Improving your sales and business development activity

By Brian Wilcock, UK Director Magazines
It’s strange that some people don’t like the words ‘sales’ or ‘selling’ and use ‘business development’ instead. But, essentially, they are the same and whether you are an owner, partner or MD, you have a part to play.
Published in Essex Director magazine, Summer|Autumn 2022

Business Advice: Sales & Business Development

Why does ‘selling’ have such a bad reputation and why are we so afraid of it?

There is no doubt that if you google ‘sales person’, you’ll get plenty of words that you wouldn’t want to associate with your business or brand. It’s very easy to describe the qualities of a bad sales person. They don’t listen and aren’t interested in anything but what they’re selling. They don’t ask the right questions and don’t understand what you want.

However, google Richard Branson, Beyoncé, or Jeff Bezos and you’ll get a totally different set of adjectives; ones you’d gladly aspire to be called by others. They all do different things. One sells flights, one sells downloads/concert tickets, and one sells everything! Yet, the common link between the three, apart from being entrepreneurs, is they’re all sales people and they’ve all made a lot of money running successful businesses.

Why do some shy away from an association with the oldest skill known to man?

The pivotal issue is learning to love selling, rather than fear it, as without it you won’t succeed. Your success is dependent on your ability to persuade and without a sale you have no business.

Therefore, we must change our mindset and attitude towards selling if we truly want to be good at it.

Maybe the first thing that needs to be done is to replace the word ‘sales’ with ‘persuasion’. Defined as ‘the action or process of persuading someone, or of being persuaded to do or believe something’, we can now cast our minds further afield to think about the business, political and religious leaders who are adept at managing to change our attitude or behaviour. Do we regard them as sales people?

Persuasion isn’t just something you will do in order to turn more prospects into customers. There are several other areas where persuasion is important. Motivating your workforce, negotiating purchases and gaining funding are just three. In fact, probably if you think about it, most of what you do as a business owner involves persuasion/selling.

Everyone in your business sells

The biggest misnomer, however, is that most think that it is only the sales team in your business who sell, when in fact everyone in an organisation is selling the services, products or reputation of the organisation. From the delivery driver and field engineers to the CEO, we all play a part, and how we come across in our daily job is crucial.

Take a private hospital for instance. Yes, the receptionists are key to the impression of the organisation, but what about the cleaners, housekeepers and catering staff? They are all in close contact with the customer. They are so important to repeat business, but they are not called ‘sales people’. In terms of making the workforce aware of how important they are to the sales income; we need to educate them.

You could take these 5 steps to approach your sales activity differently:

  1. Making everyone in the organisation aware of how important they are in retaining customers and getting referrals from existing customers to gain new business.
  2. Training your workforce on some soft skills; building rapport, customer relationships, customer care and how you need your organisation to be perceived. Explaining to them how you would like them to come across and why.
  3. Creating a short, memorable action statement. For example, ‘be better than our competition every day’, ‘invite the customer to use us again’, ‘please the customer and ask for referrals’.
  4. Rewarding and recognising people in your organisation who are non-sales, but bring in a new customer or a repeat order.
  5. Leading the way. Leadership is a word often used; however, many don’t do it. Leadership is getting people to follow your vision and ensuring the vision happens. There also needs to be a strategy or plan for growing your client base.

Even if you are confident in the sales process, there are numerous excuses you can give for not selling. From high expectations, nerves and lack of confidence, to fear of negativity, bad news or failure, these feelings can put a block on the business development activity.

However, sales success is usually due to these key points:

  1. Utilising the simple sales ‘process’ and sticking to it (don’t deviate, ever).
  2. Constant sales activity, even when negatives are thrown at you.
  3. Knowing how much activity, on average, equates to how much business comes in.

Having a positive and realistic mindset. If you stick to the above three points, but the mindset is negative, it will come across in your tone of voice and your body language and the sales won’t come in.

The business of sales or business development is not complicated, successful sales people aren’t lucky either. It is all about being consistent, having a plan and remaining focused.

10 ways to make your business development activity more effective

  1. Don’t be scared of sales, reframe it in your mind as ‘persuasion’, and make it part of your job responsibility.
  2. Understand the consultative sales process. It is a process and there is no luck or magic to it whatsoever!
  3. Understand what you want to achieve in terms of sales income.
  4. Write a clear and simple sales strategy and decide how to implement that strategy; setting activities and timelines for you, your sales team and your whole workforce.
  5. Have a window of time each week to allocate to business development, even if it is only a couple of hours.
  6. Lead the vision and monitor results with recognition and praise. Ensure you and everyone working to it has a consistent approach.
  7. Educate and train people so that they understand how to give the best impression of your organisation and how to retain customers.
  8. Network and get to know as many people as you can for name awareness and for future referrals. Get sales for others and they will repay you.
  9. Find out where customers who are no longer buying from you have gone and why.
  10. Quote same day if you can and check they’re received, then be proactive and follow up all quotes within two days.

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