Stretch Profit Margins by Streamlining Sales Process

Efficiency is key to sales success, and two 'tools" can help you improve your staff members effectiveness and your company's bottom line.

First, automation. If you own a small or medium size business you may not think automation is a tool for you. Think again.

Color-coded sales process funnel

Without the bells and whistles, technology such as customer relationship management software can be affordable and user friendly. It can help you manage your sales funnel, give you an instant view of where sales stand and show you where your salespeople are in the process.

If you decide to invest in this kind of software, here's what you can expect:

  • A shortened sales cycle as your sales force uses time more efficiently.
  • An increase in monthly sales volume as employees spend less time explaining their quotas and more time selling.
  • A clearer picture of how many pitches are out and contracts are pending, as well as where customers stand on their payments.

Keep in mind, the tool won't create sales or generate leads, but it will enhance sales and help your employees operate more efficiently. And that will help improve your bottom line.

While your staff is becoming more adept at using the software, here are five steps the can help beef up your sales program and widen your margins:

  1. Consolidate sales routes. Reorganizing your sales circuit can let your staff visit more than one customer on each trip.
  2. Focus on trophy customers. If your top customers haven't bought anything for, say, 90 days, find out why. Offer them a well-crafted plan aimed at their long-term needs and introduce the plan as a new feature just for them. Include discounts, premiums and extended warranties.
  3. Cut the paperwork. You hired your sales staff to spend time selling, not sitting at a desk doing paperwork. Design an electronic or manual form where the sales staff fill in a few simple entries and then hand the form over to administrative staff.
  4. Light a fire. Anyone can sell popular items. The real challenge is getting revenue from new items or stock that hasn't taken off. Replace across-the-board commission rates and motivate your sales force with higher commissions on new products or "tough sells." You might even consider reducing the commission on popular products or services that seem to "sell themselves."
  5. Revise commissions. In addition to paying commission that's tied to the difficulty of the sale, consider commissions based on:
  • Actual customer payments rather than billable orders.
  • Increased sales to current customers.
  • Increased order sizes.
  • Delivery of items when customers prepay.
  • The number of new customers.

Setting up a compensation plan based on measurable financial goals lets your sales staff see and understand the value of every transaction.

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