What does it take to increase sales in today’s uncertain business environment?
This is a time of great change and uncertainty. Now more than ever, sales leaders and their account-based sales teams must be prepared for change.
Political systems around the world are in a state of upheaval, and we’re not sure where we stand. Our economy is on the upswing (mostly), but we know that could be temporary. Technology is constantly evolving and changing the way we work … and the way we sell.
So, how do we prepare? By staying relevant, analyzing markets, clarifying our ideal clients, interpreting data, determining how to align sales and marketing, and preparing for any economic possibility. Above all, to increase sales, the speed of decision-making must accelerate. Sales leaders must put the proverbial stake in the ground, take a position, communicate it to their sales reps, and set goals, metrics, and accountability aligned with that position.
Finally, account-based sales teams must continually evaluate and adjust their sales strategies, and in many cases, work differently to stay relevant and increase sales.
Here are three ways to guarantee sales leads for your B2B sales team. And yes, they will probably require some changes.
1. Look beyond your niche.
It used to be that you were at the top of your prospecting game if you targeted the Holy Grail of markets: software, semiconductor, manufacturing, professional services, networking, mobility, biotech. Then everyone targeted these markets, and suddenly they weren’t special anymore.
Today, there are new players, products, and technology that didn’t exist several years ago: Uber, Hulu, virtual reality, artificial intelligence, predictive analytics, drones, etc. The list goes on and on. Unicorns were the big news for a while, until most of them crashed and died. It used to be smart to take a company public as soon as possible, but now experts advise the opposite.
Confusing? Not necessarily.
Think of it this way. There are only two ways to increase sales: do more business with existing customers or find new customers.
One path is to identify new alliances or alternate distribution channels. Don’t rule anything out, not even your competition. My client, a community bank president, stays in touch with his peers, many of whom are competitors. Another bank might be in a position to better serve one of his clients. And ultimately, this bank president is looking for opportunities to buy other community banks in adjoining markets. So, by occasionally referring customers to his competitors, he gets referrals from them and builds relationships that could lead to business-development opportunities in the future.
Bottom line: There’s nothing wrong with niche marketing, but it’s wise to at least be prepared to cast a wider net.
2. Market your expertise.
The age of the generalist is gone. Buyers want to do business with B2B sales pros who make them look good. They can’t afford to make mistakes, especially today with the frenetic pace of competition and the race to get product to market the fastest. They want to work with account-based sales teams that have proven track records and expertise—either in their industries or on specific topics, such as sales, customer service, productivity, business process improvement, leadership, information technology … you get the picture.
This approach is counter-intuitive. We think the more we offer, the better, but the opposite is true. Position your account-based sellers as experts on specific topics or industries, or even on niche markets that your competition hasn’t recognized yet.
3. Guarantee predictable revenue with a referral program.
“Guarantee” might sound farfetched, but it’s not. You still need to increase sales, attract new clients, and expand business with existing clients. Your focus must be on mitigating risk, continuing to innovate, and driving both top- and bottom-line results.
Sales leaders across industries say their greatest challenges are:
- Generating a consistent stream of qualified leads
- Getting account-based sales teams calling high enough to reach decision-makers
A referral program addresses these challenges and more.
Want predictable revenue via referrals? Then referral selling must be a priority, not an afterthought. That means you need a systematic, disciplined referral program that includes strategy, goals, metrics, and accountability for results.
Referrals are the #1 lead generation strategy to ensure your account-based sellers get every meeting in one call. Referred salespeople are pre-sold. Prospects consider them experts, value their time and ideas, and actually want to hear from them—which is why they convert those prospects into customers around 70 percent of the time. With referrals, salespeople get in early with the right prospects, develop relationships, clarify their needs, and set the standard by which others are evaluated. In most cases, the competition never even gets a meeting.
Referral selling is a scalable and predictable prospecting strategy. But 95 percent of companies don’t have a well-developed referral program. Their account-based sales teams waste time cold calling and thinking technology can do their jobs, when they could be filling their pipelines with hot referral leads.
What’s stopping you from committing to a referral program? After all, you have my guarantee.
What Do You Think?
As I’m writing this post, I’m thinking about positioning my business differently … or not. What about you? Let’s start a conversation.