Last year I wrote as well-received blog and article entitled Watching Sales Increase by 150% about an accounting firm. I ask myself, "Is it utter tosh?"
The answer is "yes" and "no"!!!
"YES it is utter tosh" in as much as it is a screaming headline and it ticks all the boxes of:
"let me show you the secret/shortcut/silver bullet blah blah" to success."
Most grown-ups will not (or should not) fall for the headline promising a quick fix because we know that quick fixes rarely actually work. Even if a quick fix acts like a sticking plaster for a while, then the underlying problems will re-emerge.
However the story is true (the client has been made anonymous).
So, I will say, "No it is not utter tosh". The principle behind the numbers does make sense. If we are systematic and structured in our approach to business development then you can get some remarkable results. Not every time but pretty often.
In the long run, and in order to maintain such stellar business success, some deeper more significant changes were required in the business, including a refocus on:
- where new business was coming from
- why people were buying
- the client experience
- the client journey
- why the practice was in business, its purpose
- what values were important to the senior partners and staff
Here's the original article...
As people feel the full bite of the recession, the quest to survive puts more pressure on the need to find more and better clients. One key problem, poor sales performance, is simply more visible in difficult trading conditions.
CASE STUDY (Real Life – Accounting Firm: Jan - June 20XX)
Profits and sales were slipping.
Using a number of fairly sophisticated marketing techniques, potential clients were invited to presentations, exhibitions, updates and seminars as opportunities for face-to-face contact. Yet sales conversion rates were disappointing. The practice was simply letting new business slide through its fingers.
Poor sales performance despite having a decent product.
Poorly trained staff and lousy systems.
A few simple changes that will have a massive impact on your bottom line.
It was identified that staff had been expertly trained on the technical side of their job but were lacking the more subtle inter-personal skills that are so important. Accountants are great at doing accounts but not so great at talking to potential clients about why they should be appointed.
Director level support brought the issue out into the open.
Your sales performance will improve if you focus on the following 'crunch questions':
- Who is the ideal/target customer? What are their problems? Why do they buy your product?
- Do you really understand what it is that the customer is buying? Are you selling the benefits rather than the features?
- Why should people buy from you when they can buy from the competition
- What makes you different from the rest?
- How to start and finish a conversation?
- Do you deliver a credible and compelling Audio Logo/Elevator Pitch/One-Minute Intro
- Can/Do you ask for the business? Can you ask for referrals?
- Are you able to close the sale?
For any sales professional this is the stuff that Session One from Day One of a Sales Course should cover (Spookily this is very similar to the programme we take business through on the Bright Marketing courses that I run for Barclays).
The reality was far from the truth.
Your sales people need to be taken through a process like the one outlined above. Add decent measurement systems to your soft skills (targets, some decent prospect data, metrics, and conversion ratios) and selling becomes a simple game: you know how many conversations create an appointment create a new client.
In the six months we worked with our client we saw their competitors going bust and the industry lose its confidence. However our client saw client sales rocket. Compare the numbers (which lose their formatting on most machines - sorry!)
6m to 31 Dec 20XX
New Clients 20
6m to 30 June 20XX
New Clients 50
Leaving out any complicated/sophisticated explanations, the incredible thing was that new clients had increased by a remarkable 150%.
What does this say to you?
Well, small changes in how you go about the sales process have a massive impact. Many trainers use Micky Mouse numbers to impress their audience but here is an example where the numbers speak for themselves.