Sales and marketing are often tied together, yet they’re two completely different things.

II REGULARLY write about a wide range of contractual, commercial and marketing matters, which are based on my 30 years providing consultancy services for all types of specialist contractors, including flooring contractors.

What I don’t cover very often is sales. Sales and marketing are often tied together, yet they are two completely different things.

While marketing focusses on understanding who your customers are and why they use you, sales is about prospecting for new customers and organising a systematic approach to verifying, contacting and giving them reasons to buy.

How do you manage, plan and implement your sales approach? Do you simply wait for an invitation to tender to drop on your desk and chase that? The problem with responding to any or all tender invitations you receive is that they could be for any type of work, irrespective of all other factors.

A better way is to identify your most profitable type of work and customers and find new contractors or clients who fit your ideal customer profile.

Depending on the structure of your organisation, you may use a customer relationship management system (CRM) which provides you with an automated process that keeps your sales team on track. Or, you might use a simple spreadsheet system that you can manage yourself and keep up-to-date.

Or perhaps you don’t use any formal system, but chase work when you have a few spare moments.

Whichever way you do it, you must have a focused approach and an organised record of your sales activity.

Let’s look at a sales process

50% of sales time is wasted on unproductive prospecting. This fact alone is good reason to focus your sales activity, find your target companies and people within those companies to sell to.

There are five stages to this process:

  • Sourcing and prospecting leads
  • Making a connecting call
  • The discovery meeting
  • Presentation of your tender or solution
  • Official tender or quotation

Sourcing and prospecting leads
Prospecting is probably the most important part of the process. You must decide who you want to work with and go about researching and setting up a good quality database of contacts; names, phone numbers, email addresses, etc. You can then use this for a planned telephone sales campaign.

Make research your first sales task
When you have your database or CRM, dedicate time each week to make qualifying calls to your prospects, blocking off time in your diary to allow you to focus on this properly.

The connect call
Following your prospect research, the ‘Connect Call’ is the first call that will help you to establish a relationship, to create mutual credibility and trust, and to begin the qualification process. You may be able to identify the customer’s challenge, get an idea of the timeline and establish a sense of urgency. This might be a 10 to 15 minute information-finding call that will enable you to get to the next stage.

If there’s any doubt, or you sense that the person you’re calling isn’t really engaged, then you can end the call and move on.

The discovery meeting
Having established a basic need, you now need to get a good understanding of the prospect’s present options.

You can also establish if the person you are speaking to is able to place an order. This is important as it is easy to spend hours on the phone, or in meetings, and just when you think you’re securing an order, find that your proposal gets moved to higher authority.

If there’s no genuine problem you can solve, or any compelling reason the prospect needs to do something, then it’s unlikely that they will buy.

At this point, a very good question to ask your prospect is:

‘What is going to be the impact if you don’t do anything to ensure that you are dealing with the right flooring contractor on this project?’

Prepare well for this first meeting, set a clear agenda and objectives, lead and steer the conversation. You may need to schedule further calls to discuss goals, project timescales, etc.

Presentation of your tender or solution
This is where you talk about getting the right solution to the customer’s problem, demonstrate added value, and handle objections. Set a clear agenda for the meeting, map out timed deliverables, present expected results, request feedback and be ready to handle objections.

Finally, try to obtain a verbal commitment or schedule a decision call.

Official tender or quotation
The final element of the sales process is to clearly outline services and products you will be providing and at what price. Accurately present the post-purchase actions and again, be ready to handle objections. You may need all stakeholders to be involved at this stage.

No doubt you’ll want to create a reusable template for this stage of the process, particularly if the structure of each tender or proposal is similar. And ensure you deal with everything, including the contractual aspects.

Know your numbers
It’s important you have a good understanding of your return on sales effort. For example, if you have sourced 100 leads, you may only be able to reach 30 of these, perhaps finding your path blocked by ‘gatekeepers’, etc.

Of those 30 connects, you may be able to schedule 10 discovery meetings. Of those, say, four goal setting calls, two demonstrations and one sale. Understanding your conversion history will help you to calculate how many prospects you need to engage with to meet your sales growth objectives.

Develop, improve and adapt
Success comprises a number of elements including skills, the ability to focus, and the fact that you must invest the time required to make this a success. Test the process and share outcomes with colleagues.
As you get better you will be able to adjust and adapt your process to the benefit of winning more business.
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