The business landscape has changed significantly in recent years due to technology, globalisation, and many other factors. Traditional methods of high-pressured and aggressive sales tactics are becoming less effective at actually increasing sales. After all, customers now have more choice and accessibility to companies than ever before. If you put the "hard sell" on a potential customer who's not up for it, they'll simply look elsewhere.
When you're brainstorming ideas on how to increase sales, it can be easy to jump to solutions such as running promotions and beefing up marketing activities. While these strategies can be effective, they can also cut into your profit margin. Having your sales team sell more aggressively runs the risk of customers labelling your business as "that pushy company that's always trying to sell me something".
How then do you increase sales without selling? Find out the five sales strategies that can help you sell more - without becoming that "pushy sales company" that relies on outdated sales tactics.
1. Your business story
Every company has a story to tell. And that’s a good thing because people naturally remember a good story.
To solidify your company story, think about why your business was first started. Were there any quirks or unexpected outcomes that make the story more memorable? What problems did it set out to solve for customers? And what are the company’s ongoing values? Think about what customers might identify with and build your story around it.
Once the story is worked out, make sure everyone in your company knows and understands it. Particularly your salespeople. After all, what better way to get them enthused about selling your products and services than to help them understand why they’re selling for you. A salesforce that believes in what they’re selling will tell your company’s story more sincerely to potential new customers.
2. Increase your reach
Did you know that an estimated 60-80% of the buyer journey is now happening online? That’s before potential buyers have picked up the phone, sent an email, or contacted anyone from your business. That’s why it’s essential to spread the word about your company and get the brand out there.
How? Get your salespeople spending time where their prospects are spending time – online. Focus on increasing each individual salesperson’s digital presence. Get them engaging on the same social platforms that your prospects are using regularly.
The more your salespeople boost their digital presence, the greater the chance of prospects noticing and connecting with them online. When your salespeople post quality information that's helpful and informative (without pushing the sales pitch), they'll begin to be viewed by potential customers as subject matter experts.
Remember, what your salespeople do and don’t post online is important. If it provides value to your audience, post it. If it doesn't provide value, don't post it. The online attention span is short. Between social media, online advertising, forums, mobile notifications, and more, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to capture people’s attention. That’s why value-driven content will always be the winner.
With so much advertising information online, it’s become increasingly transparent when a sales pitch is being made. So, you’re your salespeople are engaging with prospects online, keep the emphasis on value. The higher the perceived value of what your salespeople are providing, the more likely that prospects will be to communicate with them and keep your company in mind when they’re ready to buy.
"What your salespeople do and don’t post online is important. If it provides value to your audience, post it. If it doesn't provide value, don't post it."
3. Give customers what they want
The way customers buy from companies has changed in recent years. More purchasing activity is happening online and with 89% of Australians now owning a mobile phone, more purchasing activity is happening from mobile devices.
To maximise your chances of making a sale, your business needs to be where your customers are - online and on mobile devices. Your website also needs to cater to your customers' needs. Many customers will expect detailed product information, multiple images of products, and live product pricing and availability as a minimum. These details can help buyers make purchasing decisions more confidently.
The good news is that websites incorporating responsive design (a design approach that ensures websites adapt to devices of all sizes) are becoming the new normal. Finding a web developer who can deliver a modern, user-friendly website is much easier. Website platforms such as Shopify also incorporate drag-and-drop store builder functionality if you're looking to take on the task yourself.
eCommerce integration between your website and a back-end ERP system such as NetSuite or JCurve ERP will also give your customers a real-time view of product information, stock availability, orders, and more.
Giving customers what they want can not only help to attract new customers but also to increase your retention of existing customers.
4. Listen and learn from your customers
One of the best ways to improve your offering to potential new customers is to step back and listen to your existing customers. What do they think of your business, its products and services? Have they had a good experience dealing with your company? What do they want to see more of?
When you think about customer feedback, it can bring to mind surveys with pages of questions that extract granular detail on every aspect of the customer experience. But a good survey is based on only extracting the data you're going to use. Keep it simple and keep it clear.
Here are some tips from SurveyMonkey, a popular survey collection software tool, to get you thinking.
You can also start off more simply. Driving an internal initiative for sales reps, customer service, and other staff to ask a few basic questions when talking to customers can get the feedback rolling in. If you’re using a CRM system to track customer interactions, you can easily report on feedback that’s been logged in the system.
Whether it’s positive or negative feedback, it all presents an opportunity to learn and improve. Hearing negative feedback can be discouraging for some but can often hold the most value.
"One of the best ways to improve your offering to potential new customers is by listening to your existing customers."
5. Leverage customer advocacy and referrals
Word of mouth can have a strong influence over final purchasing decisions. Recent studies from Roy Morgan show that over 91% of Australians have either sought advice from or have been the source of advice for family and friends in regards to purchasing decisions. Why is it such a big factor? Because people trust each other more than they trust a company's marketing. It’s that simple.
If you’ve listened to customer feedback, you’ll have a good idea of who your happy customers are. These are the customers you’ll want to approach for referrals.
Some of the potential referral customers may regard your company so highly that they become natural advocates. Others may need a little extra convincing.
You may want to consider incentives to make becoming a referral customer even more appealing. An example might be a discount voucher entitling the referrer to a percentage off their next order with you. That's a win-win as you'll be getting a referral and more repeat business from the referrer. Other incentives might include early access to new products or services, giveaways, a higher level of support, just to name a few.
The next time your sales team is brainstorming about how to increase sales, remember that it's not just about selling more aggressively.
Consider the five strategies outlined above; defining your business story, increasing your reach, giving customers what they want, learning from existing customers, and taking advantage of customer advocacy. You might be surprised by just how much you can increase sales revenue without increasing costs or reducing margin.
If you’re interested in growing sales faster and further improving sales revenue, get your free guide on mastering multi-channel sales.