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A marketing strategy will help you identify your best customers, understand their needs and implement the most effective marketing methods.

The internet has transformed business marketing. No matter what you do, the internet is likely to be at the heart of your marketing strategy.

Social media is firmly established as a marketing tool. Having a presence opens up new lines of communication with existing and potential customers.

Good advertising puts the right marketing message in front of the right people at the right time, raising awareness of your business.

Customer care is at the heart of all successful companies. It can help you develop customer loyalty and improve relationships with your customers.

Sales bring in the money that enables your business to survive and grow. Your sales strategy will be driven by your sales objectives.

Market research exists to guide your business decisions by giving you insight into your market, competitors, products, marketing and your customers.

Direct marketing can be a highly successful way to generate sales from existing and new customers. Find out how to target them in the best way.

Exhibitions and events are valuable for businesses because they allow face-to-face communication and offer opportunities for networking.

PR

Favourable media coverage can bring a range of business benefits. But how do you attract the attention of editors, broadcasters and journalists?

Q&A: Sharpen up your sales force

 

If you can increase sales without hiring more staff, you can do more to protect cash flow than most cost-cutting measures

Andy Preston (AP), director of sales performance training company Outstanding Results, explains how training can help improve the performance of your sales team.

What makes a good salesperson?

AP: "In my opinion attitude is more important than any perceived sales skills - a good salesperson needs to be confident, tenacious, passionate, motivated, able to take knock-backs and has a get-up-and-go approach."

What makes for an effective selling technique?

AP: "There's a misconception that if someone talks a lot they are going to make a good salesperson. The key thing to remember is that effective selling is about listening to what the customer needs."

But do sales skills differ in different sales environments?

AP: "Techniques differ hugely between low-end and high-end products, as the length of the sales cycle is different for a sports car and office supplies, for example. If you are looking to qualify a prospect and secure a meeting, your strategy will be different from selling a product or service over the phone."

So how do you create an effective sales training programme?

AP: "When it comes to training, it's important to take individual needs into account. A training needs analysis should be undertaken - either formally or informally. Most companies fail to do this, content to meander along in the hope that the individuals will somehow figure it out on their own.

"But there are many areas to assess, such as winning new business, tenacity, determination, relationship-building skills, flexibility, questioning, closing deals, confidence and self-motivation. Trainers need to know what the individual needs of the salespeople are so they can deliver techniques that can have a personal stamp put on them - it's important for salespeople to sell in a way that is in keeping with their personality."

Should you reinforce training with performance targets and incentive schemes?

AP: "If you're dealing with full-time salespeople then targets are important - otherwise they'll lose motivation. These have to be realistic, however, and it's important to involve the sales team in setting them.

"If you offer incentives, they have to be inclusive - a one-size-fits-all approach often doesn't work. A trip to Barbados for your most successful salesperson can actually demotivate other team members. It's better to set goals and decide incentives on an individual basis."

How else can you improve sales performance?

AP: "Focus on the motivation of individual team members through regular one-to-one sessions and a commitment to delivering training that inspires and motivates them. Whether internal or external, training is vital to keep the standard up - and it's important to find a trainer who is willing to do regular sessions rather than just a one-off, as this will deliver more effective results."

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