Would a more effective sales strategy help the coalition keep its ‘shine’?

Peter Ramsden
Director
Paramount Learning
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I’ve always said it, if politicians were businesses they’d have no customers.

This is something that Prime Minister David Cameron and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg have had to find out the hard way. The coalition, a marriage of sorts, had grand plans of steering the country out of recession and into calmer waters – and while I’m not commenting on their policy choice, there is clear evidence to suggest that the rescue package we were proposed some two years ago has lost some of its shine.

News of a ‘second honeymoon’ and joint appearances indicate that someone somewhere has warned them: people are losing interest. 

Believe it or not, this is an incredibly valuable sales training lesson. Never let the dust settle on the product or service you’re selling – customers will always vote with their feet and head towards the nearest competitor who is focused on staying ahead of the curve, not sat behind it.

A great example of this is playing out in the press right now. Clinton Cards, the high street safeguard has gone into administration. Why? Because it refused to move with the times and adapt to a digital audience. Kodak went the same way. 

In sales so much of the end result is dependent on the strategy. Yes, you need a product that has appeal and value – that’s a given. What comes next is the sale approach, and that requires constant nurturing and evolving to ensure that the shine never fades.

Consider these THREE selling strategies to ensure that what you take to market has the same appeal today as it did yesterday…

Let’s ask the audience

One of the quickest ways to generate information on how current your offering is, is to ask the people that count the most. Today it’s easy to run online surveys and questionnaires, so take the temperature of your buyers. 

In ten simple questions you can get a clear indication of whether your product is truly giving the market what it wants, or whether there are features that could be adapted to meet changing needs. Imagine if it was just one small adjustment that was needed to keep customers happy and continue revenue growth. So, are you asking the people that count the questions that count?

Take a look over the fence

There are a few things you can be sure of in sales, and one is that you’re never alone in the marketplace. Competition is everywhere, but competition can, of course, work to your advantage – especially when it comes to keeping the glossy finish on your product or service. 

There’s no harm in getting close to those you compete with, after all you are all chasing the same customers. If you see their sales increase overnight, you should be asking why. What can you do to adapt your offering and enjoy the same results? 
It’s no coincidence that all the supermarkets now offer loyalty club cards to their customers. They certainly didn’t all decide to kick a campaign off on the same day, but once one launched a scheme and found success, the others were peering in and replicating the offer to make sure they didn’t lose their loyal customers or the extra revenue that the idea bought. Don’t be afraid to keep a close eye on you competitors, there’s a good chance they’ll have one on you.

Tune into the future

What was the latest piece of government legislation that impacted on how your customers buy? If you don’t know the answer to that question, the chances are you don’t truly understand the market you work in. 

As part of a strategy to keep your offering fresh, innovative and current it is essential to be in the know when it comes to latest news and updates in the market you sell into. The estate agent who finds out from his customer that Stamp Duty rules have changed, or the recruitment consultant who has the Agency Workers’ Rights (AWR) regulations explained to him by a client, who will always fall short of the competition. 
Sign up to industry newsletters (they are normally free) or read the relevant trade press magazines. Whichever way you get your information, grab it and use it.

Changes that are beyond your control could be impacting on the product or service you sell, so make sure you are adapting to those changes and repackaging your offering accordingly.

For Dave and Nick there may still be time to get that coalition ‘shine’ back. Their sales strategy hasn’t shown too many signs of the best practice I mention above, because the constant evolution and adaptation that’s necessary to meet the needs of their customers has been lacking. The local elections may have given us enough evidence to be confident of that.

When was the last time you asked your customers what they thought of your product or service? How often do you plug into the market you sell into to find out the latest news that could be affecting future sales? And, how closely do you monitor competitor success?

If you can’t positively and confidently answer these questions it could be time to re-think your sales strategy.

Peter Ramsden
Paramount Learning

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