Is your business in the fast lane?
In this the fourth article in the series – “Is your business in the fast lane?” – I concentrate on the importance of Marketing and Sales in helping your businesses reach the fast lane. Subsequent articles focus on other areas to ensure improvement, growth and sustainability of your business.
Marketing and Sales – If the purpose of the business is to get and keep customers, then marketing is about what you should do to achieve this purpose. In other words, marketing is about developing products or services that satisfy customer’s wants. Selling, on the other hand, is about getting people to buy your products or services.
Marketing – Nothing can bring greater business rewards than getting your company’s marketing right. It is essential to market your products and services and to make customers aware of your business. Customers need to understand what you do; why it is of value to them and why they should buy from you.
Businesses which create, implement and continually work on their marketing plan find that sales and profits materialise easier and quicker. The marketing plan can be used to help ensure the long-term growth and prosperity of the organisation. Marketing is about whom you want your customers to be today and tomorrow and it’s about knowing what’s going on in the market place and the industry. Lessons learnt from academic research for SMES are:
- Use professional advice – an outside professional can act as a catalyst to focus on the importance of marketing.
- Use basic techniques – is what’s needed. Market segmentation and using current information may be all you need.
- Customer Focus – doing this will enable you to give customers what they really want.
- Plan – the discipline of putting the customer first brings with it systematic planning, prioritising and measuring effectiveness, all of which help business performance.
- A shift of focus changes other factors – focusing on the customer needs changes to the whole business outlook as it reviews all functions in a new light.
- New rules create new markets – new legislation, rules and regulations have created new opportunities for those actively seeking them.
- Get competitive advantage – by focusing on customer needs and marketing issues, businesses are able to focus their operations on what is really required by the customer.
- Change outlook – Marketing can become the central business function, which increases the firm’s competitiveness. Focus all activity on the impact on the customer.
- Staffing changes – staff need to change to adopt the new philosophy. Becoming successfully customer focused requires the involvement and commitment of all staff and it starts at the top.
Selling – Effective, high performance selling is important to the success of every kind of business. Selling successfully covers every aspect of the sales process, providing advice on taking the right mental approach, organising yourself, understanding and working with your customers’ needs and build essential skills such as presenting and negotiating. It includes:
- Preparing to sell – find out what the customer really wants as early as possible and work in partnership so as to ensure customer satisfaction so that the business relationship continues.
- Gain self confidence – always approach prospective customers expecting to sell. Present clearly and look the part when selling. Have confidence in yourself if you want others to believe in you. Correct any faults and misunderstanding.
- Practice self-development – plan your reading and courses to meet your specific measurable aims. Talk to others about what you learn as it will increase your recall.
- Get Organised – Selling must be matched to very clear business purposes and planned to enable the realisation of those aims. So track paperwork processes from start to finish to cut out waste; free time to catch up on undone tasks. Plan days daily, months monthly and years annually. Ensure you set sales targets.
- Dealing with customers – understanding customer attitudes is crucial to increasing sales. Make an effort to research prospective customers, maximise customer contacts and maintain strong relationships. Regard your customers as allies; do research into customer’s actual needs, and respond to findings; note your customer’s priorities; and if you promise anything always keep your promise.
- Finding Customers – making the right proposition to the right customer at the right time cannot be left to chance. Carry out research about you customers and their companies before approaching them to increase the probability of finding the winning combination. Remember existing customers provide the best opportunities for new sales, followed by former customers and then new customers. Spend time finding out who makes the decision to buy in the target company.
- Provide Customer Service – treat sales and customer service as one and the same. Respond to customer enquiries. Deal effectively with customer complaints and ensure you maintain customer contact, even after a successful sale. Measure customer satisfaction, accordingly.
- Making a Successful Sale – involves planning and strategy. Make sure your sales strategy makes sense to everyone. Assess your brand image and current market position to strengthen you sales strategy. Look for exciting customer propositions. Follow a sales strategy: Investigate the customer’s objectives by desk research and asking colleagues…….. Plan an arresting presentation, keeping the customer’s objectives in mind………. Make your presentation, supplying as much information as possible…….. Negotiate the terms that meet both your goals and the customer needs……. Close the deal, summarising the key points and emphasising benefits and don’t forget after sales support and ongoing communication.
In summary, marketing is about developing products or services that satisfy customer’s wants. Selling, on the other hand, is about getting people to buy your products or services. Are you or your organisation good at Marketing & Sales?