Modern sales strategies have been a sigh of relief for many salespeople. This is where we put the customer first and operate as a problem solver vs. someone pushing for a sale. But our titles (like that of Salesperson) have not kept up with these changes.
I’m not a fan of whacky titles for the sake of being different, but I do believe titles influence (if not only subconsciously) our identities. And our identities have a massive impact on our behaviour. So where am I going with this?
In any transaction, we have two parties. We have the seller and the buyer. In the modern sales paradigm, we know that no one likes to be sold, but people love to buy—and it’s our job as a salesperson is to find people who have the problem we can solve and help them to buy it. Given that focus (helping people to buy), why do we still use a title that is focused on selling? No one likes being sold, and it’s not where our focus should be.
Perhaps I’m splitting hairs here, but I don’t think so. I believe these small distinctions is what fine tunes our thinking and helps us to step up a level. And I know anytime I’ve been in a meeting with someone who could buy, and I’ve been focused on making a sale, it rarely goes well. And the reverse is also true. When I’m focused on what the other person needs and how I can help them get that, it usually ends up with two happy people because we’ve been focused on the right thing.
Sales are about helping others, being of service to others and helping people to solve their problems and get what they want. And if we can do that well, we can get compensated well. And that’s the way it should be.
So, what am I suggesting? Should we change the title salesperson to ‘buying agent’ or ‘problem solver’? I’m not sure. But I do think it’s worth considering that it’s time to update the titles to match the philosophy. It’s time to change the identity of the ‘salesperson.’
Budgeting is not something most business owners would list as one of their most exciting tasks – and that’s ok, but it is necessary, and there is a way to build a budget that makes profit non-negotiable. Here’s how you can create a budget which helps you think differently about how you manage the expense side of your business, and will radically change your profit results.
Think HR has no bearing on profitability? Think again…
Having long been denounced as nothing more than a cost centre and a necessary part of doing business, the people management aspects of an organization (specifically HR) have been overlooked as an integral component of the profit structure of an organization. The link, however, is a lot stronger than many businesses have traditionally thought.
For small to medium-sized businesses who don’t even have an HR department, the impact of this study is even larger, as decisions made at owner-run businesses see an immediate trickle-down effect due to the smaller work structures, and can see a positive impact in the bottom linke much sooner than a larger organization. The key is in increasing the employee commitment to the organization.
Any one of the following measures can be implemented by a company to see a lasting improvement in financial returns (not to mention the cost-savings garnered from reduced turnover):
Employees generally feel that if an investment is made in them, they will return that investment in-kind. Establish a feeling of “repricosity” through:
Encouragement of ownership thinking
Fostering “buy-in” for organizational change measures
Using technology for process improvement, not just cost-cutting benefits. If employees are brought into the process on the ground level, working backwards and can have input into process design, hey are more willing to manage change, and feel a greater benefit of new technology as a tool for them—not just because it’s cheaper for the organization
Building a culture which values job-security – which means attaching value to the person over the employee number.
Each of these measures is fiscally achievable in one way or another, even for very small businesses and engage in the employee’s higher level needs, which leads to increased productivity, better customer interactions, a willingness to tackle challenges and stick with the company–all which have a positive impact on profit.
Small tweaks can often have the greatest impact on profitabilty, particularly if they are seemingly unrelated to the bottom-line. Remember that everything in your organization starts and ends with culture, so before you tweak your marketing, sales prices, or slash costs to boost productivity, have a critical look at how investments to your people-practices can pay you back in spades.
If you are not profitable, your business has a death date. At the very least it is a long trudging journey of survival as you go day to day hoping to have enough money in the bank to pay your bills. That is no way to live, and I’m sure it’s not why you started your business.
It’s time to make healthy profits non-negotiable! Here are three strategies you can implement immediately to boost profits:
Raise your prices – and if you’re like most business owners, your mind is already throwing up the objections “we won’t be competitive,” “Our customers are price-sensitive,” “We’ll lose our customers, ” and the list goes on. Before you spend too much time buying into your sabotaging beliefs, consider the actual impact of pricing through this example:
If your Gross Margin is currently 30% and you discount prices by 10% to win business, you need to make 50% more in sales to still make the same amount of profit. Versus if you raise your prices by 10%, your sales can decrease by 25% and you will still make the same amount.
And which customers do you think you might lose when you increase your prices? Yes, the pain-in-the-ass customers. And in our experience, most of the time minimal loss in incurred. What you really end up with is more profit.
As a small business, you want to be premium and expensive. And be sure your product or service matches your price point through quality and differentiation. If you are the same or worse than your competition, then forget about pricing, work on making your offering better first.
Build a profit-first budget. What this means is you develop a conservative business model that sets you up for success in being profitable. Most people plow ahead with rose coloured glasses and ‘hope it will all work ‘ That is not a good strategy.
Here are your four steps to creating a profit-first budget.
Make a conservative forecast for your sales for the next 12 months
Decide what level of profits you want. (i.e. 15%)
Build in your Gross Margin. You should know this. Make it conservative
Make your overhead fit in the amount left over.
E.G. Sales of $1,000,000, profit of 15%, Gross Margin of 30% = Overhead allowance of $150,000.
This methodology will make you take a hard look at expenses. Click here to view a short video that dives a bit deeper into this point
Negotiate – all business arrangements should be set up with the intention of win/win. That doesn’t mean you should take the first price someone gives you. There are always ways to find a better deal. Perhaps negotiating payment terms or buying in larger Or of course shopping around.
The underlying principle behind boosting profits and making this strategy work is your own negotiating skills. Most people are inherently bad negotiators. It invokes fear in people to ask for a better deal. To help you with this read “Never Split The Difference” by Chris Voss. It’s a game changer.
This video is NOT about how to get more referrals (well, not directly anyway) It’s about how to boost your level of trust with your clients or customers to become more referable. By identifying your best possible sources of referrals and building those relationships you will see a boost in both the quality and quantity of your referrals.
It’s a well-known fact that if you grow your people, you will grow your business – but how exactly do you raise the level of thinking to achieve those ends? Here are a few simple ways to boost the level of thinking in your key employees which will allow for desired growth.
The shortest path to more sales is already sitting dormant in your business right now.
Typically when we think about growing our sales, we put on our marketing hats on and think of all those prospects out there who are currently not buying from us. We think about all the marketing channels, advertising, social media, flyers and mailers and phone calls. And while some of these may be relevant, they are rarely the shortest path.
You already have people buying from you, who trust you and are happy with your business. Or at least I hope you do. How can you leverage this further? Here are three keys ways:
Referrals – before you spend any money on marketing for new customers, evaluate how well you are doing at servicing the heck out of your existing customers. If you are doing an outstanding job and they love you, you are well within your rights to ask for a referral. Make the ask appropriate for the relationship and make it easy for them to give. Be specific and grateful. If people ever feel pressured to give a referral, it will generally leave a bad taste. Be tactful and most important – make sure you are worthy!
Testimonials – as per the above point, when your customers love your business, capture that in the form of a testimonial. Many testimonials provide marketing leverage and it also solidify for your customer, how they feel about your business. There is something about committing to a written statement that makes a feeling real. Following up with a referral request after a testimonial is given can work well.
Add on sales – What else do they need? If you are in tune with your customers needs, odds are there are other things they need that you could be helping them with. This may be a natural extension of your existing offerings or it could be something outside your current scope of expertise. If you can offer the service directly, great. And if not then you can partner with someone who can. An example of this was a client of ours who did waterproofing. He’d had a couple of people ask him if he could recommend a window supplier. So he starting asking any customers who had old windows if they had thought about replacing them. If they said yes, he referred his ‘partner’ business to come and quote. Once the sales was made, our client received a commission on the sale.
Think about this … if you and your team made a habit of looking for these three opportunities in your existing customer base, what could be possible? I’m not saying you should never pay for advertising but I believe if you can’t get these three working for you first, there may be a problem in your business model.
When it comes to the word ‘sales’ everyone’s got their thoughts around it. Most commonly the initial thought reflex when someone here’s the word is a negative one. Most people have had that experience with the pushy sales person whether it was the classic used car scenario, or the door to door energy broker or even the fundraiser who’s working hard to hit target. And of course when we have a negative experience with anything, we tend to guide our behaviour to not be like that. So we tend to hear people say things like “I don’t have what it takes to be good at sales. I’m too nice” or “I just couldn’t sleep at night if I was in sales knowing I’ve manipulated someone”.
Any kind of thinking or believe that is along these lines, to put it bluntly, is misinformed. The truth is if you’ve ever worked to influence someone in anyway (ask someone out on a date, ask someone to be on your team, convince friends to go restaurant A vs B etc, bring a new idea into your workplace) you are in sales. Sales is the transference of an idea.
The trick is that bad sales is pushy transference of an idea and those who do it are simply untrained. End of story. Perhaps their ethics are questionable … maybe. I’m not saying those people aren’t out there but the vast majority of bad sales experiences simply come from a lack of training.
In this realisation there could be massive opportunity for you and your business. Here are a couple of things to think about
What are your beliefs around sales (positive or negative) and how does that affect your performance and ability to grow your business?
What are your teams beliefs around sales? Where could they be more assertive in spotting opportunities to help your customers?
What would the affect be on your business if everyone on your team had a healthy and positive view of sales AND had the skills to spot and nurture opportunities?
Assuming there is some opportunity there for you and your team, here are five tips you can use to change the way you and your team think about sales
Be a proactive helper – move from selling to helping. Think about it this way, what problem does your company solve? And if you were to come across a person or company with that problem, would you let them suffer or would you want to help? People who care about others always want to help. When you are feeling salesy it is most often because you are thinking about yourself and your commission, not how you can help someone. And remember, helping someone does not always mean you have to sell something. What do they truely need?
Become great at asking questions – when you can ask thought provoking questions, it is easier to engage people and find out what they need. Asking great questions also communicates that you are interested in them and you care. Great questions get to the emotion behind the problem or need. When you can help people achieve the feeling they are after, you make their life better.
Become an expert – to be able to help at the highest level, you need to be as good as you can be at what you do. When you are great at your craft, you have more ability to help others, ask better questions and you will naturally instil confidence in the person you are seeking to help. Deep knowledge builds confidence and confidence is crucial when it comes to influencing others.
Have a network – your customers have more problems than you have the ability to solve. To improve the value you can bring to others, have people in your network that can solve some of the other common problems your customers have. This puts you in a different league to your competitors, and ensure you are truely focused on helping vs making a sale. When people know your true intention, they feel good about you. When people feel good about you, trust goes up. When trust and likability go up, you make sales. And even if that person doesn’t buy from you (because they don’t have a true need), they may refer someone who will.
Play the long game – there are times when you should make a sale right here and now. There are other times when the timing is just not right. Have enough experience and objectivity to know the difference. The sales not made today can often become a much bigger sale down the track. My only caveat to this is don’t allow this to become an excuse for letting someone not make a decision when they really should. Influencing people in way that will benefit them can mean helping them to make a decision. Deference of decisions rarely helps.