Successful Sales: Review and Planning

October 3, 2003 - 06:40

The final article in an eight-part series about sales strategies that improve profit.

Well, this is it -- the last of the Successful Sales series.
Over the course of this series, the previous articles brought you to the point
of gaining an agreement from your customer to purchase your products. By now,
you should almost be a master of the sales process. Now is the time for that
one last important step.

Time for Review

Immediately after the successful sale of your product (or
service), you should review the steps and the events that led up to capturing
the order. By replaying these events you will be in a much better position to
repeat those steps that were the most critical in the success with the next
client you approach.

Document what worked well and what didn't go so well during
key points of the sales cycle:

*                    Did
I clearly outline the benefits, not just the features, of my products/services?

*                    Did
I effectively add to the important "relationship" aspect when working
with the customer?

*                    Was
I prepared to ask the best questions and get the customer talking about what is
important to him/her?

*                    Did
I uncover enough specific areas of need that I can readily address with my
products and services?

*                    Was
I fully prepared to negotiate the details of the sale at the point that I
received the order?

*                    What
should I change the next time I am presenting the strengths of my company and
my products/services?

A review of the process, addressing these types of
questions, will likely prepare you more for the next call on this customer and
for future calls on new customers. Identify the answers to the review questions
above, and plan for your next opportunity with this customer. If you answered
"no" to any of the first five questions above, make it a point to get
those answered for your next opportunity in front of the customer.

Assuming you did a good job asking questions, most times you
were able to take a couple of notes on additional sales opportunities for the
future. This review will also improve your overall success rate in the sales
sequence with your other customers as well. For example, let's assume that your
original objective when calling on this customer was to gain an order for your
collection of "new and different" specialty annuals with a
custom-designed, unique packaging/marketing program. When you asked open-ended
questions about what is important to the buyer, with regard to key bedding
plant suppliers, you took notes that indicated they have a strong need for a
unique herb garden program. These specific opportunities, and others that you
captured in writing, are excellent topics for your next sales call and
agreement objective. In other words, after you have finalized the sale of your
specialty annual and marketing program, you can approach this customer again
with an idea for an herb program custom-designed specially for Á that
customer. Both parties benefit, and you gain a long-term customer that sees you
not only as innovative but, more importantly, attuned to their needs.

There are efficiencies for the retailer when conducting
business with fewer vendors. We are familiar with some growers who listen
closely to their customers and seek to provide solutions to issues that they
uncovered, and their share of the business grows faster than they could have
imagined.

At the beginning of this series, we asked the question,
"What is the next big area of the wholesale growing business that, when
improved, will provide more profit dollars?" Your investments into
mechanization and improved workflow have paid off well, but will the next best
investment in production efficiencies begin to run into the law of diminishing
returns? And when it does, will you be ready with ideas, program and talent to
mount a successful sales strategy?

Focusing

Now, turn your focus to the sales process. The immediate and
powerful benefits of improvements in this area are two main things:

*                    A
better understanding of your customer.

*                    Furthering
your relationship with this customer, which is the foundation of a long-term,
profitable business.

As business owners or managers, chances are, you deal with
many sales people every day who are trying to sell you something. Think about
that person who does the best job for you; what skills and attributes do they
present that you feel are a true asset to your business' growth? It's not just
price, but the overall value that cause people to buy, and the overall value is
their experience. It's difficult to add value when you have no real
relationship with the person who needs to understand this.

So the most important thing that we can leave you with, at
the close of this series, is to be thorough and pay attention to those
relationships.

About The Author

Joe Fox is marketing director and Gerry Giorgio is creative director with MasterTag, Montague, Mich. If you have questions about this article or about sales in general, they can be reached by phone at (231) 894-1712 or E-mail at fox@mastertag.com.

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