If out-selling your competitors in 2013 is your goal, then here are seven simple tips to get you started.
1. Ring-fence your existing accounts
If you want to get ahead, and stay ahead, of your competitors in 2013, the very first thing you need to do is ring-fence all your existing customers. What are your relationships like with your existing accounts? The ones you don’t get on as well with? Would they tell you if a competitor had been in? And if they did, would you retain the business at the same price, or would you have to price match to keep it?
2. Focus your prospecting
The quality of your prospecting will be one of the biggest factors in how successful you are in 2013. There will be certain specific criteria that make certain prospects more ideal for you than others. If you don’t know what they are, you need to find them out — and fast! If you’re really not sure, take a look at your existing client base. What was it that made them purchase at the moment they did?
3. Become a “valued resource”
In order to be seen as a valued resource, you have to earn it. Get updated on industry trends, technological advancements and understand the impact that these could have on your client’s business. You have to be able to hold a business conversation with the level of decision-makers you’re meeting. Invest the time to do things like this, and it will pay you back tenfold!
4. Have a plan for your attack
One of the best ways to get ahead of the competition is to win some of their customers from them! Why not map out competitors’ accounts in your territory, then create a call plan for getting in to see them, and focus on winning their business. Experience shows that focused approaches like these have a far better chance of success — and also put a big dent in your competitor’s motivation at the same time.
5. Increase your activity
Now, once you’ve targeted your prospecting, the next thing you need to do is crank up the volume. I’m a big fan of a high level of activity and the reason for this, is that the more deals you have in your pipeline, the more you can afford to lose! Purely by increasing your activity, you increase your chances of success — and therefore increase the amount of money you can earn. Who wouldn’t want to do that?
6. Keep motivated
We all know that motivation is important for a salesperson. But it’s the salesperson’s ability to be consistently motivated that will help them stand out from the rest.
7. Sharpen your sales skills
If you want to stay ahead of your competition in 2013, you’ll need to sharpen your sales skills. This means getting up-to-date, relevant sales tips and advice from trusted sources. If you get some internal training at your company, great! If your company invests in bringing an external trainer to help you improve, even better! If you’re one of those people that believes in investing in yourself (even if your company doesn’t), I take my hat off to you.
However, you don’t have to spend money to keep your sales skills updated — there are lots of free or low-cost podcasts you can listen to and plenty of seminars you can attend without spending a fortune. Just make sure you put into practice what you learn.
In the “old world”, a competitor might be someone who you could readily identify — someone in the local phone book who was on the same page as you or someone who bought ads on the same radio station as you, for the same products and services.
But in a world where customers have swapped the phone book and the local paper for search engines such as Google or Bing, a competitor is someone who ranks more highly than you for the keywords or phrases that define your business.
These competitors might not even be in the same town or country. Of course, you might be lucky. You might have a hyper-local business where you have a monopoly within a certain geographical reach, but even then, you might be missing out on customers who don’t know your business name and are searching for generic phrases.
Understanding how to be at the top of search engines can give you a huge advantage over your competition. The internet is still a relatively immature media and while an increasing number of businesses understand the importance of having a website, not all have understood the importance of natural or organic search, which is probably what brought you here.
In fact, sometimes the largest companies are the slowest to react to new technology, so you may be able to “punch above your weight” and rank more highly in Google and Bing than competition who used to be able to outspend you using traditional advertising methods.
This isn’t new. Sun Tzu, the strategist and warrior said:
“If ignorant both of your enemy and yourself, you are certain to be in peril.”
He also said:
“Know your enemy and know yourself and you can fight a hundred battles without disaster.”
The phone book of the day is a search engine and understanding your customers and how they find you is a business imperative. If your customers are finding your competitors first, then understanding why your competitors are beating you is the first step to turning around that situation.
More insight into competitors:
A few weeks ago, the media gleefully revealed that Jamie and Jools Oliver had named their new daughter Petal Blossom Rainbow. When we stopped snorting, my BHP colleagues and I reflected that the Olivers are just conforming to a celebrity tradition of giving their offspring ‘distinctive’ names. The Fluffy Bunny Wabbit variety is a relatively recent phenomenon, probably inspired by the late Paula Yates, mother of Peaches, Fifi Trixibelle and Heavenly Hiraani Tiger Lily. But it’s been almost 40 years since David Bowie boldly called his son Zowie Bowie and Frank Zappa sired the oddly-named Moon Unit. Yet even these two zanies seem quite restrained beside the magician Penn Jillette, father of the fabulous Moxie Crimefighter, the actress Shannyn Sossamon, doting mother of Audio Science, and singer John Mellencamp, proud progenitor of the unfortunate Speck Wildhorse. WHAT WERE THESE PEOPLE THINKING? It would be easy to poke fun, to go on about how the other kids in class will be sniggering behind their hands during registration, and how potential employers will assume their job application is a joke. But the truth is that their names are no real handicap at all, because these children automatically belong to an exclusive club where a bonkers name is more or less a membership requirement. They’re not really going to be applying for jobs at Sainsbury’s, are they? My point is that the suitability of a name is dependent on context – and it’s the same with business. Some time ago we interviewed Neena Trehan, the owner of Spa Fabulous, which leaves you in no doubt what to expect. Spa Fabulous just works. So, for quite different reasons, does IBM. I’ve no idea what IBM stands for, but I do know that big business loves an important-sounding abbreviation - so IBM works for me. In fact, I suspect that if IBM were to rebrand itself as IT Fabulous it would collapse overnight, leaving thousands of executives called Jim, Garry and Tom to console themselves with a relaxing massage at Neena’s as they wonder where it all went wrong. As far as I can see, a business name has to do five things:
It doesn’t have to be attention-seeking, but it does need to be self-aware. J Brown & Son Locksmith is fine, suggesting craft and continuity – exactly what security-conscious customers are looking for. J Brown & Son Fashion, however, makes me think of neglected seaside towns where old people go to sit on graffiti-strewn benches and stare mournfully at the sea. Naming a business - like naming a child, I guess - is a bit of an art. It’s not so much that you have to get it dead right as you must not get it wrong. And context matters, a lot. Zowie Bowie understands this. As an adult pursuing a serious career in the film industry, he’s rejected the proxy glamour of Zowie Bowie in favour of something rather more prosaic: nowadays he’s plain old Duncan Jones. I wonder if Petal Blossom Rainbow Oliver will ever wish for such an ordinary monicker in years to come?
Market research — the name alone brings moans and groans from customers and businesses alike. Somewhere deep down, we know that it’s worthwhile filling in those seemingly endless surveys to end up with a better, brighter, tastier product or service.
Market research plays a vital part in any business as it gives you insight into your market, your competitors, your products, your marketing and your customers. This way you can make informed decisions, such as which chocolate Easter eggs to stock. And believe me, this is hugely important.
Market research helps you to reduce risks by getting product, price and promotion right from the outset. It also helps you focus your resources where they will be most effective. Much information is available online and from industry organisations, and some of it is free. This information provides data on market size, sales trends, customer profiles and competitors. Your customer records also provide a wealth of information, such as purchasing trends.
So that’s the theory. With our experts like Kate Willis of KW Research and Steve Phillips of Spring Research Ltd offering their hands-on advice and tips, you can turn the theory into good business practice.
To make sure you know how to plan your market research so that you can find out which chocolate your customers prefer, check the Marketing Donut website — it goes live on 20 April.