Most people like to tell stories. Not falsehoods, but stories about things that have happened to them in the past or about a situation they found themselves in. Likewise, listeners like to hear a compelling story, particularly if the storyteller is engaging, true and sincere. Over my many years as sales leader, I have found that storytelling from both sides of the table is a great way to develop rapport and make a case. A salesperson can ask questions, propose solutions and talk about features and benefits all day. This is all well and good in the right order, but connecting your story and the listener’s personal situation, now that is powerful. If a salesperson can establish common ground between a past experience and a current situation, this will go a long way in developing an engagement with the prospect. So, try this on some of your upcoming calls and see how it goes. My guess is that you will make positive progress in your sales process.
Along with storytelling, referrals can also be very powerful. Since starting my own business a few months ago, I have spent most of my time developing a referral network. I have talked with other outsourcing firms, leadership and management consultants, private equity and M&A firms, as well as friends and past and present colleagues. Offering help to others as well as asking for help creates a strong channel to add to your direct marketing efforts in whatever market you might be. For example, one company I worked for produced liners for industrial containers used in various food, chemical and personal care markets. We regularly interacted with the container manufacturers in order to share notes on opportunities and assist each other with developments. These complementary companies provided solid leads on a regular basis (and we did as well) that helped us to supplement our pipeline. Obviously, all industries and markets are different, but it makes a lot of sense to identify the various companies who also support your clients and develop those networks accordingly.
Lastly, and most importantly, have a plan to retain your current customers. Customer retention is so important these days as it costs a lot to get a customer in the first place, and even more to try to get them back if they move to another supplier. Companies always need to be innovating and staying proactive with their current customer base in order to keep them from feeling like they need to look elsewhere. This could be in the form of cost, product development, service improvements, contact management or other creative measures. Many customers have increased profitability over time, so this alone should be a reason for you to make this part of your sales process and strategy. I know from experience how demotivating it can be to bring in new business and have if offset by customer retention issues. So, get ahead of the game and set up a strategy to keep your good customers.
As mentioned, there are many other strategies out there. Hopefully, you will find a few that resonate with your company culture and sales process. If you would like some help in developing a new strategic plan, please feel free to contact me and I will be happy to assist. Good luck and happy selling!
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