Are you missing the easy sales?

How to capture 2/3rds more sales in the same amount of time and effort

The strategy to grow my territory was always an exciting concept to work on.  Over the years, I spent countless time trying to decide who, how, where, and when I would focus my most valuable resource: my time!

One of those concepts which amazed me is how often I passed up or missed 2 out of every 3 sales opportunities.

To explain, we need to agree on some common selling concepts.

  • First, it’s 10 times harder to sell a new account than it is to sell to a current customer.  This understanding is critical.  And don’t get caught up on the number 10.  That’s just an internet statistic that could be debated down to 5 times or up to 20 times.  Let’s just agree that it takes more time and effort to sell a new prospect.  Mostly due to the fact of habit and trust.  Customers are people and people tend to get in a rut of doing what they did previously.  A big reason is that it seems to be working ok for them or they wouldn’t be doing it.  So, they trust their current suppliers.
  • Secondly, when you sell a customer a product, there are two additional sales that can be made.  The second sale is called the “Add-on Sale”.  After you sell your new customer a primary product: a tractor, their seed needs, the lactation ration on a dairy, etc.  The add-on sale is selling them another product line which the customer is in need of: a calf starter, a data package, cover crops, etc.
  • The third sale is when your new trusted customer relationship generates a referral to another customer in the area.  This one is a bit tougher as you have to have success with the first prospect.  Then, you have to get them to refer you or introduce you to someone they know.  It’s tougher because it has more steps than an add-on sale and we typically have to ask for this referral.  And that’s the part we tend to shy away from.  Me included.

To begin making all three sales:

Take a look at your customer list and segment off the top third of your customers.  How many product lines of yours do they buy?  If it’s not 100% and there’s no good reason, then start there.  I ask salespeople to do what I call a product line map.  It’s a very simple sheet that has customers down the left side and product columns crossed the top.  Put an “X” in every column that each customers buy. 

Now review it and see why there are blank columns.  This is the top third of your customers.  It’s highly likely that they do the majority of your sales for your territory.  You most likely have a great trusting relationship.

Each time you visit them for your monthly or routine sales call, ask them about taking on those products they currently are not buying from you.  If they have a good reason, then mark it down and let it go.  If not, determine what it would involve for them to add that product to their retail location or to their farming operation. 

In training workshops, I have salespeople rank their selling skills.  One of the highest ranked skills in the thousands of salespeople I have asked is, “Relationship building skills”.  My question to that is, if you are good at building relationships with your customers, then why can’t you ask for the sale?  Because closing skills are generally ranked low.  So, go put those relationship skills to work and ask your best customers to buy more product lines from you.

Now for the challenging third sale:  commonly referred to as a referral sale. 

To start this process moving, I recommend starting with a small number.  Maybe choose your top five customers.  Ask them for a recommendation on who else in their area they think might benefit from working with you. 

If you sell to retailers, this question is a bit tricky.  Farmers aren’t worried about your products being on a nearby farm.  In fact, it might even benefit them if there are trucking or delivery advantages to have more people in the area getting products from you.  However, a retailer does not want their competitor down the road to carry your products.  Before asking that style of question, you might want to get an idea of who your retailer is networked with.  Ask if that retailer and his network have similar vendors.  Do they refer vendors like yourself to each other? 

Through the years, I had retailers that were part of multi-state buying groups.  They sold into completely different geographies.  So, they often referred vendors to each other.  Nothing warms up a cold call more than coming in with either an intro or a positive referral from someone they trust. 

I’m sure these concepts are not brand new to you if you have been selling for some time.  However, we often need to be reminded.  We get busy.  Our sales manager may stress prospecting new customers.  So, we forget that there might be a bundle of sales sitting right in our current customer list. 

My guess is that you haven’t harvested much from those other two types of sales.  So, if you don’t like to cold call and you feel prospecting new accounts is a slow difficult process, then your next choice is to sell more to those you call customers!

Make sure you aren’t missing the easy sales!

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