The first step is to ensure that your company systematically generates sufficient leads to keep enough business in the pipeline. Too many entrepreneurs get caught up in daily firefighting and forget to think about future business.
- Set specific targets for the number of prospects you want in the funnel at any given time.
- Plan the number of appointments you intend to secure with prospective clients every week in order to meet those targets.
- Use the rest of the time to handle your ongoing sales projects.
Generating leads is not necessarily the easiest part of your job, but it's a necessity if you want to drive consistent sales.
2. Know your sales cycle
The type of business you're in will determine your sales cycle, which is the amount of time that elapses between an initial meeting with a prospective client and the closing of a deal. This can vary greatly from one company to the next. But you need to understand exactly how much time it takes you on average, measured in days, weeks or months.
To calculate the length of your sales cycle:
- Make a list of your 20 most recent closed sales
- Jot down how long each took
- Compute the average
Using Customer Relationship Management (CRM) technology can also give you a better picture of your sales pipeline, help identify top clients and target specific groups.
3. Know your numbers
Every company needs a minimum number of prospects at any given time just to maintain sales. Look at the number of closed transactions you want every month as well as the average sales cycle. You should also know what proportion of prospects contacted ended up buying. These figures will help you set targets for your company.
- Your business aims to sell three items per month;
- On average, it takes four months from first contact with a client to close a sale;
- 1 out of 4 prospects contacted by sales staff eventually buys, which means you have a close ratio of 25%.
3 items x 4 months / 25% close rate = 48 leads
In this scenario, as long as you maintain 48 active leads at any point in time, you can be confident you will close three transactions per month. It's that simple. If you decide one day to increase your monthly output to four closed transactions, then it follows you will need to maintain a list of 64 active prospects, and so on.
Armed with this knowledge, entrepreneurs can set specific and measurable targets for their sales people.
4. Actively seek referrals
A rule of thumb for any business is to get referrals from satisfied clients. One way to avoid the awkward moment of actually asking for a referral directly is by encouraging clients to talk about their customers and suppliers.
Once you identify a potential client during a conversation, you could say: “Would it be alright if I gave Tom a call and mentioned that we spoke?” Upon reaching that client, you can say something like: “My name is John and I was speaking with Robert who thought it would be a good idea for us to get together. How about next Tuesday?”
5. Focus on securing appointments
Unless totally necessary, refrain from making a sales pitch on the phone. Try to secure a meeting instead and be prompt about it. Prospects are turned off if you take too much time on the telephone, especially on the initial call.
Equally important is getting that second meeting once you've met for a first time. You want that client to have you in their calendar. Always securing a next step advances you ever closer to a closed sale.
6. Get ready for objections
You should be prepared for common objections, particularly when making cold calls. Typical negative responses include:
- I'm dealing with somebody else
- I'm too busy
- This isn't a good time
- Send me material first and we'll talk later
If you're not prepared with clear replies, you'll lose the prospect's interest. Practice exactly what you're going to say in response. It's important to acknowledge their objections and then try to reframe them in a positive light.
In addition, today’s consumers have easy access to information and may have already formed some opinions on your product or service, not all of them from your own website. It’s worth doing some research to find out what information exists on the web about your company. Be prepared to answer comments or perceptions that an informed person could raise during a conversation.
7. Follow up and listen
Building a strong relationship with clients is crucial to maintaining consistent sales. You have to show them that they’re not just a business transaction. Always take a proactive approach in meetings with clients and take notes. Prospects will open up when they see that you're taking the time to listen and write down what they are saying.