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Elite Business: How to create a winning sales strategy for your business

In this article, originally featured in Elite Business: The most effective sales strategies are developed through careful evaluation and constant improvement.

It is essential to build a robust sales strategy to cultivate strong customer relationships. But how can we also retain our existing customers? Our host Oli Barrett MBE welcomed the first panel of speakers at Elite Business Live 2024 who shared their expert advice on how business can create a bulletproof sales funnel. Richard Harpin, Founder and Chairman of Home Serve, Pavlo Phitidis, Founder and CEO of Aurik Business, Dr Rashada Harry, Enterprise Technologist, Amazon Web Services and Simon Squibb, Founder of Helpbnk sat down to discuss how SMEs can supercharge their sales strategies. 

Is it important to have boots on the ground when selling in different regions? Richard explained how each industry requires a different sales strategy, and how it’s not necessarily a one-size-fits-all approach. He explained: “Sales is really easy if you’ve got the right product you’ve tailored for customers. So, if I gave an example or two. One of them would be Checkatrade developing the offer for tradespeople, which is about making it easier to run their business, so, SAS software was built into Checkatrade. Another one would be, that I saved my local village pub in Yorkshire. We had no sales and marketing it was all about great food and great customer service. And then its word of mouth, you don’t need heavy sales.” 

How do we balance going out and getting new business while looking after our existing customers? Pavlo explained a unique concept of having hunters and farmers – hunters are your sales team that actively seeks out new businesses, while farmers work to nurture relationships with your existing customers to retain them. “You’ve got hunters and you’ve got farmers,” Pavlo explained. “In your sales team, you should have a mix of both. They’re both very different individuals and have very different talents… What we saw is that during the N.I.C.E economy, the, you know, inflation, constant extension economy, pre-COVID most companies had started to place a lot of emphasis on the farming side.  

“That is where you have account management, you hold onto the clients that you have because in our cost prices, you could still enjoy a good dividend, but the world has changed. The muscle of hunting has artificed… in the sense that hunting is about going out there with propositions that aren’t about the features and qualities of your product and service, but a proposition around how you can help make a difference to the customers you choose to serve. That road of business development is what the hunters all about and we need to regain the skills of business development to win new clients and then retain them with our farmers.” 

How can businesses use data to drive and boost sales? Rashada explained the importance of first understanding the challenges a business faces, knowing your customers and then making informed decisions based on data to optimise your growth. “Amazon is customer centric, so we start with the customer, and we worked backwards from them,” she said. “You know, as a salesperson, I’ve been in the organisation for five years. For me, data-driven decisions are the most informed ones… I take the right data points to help customers optimise their business processes so they can see the gaps of opportunity and make sure the decisions they’re making are informed ones, this then builds the trust between me and the customers. It’s essential that I will not sell, engage in a product discussion or technology-led discussion without first understanding the business challenges and then working backwards from that, that is what data decisions and insights is all about.” 

Is it possible to sell without having a sales background? There’s a salesperson in everyone, Simon explained. You don’t need to have had sales experience to be able to create an effective sales funnel in your business. People from all different professions can build sales acumen – it’s a skill anyone can master. Simon said “I think everybody is in sales and everyone has a personal brand, whether you like it or not. What people say about you when you’re not in the room, is something you need to think about. You can either let people do it without your permission or you can craft exactly what you want people to know about you… I’m a pretty good salesperson, but the number one salesperson in that company was my accountant. You wouldn’t think that an accountant by definition is the salesperson, but she loved what we were doing so much in that business. She used to go and have lunch or even dinners with other financial folks high up in businesses and tell them what we were doing to turn businesses around to make companies successful.” 

Simon spoke the importance of building confidence in yourself as a salesperson, and how a mindset shift can make all the difference. He added: “I think everyone just needs to be reminded that they’re brilliant and can do anything. I think a lot of times in organisations, certainly big organisations, I see people get put into boxes and I think it’s a mistake. You know, we were all born with nothing. We all learn things. Nobody is born alone. I think you need training and support and guidance, and I think sales is very trainable.”

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