A PRACTICAL GUIDE TO INCREASING SALES
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Every franchisee needs to make sales. Your biggest asset is your time - don't waste it, says Lloyd Hill.
Lloyd Hill is a New Zealand sales professional with over 40 years’ experience. He’s also the author of a new book called Sales Talk, which aims to provide newcomers with a straightforward guide to the sales process and is now being used as recommended reading for a marketing paper at at the University of Otago. In this edited extract, he explains how to use your sales time effectively.
Sales professionals really value their time. They totally understand that it is their greatest asset. They know it is the one thing they can ‘manage’. They understand there is potential reward for every well-spent moment. Equally, they know that every misspent moment represents a loss in earnings.
Every day millions of salespeople make sales calls, just for the sake of making a sales call. There is no purpose, no direction and no objective to the call. In other words, it’s a waste of time.
Every sales call needs a purpose. After each one, you need to do a quick review. Did you achieve the purpose of the sales call? It doesn’t need to be War and Peace. Sometimes a quick rethink is all that is necessary; other times you’ll need to get it all down on the CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system or whatever you’re using. And be honest with yourself!
I liked to use the golfing term ‘par’, to help me think: Plan/Action/Review.
- Was the plan of the call appropriate?
- How well did I action the plan?
- In the review, what could I have done better?
- What should I make sure that I bring to the table at the next call?
- What changes do I need to make so the next call will be more effective?
Last point: even when you can’t achieve the primary purpose of your sales call, just remember that every customer contact provides an opportunity to learn something new about the customer, the competition, developments in the area, etc. Always make every effort to exit a sales call with some benefit from the time you’ve invested.
I realise that in this age of conference calls, smartphones, etc, there are umpteen IT aids which weren’t available when I first started selling. Nevertheless, that doesn’t alter the fact that, every day, salespeople are still charging here, there and everywhere, wasting selling time.
A big part of the training when I was at BP was all about territory planning. In simple terms, it said, ‘driving time is not selling time’. Each territory had a specific number of customers and competitor accounts that needed to be called on – on a regular basis – so you needed to make sure you weren’t darting from one side of the territory to the other. Sounds obvious, but it’s a fact that salespeople lose hundreds of selling/earning hours every year simply because they don’t operate some form of schedule for customer calls.
I got angry whenever I lost precious selling time, especially when it could have been avoided with better planning and better time management. So, how do you make a territory plan?
Start with a central point, eg. your home, your business. Using this central point, draw a circle, square, rectangle – or whatever shape gives the minimum amount of driving time – to ‘design’ your territory.
Even today, some salespeople still feel they have to go to the office as if they need to clock in. And there are still managers and owners who need to ‘see’ their salespeople – to know they are actually working – yes, even in this age of the virtual office. How crazy is that when driving time to and from the office could take an hour or more?
Locate customers within this geographic shape.
Normally there won’t be an even spread of customers in the north, east, south and west quadrants of the territory. Let’s say 50 percent are in the north, 10 percent in the east, 25 percent in the south and 15 percent in the west — so you allocate your time accordingly, with the proviso that you build some ‘weighting’ (as per below) into the equation.
‘Weight’ your customers and ‘target’ competitor accounts.
Again, thanks to BP, one of the best tips I ever got about territory management came from a former army officer on secondment from BP HQ in London. He developed a matrix to list all his customers in each of the quadrants. Then he attached a ‘value’ to each customer, based on the amount of money the customer spent each month. This determined the call frequency in his call cycle. With this simple, fold-out matrix and four columns for each month, he had a ready reckoner to check that he had called on his customers as per their ‘weighting’. I adopted his method and added a call ‘allocation’ for targeted competitor accounts.
Today, all this sort of stuff will be on a laptop or tablet and there will be apps and programs to help you manage it – perhaps within your franchise management software. The point of Step 3 is that you need to do it, in whatever form works best for you. Use today’s technology to your advantage, to refine proven processes for putting a territory plan in place and use it to make your sales target.
The lessons learned with BP work especially well in the FMCG (Fast Moving Consumer Goods) area; however, the principles apply equally well with high-value products or services which often have a long selling cycle. List existing customers and potential new customers and give them a ‘time value’, based on their sales potential: ie. your earnings.
You can further refine time allocation per customer by classifying them under the following categories:
These are major, loyal, long-term customers representing opportunities for increasing sales, possibly through:
i) Business expansion within the organisation
ii) Displacing a competitor supplier whose level of service or company’s technology has lagged behind yours
iii) External factors that create extra demand for the customer’s products/services.
The ultimate objective with Category A customers is to achieve a preferred supplier status, from which a true business ‘partnership’ can develop. Depending on the type of products/services your company offers, a contacting/calling cycle could range from once a week to once a month, with regular meetings with all the key decision-makers or influencers, or by simply meeting with your primary contact on a regular basis.
These are similar to Category A but without the same potential to build sales and offering less likelihood of reaching preferred supplier status. Category B customers are those who challenge the professional salesperson to better understand their business. Ask yourself:
- What is their decision-making process?
- What can you offer that creates a point of difference versus other suppliers?
- What could you do to elevate a Category B to a Category A?
Sure, there are companies out there that will always think it is a good idea to have more than one supplier ‘just to keep everyone honest’. What they forget is that it is more
time-consuming and ultimately costlier to deal with multiple suppliers. Also, there is never the same buyer-supplier synergy that exists with preferred supplier agreements. The professional salesperson will work at communicating the cost of continuing to deal with multiple suppliers and the benefits of preferred supplier agreements.
Clearly there are risks associated with this, and in a worst-case scenario it can work against you — as in, the customer might take your advice and sign a preferred supplier agreement with your major competitor. So beware! If you pursue the single supplier/preferred supplier route, make absolutely sure that you can demonstrate a quantifiable benefit for the customer. In summary, moving Category B customers up to Category A can be one of the most satisfying — and financially rewarding — things that can happen in the life of a professional salesperson.
These customers are lower value/lower volume customers than A and B customers, and they present fewer opportunities to grow sales. But be careful – you ignore them at your peril. They may not represent great scope for growing sales, but if you lose their business, you’re going to have to work extra hard to replace their annual spend. Remember, it generally takes twice the time and effort to ‘replace a customer’ than it does to ‘keep a customer’.
You still need to ‘love’ your Category Cs – you just need to allocate your time according to their business potential. Always keep your eye out for a change in dynamics: for example, where a Category C customer merges with a Category A or B – particularly where a major competitor is a significant supplier to your Category C customer. This could be a real threat to your A/B business, and you need to do everything you can to minimise this risk by making sure all your contacts throughout the Cat A/Cat B customers are as they should be.
Customers in this category have a lower demand for your products or services, and/or most of their product/service requirements are provided by a competitor which has a strong preferred supplier understanding.
Remember that real growth requires a healthy mix of new customers along with your existing ones. The trick is being able to manage your time and do a good job of looking after your existing customers and developing new ones.
After doing a thorough job of ‘weighting’ your customers, you’re ready to work on your call schedule. The frequency of the call cycle and the form of the customer contact will depend on the products/services you are selling. But whatever you do, remember that your primary focus is to maximise your biggest asset – your time. There are only so many hours in the day, only so many contacts possible, so make sure you get the best return on your time and effort.
Once you’ve listed and categorised all your customers and determined your call cycle, you simply build up your planner. Just remember that a planner is only the outcome of Steps 1, 2 and 3.
Next is the most important part — making the planner work for you. If it does nothing else, it should provide a simple check that makes sure you don’t miss ‘the call that let the competition in.’
As already mentioned, pretty much everyone will be operating a planner via IT and yes, there are some wonderful CRM systems out there. But the bottom line is:
You’ve got to do the work to make them work for you.
To make sure that your CRM system works for you, you need to be really disciplined about entering factual, meaningful reports after each sales call. Use your CRM to flag important dates: eg. customers’ buying cycles or equipment replacement schedules. This is the sort of detail that some franchises – for example, the test & tag-type businesses – are built on, and it’s the source of their recurring income. It doesn’t matter how you set up your call planner (although if your franchisor recommends a system, do use it – it will make it easier for them to collate data and help support and improve your business). Just make sure you do it!
First, like everything to do with information management systems, ‘rubbish in — rubbish out’. The franchisor needs to take more interest in ensuring the franchisees and any sales people are using the CRM and that it is providing them with the information and scheduling required. The value and effectiveness of any CRM system needs to be constantly monitored, and the system provider needs to be a ‘business partner’. If you think the CRM can do a better job for you, take it up with your service provider or franchisor.
Note: franchisees may be better placed than franchise managers to make a judgement on whether the CRM system is up-to-scratch, depending on whether they are using it properly. If they are not, do they need extra training, or is the system too slow or difficult to use? Remember that an inferior CRM will place you at a disadvantage versus a competitor, and this will cost both franchisor and franchisees money. If you’re sure the CRM is not up to standard, make a good business case for changing it.
Second, I recently read about another slant on CRMs in the New Zealand Herald which suggested that, instead of thinking of a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system, we should be thinking Customer-Managed Relationship (CMR) systems. The inference is that CRMs are driven from a supplier focus, whereas CMRs are driven from a customer focus. Whichever way you cut it, CRMs or CMRs are fantastic aids which professional salespeople use to their advantage.
What’s the most important day in the week?
I remember asking this question during a sales seminar but, as expected, there wasn’t a rush of answers. The answer, of course, is that while it can be any day of the week and any time on any day of the week, it is the time when you write your action plan for the week.
At the very minimum, the weekly action plan needs to include:
- The primary goals for the week;
- A preview of scheduled calls;
- The key objective for each call.
We’ve all gone into the next week without a plan and guess what? We’ve done diddly-squat. We’ve been half (or less) as productive as when we’ve worked to a weekly plan with clearly established tasks and objectives. Remember your biggest asset – your time. Don’t waste a moment. Sell more and earn more!
Lloyd Hill's book Sales Talk is available from bookshops for $25.00 or can be ordered direct from the author - email firstname.lastname@example.org. Mention Franchise New Zealand and get a special rate of $20 including GST for delivery anywhere in New Zealand. Bulk orders are also available for franchisees.
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