To ensure a predictable business plan it is important to have a repeatable and scalable sales process in place. Thereafter, increasing revenues as per the business plan would only mean increasing the sales team and the geographies that you intend to address. Once the sales process is in place, the sales team would only need to follow the process that has been set in place to start generating business. A scalable sales process should include:
– An effective marketing strategy for lead generation
– A good understanding of the prospective client’s decision-making process
– A Go-to-Market (GTM) strategy that is built around the client’s process, to ensure progress of the sales efforts to predictable and desired outcomes
– A sales process that will help to control the cost of customer acquisition
An Effective Lead Generation Program
To establish a regular business beat-rate, it is important to ensure that the sales force is regularly fed with qualified leads that they can then take forward to a possible closure. This can only be achieved if there are several lead generation strategies in operation. These should include, but not limited to:
– A good and effective in-bound marketing strategy using the website and social networks
– Some amount of out-bound marketing to create some overt awareness, like interviews with opinion leaders, planting business-specific articles, organizing/participating in events etc.
– Cold-calling through an internal or external team, using any qualified databases
– A referral program for employees, customers and other external sources
Using these and any other lead generation program would help to ensure that the sales force is kept busy and they have a healthy funnel to work with.
Understanding the client’s process for a scalable sales model
This is extremely critical for ensuring a predictable process, without which the sales team will never be able to correctly forecast business closures. Understanding this process will give a clear view of the way the sales effort is progressing and the actions required to be taken to move the sales process forward. This knowledge will also help you to plan and put in place the necessary actions that need to be taken at every stage of the sales process to ensure that the client has the necessary information to push it to the next level internally.
For example, if the decision maker is looking to garner internal support from other departments, this should be clearly tracked and the relevant material should be ready for circulation within the decision-making team, even before they ask for it. This would help to bring down the sales cycle-time and also establish some level of credibility. Similarly, if you know that the CFO/CEO may be the final decision-makers, then you should be ready with the business case and ROI calculator, to be able to quickly present the business case when the need arises, instead of reacting. Such proactive initiatives will go a long way in building credibility for yourself and give the impression that you have done this many times before. This is very important for a new venture.
Once this process has been streamlined from the experience of selling your solution or product to atleast 10-15 different clients, you then know you have a process that is now predictable and ready to be scaled. You now have a process that is customer-centric and is able to predict the client’s requirements at every stage, enabling you to take pre-emptive actions.
Controlling Cost of Customer Acquisition
With a predictable and repeatable sales model, you are now able to track the sales progress and the time it should take at each stage. Any time over-runs will mean an increase in the cost of sale. Monitoring and managing this at every stage will ensure customer acquisition within reasonable timelines and cost.
Also, this model will now empower you to take decisive calls on how far to engage the client before business closure. The usual sales problem is continuing to service a client for unreasonably elongated timelines and still having no closures, leading to an unpredictable sales forecast and inflated cost of sales. With this customer-centric model, you can predict where the bottleneck is and come to a reasonable conclusion on the probability of the business closing in your favour or closing at all, helping you to take that difficult call of pulling out of the opportunity. In most cases, this is usually the difficult part and that is entirely because of a lack understanding of the client’s decision-making process and therefore a high reliability on ‘HOPE’. Knowing when to say ‘NO’ is very critical to ensure sales costs are kept within permissible limits.
Controlling cost of sales, increasing sales productivity and bringing in some semblance of predictability to the sales forecast are issues that even established organizations are grappling with, and I do hope that my experience in trying to address these issues, as enumerated above, would be of help.