Growing sales in tough times
Business owners have been hearing for two years that growing sales is impossible due to the difficult economy. During this same period of time there are companies that have been growing revenues year over year and at rates greater than their industry. How do these companies grow revenues in such an environment? ACTIVITY.
Focused activity with their target market provides the foundation of building a pipeline and closing incremental sales. Most industries have seen a reduced average sales price and an increased sales cycle. These dynamics dictate that the sales pipeline be significantly larger than it was in 2007 before the recession hit.
In most companies the average pipeline by sales person is much the same as it was in 2007. Sales people are frustrated, marketing funds have been cut back, and management is going crazy. A marketing seminar can start creating the positive activity to increase the activity, fill the pipeline and ultimately improve sales.
A marketing seminar focused on your target market can be a cost effective way to start increasing your sales pipeline. The economy has every company looking for ways to improve their business. Identify an educational topic that will be of interest to those that purchase your products/services and develop a program around that topic.
The content should not be outwardly selling, but informative. The goal with a seminar is getting current clients and prospects in the room, meet with them, provide content and build credibility for your organization. The selling comes after the event!
The speaker can be someone from your organization or an outside speaker. This person should be a subject matter expert on the topic that can deliver a succinct message on the topic, and provide actionable steps for attendees to implement something back in their business. Outside speakers can cost your organization for the event, or some speakers might be interested in developing a joint marketing program. Professional speakers will definitely cost your organization based on their topic, expertise and ability – the quality will show!
A message from someone on your management team prior to the introduction of the speaker and during the closing of the meeting allows you to setup the next steps with attendees. The goal is to set the expectation of some follow up activity.
A seminar has considerable logistics to manage and must be planned at least six to eight weeks prior to the event. The areas to consider include:
• Target market and how you will get their butts in the seats. Current customers are easier to get into a seminar, since they already know you and some level of credibility has been established. This target allows you to expand their knowledge of your organization and provides you with up-sell and cross-selling opportunities.
• Content for the event. Who will speak, what is the topic and how long the talk will last. If you will be working with an outside speaker, then the upfront planning lead time must be longer and a larger budget needs to be considered.
• Venue. Where will you be holding the event and will it include food? A lower cost option is your own facility if you have a conference room that will accommodate at least 12 people comfortably. Outside facilities typically charge for the room and/or food. A local hotel, country club, chamber of commerce meeting space, or event center. Find a location that is conveniently located for the time of day you will be holding your event.
• Timing. Depending on your target audience the time of day can greatly impact attendance. Some things that I have seen work include a lunch or breakfast time event. Provide a light meal and allow for 2 hours, which provides approximately 90 minutes of speaking time – this includes the speaker as well as any company announcements.
• Invitations & Registrations. You can use professionally developed invitations for higher end events, flyers for informal meetings, and you can leverage online tools such as www.constantcontact.com or www.regonline.com . Invitations should go out at least 3-4 weeks prior to the event with weekly email notices to maximize attendance. Be sure to have a reminder email or phone call the day before the event.
These are a few areas to think of as you develop your event. Focus on your target market and remember this is a tool to drive activity in your pipeline. Have your sales people involved, since they will be the key to the follow up and interaction with the attendees. You may find that it will take a few events, making adjustments along the way, before the right formula for your target market is refined.
I am pleased to announce we have a new business book in publication titled “Mapping Your Recovery: Grow sales in difficult times”. Please join us for the book launch on September 15, 2010 at the DTC Tavern. Go here for registration information.