Now I’ve Written my Strategy, How do I Increase Sales?
You’ve got to have one, haven’t you? So how does having one increase my sales?
If mauve is the new beige and granite the new laminate then ‘strategy’ is the new excuse for inactivity.
It simply beggars belief how many people I come across, whether they be in professional services, industry or the civil service, who are tied to their desks developing or attending yet another pointless, soul wrecking meeting discussing strategy. A strategy that this time is going to prove better than any strategy ever developed ever before and lead to meteoric levels of activity and revenue.
Having a plan is the same as having a strategy
Don’t get me wrong, every business needs a plan, a goal but once that’s agreed upon. Then it’s time for action. However, for some, the formulation of a strategy seems to have become an end in itself and an excuse for inaction and that’s dangerous. Because action, massive, concerted, focused action is what generates sales.
If you are involved in sales and business development, then you need a plan. You need to know which target market you are going for and then go for it. But deciding who you are going to target isn’t difficult and shouldn’t take long.
How do I increase my sales now I’ve written my strategy?
Tell you what. Let’s work through one together, right now. Really, it’ll only take a few minutes.
Let’s assume you are a sales rep for a manufacturer of dining chairs, the sort that you find in hotels and conference centres.
There are thousands of hotels in the UK and contacting them all to find out whether they want any chairs right now sounds like too much hard work. There are too many of them and travelling the length and breadth of the country is time-consuming.
So the first thing we need to do is narrow it down. Why not Google hotel chains? I just did. Turns out there are 43 in the UK. It took me 2 minutes and 47 seconds to do that.
The next thing to do is put the head offices into geographical regions so that when we go and visit them in turn, we can save time and money by targeting a region at a time. That will take a bit longer but I reckon that it would take half a day to list the name and address and each one and then phone all 43 and find out the name of the person responsible for buying chairs. If you were really good, you would have even made appointments to see a few of them along the way.
Easy, Peasy Strategy
There you go. That’s your strategy done and dusted. Not only that but you have actually taken some action too! No need to analyse each and every organisation because we will learn stuff about them as we begin contacting them. There’s no need to fit them into some weird and wonderful matrix/spreadsheet thingy. Absolutely no need to produce a 20-page report outlining all the possible downsides. Costing all the journeys, phone calls, listing all the brochures and support sales material you may wish to send out.
Taking Action Creates Sales
Of course, some people would have gone away and started working on a strategy for contacting these firms – email, post, brochure, mail shot or phone call? They would write out a nice SWOT analysis for each one and attempt to forecast success rates.
But since you are going to have to meet them at some point anyway, why not just phone them up? It’s quicker and for speaking to people who are not within shouting distance the phone has taken first prize for ‘most useful thing for talking to people who are more than shouting distance apart’ for around 100 years’. So everyone’s familiar with the technology.
That said, the Business Development professional doesn’t make 43 different phone calls. No, they’re busy finding out if there is an annual conference or trade body where all the decision makers hang out, find out who organises it and get an invite.
And the really smart Business Development person isn’t interested in walking around a room with 60 people in it – they are too busy to do that. No, the smart cookie asks if they can speak at the next event. Because that way, he or she hits all 60 possible purchasers of his or her chairs in one go.
Creating Sales is About Actioning Your Strategy
The guys that started Innocent didn’t fanny about discussing a smoothie strategy. They just made smoothies and went out and sold them.
Stelios didn’t conduct a SWOT analysis of setting up an airline; he just leased one plane, painted it white and shoved his phone number down the side of it.
Branson put the number of a local phone box in a newspaper ad and then stood in it (the phone box!) taking orders for records.
If you are someone who likes to prevaricate then by all means go and lose yourself in strategy development. Sit at your desk and fill your days with it. People tell me that there are loads of people all working away on nice, shiny strategies: literally, thousands of hours are whiled away on such nonsense.
Understand this though, that whilst you’re doing that, your competitors are out flogging chairs. Still, you can sleep well at night in the knowledge you have the best and loveliest strategy for selling chairs that ever there was.