Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Watching Sales Increase by 150%

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)

The Background:
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.

The Problem:
Poor sales performance despite having a decent product.

The Reason:
Poorly trained staff and lousy systems.

The Solution:
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
  • Leads 300
  • Conversations 140
  • Proposals 50
  • New Clients 20

6m to 30 June 20XX

  • Leads 350
  • Conversations 180
  • Proposals 95
  • 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. 


  • of course you can't write a blog entry like this without pointing out where people can find out how to get their own 150%...
  • The Directors' Centre - talk to The DC if you want these benefits
  • Read Grow Your Service Firm


Anonymous said...

We all "leave stuff on the table" all the time.

This doesn't just apply to accountants. What about bankers, solicitors, in fact any of the so-called 'professional' services?

The 150% headline seems unbelievable but may be true when the client starts at such a low starting point.


Anonymous said...

This understanding of the system is the basis for the most effective marketing systems. The maths is impressive. The final improvement is huge.

IMHO RC is saying that these sorts of improvements are not impossible for many of us. Agreed.

I know that our clients (we are a web design company) often see even bigger improvements. The reason as Jeremy said is the low starting point. 150% of nothing is nothing!

Robert, if you need a hand with your own funnel then I am your man.

Not rocket science going on here.

Why is common sense so uncommon?


Pete Ball said...

150% feels a bit unrealistic to me. But maybe this says more about the poor skills training or staff selection processes in the industry.

I have no doubt that most accountants can significantly improve their contact to contract ratio as you have proved.

Hats off to you!

What you have proven is the value of testimonials and case studies. I am already thinking that if you can do that with some accountants then what could you do for me?


Richard smith said...

More and more firms are out there and acting like this. Heads in the sand and hoping 'it' will work.

Like learning to drive, remember what your mistakes are and of course learn from them. Monitor everything and stop what is not working, and of course do more of what is.

Please check your processes and please ensure that you follow up and monitor.

With many of the firms we are working with sales are being left on the table because no one takes the action because they THINK the answer is no.... aaarrrggh

Richard Smith

Marie said...

This is a brilliant article on an issue that needed addressing.

Seemingly so many businesses, (small, medium and large) often cannot see where they are slipping because they're so familiar with how they do things. (I'm sure the majority of us are guilty of it...) There's a % of 'copy the competition' going on, rather than thinking about consumers needs, route to market and dealing with them as people you can and want to help.

It's important to seek continous improvement, which can only be achieved by marketing, measuring and testing. I feel it's probably worth mentioning how important it is to keep your existing customers here as well - they're extremely valuable and should not be taken for granted while looking for new leads!!!

Glad you highlighted this important information, keep up the good work!


Terry Walsh said...

Robert's simple message is action.

This post appliedsto all businesses

Itching to get to Monday morning.


Bev Cooper said...

An obvious and painful reminder. Bev (people who live in glass houses.) PR/Branding

Anonymous said...

This is such a common thing, and something that Nicky Pattinson is addressing with many businesses in the UK and in the US.....she's seen sales go up by 800% in some retail outlets after training the staff how to engage with their customers....with amazing

Anonymous said...

More promo advertising!

Rob W said...

Have been flicking through your blog and came across this. A remarkable story. Simple solution in an industry incapable of seeing itself through the customers' eyes. These kind of results can be reproduced in almost any accountancy firm that you go into. But, that is only if they get it.