Grow sales in a tough economy – five tips to improve your sales productivity

Is your sales team chasing the wrong business? Sales performance can suffer when your team focuses on marginal opportunities. Now that the economy is so weak, you and your team might be tempted to hunt down practically anything with a pulse and an address. But in tough times like this, choosing the right accounts is more important than ever. Streamline sales management to focus on making the right customer selection. Here are five simple tips to help your team focus on the bottom line, increase productivity, and control costs.

Tip #1: Small deals can prevent big deals. There’s only so much selling time around. When sales reps spend all their time chasing small, unprofitable deals, shaky projects, or otherwise dangerous sales, they won’t have the time or energy to make truly valuable deals. Tame the urge to do business at any cost. Avoid the temptation to push your team to high levels of activity without regard to the results of the activity. Make sure your employees can tell the difference between good deals and deals at any cost.

Tip #2: Ideal customers produce ideal sales. Define the characteristics of the customers you want to attract and keep. Then indicate the details of acceptable deals: margin, scope of the project, other characteristics. What are they for your company? Give your team a documented benchmark to help them select the best prospects and customers available in your market. This benchmark has a positive effect on the efficiency of your sales team. It will improve their qualification skills and shorten the overall sales cycle.

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Tip #3: Clearance is important, but not everything. The ideal sale is always profitable, no question about it. But it also has to be a sale that allows you to keep all your promises. You should be able to deliver the goods, help deliver the promised ROI, provide effective support or advice, and exceed your customers’ expectations in every way. If you can do this, you’re more likely to retain that customer, convince them to buy again, and even buy other products and services. They will also be more likely to refer you to others. Make sure your sales reps know how to meet your company’s goals for excellent customer service or innovation, as well as revenue goals.

Tip #4: Don’t sell it if you can’t deliver it. The old cliché says, “Never confuse selling with delivery.” Wipe that out of your mind! If engineering can’t design it, or production can’t make it, or trucking can’t deliver it efficiently and competitively, you shouldn’t even try to sell it. Make sure the inside matches the outside. Stop your sales reps from selling projects you can’t deliver!

Tip #5: If you’re going to lose, lose early. Some offers are wrong for your company. The right time to “lose” those deals is in the first few hours of your sales rep’s qualification process. Because the cost of selling time is so high, it’s best to find out early if the deal isn’t winnable. Help sales reps figure out if the prospect has enough potential to justify the investment of their time. Show them how to disqualify opportunities as easily as they qualify them. Don’t wait for your sales team to spend hours preparing a proposal only to realize you don’t want or can’t afford that deal.