One of the most important and consistent habits that any good salesperson needs to develop, is that of managing their sales opportunities or ‘leads’ to make sure you keep hitting your target and making that all important income!
Sometimes, and depending on the industry or role, you may find that some portion of your sales will come to you without even trying or knowing that they were on the horizon – it’s great when that happens. However, most of the time you’ll be trying to generate activities today, that will lead to more sales in the future, and there is a process to do this effectively. In fact, some areas of medical sales have a very long lead-time, so in other words you start the ball rolling perhaps 6-12 or even 18 months before the sale comes to fruition! This can be especially true in capital equipment sales and big-ticket items, so it’s important to follow a process right from the start and keep following it year after year.
You may find that your organisation already subscribe to a state-of-the-art software system where all of your activities, leads, notes and sales can be tracked in one place, e.g. salesforce (1) or similar (2), but even if you don’t have these tools available, you can still follow a simple and reliable process yourself as follows.
Review your existing accounts
· Expansion of services
· Replacement or upgrade cycles
· New product launches
Look at your existing database of accounts and generate a list for all of the products or equipment they are using today, from your own organisation and from others – if you’re not sure which competitor products they use, then go on a fishing expedition and find out. This might involve just talking with your customers or attending the site with some other excuse for being there and doing your reconnaissance whilst you’re there. Once you have a comprehensive list, draft yourself a simple spreadsheet and start predicting those future sales - weekly, monthly, or annually as appropriate. As a good rule of thumb, I usually look 2-3 years ahead with capital sales.
Now, if you know that a piece of equipment for example has a 5 year lifespan, then (regardless if the customer is using your equipment or a competitor), you can already start to flag that in XXX years they will need to replace it. If they’re already with you, you can start to think about upgrades/replacements and having those conversations early. If they’re with a competitor, you can now take the time and opportunity to start building relationships; having a presence in that account and talking to the key contacts about their options when the time comes.
Create an opportunity pipeline
· Forecast future sales that could happen
· Add new leads
· Rank their likelihood of happening
· Rank their $$$ value
· Create quotes
Once you have a hit-list of accounts and potential future sales, it’s important to prioritise where you should be working. The age-old 80/20 rule says that typically 80% of your business will come from just 20% of your customer base, so it’s important to know where your activities should be focused. Naturally, if you have a customer with potential for a significant $$$ sale, and a high likelihood of it coming to you, then you would flag this as one of those 20% that requires your attention. However, this pipeline is always fluid, as things can, and do change, daily.
· Regular contact with the customer
· Follow-up on quotes
· Organise trials
Keep accurate records
Your predicted sales are now a good base to work from, but you must maintain regular contact with your customers for both existing, and future opportunities to be fulfilled. Remember that your competitors are likely to be doing the same as you, so it’s important to establish strong relationships and to stay informed. Keep accurate records of your activities and interactions so that you can refer back to them later, and always have a grasp on where this opportunity is with regard to a sale being made. If a product trial helps to move things along, or shift attention from your opponents, then be sure to do it, and as often as possible!
· Schedule a weekly review
· Change course to respond appropriately
Knowing the opportunities that lie ahead, and the accounts or customers that will be instrumental in landing these sales, the next step is to be continuously proactive, monitoring the situation and responding appropriately in a timely fashion. You can only do that by following up regularly on outstanding quotes, to see where the customer is at in terms of a decision, or purchase. I would suggest that you review your pipeline on a weekly basis, to ensure that you always stay in front.