How does a company achieve sales success in a challenging market? That was the focus of a recent Sales Game Changers Podcast hosted by Fred Diamond, Co-founder and President of the Institute for Excellence in Sales.
Diamond's guest, Supporting Strategies Chief Evangelist and VP of Franchise Development Steve Schultz, said success starts with a simple reality check. "Our goals didn't change," Schultz said of the company's approach during the COVID-19 pandemic, "but our tactics have had to change."
Those adjusted tactics include the following …
Narrowing the Target Market
It's no surprise that a company specializing in outsourced bookkeeping and controller services would have figured out the math that adds up to sales success. "We know our numbers," Schultz said. "We studied them for 17 years specific to our business, and we know that only 15% of the people you meet will eventually give you a referral."
With many traditional sales venues such as conferences and trade shows shut down, maintaining those numbers required finding new sources for prospective clients. "In our world, that means building relationships with other trusted advisers who are currently working with the same customers," Schultz said. "It's about playing in the right sandbox. If you know your typical client is a $1 million to $40 million business, hang out with other people who service $1 million to $40 million businesses."
Schultz said a good starting point is your local Business Journal. "Every major market has one," he said. "Go there and get their 'Book of Lists.'"
He also recommended an approach that might seem counterintuitive: "My personal sales philosophy is get to 'no' as fast as possible," he said. "I'd rather have you say 'no' today than wait six months. Because I know my numbers, and the faster I get to the no's, the quicker I'm left with the yesses."
Celebrating Every Success
Don't let the sad state of the economy tamp down your enthusiasm, Schultz recommended. "In tough times, I want to celebrate success louder and more vibrant than anyone else," he said. "So every Monday I personally do a shout-out to every single deal that's been sold throughout the company. I send a congratulatory ring-the-bell with a funny GIF. It encourages people."
Schultz said a positive approach resonates with customers as well as team members. "As you venture forth in this tough market," he said "celebrate your successes and let your customer do it with you."
Applying Proven Solutions to New Problems
The surest way to put your customers in a celebratory mood is to relieve their pain points. "If you can solve the problems of your clients, you'll sell in any market, good or bad," Schultz said.
Schultz learned that lesson during his days as a computer salesman. "I was a good salesman because I was a good engineer," he said. "The people I was talking to, I could solve their problems. That's what sales really is."
Today, Schultz uses the same approach to sell remote bookkeeping and controller services. "If it's a 30-minute sales call, the first 25 minutes is me asking the customer about their business," he said. "What are their problems? How do they do things? What are the challenges in accomplishing their goals? I'm a technical expert around bookkeeping, so I know what questions to ask them about how they pay their people and how they pay their bills. When they're sitting there, they're thinking, 'This doesn't sound like a sales call.'"
But while the goal — solving the customer's problems — hasn't changed during the pandemic, the nature of those problems has. And it's a matter of positioning Supporting Strategies as the solution. "Today you have business owners who recognize, 'I can't get in my office, but I need to do my work,' Schultz said. "They didn't know there's this outsourced remote bookkeeping opportunity available."
Organize, Energize, Evangelize
The final sales lesson for every small-business owner to take away from the pandemic is this: Leave yourself a margin for error. "There are things you can do to make yourself a better business, a more resilient business," Schultz said. "You need to recognize change, to anticipate change, to position yourself for a downturn, to manage your cash."
So keep your financials in order, keep your focus on solving your customers' problems — and most of all, keep the faith. "Be passionate and be excited," Schultz said. "Be an evangelist for your brand and you'll be successful."
At Supporting Strategies, our experienced, U.S.-based professionals use secure, best-of-breed technology and a proven process to provide a full suite of bookkeeping and controller services. Are you ready to learn how you can move your business forward? Contact Supporting Strategies today.
Leslie is founder and CEO of Supporting Strategies.
This website is created by Supporting Strategies to provide general bookkeeping and accounting information only. Supporting Strategies does not provide tax, legal or accounting advice, and the information contained herein is not intended to do so. As such, the information provided should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional tax, legal, and accounting advisors, and you should consult with a tax, legal and accounting professional before engaging in any transaction.
Supporting Strategies is not a CPA firm.