Business confidence deteriorated as the South African economy entered a downturn this year. How do you maintain positive sales growth and avoid a downturn in your business in these difficult times?
Simbo Ntshinka, sales director at Itec Tiyende Telecoms, recently bedded down deals worth over R30 million, and has a further R60 million in the pipeline. He provides some insight into fine-tuning your sales approach in response to market conditions.
How do you know which door to knock on? Research is vital. You don’t want to send bids to all and sundry; you have to know who is not ready to buy and probably never will be. We have a database of selected businesses and we approach them in different ways according to what we believe will work best with each potential customer. Some will respond to email, some to a phone call, while others will accept an invitation to a demonstration. Our approach is based on customer segmentation: whatever we offer needs to be selective and highly targeted. It’s not about how many people you contact, but rather about the quality of your contacts.
In addition, we offer selected managed services. That means we position our service offering as a complete solution for the client. We manage the entire lifecycle of the product we propose to the customer. That is vital in this market because the customer wants to know that when they buy a product or service, they are doing it with a partner who has a well-defined plan for the future. It’s about value.
Is value more important now?
In a slowing market the door to sales people closes very quickly and it is difficult to get potential clients to not only part with their money, but to commit themselves to deals spanning a few years. The way to overcome reservations and reluctance is to communicate value better. A weak economy can be an advantage in this sense, because it gives salespeople who communicate a solid value proposition a greater chance to get the sale.
How do you get potential clients to listen?
Talk about demonstrable facts. Quantify and qualify. This goes back to value. I don’t call people to tell them who I am and where I’m from; I demonstrate to them what we have done to cut costs and streamline processes for other clients. In this way, you establish credibility and arouse interest. You’re saying, “I cut costs by 30% for this customer and I can do the same for you.”
How do you know what to say to different types of people?
As a salesperson you need to be a business equal with your client. If you are self-deprecating, your client will undermine you. By the same token, if you put yourself forward as the expert, you stand to alienate the person you are dealing with. I believe in achieving a fine balance between these two extremes, always with a focus on establishing parity.
What is your secret to clinching a great deal?
Have clear SMART goals (specific, measurable, achievable, resource-bound, and time-bound), and keep your message consistent. That will make it far easier to cement a relationship. The ability to build relationships is fundamental to long-term sales success and can help to ensure a good revenue stream into the future. Also, always know what your competitors are doing.