Sales numbers drop for many different reasons, which vary according to the industry or even the sales professional. But if people are really not buying, what should entrepreneurs, business owners, and sales executives be doing in the face of customers holding on to their wallets during an economic downturn?
- Review Current Accounts
- Understand Where Your Revenue Comes From
- Manage Your Team’s Activities
- Check-In With Your Customers
- Host A Networking Event
- Look at your Social Media/E-Commerce Strategy
If the tough economy has changed customer habits, it’s an opportunity to do things differently. Examine your business model to determine how you can adjust your strategy to meet your customers’ needs or cater to their new buying habits. Can you offer them better products, delivered to them faster? Can you improve your customer service? For many retail businesses (B2C), something as simple as rearranging your store can help attract new customers. Meanwhile, business to business (B2B) enterprises should ensure that their sales process is uncluttered and that they resolve customer complaints in a timely manner. The customer experience is critical in delivering the value that differentiates you from your competitors and is often the deciding factor.
Review Current Accounts
In the past, companies have traditionally looked for business. This is fine to a point, but finding new business in a tight economy is difficult and takes more energy and resources to accomplish. One effective strategy is to see how you can grow your business from within by looking at your current accounts.
While your goal might be to attract new accounts, the onboarding process sometimes costs more than growing your existing business. New accounts require time to seek out, build trust and produce the product or service your new customers want. Of course, a new business is always good, but in most cases, existing customers will buy from you one-tenth the amount of time. Show your loyal customers some love!
Understand Where Your Revenue Comes From
What product, demographics, location, season, government ministry or sector drives your revenue? The reality is that even some large distribution companies do not have their customer base properly mapped out. Mapping your customer base means articulating who your customers are and where they’re located (which county, city, village, street, supermarket, mini-mart, or parlour), when they buy, what industry they work in, and what their political affiliation might be. There are tons of apps you can use: Fulcrum, for instance, is great for data collection, while Zoho or Salesforce are adept at customer relations management (CRM).
Saying that sales are down is one thing, but being able to say “Our sales are down by 40% overall, our largest declines are in “X” product, and Arima has been our biggest drop” gives you specific information that you can use to refine your approach. Understanding where your revenue comes from on this micro-level allows you to easily determine what’s being affected – and more importantly, figure out what steps you should take to quickly counteract the decline.
Manage Your Team’s Activities
Effective team management is key. It’s easy for sales representatives and managers to become complacent by buying into the “no one is buying” narrative. Even if it were true, your team still needs to be actively looking for business while managing their existing accounts well. Managers should have regular strategic meetings – one-on-one or with the whole team – to make sure that sales reps are doing what’s required to generate revenue and create exemplary customer service experiences. Engage in coaching and implement regular role-playing sessions through which your sales team can practice which approaches are (and aren’t) working.
Check-In With Your Customers
You can break up your customer base by using the Pareto Principle (80/20):
i. Those who give you the most revenue
ii. Those who give you the most volume
iii. Those that are strategically important: the influencers.
The order in which you break them down is the order in which you should contact them, and your call should always focus their priorities rather than your own. Sometimes it’s a ripple effect: you can lose business if your clients are experiencing a downturn. Quite often, your clients may be grappling with issues that are either slowing their progress or stymieing them entirely. Reaching out not only offers them support, but it also gives you the opportunity to use your expertise to help solve their problem.
Checking in is a great tool to figure out whether or not you are maximising the account. Do you have 100% of their business or even a majority share? If not, what can you do to increase their business? Your strategy should be to boost capacity, market and wallet share. Find ways to increase volume and ensure that you are not leaving any openings for your competitors. Remember, too, that you can leverage against influential customers for referrals and introductions.
Host A Networking Event
Connect your customers to people they’d like to do business with. Although professionals like lawyers, doctors and architects are not allowed to advertise their practices, they can still have networking sessions and customer appreciation events that will allow them to meet potential clients and increase the awareness of their business. Find creative ways to showcase to your client base what it is that you do.
Look at your Social Media/E-Commerce Strategy
Don’t roll your eyes. If your business is not on any of the major social networking platforms, you are missing out on an opportunity to grow your business. Do not believe, as one local businessperson stated, that “my customers aren’t on Facebook or Instagram”. A well-crafted social media strategy allows your business to demonstrate its value 24/7/365.
However, it is a mistake to delegate your social media strategy to a marketing department (or someone you assume is “good” at social media) – this is a strategy, not a casual effort. Your e-commerce approach is also important because you want your customers to be able to see and purchase your product or service at any time. This should extend beyond social media to a web presence.
Having a Facebook page isn’t enough; a website gives your customers the ability to buy your product or service whenever they want to.
Innovation does not wait. If you fight it, you will lose…badly.