Sales Challenges: Getting to Your Next Sales Level
When the 2022 golf season kicked off, my handicap was 23.8. For those of you who aren’t smart enough to know better than to throw untold amounts of time, money, and energy at this frustratingly wonderful sport, that’s not great. My goal was to end the year at a number that rhymes with “green” (as in a handicap in the teens). When the flags were pulled and the season was over, I had achieved that goal, and I began 2023 as a 17.6 handicap.
Like selling, there’s no finish line in golf. It’s a constant pursuit to improve. I had a hole-in-one in 1998. Using a 7 iron on a 168-yard par 3, I stuck it in the pin on the fly. It was the perfect shot, yet I didn’t quit the game to take up tennis. There is a next level. There is always room to improve.
What’s your next level in sales? Are you new to the game, and want to break through and build a book of business? Do you have a few years’ experience now, and are trying to hit the seven figure mark? Are you a legacy sales rep with all the business you need, but find yourself bored and unmotivated?
Unless you have a retirement date picked out and the going-away party is planned, you must be thinking ahead. You must be thinking about your next level. You must not be stagnant. Why “must”? Two reasons. First, it’s boring not to. Second, if you are not moving ahead, you’ll start to slide backwards. So, let’s get you to your next level.
Step One: Define It
To begin, you need an ending in mind. That is, what does your “next level” look like? You might pick a dollar amount. Perhaps it’s a number of new accounts you have in mind. Or maybe size matters and you are thinking big, as in landing a few Big Fish. An exercise that might help: Sit with a blank pad of paper and a pen, and answer this question: “Where do I want to be 12 months from today?” Go into as much detail as possible as it will help you determine your goal.
Step Two: Map It
Next, you will need to figure out where the sales growth that will get you to the next level is coming from. There are two obvious choices. You can either get more business from your existing accounts or get new business from new accounts. For most of us, hitting our goal will be a combination of both, and will require a plan for each. Some ideas …
Strategies to Get New Business From Existing Customers:
- A general approach where you contact clients and remind them of everything you sell — Yes, you have told them countless times before, but remember, the six worst words you can hear a client say are, “I didn’t know you did that.” Why? Because the next eight words out of their mouth will be, “I just placed a huge order for some.” Tell them again … and again.
- Networking — Ask your contacts to introduce you to others at their company. This is your best and most ripe low-hanging fruit.
- Get specific — Choose a specific product or service you offer, such as wide-format, or print and mail, and build a sales campaign around it.
Strategies to Get New Business From New Customers:
- A general prospecting process consisting of a step-by-step systematic approach — You know, get out there and sell consistently.
- Get specific — This is the same general idea as the bullet point above, but in this case you might think about contacting a vendor to tap into their application knowledge base.
- Targeting a vertical market — Focus your selling energies on banks, colleges, or hospitals.
A Sales Reminder: It might’ve been some time since you attempted to expand your client base, so here’s a quick review of what it takes: Make well-researched, high-value sales calls on the right target markets, applying a prospecting process with diligence. Do those four things and your business will grow. If at any time you are struggling, the problem is one or more of these four components.
Step Three: The Time Factor
In all likelihood, you are going to need to find a time for this new sales effort. You could put in more hours, but you probably are (or think you are) at capacity already in that department. As such, you are going to need to boost your sales productivity. This might mean making some difficult choices.
For example, by adding the word, “No,” to your vocabulary, you might discover you suddenly have selling time that you didn’t before. Not everyone is your ideal customer. Some are clients who helped get you where you are, but that does not automatically mean they are your key to moving forward. This is a difficult decision to make, but one that frees up your calendar for other, better opportunities.
Step Four: Outside Factors
- Marketing — What shape is your LinkedIn profile in? Are
you posting quality messages on a regular basis? A good marketing campaign greases the skids for your selling efforts’ effectiveness. A great marketing campaign gets the phone ringing with inbound inquiries.
- Management — What help do you need from above? If you have a manager, you have the benefit of someone to bounce ideas off of. Plus, they can hold you accountable and keep you on track with your sales activities. If you don’t have a manager, find someone in your life and ask them for a weekly phone call to help manage the process.
- Motivation — Got a kid in college? Seen your most recent electric bill? If so, you’ve got all the motivation you need. If not, make certain to spend some time on this important factor. Something needs to be driving you, be it the carrot, or the stick.
Where to Start
Like so many things in life, preparation is the key. Thinking first about where you want to end up, and then pondering your best targets for new business opportunities, is a process that will likely take several attempts to create and then fine-tune. Take your time and plan thoroughly. This is not a small task.
On the other end, it’s simple accountability that will keep your plans moving forward. How many gym memberships see early success, but ultimate failure, due to a lack of effort? How many times do we vow off fast food, but soon hear the words, “Welcome to Chick-fil-A. Can I take your order?”
You will start your “next level” pursuit with good intentions, but you need to plan for a hiccup or two and need a plan to get back on track. That is accomplished by reconnecting with your motivating factor, or keeping a copy of that electric bill handy.
Bill Farquharson is a respected industry expert and highly sought after speaker known for his energetic and entertaining presentations. Bill engages his audiences with wit and wisdom earned as a 40-year print sales veteran while teaching new ideas for solving classic sales challenges. Email him at email@example.com or call (781) 934-7036. Bill’s two books, The 25 Best Print Sales Tips Ever and Who’s Making Money at Digital/Inkjet Printing…and How? as well as information on his new subscription-based website, The Sales Vault, are available at salesvault.pro.