How to survive in 2009

In these difficult times, it is vital that business owners understand their sales figures, which means ensuring they are measured. Whichever routes to market your business uses; be it pay per click advertising on the web, networking or holding seminars etc., you need to know how many prospects you have to make contact with in order to secure a meeting and how many meetings it takes to write some business. If in your business you don’t need to meet customers, you still need to know how many prospects you must contact in order to make a sale.

Once you have determined these figures, you can start taking control of your sales process. For example, you may know you have to make contact with 30 people to secure a meeting and that one in five meetings results in business. With this knowledge taken into account, you will then know that if you need to acquire two clients a month to meet your growth targets, you need to have 10 meetings a month, which means making contact with 300 people. The figures may vary slightly month on month but over the year they will bear out.

Once you have the basic set of figures, you can start to improve them. Effective selling is about targeting the people you can help the most. The more refined you can make the targeting, the better the results. It may be that your product or service appeals to a wide ranging audience. However, it is better to target segments of that audience, at different times, with appropriate messages. This resonates even more in a downturn. For even in a difficult economic climate there will be sectors of the market who are doing well and have money to spend.

Think about your product or service. Which groups are doing well in this climate that you could specifically target? Alternatively, are there sectors of the market who will be struggling, and to whom you could make a difference? People often get nervous about being so precise. They feel that by targeting a narrow audience, they will be missing out on opportunities. In fact, the opposite is true.

Take an accountant. They promote themselves saying they can work with anybody. Several people hear their message but it resonates with no one and the accountant receives no enquiries.

However, having done some recent work for property companies who need to re-evaluate their financials in the current environment, the accountant now starts to tell people they specialise in working with property companies who are finding times difficult. This time the message resonates with two different individuals who know companies that are struggling and the accountant receives these enquiries.

Nothing has changed; just the message.

If you try to appeal to everyone, you will actually appeal to no one. Make sure you target specific markets with appropriate messages.

Targeting specific groups can improve your figures, as can the route to market you choose. For example, some businesses may find the most effective way to reach prospects will be networking. Others will find web advertising or exhibitions more appropriate. If you measure your statistics, you will start to find the best way of targeting your potential customers. It is most likely that a mixture of different routes will be the most effective way of reaching your audience.

Whichever routes to market you use, never stop prospecting. No matter how busy you are, you must build time into every week to prospect for new customers. If you don’t have time, then find a cost effective way to prospect that doesn’t take up too much time. This may mean hiring someone else or outsourcing some of the process. Even if your business is currently not feeling the effects of the recession don’t take your existing business for granted.

2009 does not have to be the gloomy year that is being predicted. If you measure your sales statistics, improve the numbers by clever targeting and always keep prospecting for new customers, you will come out of the year stronger and more resilient than ever, while others are struggling.

Grant Leboff is Principal of The Intelligent Sales Club working with companies on sales and marketing strategy and lead generation; creating a steady stream of sales opportunities for businesses. For information visit www.intelligentsalesclub.com 

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