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  • Richard Ayres

Why filling the sales hopper is vital to longevity


“If you stand still, you go backwards!” is a phrase often heard around boardroom tables and in sales team discussions. People may wonder what this means, but it is precisely the reason why filling the sales hopper is of vital importance to the long-term success of a business.

So, why might standing still result in a business effectively going backwards? Well, the reality is that there are many reasons why businesses lose customers (clients) and more often than not it is through no fault of their own. Here are just a few:-

  • A competitor undercuts your business based on price

  • The customer wants a change in product or service

  • A competitor introduces another, superior offering

  • The customer goes out of business

  • A new buyer for one of your customers takes over procurement decisions and brings with them their own preferences and service providers

  • New competitors enter the market

The list is far from exhaustive! Sometimes of course it is not too late to retain customers by compromising in some way – price, fees, service levels, quantity, etc. but this is likely to mean reduced turnover, profitability or both.

So how should you or your organisation deal with this situation? Apart from tackling inefficiencies within the business to remove cost, the key to falling sales or pressure on profitability is to try and identify other potentially profitable customers and this is where the sales hopper concept applies. Your objective here should be to identify target customers with the potential to buy your product or services. There are typically a variety of ways of doing this but this will vary depending on the nature of your business and the model you are pursuing.

Once you have created that target list, the next step is to prioritise that list so that in devoting your limited time to increasing revenues, you are giving yourself the greatest chance by focusing on those most likely to say “yes.” Again, there are a number of characteristics you are likely to look for in making that decision.

This done, you should now begin to create or refine your proposition (offering), again giving you and your organisation the best likelihood of success in making a sale (winning a contract). The key here is to tease out your unique selling points (USPs) or at the very least prioritise your strengths.

What follows is an exercise in honing in on your target customer which means identifying the buyer in that organisation, possibly along with a few key influencers in order to make the right approach. This can often be the most difficult thing to do!

Once you have the target in your sights, you need to reflect on how best to approach them and there are inevitably a variety of ways and means of doing so. Of course, it may all be a question of timing before a purchase is made. Giving yourself the best chance of completing the deal means staying front of mind with your customer, hence the phrase “engineered serendipity” on the home page of this website. The point is to aim to be front of mind when the decision maker is likely to be in a position to buy.

The other key factor in all of this is the numbers game or rather understanding that there is a need to play the numbers game. Successful salesmen know that they won’t convert every sales meeting, product push or service proposal into a sale for the reasons given at the start of this blog, but, filling the sales hopper with the right sort of targets gives them and indeed you the greatest chance of success provided that the steps outlined above are followed.

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