When seeking ways to increase sales, most sales managers and business owners tend to focus on improving the close ratios. While doing so is a legitimate tactic, improving the close ratio of a sales team can be challenging. On the other hand, increasing opportunities for the sales team is a fairly easy task.If the close ratio of the sales team is 40% and the sales team generates 100 opportunities each week, then the result is 40 closes or sales. To improve the close ratio to 60% within the 100 opportunities each week is a challenge. On the other hand, if the number of weekly opportunities for the sales team is increased to 150, and the close ratio remains constant at 40%, then 60 sales are generated during the week.In other words, the same result occurs for either choice, but increasing the opportunities is an easier path to take versus increasing the close ratio. The process identified and described in the following paragraphs is guaranteed to work because it is built on and around the simple objective to increase opportunities for sales personnel rather than to improve closing ratios.An increase to sales is likely to be realized quickly once these few, simple additions and adjustments to the selling process are implemented. The additions and adjustments are elements of a process, not a procedure. Consequently, any of the elements identified may be addressed and implemented without having to wait for another element to complete.Increase face time of outside sales team with present and potential customers. Think of your business as a professional football team. The sales personnel are the running backs. They carry the ball (products and services) to existing and potential customers. The more time the sales team is in front of a customer, the greater the likelihood that a sales event (touchdown) will occur.Recently a business owner told me that his sales were dropping and he asked me what he could do to turn things around. He said that their company recently purchased a sales software program that worked well with his mail order division, so he employed the software in the territory sales division. The software program called for each sales rep to make fifty calls each day seeking an appointment before heading out to make calls. That’s half a day’s time! I simply told the business owner that his running backs were sitting on the bench the entire first half and not scoring touchdowns, so he should find others to make the phone calls so his sales team members could optimize their time in front of customers.Establish a quota or increase the quota of telecommunication contacts with existing or potential customers required each day for the inside sales team. As stated previously, the objective of this process is to increase opportunities for the sales teams. If your business has an inside sales team, then establish a daily quota for outgoing calls to existing customers to sell products or to potential new customers to introduce your company and its products and services. If you already have daily quotas, then increase the number. It is amazing what the impact of just one or two additional calls each day will have on sales.All sales personnel must develop and submit their sales contact plan each week. Every very good and great sales rep has a plan for the day, the week and the weeks that follow. Every very good and great sales rep shares that plan with the sales manager. Every very good and great sales rep knows the importance of providing this timely marketing information.Most all other sales reps don’t really have a plan for much beyond a day or two. You know, it’s the where should I go and what should I do today approach. That type of planning is not beneficial to increasing sales. Some type of formal routine reporting and planning feedback must be installed to assure increased sales.As a sales manager for many years, I used with great success a rolling four weeks calendar layout report sent to me each Friday afternoon without fail. Week one showed what companies and customer contacts the sales rep fulfilled during the week about to end. Week two showed where the sales rep planned to be and who the sales rep planned to meet with during the week starting on Monday. The week was planned in full with no blank days, question marks or any maybe.Weeks three and four were tentative. Again no blank days were permitted, but since these two weeks were tentative plans, there could be some question marks and a maybe or two.Besides the important marketing information these reports provided, the sales reps developed better time management skills. It also conditioned them to think and to plan ahead. Every sales manager will appreciate these habits as they are great contributors to closing sales.Sales reps should act rather than react, as well as rely more on support team members than trying to do it all yourself. When asked, many, if not most, sales reps will declare that their first priority and responsibility is Customer Service. Their actions support the notion.As we stated previously, the sales rep is the running back who carries the ball for the company. The largest part of the reason why the sales rep carries the ball is that the sales rep by definition is a closer. The sales rep’s job is to score touchdowns, or in other words, to promote and to close sales of products and services to customers.Customer Service is an important part of the sales satisfaction mix, but Customer Service is everyone’s job in the company, not just the sales rep’s job. Nonetheless, when a customer calls with a problem or a gripe, most sales reps will stop what they are doing and respond to the customer complaint – even if they are at the site of another customer! My view on that behavior has always been that there is nothing or no one more important for me than the customer I am with at the time.Additionally some sales reps will go as far as to deliver customer orders instead of relying on traditional delivery methods. This is a really bad practice especially if the sales rep is not using a company-owned vehicle to deliver the products. There are simply too many potential injury and accident risks. Fortunately, many liability insurance carriers are strongly discouraging or excluding this practice from coverage.If business owners and sales managers want to increase sales, then the closers must continue to do their closing duties and rely on support team members to handle delivers and to assist with solving customer problems.Reduce “Windshield time”. When I travelled with a sales rep, I made note of how much time we spent driving to one place from another. At the end of our time together, I would share the total with the sales rep. It was often a staggering number and certainly an eye-opener. Sometimes and depending often on the metropolitan area, a long travel time from one customer to another was just something that really couldn’t be controlled very well. Often that was not the case, so I took the time to pass on to the sales rep the lesson I learned from my manager as a first time territory sales rep. The message or lesson is a very simple one: plan customer calls for each day to be as close together as possible. If the sales rep has an appointment with a customer in Middletown, then the sales rep should spend the remainder of his day in or near Middletown.Seek and Find New Business opportunities. New Business is commonly defined as either adding a new product to an existing customer or adding a new customer. Sometimes reviving dormant sales of products to an existing customer can be classified as New Business as well.This element may be the most challenging of the process. Sales reps tend to settle into a comfortable routine and to concentrate almost exclusively on serving the needs of present customers. Nonetheless, increasing the opportunities to close a sale cannot be limited to present customers.Business owners and sales managers must not just encourage New Business sales, but demand it. Sales reps must document their contacts or meetings with potential new customers. A quota of contacting one or two potential new customers each week may be reasonable. It most certainly will be productive. In fact, the New Business opportunity source may have the greatest revenue potential of all the elements of the process.
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