By Jeffrey Scott
This is a critical year for sales, and for the business. Many of you will focus on increasing sales by bringing in as many new leads and new clients as possible.
As I speak and consult around the country, I hear an almost manic push to scour for new customers. It makes sense to grow market share in a down economy, there is no doubting that. But I find that we tend to skip over the single most important area of sales existing customers. My guess is that we tend to do this because we lack a practical plan for increasing sales to existing clients.
However, at any given point, the thing you have most control over is your relationship with your existing clients. These customers already have a relationship with you, they trust you, and, presumably, you know what they like and want. This can and should be the first place you look when planning for sales. How well are you taking advantage of that relationship?
The following is an easy process to help your company outline and plan its sales to existing clients.
Graph the sales opportunities
The first step in planning for sales is to list each and every client you have in a graph — list your clients down the side, and your various products and services across the top.
This graph obviously should list your current clients; it can also list your past clients. If you have “many” past clients, then list the last few years of past clients.
When you list your services, list those you already provide your clients, and also list every category of project or service you would like to sell. This list of services should contain your maintenance services, your enhancement/upgrade services, and your specialty install services.
For example, if you sell a host of plant health care services, then list each service you sell, and whether your client buys that service from you.
If you sell mulch separately, list that. If you sell two mulches per year, then list two mulches, each in a separate column.
You can also list projects that they could or might buy from you: controller upgrades, night lighting, etc.
Then fill in the blanks; put Xs in the boxes where you have sold or supply your client with the given service. You will end up with a checkerboard, with Xs and blank spots scattered across the graph.
Sales projections by client
You now have a starting point for planning your sales (and sales strategy) for 2010. Sit down with your staff (sales people, account managers, office staff and field managers) and develop your “sales projections by each client.”
What do they need, what are they likely to buy, and what you think you can sell them?
By doing this, you are building your sales plan from the ground up. This creates commitment and understanding from your staff, and it will help you create an actual strategy to support your sales projections.
Double check #1
Once you go through this process, and create your projections for sales to existing clients, you can double check them by looking at sales from past years. How much (percentage) did you sell to your existing clients, in 2008 and 2009? Then compare what you have planned for 2010.
With this process you should be able to increase your sales over last year. But if you are worried about an overall drop in sales, then this will at least help you counteract that trend. You may want to budget for a worst-case scenario, but you should also plan for a best-case scenario. The best way to make sales happen is to plan your sales client by client.
Double check #2
It may help to break your clients into three categories: A, B or C clients. “A” being those most likely to spend money, “B” being those who will spend but spend less, and “C” being those who spend very little.
You then review your sales projections with these ratings; are you planning on your enhancement sales coming from your A and B clients? If too much of your sales are projected to come from “B and C” clients, then you need to rethink your projections.
Now that you have created and double checked projections, we can create your sales and marketing tactics.
The best sales plan contains multiple “touches.” These touches can come from the account managers and they can come from the company.
The problem is that not all account managers and salespeople are created equal; meaning not all of them can sell equally well. I am a fan of sales training for your sales staff. I find you can make a positive return on your investment when you invest in focused sales training.
There are a couple basics of sales training that you can do in-house, without hiring a sales trainer:
1) Educate your staff on the products you are trying to sell. Make sure they are confident in what you sell, what you do that is unique compared to the competition, and any thing they need to know about features, benefits, and the production/installation of the service.
2) Customers buy to solve problems and meet needs. The best sales people use questions to uncover and amplify these needs. Identify a list of questions you can use, to uncover interest and need (and pain) with your clients. You can role-play these questions until everyone in your firm is comfortable asking them.
You can support your salespeople with e-mails to the client. E-mail marketing is something you can prepare during the winter, and execute in the spring/summer/fall. For example, you may have an e-mail that offers a service to counteract drought conditions; you can write that e-mail now and send out at the appropriate time during the year. Plus you can create e-mails that sell specific services to clients who don’t yet use you for that service. For example, you may have clients who don’t use you for night lighting; only those clients would get that specific e-mail. E-mails on mulching will go only to clients who haven’t bought mulch from you. E-mails on fire pits will go only to clients who need a fire pit at their home, etc., etc.
Your existing clients should be getting “touched” by your sales staff and by your company between 5 and 20 different ways throughout the year, depending on the number of services you sell. These sales and marketing touches can come by your salespeople making phone calls and in-person visits, by your office making proactive phone calls, by e-mail and direct-mail marketing, and by handwritten notes, satisfaction surveys, or even a “thank you” gift.
Once you have outlined your sales plan to existing customers, you can start planning on new sales. To do this, you should go back and look at where your past clients came from. Too many companies try to develop new sources, which is fine, but they ignore the old sources. Look back over the past two to three years, and identify specifically where you sales originated. With this in hand, you can create a marketing and business development plan to go after more sales from those same categories. When it comes to marketing, “doing what works” is the best place to begin and the best place to invest your marketing dollars. As a result, you will find that selling to existing customers can be easier than you thought.
Jeffrey Scott is an author, speaker and green industry business consultant. He facilitates peer groups for landscape professionals who want to transform and profitably grow their business. He also wrote two books for the green industry, including “The Referral Advantage” (download the first six chapters for free at www.JeffreyScott.biz). He can be reached via e-mail at Jeff@jeffreyscott.biz. To learn more about the power of peer groups, visit www.GetTheLeadersEdge.com