By Karin Bellantoni
Every new year deserves to kickoff with a well conceived game plan. Now is an opportune moment for ISOs to craft a winning sales strategy for the coming year. After all, in today's fiercely competitive sales environment only the best will thrive and grow.
For starters, a sales plan must be succinct and simple. To create a strategic, tactical plan for acquiring new accounts and growing revenue from your existing merchant base, experts recommend that the plan focus on generating 75 percent of revenue from new business and 25 percent from existing clients.
Early in my entrepreneurial career, I realized the importance of achieving weekly goals in my overall plan. My business partner and I would meet in San Francisco at a different breakfast spot each Monday to review the plan, make weekly goals and commit to daily activities that would support the weekly goals. Weekly sessions began with an earnest assessment of the prior week's accomplishments, making me highly accountable for actions taken.
What is most important is to find a system that works for you. If you are just dusting off your 2011 plan and changing a few numbers and client names, you are not going far enough. If your sales manager writes a plan without including sales force input, that could also prove fatal in accomplishing anything new, different or improved.
An effective sales plan is an active document developed collaboratively between sales professionals and sales managers. It includes specific activities that will support achievement of company, department and individual goals.
Planning is a process. Sales plans need to be modified with real-time results and qualitative input. Reviewing your plan regularly will keep you in touch with your goals and strategies. Schedule two days each month at an offsite location one hour earlier than you usually begin the day.
During that time:
Analysis is critical. Sales professionals in a typical organization devote only 14 percent of their time to actual selling. That's less than two hours a day. Speaking from personal experience, applying an effective sale plan can actually increase selling time.
In formulating a plan, you must first take inventory.
The Internet has forever changed the playing field. And with today's slow-growth economy, business for ISOs is highly competitive. Concepts like "social selling" have become critical. Your customers have gone social, but maybe your competition hasn't. What is your strategy?
The buying process has also undergone change. Sales reps aren't just selling products and services; they are selling solutions, their company and themselves. There are multiple channels of communication: Internet, cell phone, voice mail, "snail mail" and social networking that demand immediate, real-time interaction.
Prospects know a great deal about you and your company well before you contact them. In addition, products have become commodities. How will you understand the prospects challenges in a new way?
The selling process is about adapting to buyer needs and using resources constructively. Above all, clients demand superior service, knowledge and competence. Speed of execution and response to merchants are part and parcel of the sales process.
Sales professionals must seek every available outlet for lead generation, communication, credibility and knowledge. And this requires learning new sales and marketing techniques. Agents must also understand what competitors are doing and what challenges prospects face in order to gain a sustainable competitive edge.
After a thorough internal analysis and assessment of your general sales strategy, ask yourself these two questions: What am I going to do differently next year? How am I going to make it happen? Your plan should be specific in terms of activities, with weekly goals that correlate with company approved goals and expectations.
Your answers to these questions should include:
Now it's time to strategize how you will become more effective at growing your business. To do so you must cover the following bases:
proceed with how and when you will execute your plan to achieve maximum results.
Next, determine how you can become more efficient and devote more time to selling. Here are some actions to take:
Efficiency defines how you can generate more selling time and more customer contacts.
Knowing how important it is to continually gauge the effectiveness of new strategies, how do you measure success before you see the monthly sales report? Key performance indicators (KPIs) are an ideal solution because they measure and track all activities leading up to the sales close.
KPIs should be segmented by prospect category, by week and include number of contacts made, appointments set, follow-up attempts per close, closing ratios, total sales volume, total sales dollar amount, average dollar amount per sale, market share by merchant category, and results versus goals for the current and prior sales period measured.
Many businesses fail to adequately invest in results measurement tools. Yet without these tools, unrealistic expectations persist regarding customer relationship management (CRM) and sales results. Mobile technology is available to create a bridge to the CRM and provide paperless, real-time feedback to managers and sales agents. When looking at sales force software the real goal is to reduce data entry and increase customer face time.
The formula to success calls for increased skill through perpetual practice, spending more time selling and focusing on the right decision makers at the right merchant targets. It sounds simple, but a well executed plan wins every time.
Karin Bellantoni is the President of Blueprint SMS (Sales Management Science), where she finds untapped potential in her clients' business-to-business (B2B) sales process. She works with B2B sales teams at all stages in their evolution. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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