How To Build Sales Over The Next Six Months

If you want to increase the amount of sales you make, there are four sound methods that will help to massively boost your overall sales performance. The methods outlined below are not necessarily quick fixes, but they work on building confidence in your product, and building your client list over time. They also work for teams, managers and leaders. And of course, the cold call warriors too.

Build a discovery list

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If you’re in a high pressure environment, this is not something you can do easily. However, if you’re serious about building sales over time, with quality clients, spend less time selling and more time discovering.

First up, basic validation of prospects. After a prospect converts on your website, and they have submitted their email address and therefore become a lead, this is where you can spend time either qualifying them or disqualifying them as prospects. And this is where the discovery approach makes most sense. Spending time at this stage discovering as much as you can about them before you even try to sell is an absolute must.

Use their email address to help you find out where they work and to locate their website. After a good and thorough period of research of their website, you should be able to work out whether or not their needs can be met by your product or service. You’ll also be able to understand the history of the company.

Assuming you feel you can help them, add them to a Discovery list. Keep doing this until you have a list of companies that you know you can help. You’ll also know about pain points, because you’ve spent some time understanding where they come from, and what they need as a company to grow.

The Discovery List is not a traditional lead list. Your first call is all about thanking them for downloading your report or giving you their email. It’s about asking them questions about their latest activity on your site and in their own business. It’s about not even talking about your product. Build a relationship in which they know you may have something that can help them. Then tell them you look forward to talking to them again. Ask if it is okay if you contact them again in the future if there is an article or video you think may help them.

And then that’s it.

The Discovery List contains long-term leads that you anticipate will take months to convert. Be good with that and take that approach forward.

If you discover and nurture just ten large leads in this way, imagine the ROI in the months ahead.

Use The Big G

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Google contains one of the very best ways to boost your sales. If you’re looking for information about any lead, you have a high chance of finding what you want just through Google search.

Even if you don’t know the name of the person you are hoping will become a lead, you can usually find out more about them by Googling their company. Most websites have details of key staff in a company. As soon as you find details about decision makers, Google their names and at some point you will find a way into the company.

A short cut is to literally type in ‘CEO of (company name)’ or ‘Managing Director of (company name)’.

Lead the pack

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One of the biggest reasons B2B leaders hire services and buy products is because they are impressed with them. If you want to be hired or bought from, build up that presence online that tells people ‘this is someone who knows what they are doing’.

Take the time and put in the effort to develop your thoughts and ideas online. If you visit online forums where you can help people and take part in those discussions, you are already on the way to ‘thought leadership‘.

Over time, you will be seen as someone to come to for advice in your area of expertise. If you push this out across all your social media channels and you participate in business communities online, people will think of you and your brand when they’re ready to buy.

Use LinkedIn

With B2B prospects, you can’t go wrong with LinkedIn. Even if you don’t subscribe to Premium, you can still find out a lot of information about prospects by doing a basic search on the platform.

The next time you’re looking at a cold lead, search for them on LinkedIn. Even the weakest profiles have a lot of information on the prospect. It pays to learn more about them and find an angle before you call.

If you spend time getting familiar with LinkedIn and how you can use it to find leads, your ‘muscle’ in this area will grow. Soon, you’ll be fine-tuning it, homing in on qualified leads faster and more effectively. You’ll be part of Groups, finding even more prospects there. You’ll be crafting emails and messages that speak directly to the people who can buy and are in need of your product.

So there we go. The four ideas above are not to be taken lightly. They need discipline and focus. If you waver from daily practice of the above you’ll only slow down.

Sales Forecasting

This is a guest post by John Hawkey of freeforumofideas.com.

I came across this quote the other day:

“Plan financially for it to take you twice as long to sell half as much as in your original business plan.” (Toby Reid, director of BioCity Nottingham.)

It caused me to reflect on one of my obsessions from my earlier consulting days. This was the inability of startups to produce an accurate sales forecast. This is, after all, the most important forecast there is and every startup I was involved with got it wrong!

The importance of sales forecasting

Sales are the lifeblood of a business. Nothing is more important. Without sales there is no business.

A business’s operations are planned around the volume of sales it will generate. Sales volume influences cash (or capital) requirements, office or factory capacity, staffing levels, transport requirements, operational activities, in fact everything that happens in a business. Sales forecasting is, therefore, the vital ingredient of the business plan.

Established business

To accurately forecast sales in an established business is difficult for many reasons. These include the variations in the economic cycle, unusual events such as a pandemic, and more mundane issues such as increased competition, disruptions to supply and/or manufacture, strikes, staff problems, etc., etc.  

However, with an established business one has historical data to work with. Actual sales from previous years set the benchmark from which estimates of future sales are made. Sensible sales assumptions based on presumed events within the economy and the business, as well as probable activity by competitors should lead to a forecast that is accurate within, perhaps, a ten percent variance.

New business

However, with a new business (or startup) you have none of these benchmarks. To accurately forecast sales here is of a different dimension all together. There is, by definition, no history in a startup: there are no past sales on which to base future sales. Most things are a guess.

Startups in established industries

To help overcome the difficulty of having no history, potential startups in established industries undertake market research. This research attempts to establish such things as the size of the potential market, the activity of competitors and the likely share of the market that the startup is hoping to capture.

Information can also be gathered by:

Talking to vendors or wholesalers

Studying trade magazines

Considering how similar products preform

Looking at how rival businesses preform

Deciding whether your product is seasonal or not

Established industry forecasts

Using the methods above, startups in established industries can hope to produce sales forecasts that have some credibility. However, they are still usually inaccurate. Without exception they are inaccurate on the upside, plagued by mistakes such as assuming that sales will increase by a set percentage every year and happily feeding this information into a spread sheet.

The result is a forecast that is not only wildly optimistic about quantum, but also about timing. This is where Toby Reid’s comments above are so relevant.

I used to say to my startup clients: “Estimate the numbers, divide them by two, and then divide them by two again and then add a year.” Pessimistic? Maybe but, in the event, usually closer in outcome than the original numbers spewed out by the computer.

New business in new industry

Occasionally a startup is so innovative it is attempting to create a whole new industry. Although this is rare, it does happen. Where the new business is in this situation (that is, going into an industry which will be new), the process of forecasting its sales becomes doubly difficult or impossible.

The business cannot undertake the research mentioned above because there is no industry information, or competitor information or existing products to find out about. Where there are no industry sales statistics (because the industry does not yet exist), it is, of course, impossible to forecast what sales might be using tried and tested (albeit unreliable) methods.

Forecasting for a new industry

So, what is to be done about sales forecasting in these circumstances? Is there any point in attempting any forecast at all? Or put another way, can one place any credence on these forecasts, or are they just wild guesses?

The first answer is probably yes, you should produce sales forecasts. The second answer is no, you cannot place much credence on them. In these circumstances the startup owners must go on gut feel as much as anything else. The forecasts are probably just wild guesses and, therefore, mostly useless, and the business will have to be flexible and nimble and adjust to the sales actually achieved.

Flexibility

The inaccuracy of forecasting is only one element of a startup’s uncertainty. It is likely that the business will have to undergo numerous changes in its early life, such as adapting or changing its products, its location, its management and its method of sales to survive. This ability to “pivot” (to use Silicon Valley’s jargon) is vital to the continued existence and growth of many startups.

In the struggle for survival and emergence as a viable business the accuracy or otherwise of a startup’s initial sales forecast will have long since been forgotten. A bit like the relevance your GCSE results when you are seeking promotion to CEO.