For consistent sales, use consistent business processes

If you own a business you need sales, regardless of your industry or business model. Whether from new or repeat customers, sales bring in the cash that lets you stay in business.

When sales aren’t doing so well, it’s easy to point at certain factors and say they’re to blame. Things like poor closing techniques or improper pricing can certainly impact sales. The state of the economy might be to blame or maybe it’s just because some people have trouble making up their minds. Frequently, though, the primary reason why business owners don’t have the sales they want is because their processes are inconsistent.

Selling isn’t magical. Like anything in business, it’s a process and involves doing the right things consistently. When talking to business owners about their sales processes, we’ve often found inconsistent practices. Maybe they haven’t made a practice of keeping in touch with prospects after the initial meetings, or kept good records of who they’ve talked to or what new customers have bought. Or maybe their sales efforts have been very sporadic. Then they scratch their heads and wonder why they haven’t had better results.

A consistent sales process is a more like a marathon than a sprint, and involves preparation, maintenance and persistence. It involves having a plan for identifying prospects; keeping up-to-date information so you can weed people out and add people in; maintaining a database; staying in contact; and following up on a regular basis. And it means not giving up too easily.

One of the most important parts of having a consistent sales process involves how you handle rejection. Most of us find it unpleasant to hear “no” from a prospect and it’s the reason most people hate cold calling. But just because a prospect says no today doesn’t mean you should get discouraged, give up and never contact them again.

A favorite book of ours, and one that we like to give our clients, is Go for No. It’s authored by our friends in Oregon, Richard Fenton and Andrea Waltz, who have enjoyed great success as national speakers and trainers on this subject. The main premise of the book is changing the way you look at “no” when selling.

In a November, 2009 article in Success magazine, Fenton and Waltz wrote, “For many people, the word no is a brick wall standing between them and success. We polled hundreds of business professionals about their fears and motivations and the results were astounding: 51percent said their biggest fear is that the customer will say ‘no’ and reject them.” On the flip side, “38 percent said the willingness to face rejection is the No.1 quality of a great salesperson.”

The bottom line is you won’t get the sale if you don’t make the attempt, and attempts often result in rejection. You have to hang in there and be consistent in your sales efforts.

It’s also important to have a steady, reliable system in place for knowing whom to contact, how to contact them, and how frequently the contacts should be. Most successful salespeople operate with a great deal of consistency. They know they have to make a certain number of calls to obtain one appointment, and a certain number of appointments to obtain a sale. They use databases and usually have some type of contact management system to monitor contacts and schedule follow-ups, whether on paper or using an electronic system such as Salesforce.

If you employ a salesperson, they need to know your expectations for numbers of calls or appointments in a given timeframe, and how they should track prospects, contacts and results. Having a reporting system in place helps them understand your requirements and keeps you in the loop. In our companies, we’ve received regular sales reports telling us who was contacted, how the contacts were made, results and follow-up plans.

Consistency is also important when using marketing to generate sales leads. It usually takes a steady campaign over a period of time to see results. For example, because repeated contacts lead to top-of-mind awareness, a single direct mailer might produce only a few responses. But each subsequent mailer is likely to generate more responses than previous ones. Your marketing method needs to be consistent until you decide it’s ineffective at producing sales leads and change strategies.

Sales success involves a number of factors — selling a product people want, perseverance and determination (we love Zig Ziglar’s quote: “Timid salesmen have skinny kids”). But consistent processes are equally important. They add cohesiveness that helps prevent prospective sales from slipping through the cracks. Sales are what keep you in business so pay close attention to your processes!

Laddie and Judy Blaskowski are partners in several businesses, including BusinessTruths Consulting. They are authors of The Step Dynamic: A Powerful Strategy for Successfully Growing Your Business. Judy@BusinessTruths.com.