A seasoned sales person will tell you that the key to a successful year is a well thought out sales plan. Without one, your Dubai sales team is going to drift through the year unsure of how to propel potential growth for your company.
Sure, you may hit lucky occasionally by landing a few new customers, or getting work in through existing customers. However, without a plan how can you be sure you’ve got the right people, in the right places, selling to the right customers? You also need to be aware of the product cycle – is your company making enough product to fulfill orders, or that there is sufficient demand for what you’re producing.
Even in the service industries, thorough sales planning will reap rewards. This is because a good sales plan isn’t just a quickly written document of where you hope to be in twelve months time, it is a complete overview of what your targets are for the year and how you will achieve those targets.
So the best place to start planning isn’t necessarily with a sales team meeting. You need to get key members of the company together to discuss all aspects of what is happening in the coming months.
Understanding how other departments are working is essential to creating a successful sales plan. If you are bringing out a new product in Q3, you need to know what marketing is being done around it, whether there are supply chain issues, what the production schedule is, as well as knowing what benefits the new product is bringing to your customers.
With this knowledge you can create a more targeted sales plan with your sales team. This plan must include the following:
Who is customer?
Do you really know who your customer is? It’s vital to any serious sales plan to identify both the real customer and potentially bad customers. Looking through sales to existing customers will clarify this area. Who are the ones who keep coming back and who are you wasting time on?
Take time out to understand how you’re best able to reach your target market and get them interested in what you’re selling. There may be barriers to using your product over another company’s – find out what they are and how best to show customers what you’re offering is superior.
Clearly defined goals
At the outset make it clear to everyone in the team what your objectives are in the sales plan. When all members of the team know what the goal is, they can pull together to make it happen.
You need to know what the budget is and how to make the most of it. You may need to reach customers at trade shows, conferences, networking events, and street level sales events. Without a tight control on your budget, the cost of gaining new customers could impact on profits.
Establish who is going to cover which areas as soon as possible. By doing this you will be giving ownership and a certain level of control to members of your team. Within the territorial agreements your team can develop individual sales plans specific to that territory.
Recruitment and training
When setting out the sales plan you have to decide whether your team needs to grow. Identify at what point you’re going to need that additional support and plan how you are going to recruit and train new members to your team.
Your sales team would probably prefer to be out and about selling your products and services to companies in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, than sitting around a table talking tactics and forecasting. So when you get your team to sit still and listen, make it count and get them involved.
Have more than one idea
When considering you next sales strategy, don’t just dig out and use last year’s methods and use them again. Look around for another way of doing things. What worked (or in some cases, didn’t work) last year, may not work as well this year. Your sales team may have exceeded targets on last year’s strategy, but there is no guarantee the same will happen this year.
Review what parts of the strategy did well, and which parts didn’t do well. Get some stats on how the market has changed, and look at how you can make the best of those changes.
And then, create two strategies. With two different strategies, you can see the pitfalls in each far more objectively than if you only have one to look at. Hone it down until you have one plan that you are confident will work.
Talk to your customers
With an economy that is plateauing at best, shrinking at worst, it does well to see what changes your customers are dealing with. Talk to your customers; see if their priorities have change since last year. This could be as simple as taking some of your main clients/customers out for a lunch. Although the business lunch is not as glorious as it was in the boom years, it is still vital to your business to keep that connection with your customers. If you have a broad, public customer base, a street level vox pop will help you gauge their attitude to your products, industry and what they are cutting down on or spending more on.
It can be tempting, when new information comes in, to allow new information to inform the strategy, without giving it the same vigorous review used at the beginning of the process.
It is also very easy to lose sight of the original strategy. Measure how the strategy is working regularly: don’t wait for the end of each quarter, check out your successes and failures on a weekly basis. Trends are easier to spot that way. If you are off the mark, go back to the original sales strategy and find out why it’s not working.
Train the person, not the team
It may seem counterintuitive to focus on individuals in a training session, yet to get the best out of every member of your team, you have to focus on individual strengths and weaknesses. Everyone is different so instead of trying to make everyone the same, work with them to make the most of their personality. It will make them better sales people because they wont come across to clients and customers as being false.
Look to the future
You may not have the budget to hire a futurologist in your business just yet, but you do need to think about the future of your products and services. How long a shelf life do they have? Is there a natural lifespan? How are external pressures changing your industry, and your client base? Think about how your business model needs to change in the next year, 10 years, and 50 years to keep your business viable. Do you want your business to be the biggest and best of its type in Dubai, or are you looking to expand into the rest of the Middle East, or become a large international corporation? Questioning your company in this way will help you form a more robust and forward thinking strategy.
Selling in understandably at the core of every business, which means your Dubai sales team is very much the heart of your company. If they are underachieving on a regular basis there must be a reason for it, and more often than not it stems from a lack of motivation. After all, what do they get for marketing your products far and wide and then making huge sales other than their basic wage packet and maybe a pat on the back once in a while?
Billionaire entrepreneur, Sir Alan Sugar once said, ‘Love what you do and do what you love, otherwise you will become unhappy and self-defeating’ and the last thing you want, or need, is an unhappy, self-defeating sales team.
So how do you motivate your sales team to produce better results on an on-going basis?
1. Give them Training in New Marketing Strategies
You may not think that your small, Dubai-based sales team needs any additional training, but the simple act of showing them new marketing strategies and explaining new technologies to them will result in increased motivation.
Well firstly you’re showing your sales team that you have enough confidence in them to bother training them in new methods of selling. Confidence and motivation are very much interlinked, which means if you go to the trouble of showing confidence in your employees they will become motivated to prove your confidence is well placed.
Secondly, any new selling techniques or marketing strategies that you teach them will undoubtedly improve their sales figures, and ultimately your profits.
2. Praise them for a Job Well Done
It doesn’t matter whether you are based in Dubai, the UAE or elsewhere in the world, praise for a job well done is incredibly motivational, and especially when it comes from someone who is high up in the management team. Larger companies in particular tend to forget that their sales teams are in fact human, and that they thrive on praise rather than criticism.
Think about it for just one minute…when was the last time you actually said well done to a specific member of your sales team? We don’t mean a general ‘well done’ during a team briefing, we mean a personal ‘good job’ to a high-achieving member of your team?
3. Give them an Incentive
Everybody likes a bit of competition which is why pitting your sales team against each other (in a friendly, fun way of course) can motivate them to achieve more. Add into the mix a little incentive each month and you have the recipe for a much more productive sales team.
Obviously you don’t need to offer things like new cars and holidays as incentives, but small things such as a day off with pay, or a meal out in a nice restaurant is something to aim for in addition to the accolade of being top sales person for the month. Plus, if you change the goal each month e.g. top overall sales one month but top sales to new clients the next month etc. you can manipulate the results to an extent so that everyone in your sales team has the opportunity of ‘winning’.
Making continued sales in today’s economy is not an easy prospect which is why you need to give your Dubai sales team all the encouragement and praise they need to make it happen. Show faith in them and they will reward you with better results in return, and you might just have a bit of fun along the way.
So what are you selling to your customers in Dubai? Are you selling all the details of what your product can do? How long it took you to bring it to market? All the research and develop that went into it?
Well if that is all you’re selling then you are missing a fairly important trick. Very few people are interested in these as selling points. They want to know how your product is going to make their life easier. Not how many man-hours went into perfecting it before it came to the boardroom sign off.
In the 1940s, Rosser Reeves, of Ted Bates & Company came up with the term ‘unique selling point’. It translates into what is so unique about this product that makes it better than it’s rivals? What specific benefit does this product that means it is something more desirable than another product?
Reeves was a pioneer of television advertising, a man for whom the idea that you just show your product and hope people buy was wasting an opportunity. He felt that not only did a product have to be said to better than its rivals, it really had to be better. You had to find what was unique, what the real benefit of a product was and use that as the unique selling point.
So when you look at your sparkling new product which has taken hundreds of man-hours to research, develop and manufacture, you need to strip away the extraneous back story and look at why your customer needs it.
There are generally three ways of selling a product: through its value to the customers, it’s benefit to the customer and its features. Find which one of these is going to appeal most to the end user (who may well be a customer of your customer), and build your sales campaign around it.
Let’s say, for example, you’ve developed a piece of software that untangles accounting procedures, automatically updates with new legislation, and cuts the time it takes to process accounts.
Ask yourself the question, what do we lead with? What is the real benefit for your client? Time is money, so cutting time means saving money. But do they really want the headache of updating legislation removed? Is it both? Or have you missed something more essential? Is your product easy to use? At some point during the development process was there a point where the actual usability of the product was left unquestioned?
Software can have all the bells and whistles you think your customer wants, but if it is difficult to use, looks ugly, isn’t intuitive, then the end users isn’t going to like it, regardless of how much time it saves, and how easily it integrates important information.
Find the unique selling point, find the real benefit of your product, and you can really start to sell your product to customers in Dubai, and the rest of the world.