The impact that lockdown has had on sales for small business owners has been mind-boggling. Owners have had to think creatively, generate ideas, manage risk differently and plan in order to recover.

Hayley Caine, Boost business coach and owner of Selling Made Easier, outlines her sales thinking and planning tips to get the sales results you need in our ‘new normal’. These tips apply to companies that have grown quickly and ones that have had a reduction in sales.

1. Give yourself thinking time

Time to think alone to clear your mind is vital. Write your thoughts and ideas quickly. Don’t judge them or discount them. This highlights issues you need to prioritise. Sleep on it and review the next day. Ask your team for their thoughts and include where you think it is useful.

2. Create a list of considerations

List in more detail the items, areas, issues. Examples could be assets, staff skills, customers, databases, marketing messages, production, packaging, timelines, risk, stock, cash, markets, legal, confidence, communications, investment, supply chain and distribution. Keep adding to your list until you can’t think of anymore

3. Rank your list

Consider the issues from several angles and score them using multiple column headings to compare and rank. Keep sifting on:

  • Contribution to sales
  • Time to sort it
  • Time it takes to impact
  • Who
  • Difficulty to do it
  • Cash required

4. Plan

In your existing plan include the issues above, amend and review. Include analysis of historical sales data. If you don’t have a plan, you need one so that you can evaluate and reduce risk.

5. Complete cash flows

Calculate different scenarios for example, sales reduce or increase by 25 per cent or 75 per cent. You can then understand the cash you need and if you need to borrow.

6. Give existing customers clear messages

List and call your key customers from your customer relationship management (CRM) system or database. If you haven’t got a CRM then create one quickly.

List customers you don’t want to work with and remove them from your list. Email all the rest and:

  • Reassure them of your measures in place to keep their staff and your staff safe
  • Provide reassurance of your business continuity and how you will reduce impact on their business
  • Discuss, ask and understand their position and the next steps
  • Explore with them if your new products are of value to them

7. Review your sales pipeline, quotes and current orders

Calculate the probability of orders going ahead, orders postponed and cancellations. Forecast revenue and assess the gap you still need.

8. Look at new products and new markets

Decisions on new product and market development are some of the most difficult to make as the risk of failure is higher. Selling time and costs are at least five times more than existing products and markets.

Test your market to a few customers to reduce the risk. Does this close the sales gap quickly enough? Will they be long-term or short-term?

9. Think about your future and reputation

It is a draining process to enforce contracts or collect debts. Think through the implications and handle it properly to maintain your reputation and supply chain. It may help short-term financially to be tough but it will take years to rebuild trust.

10. Review your sales target every week and be prepared to change and move it

This does not never apply but it does now. Keep adapting. Charles Darwin was spot on with his theories on evolution.

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, not the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.”

Hayley Caine has helped over 1200 business owners over 20 years to think differently about business, create ideas and set and hit their sales targets to make selling easier. Her diverse background in sales, marketing, training, finance, digital and people provides insight and practical action plans keep you on track with a blend of cracking the whip, having laughs and being kind. 

Hayley aims to help more Lancashire business owners grow and adapt with the launch of her online ‘Sales Community’ website in September 2020, designed for people who want make their selling easier, and want to be part of a community and help others.

Hayley’s profile picture is courtesy of photographer Jodie Bawden

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