Sales: A Delicate Balancing Act Jonathan Herrick As if running a small business wasn’t already a time-consuming task, you have yet another obstacle: You need sales. And you need them now. Maybe you’re just getting started. Maybe your company is in a slump. Either way, you have to keep cash flow pumping and find a way to sell more of your products. Now! A lot of business owners and managers understand this and are solely focused on driving immediate sales. But in taking this approach, they often hurt their long-term results. By focusing so much on the here and now, they fail to take the crucial steps needed to build profitable, long-term customer relationships that will lead to those all-important repeat sales and solid lifetime customer value. That’s why you need a healthy balance: You need to win sales now while building a sales success machine for the long term. Sounds easy, right? It requires a plan and a process. Here’s how to do it: Know Thy Buyer To build an effective short and long-term sales approach, it all starts with delivering the right message through the right medium to the right market. Make sure the group you’re marketing and selling to actually wants and can afford what you offer. Similarly, when you’re communicating with them, don’t make it about you. Rather shift the focus to their needs and how you can help them solve their greatest problems. And make sure you are communicating to them through their preferred marketing channels. In other words, don’t try to market your arts and crafts through LinkedIn, and don’t market B2B industrial chemicals through Pinterest. No matter how hard you work, you won’t have much success trying to sell your products or services to the wrong market with the wrong message. So what’s the most important part of this equation? Knowing the DNA of your radical buyer. If you are trying to sell to a group that has absolutely no interest in your product (how vegans think about steak, for example), it doesn’t matter how powerful your message is, or which medium you communicate through. Stop the Chaos-Embrace Change Short term sales chaos is often the result of a non-existent long term process.The fact is, you’re never too small to put a process in place. Yet, for small businesses, creating a sales and marketing process is one of the biggest hurdles faced. Change can be hard. If anything related to process makes you uncomfortable, don’t panic. Take a deep breath and relax. You can do this. Here’s something to consider: You may actually have an advantage over your larger competitors – you can act a lot more quickly than they can to help you mature your sales process now. So act now. A common balancing act in sales is the need to fill your pipeline with quality leads, all while trying to get sales opportunities to purchase. Trust me I have been there. It’s really tough to prospect and close at the same time-in the end there are just so many hours in the day. And that’s where a well-defined sales process comes in. It enables you to drive a consistent stream of leads into your sales pipeline, increase lead response times, and to build a solid foundation to bring in new sales month after month after month. A mature sales and marketing process gives you the ability to invest in areas such as inbound marketing (designed to bring hot sales opportunities right to your desk) and gives your business key insights. You’ll be able to determine what lead and customer channels are working the best and which ones aren’t, pointing you to the exact actions you need to take to grow sales today and in the future So if you don’t have a repeatable and predictable sales process, get one. Oh, and don’t wait until it’s perfect (Hint: It never will be). It’s better to roll out a new process now and tweak it over time than to wait for the “perfect” plan six months from now. Get The “Unfair Advantage” If you are going to improve your sales process and work to bring in more sales via marketing channels such as website, PPC, and social, the right technology is crucial to your sales and marketing success, now and long-term. With limited resources your business needs a way to do more with less and grow sales for your business. The truth is that just because someone isn’t ready to buy today doesn’t mean they won’t down the road. Sales and marketing automation tools can help you to capture new leads online (such as your website) and to nurture people until they are ready to buy. The key to a successful balance in your sales strategy is to stay in constant communication with your potential buyers and customers at each step of the sales process: Marketing automation is an ideal tool for this type of selling. You can feed the information you have about your contact into the system, and it will determine how to best nurture them; sending them the right message at exactly the right time. As you slowly offer your expertise and helpful resources to prospects and customers, you will be building lasting relationships that will pay off with a major purchase in the end. Time To Go Low-Tech? Our modern, digital world gives you lots of advertising and marketing options. However when you need sales right away, maybe it’s time to consider a low-tech approach. If you’ve ever been to Manhattan and had lunch at a corner deli because someone on the street put a flyer in your hand, you can relate. Perhaps you should consider offline tactics such as guerrilla marketing, direct mail or radio. These channels can be used to push out time-sensitive offers and often drum up new sales quickly. But remember this: Prospects have a tendency to put off a buying decision for whatever reason. To help drive sales now, you want to make it crystal clear to them how they stand to benefit from buying now, and what they’ll lose if they don’t. Going low tech certainly has it’s advantages in the long run. It’s critical to stay in touch with your customers consistently, not just after new sales. Every time they buy from you, send them a thank you note. Send them something personalized on their birthday or when they hit a milestone in their business. Promote new products and services you think they might want and need. When you treat every customer like gold, they will be more inclined to spend more with your business today and in the long run. After all, it’s always easier to grow sales from existing customer relationships than to start cold with new ones. If you want to grow tomorrow, you have to sell today. But it doesn’t need to be a frantic, last minute fire drill. By taking the time to understand your ideal customers, using the right technology, and putting the right sales and marketing process in place, your sales will flourish and your cash flow will take care of itself.