating it over and over.
If you feel the darkness is closing in on you and the light is slowly slipping away, let go of the daily billing goals, last week’s leads, and the % that you were behind last year. Instead, focus on these steps to impact not only today’s but also tomorrow’s and next year’s businesses.