Developing an effective sales plan
Sales development and customer retention are at the heart of all great businesses and the key driver behind effective selling is planning. Developing a realistic sales plan can help business owners in Thailand not only manage their business cashflow but also identify opportunities and problems as they rear their heads, before it’s too late to act. Too many businesses get sucked into time consuming fire fighting, which could have been avoided. A logical starting point for developing a sales plan is to examine your existing customer base.
Study your customer base
By reviewing last years sales ledger and seeing what you achieved you should be able to spot the customers who’ll be buying more from you in the year ahead – as well as those who might be at risk of moving to the competition.
If you discover that you rely too heavily on a small number of customers, you’d be wise to consider broadening your customer base, just in case you lose one of these key customers in the future.
New businesses in Thailand however, will have to make assumptions based on thorough market research. Is the market set to grow or shrink? What impact will your competitors have on your ability to grow market share? If you are hoping to increase your sales team in the months ahead what impact will this have on your projected sales? And what about your advertising spend? Will this generate the level of enquiries you need from potential customers? Other issues that could affect your sales plan are increasing prices, changing economic conditions, a new product launch, moving premises, availability of product from your suppliers and the loss of a key sales person.
Set realistic sales targets
As part of your planning it is essential to provide an accurate forecast of sales. The sales projection is a vital part of any financial forecasts and business plan – but it is important you try to avoid the temptation of being over-optimistic. All too often business owners in Thailand fail to predict their sales realistically and end up dealing with cashflow difficulties further down the road. Before lending you any money, your bank will ask how you came up your sales prediction and you’ll need to be prepared to explain and justify any assumptions made!
Target the right person
Effective selling is also about targeting the right people. Clearly there will be many people you could try to sell to, but not all will have the power to buy your products or services. The challenge for you is to track down the decision makers and start to convince them that your product or service is the right one for them.
There are several methods you can use to find out who are the decision makers in the target business. For example check the company website for a biographies, press articles and contact details of key members of staff. Alternatively contact the firm directly and ask who the best person to speak to would be and when is a convenient time to call them?
Once you have tracked down the key person you need to decide how important the target customer is to you and decide how much time you are willing to invest in trying to win their business. Not all customers will be happy you’ve called at a particular time – and finding the right time for each one is always a matter of trial and error. But don’t let a potential customer’s refusal to speak with you get you down as the disappointment in your voice maybe sensed by the next customer you speak to.
Getting the brush off is a fact of life for any sales person, but if you play it cleverly you could open up the opportunity. If you are asked to post something or put your proposal in an e-mail, ask what they are particularly interested in or concerned about. Say that you will send some information and that you will make a follow up call to discuss it. It is important to find out why you are getting the brush off, as there maybe a better time in the future to approach the prospective customer.
Practice your sales pitch
The main aim of a sales call is to secure an appointment with the decision maker, but time is always at a premium and you may only have a matter of seconds to attract that person’s attention before they lose interest. It is vital to use a well practiced sales pitch tailored to your target customer and selling the main benefits of your service or product. You may wish to focus on one key benefit to grab their interest before asking for a meeting to develop the other customer benefits in greater depth. You should offer to visit the customer at their premises as they would be less likely to cancel the appointment. Remember your sales pitch should sound natural and not being read from a script.
It is vital you do your research before the meeting. The more you know about the company and the individual you are speaking to the easier it will be to match the benefits of your product or service to their needs. People want to know what your product or service can do for them and their business in Thailand and not just how it works. If you do your homework beforehand and ask informed questions you are going to make them confident that you understand their particular needs and therefore more likely to secure the sale.
Closing the deal
Basic sales methods boil down to attracting the customer’s attention, stimulating their interest, creating a desire and then closing the deal. Handling objections may be an important aspect of being able to secure the sale. Before you contact your target customer try to identify reasons why they may not purchase from you and decide how you are going to counter their objections. Listen for buying signals such as ‘Do you have a different size?’ or ‘When can you deliver?’ and be careful not to talk yourself out of a sale when you hear a buying signal. Don’t be afraid to ask for the sale and if they say yes confirm the deal. Remember that the relationship does not stop when you secure a sale. Good after-sales service is essential to retain that customer.
Head of Franchising
Lloyds Banking Group
Tel: 07802 324018
Richard heads up the Lloyds Bank franchise team and is a regular contributor to trade publications and national press. He regularly speaks at franchise seminars and exhibitions.