Sales Growth 101: Ways to Improve Sales.
So you have employed the basics of selling and marketing (see “The Eternal Truths of Increasing Sales” and other articles on sales and marketing), and still your sales are languishing. Here’s some more help with little to no out-of-pocket expense.
Go Back To Basics
What is your mission? Who is your customer? Who is your competitor? Sound simplistic? It’s not. If you are unsure of the answers to these questions you are wasting marketing dollars and targeting the wrong people. Furthermore, if you don’t communicate this information to your sales people then you have handicapped their efforts as well.
Go back to the essential questions and determine what this business is and what it does (mission). For instance: you are not a coffee shop, you are “a hospitality company supplying top quality sustainably grown coffee, tea and light foods in a family friendly environment which nurtures and rewards our customers, employees and owners.”
Who is your customer? Who makes the decision to use your business over other businesses? Are they predominately male or female? How old are your customers? How educated? What is their income range? Do they have children at home? Where do they live?
Who is your competitor? If you are a coffee shop heavily reliant on coffee-to-go orders, your competition is not limited to Starbucks. Virtually every gas station sells coffee and other drinks, as do many grocery stores, restaurants and drive-thru fast food places, so underselling Starbucks is no strategy at all. You need a plan which triggers customers to drive to you over more convenient options for a product which is widely available. (Also see What is Indirect Competition?)
Which brings you back to your Mission and knowing your customer.
Exploit Your Competitive Advantage
Why do your current customers come to you rather than any of the other options available to them (including on-line purchases). If you don’t know, start questioning your customers. Maybe you are just the most convenient place. Okay, so run with that: “We’re your neighborhood pet supply shop. Special offers for our neighbors. Bring your dog for treat sampling on Thursdays. Halloween pet costume parade and contest!” Build loyalty.
You may learn that some aspect of your business is important to the customer. In the coffee shop above the owners may learn that people feel their children are welcome. So perhaps a child-sized table and chairs with books in one corner coupled with a children’s story time on Monday mornings will keep customers in-house for lunch.
Until you know why they come you can’t expand on it.
Price it Right
The right price is not synonymous with the lowest price. It is the price your customer perceives as a good value. In your own life, do you seek the cheapest item every time? Is your car the least expensive on the market? How about your electronics? You may buy the bargain trash bags, but do you select your optometrist based on price? Now apply that insight to your customers. We value some items in our lives more than others and are willing to pay more for them.
The above mentioned coffee shop only exists because, for some people, the value may be in the taste of the product or it may be a combination of the product, its origins and the atmosphere. So the price is right when the combination of those benefits overcomes any price resistance.
Your Best Customer is Your Current Customer
You know who they are, where they are, how to reach them and what they buy. Keeping them is a mere fraction of the cost of attracting a new customer. So communicate with them. Listen to them. Invite their input and use it where possible. Not only are they the foundation of your business, they are key to bringing in new customers.
Smarten Up Your Looks
We all tend to become desensitized to our surroundings when we see them every day. Your customer doesn’t, so look around your business. Are the chairs shabby? Is there a corner where random things go to die? Is your package/marketing/on-line design decidedly passé? Are your people (and you?) attired more for a cookout than a professional establishment?
Time to redecorate, redesign and smarten up. You could even use it as a marketing ploy.
Train your sales people.
See the article on sales training and ensure that the people selling your products have:
- A thorough education on your products or services and competition’s
- The ability to question the customer to determine what that particular customer wants.
- Excellent listening skills
Know your niche
If you are reading this web page you are presumably not a major corporation. To succeed you need to identify a need and fill it better than anyone else. You niche may be sustainably grown coffee coupled with children’s story time or it may be the engineers best able to explain home design to the uninitiated. Whatever it is, capitalize on it, market it, use it.
Honesty Really is the best policy
This is not discussed enough because most people will assume others are honest until they are in a situation which suggests otherwise. Once a customer decides they cannot trust your business – whatever the situation – you have not only lost a customer, you have likely lost their entire community of contacts and, with the advent of the internet, possibly many more.
It may be something small such as an employee overstating the advantages of your product over a competitors. It may be something more egregious such as pressuring the customer to buy something they do not need (car repair shops come to mind). Play bait and switch games with clients and you could end up with a bad reputation.
No matter how carefully you craft an underhanded move, your employees know about it. Do you trust that they will never divulge it? Ever?
If you walk the straight and narrow and insist your employees do the same, you may not see immediate benefits but long term, a policy for honesty is your best word of mouth.