Flat or declining sales are what many companies and salespeople are facing today. Let’s face the facts – there is a lot of uncertainty right now. All that uncertainty leads to individuals and businesses holding on to their money.
So, what can you do about it? I’m going to give you 7 reasons why sales are flat or declining and what you can do to make your sales begin to soar! I guaranteed that if you commit to these changes and begin to always look for new ways to improve, your sales skills you will see improvement.
Look at the existing technology that is available to you, and use it! To grow your sales, you will need to put dedicated time into all the necessary actions, such as: prospecting, contacting, follow-through, relationship building, personal development, marketing (traditional and social media), networking, research, planning, competitive analysis and role-playing practice, just to name a few. Each needs to be scheduled so that nothing gets missed.
2. SALES CYCLE
Identify the length of your Average Sales Cycle. A Sales Cycle is calculated by determining the length of time from your first contact with a customer until the customer invests in your products or services. This will vary greatly by business type. To illustrate this point, here are some examples: If you are a Quick Lube retail store, your Sales Cycle is 10 minutes. If you are a Real Estate Agent, it may be several months. If you are selling complex enterprise solutions it may be a few months to over a year. You get the idea. It will vary but you need to determine yours. In each of these cases you will have variances as well. One of your sales may take 7 days, another 14 days and another 30 days. Adding up all the time each sale took and dividing by the number of sales determine your Average Sales Cycle.
In the example I just used, you would add the 7 days plus the 14 days plus the 30 days, which would total 51 days. You then divide that by the total number of sales (in this case 3). You have 51 days divided by 3 sales, which leaves you with an Average Sales Cycle of 17 days. Each time you make a new sale, add the time that sale took to complete to the previous total. Then divide by the new total number of sales. If you do this every time you will keep your Average Sales Cycle up to date and perpetual.
This information is vital because one of the ways to get more time to get more customers is to reduce your Average Sales Cycle (without reducing the dollar amount of your Average Sale). If you do not track and know your Average Sales Cycle, you will have little or no impact on it. This is just as true for a business as it is for an individual.
3. CHANGING PERSONNEL
Clients are always going to have people who leave as your main point of contact. Some will quit, some will retire, some will be promoted, some will be demoted, some will transfer, etc.… The main point is they will no longer be your main decision maker. In some cases, they will stay; however, for some reason they will be unwilling or unable to make decision you need. In order to make sure your sales don’t stall out and go flat, you will need to identify all the decision makers and establish relationships with each. At every visit, you need to expand your points of contact and look for new decision makers.
4. CAN’T GET AN APPOINTMENT
Remember, there will always be times when you just won’t get an appointment, no matter what you do. However, most often not getting an appointment is a result of lack of preparation and confidence.
To remedy this, first you have to project yourself in the role of a confident, trusted, well-prepared business advisor and professional. Nothing breeds confidence more than having a plan of action.
For example: think of 10 reasons why a customer could object to meeting with you. Then write out the answer to each objection. Keep in mind that the answers must address why meeting with you would be beneficial to your potential client.
Once you have the answers, script a role-play (write a script as if two actors where going to act it out) on how you can get them to see their way clear to meet with you. Practice the answers in role-play form with someone else until you are smooth and confident. If you are in retail and the customer comes to you, for all intents and purposes you have the appointment.
In this case, you need to go through the same exercise. However, your 10 reasons should address why a customer might delay making a decision on owning your product or service today.
5. PRICE CONCERNS
You have got to present only what has value to your customers. Average salespeople will tell a customer everything about their product and/or services without finding out what the problem is the customer is looking to solve. Before presenting anything about your products or services, you must find out the problem for which the customer needs a solution.
This is done through the use of Wants and Needs Analysis™ questions. Once the problem has been diagnosed properly, excellent sales professionals present only the Features, Advantages and Benefits (F.A.B.’s) that represent value to the customer in solving their problem. Presenting anything else means the customer is paying for F.A.B.’s that have no real value to their situation. Anytime someone feels they are paying for something they will not use or will not get value from, a Price Concern will always be the result.
6. CUSTOMER CAN’T GET APPROVAL
If you have gotten this far, maybe you didn’t ask the ‘Right Questions’ up front. Make sure that
whom you are talking to makes the decisions in this area. Determine through proper Wants and Needs Analysis™ questions what products they want and/or need and what they can afford. Remember, there are only two things that need to be present in order for a sale to happen: 1. You have to have a product or service that your customer Wants and/or Needs, and 2. They have to have the ability to pay for it. Both of these conditions must be met at the same time.
7. NOT ENOUGH PROSPECTS
It is important to always be adding potential customers to your sales pipeline. They must be companies or individuals that can legitimately benefit from what you offer. It is true that it is harder and more expensive to find new customers than to keep and expand business with the ones that you already have.
You must both find new customers and expand business with existing customers in order to keep your sales growing. For the customers that you have now, look for new ways to do business with them (i.e. look at their different departments and different locations). They may not know that you offer some of the products and/or services that they are currently getting somewhere else. You can find all this out by asking the ‘Right Questions’.
As for companies that you have no business with now, look at the companies your direct competitors do business with as the first source of prospects. They should all be potential customers for you. Thoroughly examine all the capabilities of your company and its products or services.
Some may be under-utilised and can be developed with a little effort. Investigate other industries that are using similar products or services. It is not uncommon for many industries or groups to have similar needs and problems. As an example, to illustrate this: a number of years ago, a food services company was working with an airline. The airline wanted fresh vegetable snacks included in their boxed lunches to be passed out on the plane. The packs needed to be small so that costs could be low and so there would be little waste and no storage issues in the limited space available.
The food service company was used to this request since they had worked predominately with airlines for years, and the portion size was always a concern for the reasons already mentioned. When the airline industry had a huge downturn, the company’s sales reacted accordingly. Fewer flights meant fewer boxed lunches. When we first discussed with them the idea of looking outside their industry, it was met with resistance. But after some effort they began to look at other places where small packages of fresh fruit or vegetables could solve some problems. To make a long story short, several prepared packaged lunch programs for schools had this need. Better still, the need existed in programs all across the country.
The resulting sales grew to be even larger than the sales to the airline industry and were not as fluctuating due to the economy. If it made sense that prepared school lunches were using the small packages of fresh fruit or vegetables, then what about lunches being made at home? That question led to sales with national, regional and local grocery stores.
So today, the company is much larger than it previously was. It has a much more diverse base of customers, it has stabilised its income stream; it has expanded its offerings, and their products are available everywhere. All this happened because this food service company asked the ‘Right Questions’ and looked outside their traditional customer base into other industries to see who else might have similar problems to solve. They continued this process to expand into new sales channels, which greatly enhanced the company’s revenue and profits.
There are many reasons why sales may decline or be flat. Some are out of your control. However, the 7 reasons that I have listed here are in your control. Address them with the positive action steps we recommend, and you will see results begin immediately. Keep in mind, success is an ongoing lifetime journey not a destination. Now get busy making yourself the best you can be!
“Remember, your success tomorrow is in direct proportion to your “Commitment to Excellence®” today.”™
Richard Tyler is the World’s Top Sales and Management Expert. Subscribe to Tyler Tips® for more Personal and Professional development principles at www.TylerTips.com
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