The challenge of sales

Every business owner has faced the challenge, at one point of generating sales whilst being busy “doing” what they sell. If they’ve had an increase in business, it ties them up and doesn’t allow any time for sales generating activities. The result is what I call “the roller coaster of sales”. Working in this way will cause cashflow problems and can lead to stress.

What can be done to stop this?

Good question, and one that I am frequently asked by my clients. The answer lies within the way that their business is structured and here are my 5 top tips to put in place, which when actioned will stop that roller coaster and give you back control.

Create a sales plan – and use it!

A sales plan maps out the goals that you wish to achieve for the year ahead. It is a visual document and can be as simple as an Excel spreadsheet, nothing fancy or complicated. It breaks down the year, on a month-to-month basis, details the sales you’d like to achieve, and the actual sales achieved.  By using this document, you can plan, spot dips in revenue and put actions in place to prevent that. This helps to monitor cash flow and can be used to plan your marketing activity. The trick with this though, is that it needs to be monitored regularly; I work with mine on a weekly basis. A sales plan is not a business plan! It is a living and breathing thing, it can be changed and amended, to reflect changes that happen.

Plan your marketing activity

Once you know what your revenue goals are, as detailed in the sales plan, you are then able to plan and execute your marketing activities. When looking at your sales plan, look at the revenue that you want to generate in 2-3 months’ time. Once you know this, you are then able to start your marketing now! It can take a while for you to see a return, so planning is imperative.

Be strategic with your lead generation

If you are busy delivering, then you don’t have a lot of time to be proactive with sales generation. Implementing certain activities that will bring in business, without you physically having to do very much, is key. Here are some examples:

  • Recruit referral partners – these are individuals who work within the same target market as yourself but have a different industry sector. They are people that you have built a strong relationship with, who you trust, and most importantly who you would feel proud to introduce to your clients (and they feel the same way about you). The focus on the relationship is to generate leads/business and, when you work well with each other, those leads are qualified. Their client knows about you and what you do, is very open to discussing your product or services and subsequently are easier to convert.
  • Go to networking events – regular attendance at a networking event raises your profile with several people. Build their trust and establish your credibility and you will receive leads from them. For this to have maximum impact on your sales, and little impact on your time, pick one networking event, but be a regular.
  • Use LinkedIn – this platform has seen an incredible uplift of activity over the past 18 months. People are using LinkedIn to generate sales but also as a business directory to find prospective suppliers. If you’re in business, especially in a B2B environment, you are missing a trick if you’re not on LinkedIn. The good news is you don’t have to spend a lot of time on here. Posting one post per day to your company page and sharing it out into your personal feed is a great way of getting your name in front of people for minimum effort. If your content educates your audience, you will be remembered, and this is what you want, as this will generate referrals.

Don’t be afraid to outsource

This must be one of my favourites! If I don’t have the time or the expertise to do certain jobs within my business, I outsource it!  

I’d like to refer back to the marketing activity point, I raised earlier. You plan it, but you outsource it. It gets done, with minimum effect on your time.

Make time!

I love Michael Altshuler’s phrase “The bad news is that time flies, the good news if that you’re the pilot”. The key to everything I have mentioned above is to make some time to carry out the tasks, and the only way to do this, is to put a time into your diary, and stick to it. One of the downfalls of a business owner is that they don’t prioritise time to work ON their business and not IN their business.

I’d like to break this down for you.

Working on your sales plan and marketing activities, can be just one hour per week! Monday morning is a good time for me, and always has been. It’s booked in my diary, and I NEVER sell that time to a client. Find a time that works for you and stick to it!

Referral partners – I have a one-hour meeting with mine once every 6-8 weeks. It’s an enjoyable meeting, more like two friends chatting over coffee, but there is a business element. Again, the dates are in our diaries.

Networking meetings run for about 2 hours, on average and there are many of them that either meet earlier in the morning or evening which doesn’t interfere with working hours.

LinkedIn can be addictive you could spend hours on the platform. However, you can still have good results from only 30 minutes per day. I tend to be on there in the evening when I’m watching TV or first thing in the morning before I start work.

Sales are important, as is carrying out the work you have been paid to do. With a little thought and planning you can continue to deliver what you sell and generate new business.

Julie Futcher
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