6 Strategies to Make the Sale in a Zero-Growth Environment
In an era of flat revenues and escalating costs, many companies are now casting a critical eye on how they can enhance their sales performance by improving closing rates, reducing selling costs and building internal capabilities. Our recent ‘best practice’ research suggests that sales managers consider adopting these proven strategies within their 2013 plans:
Undertaking Strategic Account Reviews
Zero-growth environments put a premium on maximizing share of wallet in existing clients. Many salespeople, unfortunately, do not have sufficient knowledge of their account’s potential and real buying behavior. Sales leaders would be wise to undertake a thorough Strategic Account Review (SAR) of each key customer to better understand his or her key client needs and habits in order to drive higher cross-selling rates and customer satisfaction.
Ashraf Gohar, VP Business Sales, Rogers Communications Inc. says "Given the sophisticated nature of our product offering and the maturity of our markets, there has never been such a sense of urgency to having an in-depth understanding of our customers’ business in order to provide more value as well as develop new revenue streams." A typical SAR would estimate the maximum amount of business; understand the competitive state and; map the formal (and informal) decision making process and buying psychology.
Enhancing the sales experience
Face-to-face selling has never been so difficult, whether that is securing appointments or providing useful information at every interaction. Customers now demand more value for their time. Accordingly, firms need to focus on delivering a relevant and powerful selling experience in every visit. To do this, forward-thinking sales leaders are modeling internal high performer behaviors (so others can learn) and revamping the benefits delivered at each call (Insight Selling being one tactic) with the goal of delivering unique solutions, technical insights, and industry knowledge.
Performing win-loss studies
When top-line revenues grow, few managers pay much attention to why they lose business. Companies just move on to the next big deal. These days, big client losses can no long be swept under the rug due to political reasons, out of benign neglect, or because another big order is just around the corner. The interdependent nature of business means that leaders run the risk of continued losses or missed opportunities by not understanding the root causes of wins and losses. Rogers gets it. "Rigorous reviews of strategic accounts and constant win-loss studies are essential strategies we are implementing to help us better understand our customer goals and needs" says Gohar. A useful win-loss analysis requires firms to perform an objective diagnostic that drills down into customer feedback and looks at internal performance from a non-judgemental, multi-functional perspective.
Migrating away from face-to-face sales
As every head of sales knows, outside salespeople are expensive to employ and support. At the same time, sales automation and e-commerce technology is advancing rapidly and becoming more cost effective and easier to implement. These two developments are accelerating the transition of small-to-medium account sales responsibilities from field reps to phone or web sales. This switch can significantly reduce cost (up to 80% in selling costs), increase market coverage & access and guarantee that the remaining field reps focus on winning and servicing strategic accounts. To fully leverage remote sales channels, firms will have to figure out how to create and maintain winning sales relationships using persuasion, compelling messages and 1:1 enabling technologies.
Retooling the sales process
Once considered sacrosanct due to revenue risk and politics, sales process re-engineering is being seen as a way to increase productivity, instill agility and cut costs. Improved client responsiveness by retooling the RFP process, creating dedicated sales teams and better managing sales resources and activities by territory can save up to 25% in costs. Improved territory management may hold the biggest potential. For example, salespeople regularly grapple with how to allocate their precious time and effort over hundreds of accounts or large geographic territories. Increasingly, sales managers will be able to leverage market/client data and emerging analytics tools to predict which prospects should be prioritized and which existing clients are most likely to buy next.
Realigning the channel
Over time, an organization’s go-to-market channel(s) often becomes misaligned with customer behavior and strategic goals. Channels that are out of sync produce unhappy customers, leads to lost sales and produces operational complexity. One of our clients, for example, faced a hidden 16% cost surcharge per SKU due to wasteful marketing and operational complexity. We have developed channel optimization plans that fixed misalignments through culling poorly executing resellers, eliminating territory and product overlaps, and adding new sales and service partners in emerging channels.
Mitchell Osak is managing director of Quanta Consulting Inc. Quanta has delivered a variety of winning strategy and organizational transformation consulting and educational solutions to global Fortune 1000 organizations. Mitchell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org