As we’re easing back into work life, hopefully you’ve had some time to think about the year ahead. What will it mean for you and your business? What are the opportunities a fresh year can create for you and what new challenges?
If you are a business owner like me, one of the key lessons most of us have learnt in 2021 is how to adapt. How to be more agile and how to pivot with speed. If these have been your lessons, then despite the stress and pressure - be grateful! Tough times create new lean winning strategies and so give us all great lessons in business life.
Despite the turmoil over the past few months, economic predictions for 2022 are positive. Business investment is heading back to pre-pandemic levels - a great indicator for market confidence. Now’s the time to plan for a good year ahead and ensure your sales and marketing strategy is fit for purpose.
Here are some tips to help prepare and curate the best growth strategy for 2022. Easy to read and even easier to take away!
Define your sales team
Any startup, sole founder or small team usually start with an ‘all hands on deck” approach to running the business. It’s an exciting and nerve racking time. Everyone is involved in everything and decision making is fast and collaborative.
But over time, as the team grows, processes need to play a part and your growth sales processes need to be more formalised, ideally with a strategy plan in place that you and your key team members have devised and designed together.
The value of sales metrics
Before you start the sales and growth plan for your business, pre-setting how to measure what business success means for your business is vital. Obvious goals like an increase in revenue need to be included and KPIs (key performance indicators) are a useful system for this measurement.
But don’t just think about the sales strategy - think about the profit of your business. Remember that there is a CPA (cost per acquisition) to any sale and your profit will be impacted by the costs you need to outlay to achieve your sales. Clearly the winning strategy is to plan exactly what cost of sales you will invest in. Undertake less costs to achieve more sales…….more on ways to do this in my next blog!
Consider the type and volume of clients you are targeting. It is always easier (and more cost effective) to ‘up sell’ to existing clients than finding brand new ones. Have a clear and realistic approach to your customer sales strategy that includes maintaining great relations through communications with your current customers.
How to measure business sales goals
In terms of measurement systems, I am a fan of OKRs. (Objectives and Key Results). This is a business goals and measure system that puts targets and key results at the heart of the business and into the hands of everyone. They also create transparency around the activity to deliver against those goals. There are lots of free OKR planning formats online to find out more.
OKRs are a great way of putting clear and shared goals at the centre of your business. They help you answer ‘what you want to achieve' and also ‘how will you achieve your goals’. Here you may also want to integrate the SMART system. S.M.A.R.T goals are fantastically useful at planning clear and visible goals that are transparent and deliverable. This acronym stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time Based. All of the levers you want to employ to deliver an effective sales plan.
Do you have the sales skills?
The mark of a truly successful business leader is recognising where their abilities lie (and don't lie) and how to enhance and find the expertise the business needs. Basically don’t try to do everything yourself but if sales is your thing - do lead that strategy yourself - certainly in the early days of business growth when your brand identity is actually you!
Evidence shows now that video calls are more directly effective than F2F. Think about how to stand out when you do appear in the digital world of your customers. This could be in video calls but it could also be in video messaging through social media. There are some fantastic self made video tools out there now such as Loom where you craft your own messages.
Messaging and clear brand identity
One of the key marketing activities you need to ‘hone’ is your business elevator pitch. This is where you may want to engage the skills of a third party if marketing is not your expert area. It’s vital your business story and messaging is fresh and unique - to cut through the white noise of competition.
Often deep tech or SaaS entrepreneurs rely too heavily on product function messaging. How it works and what superior technology has been engaged to create a disruptive new product or service. But this is often a mistake and doesn’t lend well to powerful engagement. Product functionality is a great back up message but doesn't appeal to the real needs of your customers. Essentially put yourself in their shoes. Articulating the problems you are solving. Emotional rather than tangible functional levers play a much stronger role in decision making than you think.
A basic table analogy is a good one. Functionally, your table has 4 legs and a smooth flat surface. But what actually does it offer that your customers? Focusing on the table’s stability, its endurance and design that makes work easier and more productive are more likely to succeed as primary messages.
Understand your customer’s persona
The past 2 years have really impacted on how people are making decisions - whether B2B and B2C sectors. A lot of purchase influences have changed so understanding what triggers your customer’s needs is vital - as well as recognising how this could nuance in the future.
Look at your customer behaviours. What influences them? Where are they hanging out? What are their culture and beliefs? Create 2-3 customer personas so you can sharpen the message - whether that’s how they operate their own business or conduct their lives.
It’s important to constantly re-assess customer personas as these change over time. For example, last year affected many people in terms of their buying decisions. Feeling frustrating/fed up or even more fearful influenced your customers behaviour in 2021. Has that now changed?
What are the best sales tools?
Of course the answer does depend on what you are selling. Let’s start with some of the best (and most cost effective tools) for selling. Integrating a CRM (customer relationship management) platform like HubSpot could be a good place to start. There are different level packages depending on the size of your business that could help start integrating sales and marketing processes together from the outset of your business.
Let’s also look at price and cost cutting, promotions and discounts. Consider the implications of discounts. If these are run on a long term basis, it can be devastating for an early stage business and difficult to reverse out of. People won’t see a value in your brand if it is constantly running on price reductions. If the discounts are not increasing volume - don’t implement them - and ensure your discounting strategy also has an associated recovery strategy.
Google led PPC (pay per click) and SEO (search engine optimisation) strategies are important tools to understand at the outset of your business. As a startup, it’s cost effective to bring in a freelance expert who can help ensure that your website is optimised for search on Google and what kind of paid digital strategy could help accelerate customer leads.
Some products and services are highly influenced by social media influencers so these are tools that could be more valuable (and cost effective) at the outset of your business. Remember micro influencers are often free to work with.
Why customer feedback is key?
This is such an important consideration for your sales strategy and in effect, this tool is absolutely free! Customers are often the best source of valuable information so take every opportunity to ask and gather feedback. Look at question based selling. For example, ask open questions about what your customers have tried before. Use A Net Promoter Score (NPS) to understand and track how likely it is that customers will recommend you.
And don’t assume that repeat customers mean they love your business. Perhaps your competition has not emerged yet and you are operating in a lucky bubble - that won’t last! Checking in on your relationship with your customer will help improve your service and often this also leads to a conversation about new products and services you should be considering too.
Remember also that your early stage customers could become your next collective of investors so treat them well and utilise on going relationship building marketing to help them become part of your growth journey.
How to handle sales objections
When you face negative feedback, clarify & explore as quickly as possible. Startups are at an advantage because the founder can get involved and engage in a real time conversation with an unhappy customer rapidly In the case of large B2B customers, perhaps there was a misunderstanding on your part or your pitch did not answer a customer’s needs directly enough. Its your job to find out!
Be open, honest and human. Rule 101 is don’t ever try to trick customers. They are much likely to respond better if you accept failings and agree that you will take on their feedback. It could also mean a door is left open to come back to this potential customer.
Was their response something like ‘we don’t have time right now?’ Explore why the business doesn’t have time. Is there a fear about running a change project? Or confusion about how much time the integration of your product or service could take? What are the customer blocks and create solution led responses. Also recognise that what you are offering something is just not needed right now. When they do have a need - they will come back so the strategy is about keeping in touch and on radar.
Hope this was helpful but do contact me to help build your business growth strategy! I’m here to help email@example.com.