One of the hardest things for small businesses to learn is how to sell effectively as an organisation.
A typical startup or small business has a very energetic founder or managing director who has a lot of contacts, a load of passion for the business and product and chutzpah. Anyone they meet they try to qualify and sell to.
As the founder does this well the business grows and then faces a dilemma. Do we have the founder as point man doing sales, does he manage delivery or does he focus on running the business? In almost all these cases sales takes a hit and its difficult for new business development executives to generate the same level of revenue.
Sales Done the Founder’s Way
Why is this? Firstly it’s a function of the entrepreneurial ‘magic’. When you do it for yourself you work harder and better than when you are doing it for salary. More importantly a founder will constantly iterate and innovate until he gets his product or service to market. That often means that whatever the marketing plan says – whatever the ideal customer personas is – the sales will span several vertical and horizontal market segments.
One sale may be to government, the next to a MNC. Then there are a string of sales to startups and then several in the energy sector. A business development executive can rarely replicate this approach and needs a much more focused way of doing business.
For a new salesperson trying to emulate this can mean shooting in all directions at once. To get things on a firmer footing several steps are necessary
Who are Our Best Customers?
The first step is normally to step back from the sales process and have another look at who the perfect customer is. Back during the initial launch this was a guess. Now with a few years of data and sales behind the business you can have a look and ask questions like?
- Where did we get out biggest sales?
- Where were the most profitable sales?
- Which jobs were we able to close fastest?
- Which jobs were we able to upsell more?
- Which sectors are the easiest to handle?
There are plenty more questions but matched with an understanding of customer needs and requirements you can then resegment your base and decide to focus on a particular customer group. Of course, the founder or CEO is going to keep bringing in business through his connections. That’s awesome.
Vertical or Horizontal Focus
Business Development needs a tight tight focus to deliver the goods
Examples of focus may be –
- Engineering companies in Malaysia with a lifting capacity of at least 100 MT and a rolling capacity of at least 100mm.
- Native chinese speakers who are fluent in English and translate industry specific sales material at least 5 times a year.
- Small businesses with a mozrank of less than 20 and a predicted customer LTV of more than $10,000
In each of these cases the business development can then do their research and generate leads who meet the requirements. And this has some pretty profound effects on sales.
Impact on Sales
First of all they are selling to similar people with similar problems every day. So they gain experience faster and variability in the sales process and proposal writing decreases significantly. It can even be possible to start offering standardised products focused on very narrow niches (whether or not they are advertised as such.)
Secondly sales and marketing collateral can become far more specific and you can develop very specific drip and remarketing campaigns to engage and convert prospects. Objection handling also becomes far easier as again the variety of loss reasons reduces.
Finally as you focus on a narrow vertical or horizontal you are able to slowly build a robust process that enables the business to scale. If the niche is large enough you can add additional BD or sales people in and say “Do it this way” or if you want to expand to other similar niches you then have a template that you can modify. Either way new starters ramp up much faster to OTE than if you give them some collateral and say “Go sell”
Lots of Shots on Target Has a Huge Impact on Sales
With a clear target and a strong sales process business development can crank out the shots just like in this video of a 1919 machine gun in action