THE sales industry has a common way of looking at sales results.

First, you find 10 sales leads, make three appointments to present your proposals and eventually close one sale. This is also known as the 10:3:1 ratio in sales.

However, as more similar products and services go on the market (both online and offline), it becomes challenging for customers to make a decision.

When they are unsure about which brand to choose, then it is the brand they are familiar with that usually wins the deal.

That means getting into the minds of your prospective customers is a long-term strategy and not something that you can hope to gain from a quick sale.

However, with escalating business costs and pressure from management to deliver results, what are some creative strategies that managers can look at?

 

Creative strategies

Over the years, I have used these five strategies, either in combination or individually, with much success:

 

1

 Attend trade shows

While doing this is not new, many salespeople tend to visit trade shows that are in their own industry verticals.

For example, if they are in the information technology (IT) field, they tend to go prospecting in the personal computer and consumer electronics fairs and neglect the rest.

And the rest is where the new fish in the pond are awaiting.

Besides learning about how other industries are thriving and keeping up to date with the latest trends, there are ample opportunities in non-related industry trade shows to attend.

For example, as e-commerce becomes increasingly popular and is seen as an alternative way to engage customers, the IT salesperson would be in a good position to educate his “new” customers, build a good relationship and explore ways to better serve this new niche market.

 

2

 Take on volunteer work

Many not-for-profit organisations are beneficiaries of helpful companies that not only contribute their time and effort in their activities but also provide their own industry capabilities.

For example, a company can provide free website design or web hosting, write articles, maintain sites and so on.

This is a good way to build brand awareness for your organisation and a diversified portfolio to showcase to the next customer.

 

3

 Use testimonials as leverage

Few companies use testimonials consistently to get the desired results.

To engage customers, it is not adequate to provide printed copies of clients’ testimonials. Prospects come from different backgrounds and it is thus important to engage them through multi-sensory channels like videos, contests, games and social media as well.

With the Internet, video testimonials also allow the company to tap on overseas prospects that they previously may not have access to.

Salespeople could incorporate these testimonials in their presentations for both existing and new clients.

Testimonials are a confidence booster and demonstrate the track record of the organisation.

 

4

 Engage in cross-functional brainstorming

When sales are slow due to a low season or budget cuts, it may be a good idea to reorganise sales efforts.

Begin examining the “4Ps” of product, price, place and promotion.

Engaging colleagues from cross-functional teams in a brainstorming session can spice up the meeting and get fresh perspectives.

This is a particularly useful activity to do before reaching out to external consultants, as some of the basic and obvious reasons for lacklustre sales may be highlighted by the organisation’s own people.

 

5

 Experiment with ideas

Salespeople are in a good position to gather first-hand information about customers’ demands.

It is unfortunate if great ideas never get brought up during sales meetings simply because a salesperson is fearful that his sales results do not support his views.

Ideas should be analysed on their own merit — a great idea could garner the next big contract for the company.

A company’s management is responsible for making its environment an inclusive one, where people are free to share ideas, explore freely and, where time and resources permit, take their ideas to the next level.

Google, for example, has a culture in which engineers are free to use 20 per cent of their time to tackle any product ideas that their colleagues are working on.

Such collaboration ignites creativity, provides a space for healthy discussions and promotes employees’ personal development.

 

See the big picture

Too often, companies become myopic and focus on garnering more sales. It may be healthy to take a step back and see things from a bigger perspective.

While the above ideas may not yield million-dollar contracts immediately, they offer fertile ground for sales creativity, instil a greater sense of belonging in employees and add diversity to the repetitive nature of the sales process.

 

Article by Desmond Chua, an associate lecturer, entrepreneur and relationship coach. For more information, e-mail dchua1969@gmail.com