How a well-executed Sales Action Plan reels in customers…and money.
Let’s get some things straight about sales first.
Sales is a highly misunderstood business concept, and one that is not given its fair share of importance. For example, almost every university around the globe offers business programs and business courses. Students can take a course in financial or managerial accounting, management, marketing, research or statistics. But if I asked you to find me a university course on how to sell – you would be hard-pressed.
Yet, of all the topics listed above, sales is the only one your business can not survive without. It’s no wonder farmers who buy franchises in the United States have better success rates than do MBA’s. A well-thought-out and well-implemented sales action plan is pivotal to the success of any business. See this article on what a good sales plan outline includes.
Marketing … Sales – what’s the difference?
Many people confuse marketing and sales as being the same thing. They aren’t.
Marketing is about interacting with potential buyers through advertising, promotion, packaging, distribution, location, pricing. Marketing is about opening up to your target market. Market research is a critical component to building a successful marketing plan.
Sales is about interaction with actual buyers. It’s about presenting to people who need the kind of solutions your product or service offers, and getting the order. In other words, Sales is about closing the deal.
The Five Pillars to a Powerful Sales Action Plan.
An effective sales action plan demonstrates your focus on selling your product or service. After all, since sales is most likely going to be the main source of your business’ revenue, you really can’t afford not to be sales-oriented. Here are the main points to cover in your plan:
1. Prove that your product or service can sell.
It’s one thing to say there’s a market for your product or service. It’s another to have potential buyers lined up and willing to pay for it. Getting a commitment from potential customers to buy from you before you startup sends a strong message that you’re serious about doing business, and that your efforts convert into sales. Nothing else can be more assuring to a potential investor or lender than a list of committed buyers. (see what a sample sales and marketing plan includes and how writing a sales plan can help you define your product/service sales.)
Identify who your potential buyers are, contact them and line up some orders before presenting your sales action plan.
2. Be customer-focused.
As I said earlier, the term sales is so often coined negatively, it’s sometimes hard to see it as a good thing to promote. But sales is all about doing the “little things” that make a big difference with customers. Sales is about answering questions, easing concerns, showing benefits, and going the extra mile to satisfy your customers. Show your audience how your business will adopt a culture that nurtures customer satisfaction, which in turn generates sales. A strong sales training plan will foster this type of culture among your sales team members.
Many entrepreneurs would be happy to have nothing to do with selling their product or service. In truth, your product or service won’t sell on its own. But what will you do when a major buyer wants to deal with the owner? Be sure that the sales culture you set begins with you.
3. Build for long-term relationships.
Your sales strategy should be based on the right kind of values. As the old saying goes, treat others as you would want them to treat you. Create an environment which treats customers with dignity and fairness. Do anything and everything – except be dishonest – to get the sale. Demonstrate in your sales action plan that you are committed to long-term customer relationships.
4. Pay sales people for performance.
Here I am not merely talking about reaching monthly targets. Build careers for your sales team members, and compensate them for long-term performance. By doing so, you also ensure your salespeople build customer relations with honesty and integrity. On the other hand, not doing so encourages them to focus on short-term thinking, which often leads to using dishonest means of getting the sale.
Be careful to compensate sales people not for making the sale, but for collecting on the sale. Also provide a monthly or annual base to minimize the potential for short-term thinking.
5. Keep track of your customers.
The most successful organizations keep track of their customers using sales management and tracking programs. These ensure that your sales pipeline is accessible and that your sales team is prompted to follow-up with customers. They allow you to see the stage of every sales cycle for each client, and maintain a history and data file for each client.
Make sure you show how you will manage your customer interactions in your sales action plan.