For the last year, I’ve been teaching my Fix Your Business Book Curriculum to entrepreneurs in the construction industry in Philadelphia. One of the biggest challenges they needed help with was sales and marketing. That made me think that what I shared with them could be helpful to any service business. In any business, you need to have a sales pipeline. When you develop a sales process, you can generate enough revenue to keep everyone busy. Without an effective sales plan, your company can not generate enough revenue to keep the doors open.
These three steps will get you started in planning out your sales strategy.
First, take the time to think about a few key questions. What do your customers want to buy, and why should they buy from you? Put yourself in your customer’s shoes. What would convince you to buy from your company?
Think about Benefits
Next, make a list of benefits your customers receive when they choose your company. Here is a list of potential benefits:
- You solve your customers’ problem
- You help make them more money
- You save them money
- You help them stretch resources
- You achieve what they want faster
- You reduce their stress
Asking the Right Questions
Finally, find out about what your customers want by listening to their answers…then help them get what they want.
If a potential customer does not think you can help them solve his or her problem at the right price, you will not be able to get the sales appointment you want. Working on service contracts requires a great deal of time building personal relationships, networking, providing great service, and using your negotiation skills. Do the work upfront, and then once you’re in, you’re in. At that point, the price will no longer an issue.
10 Ways to Develop a Sales Process
If you’ve been running your business for a while without a sales process, it’s time to get organized so that you can stop feast or famine sales from occurring in your business. Here are the ten strategies you can use as you develop a sales process.
1. Find Potential Customer Targets and Leads
Start your sales process by identifying past, repeat, and potential customers. Develop a customer target list. Call them, and check-in to find out if there’s any more work available or coming up. If you need an excuse to call, ask for a recommendation or review for your marketing materials or website.
2. Only Sell to the Best Customers
Every customer is not your customer. Go after your niche hard. Specialists charge more and are in higher demand. Make them an irresistible offer. When you are fishing for customers, it’s best to offer them the bait that they love to eat! If you are a subcontractor, avoid competing on price, if you can. It’s best to try to sweeten the deal with an add-on not specified in the scope of work. It takes more effort, and you’ll be lowering your profit margin, but if you’re willing to invest in your client, and do a great job, you could have a client for life.
3. Develop a Consistent Marketing Plan
Marketing is something that you must invest in two hours a day or dedicate two days a week in your business to build up your sales muscles. Once you have a target list, determine how you will engage your potential customers. You can send emails, create videos, podcast interviews, share articles, mail books, or handwritten notes. I recommend contacting customers at least every other month or at least quarterly to stay recognition. Start a birthday list or pick another holiday where you reach out to them all. Valentine’s Day is a good day to contact customers to share some love.
4. Attend Networking Events
You need to meet the decision-makers where they are. Make time weekly for supplier diversity events, industry conferences, chamber events, pre-bid meetings, etc. Put yourself out there so that people remember your business should an opportunity arise.
5. Keeping in Touch
To make a sale, you will have to get in front of your customers. To set a meeting, start with consistent phone calls, emailing, or direct mail to familiarize potential customers with your company and what it has to offer. Use email platforms such as ConstantContact or MailChimp or direct mail firms such as VistaPrint or Mail Shark to keep in touch with a color postcard mailer. No matter what you send, it always must be followed up with a phone call. Sales magic happens over the phone.
6. Use a CRM
To make a sale and get a signed contract, you will need a database of customers to pitch. To set a meeting, follow-up calls will need to be made, and emails sent to pique their interest in a meeting. Everyone you meet should go into a social media account such as LinkedIn and a CRM system such as Pipedrive or ZohoCRM to track the relationships and any sales touches. I recommend these two because they integrate with my favorite marketing automation tool MixMax.com. It’s a Gmail-based sales productivity tool that features 1-click scheduling, email tracking, templates, sequences, CRM sync, and direct-dial from Gmail. It’s very effective if you are not already using an email marketing program.
7. Preparing for the Sales Meeting
Consider your first meeting as a fact-finding mission where you are asking questions, listening for ways to solve their problems. It’s best to be more interested than interesting. Find out who will be at the meeting. Look them up on LinkedIn, and study their background for points of connection. Don’t go there to pitch but be ready to pitch if someone asks for more information. Remember, the meeting is not about your pitch. Ask how they do business, how they award contracts and what they like and dislike from a supplier. After the meeting, always send a handwritten thank-you note. It’s about learning the needs of your customers and seeing who has the juice to sign a deal.
8. Develop a Winning Proposal
After you receive the RFP, you must create a winning proposal. It should entice customers to buy from your company. Use visuals and photographs of case studies of prior work. Explain how you have solved problems for your customers. Offer to allow them to talk to one of your other customers. Convince them why they should buy only from you. Make sure your pitch overcomes their fears and concerns, price objections, and tell them how you will reduce their risk. Ask for the business, and price the job to make a profit. Competing on price is dangerous; focus on the value you will provide.
9. Follow up Aggressively
Your fortune is in your follow-up. Follow up at least every 48 hours after your submission to show you are interested in working with them. If the customer doesn’t return your calls, leave messages with additional ideas about how your company can perform better or save him or her money. Don’t give up. And, if you are not successful, find out why to fix it for next time.
10. After Winning the Contract Award
Use project management software to track the contract milestones. Have regular meetings with the client and your core team. Always follow up meetings with an email with the next steps, timelines, and deliverables. Be sure to note any deadline corrections or scope changes. After the project ends, send a thank note and a token gift of flowers, a fruit basket, a gift card to their favorite restaurant or a wine basket, if their company policies permit it.
Without a reliable sales process to follow, your sales will underperform. If you want to eliminate feast or famine in your business, the only route to success is to develop a sales process with the right knowledge, tools, and strategies.