Sales and marketing are inextricably linked and it’s not uncommon for the same person to carry out both functions, particularly in smaller businesses.
Good sales and marketing are key to business success.
So we asked Freelance Sales (UK) director Jeremy Wilkinson to share his tips on the essential skills and tools a salesperson needs.
A rolling business plan is indispensable for a sustainable enterprise. But to maximise sales potential, you also need a sales and marketing plan. This should dovetail with your overall business plans for the future. You should be planning for trading periods of one year, three years, five years and beyond. Your sales and marketing plan should be honest, realistic and feature:
- Product/service strengths
- Key, targeted customers
- New business opportunities
- Attracting new customers
- A simple SWOT analysis (Strengths/Weaknesses/Opportunities/Threats) of your product/service
- You and/or your company’s USP (unique selling point)
The sales and marketing plan should be a live document so you can regularly update, fine-tune and amend it to reflect the evolving business landscape. “The only constant in life is change” is a truism I learnt from the owner of a successful global family-owned business.
Once you have your sales plan you need to think about the supporting collateral in your sales toolbox, including:
- Sales and marketing materials, such as business cards, sales flyers and brochures. These should all be consistently designed with the same logo promoting you and your business.
- A good website that reflects you and your business strengths and promotes your products or services in clear, simple language to both new and existing customers. Don’t forget that your website, by default, makes you a potential global exporter!
- Accessible contact channels so existing and new customers can easily reach you to discuss new sales opportunities. Don’t neglect social media. Platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter etc make it very easy to establish a strong business profile no matter where you are geographically based.
While the ‘nuts and bolts’ you have in your business sales tool box are very important, they are far more valuable when they are supported by a sales mindset, which should be cultivated across all areas of your business.
New sales are the lifeblood of a growing business (unfortunately, you can’t always rely on past sales to support you and your business into the future). To maximise the potential of converting enquiries into new sales, establish a culture where everyone in the business promotes and demonstrates excellent customer service. Customers who enjoy dealing with you will keep returning.
Whether you are a sole trader or part of a multinational with dedicated sales personnel, the reality is that everybody works in sales. Every time someone answers the phone or is in contact with anyone outside the company, their behaviour could influence a potential client’s buying decision.
Think about what it must be like for new and existing clients to approach you and your business. If you were a customer, would you find the process easy and enjoyable? How can you make the sales contact a better experience? Do your customers get a follow-up contact to ensure they have received good service?
Delivering this sales culture consistently can be challenging given the daily pressures of running your business, especially in the early stages of a start-up, but it is well worth it and will always pay off.
It’s all very well having the right sales tools and skills, but often sales decisions are also influenced by personal attributes. So, what personal attributes are key to success in the sales game?
- Positivity: People like to see and deal with positive, upbeat people. Try to nurture a positive outlook when in customer-facing mode.
- Empathy: Always try to see things from your customer/client’s perspective. Remember, if it was your money, reputation, time – would you want to deal with your business?
- Resilience: Ask any full-time sales or customer service agent and, if they are being honest, they will tell you that being able to take rejection, rebuffs and setbacks on a daily basis is something that comes with the role. Being able to rise above this and refocus is one of the keys to success!
- Fun: Depending on your business and market sector – yes, I know times can be challenging but (within reason) – a little sparkle, humour and a smile can go a long way in greasing the wheels of business.
If you’d like to know more about the relationship between sales and marketing, read our blog post about how sales and marketing can work together better.
How does your business approach sales and marketing?
Jeremy Wilkinson: Jeremy is the director of Freelance Sales (UK), which provides business coaching and support, interim sales management, business development and sales coaching across diverse sectors in the UK and Ireland. www.freelancesalesukltd.co.uk.