For starters, it’s always worth investing time in putting together a watertight new business plan to define the focus and agree best practice for the year ahead. Organisation is the name of the game, so before you even think about sales, it is important to take a fine-tooth comb through your objectives and targets. While this might seem like a mammoth task, it can easily be divided into ‘bite-sized’ pieces which will make it easier to compile.
Start with your ideal prospects – it's a lot easier to go out to find clients when you know exactly what you're looking for. Once you have a detailed profile of your ideal client it will help you when asking for referrals and deciding on whom to target in networking meetings.
There is no point making a plan and being organised if you don’t track your progress and follow through. Train yourself to set aside time after a meeting to debrief and document what you’ve learned. It is also important to have a basic structure that allows you to measure and monitor your results – as well as make adjustments as necessary. Those who really succeed in business are agile and continually learn, no matter how senior they are in the company.
It’s also important to think about how you should go about pitching in 2013. So much of a business’ time is wasted in giving 'free consulting'. Think about changing your approach by putting in a screening process for prospective clients that you know will be time wasters, as well as a system to ensure that you aren’t giving away ideas for no reward.
A 'customer first' approach will dramatically increase your win ratio and save you time pitching businesses that aren’t ever going to a good fit for your product or service. Remember to be an effective listener. Work on your verbal skills: a good orator will hold prospects’ attention, keep them engaged and ultimately form a bond.
Cash flow is also a major business concern and companies shouldn’t take on clients or projects that waste your valuable resources. There will always be time wasters, but the trick is to spot them early and get out quick! On the same token, the sales experience doesn’t have to be exhausting – try to enjoy it and incorporate a little humour into your pitch. Both you and the prospective client will enjoy it more.
However, don’t forget about your existing clients either. A quick and easy way to boost sales and thus profits is to turn to existing clients. They are a great target as they are already familiar with your organisation; it is important to remind them of all your offerings. Furthermore, it is widely accepted that customer acquisition is more expensive than customer retention. So while you are not only making money, you are in effect, saving it as well. Happy customers will also tell others about your organisation, thus loyalty or referral schemes might be an avenue to explore.
In 2013, give your new business strategy a makeover and without a doubt, you’ll see the difference. Sales is a process built on a series of skills that can be learnt, developed and grown over time. The best time to start is now – so make 2013 the year that your business soars.