Ask a business owner what he needs to make his company successful, and most likely he will say “sales.”
Then, using the questions below, ask him about his customers, and most likely he will give you a blank stare. Odd as it seems, in many businesses, there is a disconnect between the idea of needing more sales and the reality of knowing how to sell.
All businesses, no matter the size, need an effective sales plan. A well designed, consistently executed strategy which will generate new customers, as well as retain current ones; a program originating from the customer’s needs and wants. Unfortunately, the majority of companies do not really know who they are trying to sell to and do not have a method to find out.
Owners forget, or do not know, that effective selling requires intuition and science. They ignore the science part and just go with their “gut.” But, feelings are not facts, and good sales plans are a balance of instinct and fact – each dovetailing with the other. You need both the gut and the analytics. If you want to be successful, you cannot afford to ignore the analytics.
So, where do you start?
The first and most important place to start is getting usable, actionable consumer data. Actionable data is information you use to create the “how to” of selling. It tells you the best way to sell to your customer based on the facts you collect about them. You want the who, what, when, where and why of your customer.
Here are some general questions to get you started – add others which are specific to your business.
Who is buying from you? What is their age, average income, sex, occupation?
What are they buying? This query is so simple it often gets overlooked. What products and service lines are selling? What should you focus on and what should you discontinue? Figure out what your clients are purchasing from you, not what you think they should be buying.
When are they buying? Are they buying full price or waiting for promotions/discounts? Is it seasonal? What would they be willing to purchase offseason? When is the best time for you to discount, offer new products, or do a sales push?
Where are they buying? Are they buying at your location, online, at their business or over the phone? Where would they like to buy? Do you need to offer easier, faster purchase options?
Why are they buying from you? What makes you unique (i.e., pricing, quality, product line, location, reputation)? Which products do you provide that meet their needs and wants? What don’t you offer that would meet their needs and wants?
Gathering this information will take time, but there is a reason that “know your customer” is a fundamental sales principle. Once you can answer these questions, you will be able to turn the data into an effective sales plan; a plan focused on retaining and increasing sales to your current customers and finding new ones.