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  • Forklift Truck in Warehouse
    11/05/2020 - Sian Thomas 0 Comments
    Adapt, innovate or reframe your way through the pandemic

    It’s fair to say that this year has been like no other experienced in the lifetime of the vast majority of us (barring some centenarians of course) and it is clear to see that the impact of the pandemic has completely blind sided everyone to differing degrees. After all, who could have seen this coming?


    We have been told by our elected administration that we have passed through the worst of the pandemic and are now on the other side of the proverbial mountain but must still tread carefully as, to continue the analogy, the descent can be more dangerous than the climb.

    So it is surely to be expected that we would now be receiving guidance from the government as to how we will navigate our way out of the situation and at the weekend we were given the framework of a plan as to how this would unfold but suffice to say there has been a lot of criticism to the government's response about lack of clarity.

    It’s not my aim to scrutinise those plans here but rather try and draw some conclusions as to how this will impact my business community going forward.

    As a deviation from the themes I would normally cover I want to explore the roadmap from an innovation point of view inspired not only by the constant advice we are seeing on social media as to how we pivot our businesses to turnaround the economic impact of Covid-19 but also following an excellent Enterprise Nation webinar I attended earlier today covering the topic of innovation based on the needs of your customers.

    As with most good practical advice for seasoned business professionals nothing really should come as a surprise and no ideas will be completely new or revolutionary here as the real value of sharing comes from serving as reminders and to vindicate your actions or decision making going forward.

    So let’s start with the situation that’s right in front of us. From this week construction companies and manufacturers have been told that they can return to their commercial activities however to quote James Durie from Business West, the Bristol Chambers of Commerce, what about those businesses that have experienced a complete drop in demand? Many businesses have lost their customer base so what do they do?

    It’s very easy to promote the idea of innovation but just how easy is it to implement?

    So getting back to the webinar, what is clear is that we need to find ways to meet the needs of your customers which given how things have shifted could mean how do we find new customers and fast.

    To address this challenge, I will outline three possible options which can reassuringly run alongside each other or alternatively can be your central focus depending on your situation and the resources you have available. Please note that this is on the assumption that your current customers have pressed the pause button.

    They are:


    1. Repositioning or reframing the application of your current offer

    Are you able to fulfil the evolving requirements of your existing customer base? Are you able to fulfil the current requirements of a new customer base? Are there any conversations you can revisit to position your offer as the best viable option given your potential buyer's evolving situation?Are you able to fast track conversations with those prospects in new markets?

    This is the best possible case scenario as to your current situation and something that can be acted upon instantly to yield quicker results in the short term with the right strategies in place.

    2. Complete product innovation

    This is your opportunity to revolutionise your offer and get your new ideas to market. Do you dare trade off your current customers that are potentially on hold or look for new ones to serve with vastly different requirements?

    Clearly this is a high risk, high reward strategy. It could be the most radical thing you do to completely turn around your fortunes however it is an extremely time consuming tact to implement. It would also require a completely new levels of research to develop true insights to provide any information of value. So just how ready and able are you to follow in the footsteps of notable industrialists and business disruptors namechecked in daily parlance?

    And finally the halfway house option which sits between the previous two.

    3. Adaptation of an idea


    This is not as powerful as option 2, as it’s considerably easier and quicker to implement with less associated risks.

    Simply take time to pause and reflect on what is happening in the market. Can you adapt ideas from other industries and apply them to your market? Can you collaborate with other businesses to develop a more complete solution to address a wider problem?

    Look at the bigger picture as to what is happening within your business community and develop an ecosystem to solve it. Most seasoned business professionals will already have the infrastructure in place to enable so it’s just a case of leveraging it to reach your lightbulb moment.

    Ok, I accept the answer is not as easy to achieve as the previous options suggest as there may well be pitfalls in terms of the execution. That said unless the first move is made then the most inevitable scenario is to remain stuck and put it this way that is a challenge in itself as momentum is with us, after all, we are in the process of climbing down the mountain.

    I would love to know your thoughts on the topic and irf you would like to chat about your business in the context of the current situation then click on this link to initiate a conversation.

    Thanks for reading.


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  • 06/05/2020 - Sian Thomas 0 Comments
    ​What to Consider when Selling to Resellers

    A mantra you will hear time and again in business is that without sales there is no business and that's so true. However it's understandable for business owners and entrepeneurs to get exacerbated by this stating if only it was that simple. Well, it’s certainly not my purpose to over complicate matters and blindside professionals into working with me, that said it's not as straightforward as some suggest either as due consideration needs to be made to ensure your approach is fit for purpose.


    Yes there are simple tools and techniques that can yield quick wins and inspire the salesperson into replicating them with the intent of repeating this success thus generating more sales, however to leave it there could quite easily lead you to a false dawn in the longer term as you may well not understand what you are getting right and why that is. Like many in business will agree, you learn more through making mistakes and “validated learning” rather than hitting the right mark in the first instance. Take this for example, ever tried a new sport or leisure activity to discover that you get a great result initially and then on further attempts your ability wanes and you struggle to understand what made you successful in the first place? That can pretty much apply to sales and indeed sales is about confidence but you must develop the right mindset to build that confidence, note that there are some great books out there which can delve deeper into this topic for you. I also want to add that during this blog I will be referencing some great sales resources which I will flag up to you to enable you to read further should you wish.


    At this point I am going to make a confession, I've not always been the best sales person in my previous roles and unlike some of my sales peers in other published material I will declare that I have on occasion struggled in some sales environments. You know those ones you see parodied in the media, “hit those phones” “have you made your 100 dials for the day?” “smile while you dial.” It’s no wonder why many hard-selling companies have high staff churn and us sales professionals get a bad name.


    Suffice to say, having been inspired by Frank Bettger’s awesomely titled, “How I Raised Myself from Failure to Success in Selling” I wanted to share that it’s really ok to admit that this might not be your strength - yet, but with the determination to succeed and a willingness to learn it may well become the greatest tool you possess in your entrepeneurial arsenal. Like those who do come to master their art, it takes discipline and commitment to get you there.

    So let's cut to the chase, what I will outline going forward is how to get resellers on board. Addressing questions like, how can you get your product on the shelves of those companies supplying your market? What you need to consider and how do you get buy in from those who decide what they put in front of your target customer?


    To answer those questions, I will share tips and insights gained from my career in sales going way back from when I was selling automotive lubricants (or engine oil in laymen terms) to automotive dealerships (the people servicing your cars) whilst at Shell UK to a more recent campaign of selling pollution masks into distributors from around the world.


    For simplicity I am going to break this down into 3 main areas:
    1. The Sales Plan: You need a strategy to get started if you really want to create a sustainable business development model. This is crucial no matter what size the company is or lifecycle stage they operate in.
    2. The Sales Process you will adopt to deliver the sales plan you wish to follow.
    3. The Sales Campaign and its execution. By giving careful consideration to steps 1 and 2 this is where the activity comes into play to achieve your revenue results and growth goals. Some authors will take it a step further by detailing how to engage with personality types according to various tools like DISC profiling, although worth consideration there are others better positioned to explain this then me.


    The Sales Plan

    So looking at the strategy part, we have all heard the saying, “Fail to prepare then prepare to fail.” As true as this is, it is amazing to consider how many organisations do not do this.


    Here is where you start creating your sales playbook. Yes, this is the bones of a document you will use as your bible for business growth. This business manual will be refined over time as you develop your processes, tools and templates for success and the way to do that is to get started.


    Important components of a sales plan are:
    • Your Ideal Customer Profile. Take the time to develop your customer profiles, understand the people who will benefit most from your product or service. 
    • When selling to distributors and resellers there is an additional complexity involved. You have another layer to consider and that is not only the prospective end user of your product but also those in the buying team. This would require some research as to the composition of the roles involved in purchasing your classification of product and the challenges faced within those individual roles. To learn more about this I would recommend the following post: https://blog.hubspot.com/customers/ideal-customer-...
    • Your Offer in context of the customer profiles you have just identified.
    • Your Selected Sales Channels. This is where you decide whether to follow a direct or indirect sales channel. If you have opted for a distributor or reseller channel then you are following an indirect business development model and it is from here your process may vary which will influence…
    • Your Key Messages to the customer (both the indirect channel partner and their customers as identified in the profile analysis above)
    • Your Sales Team. Who will you assign to each channel? This can either be internal if you have the infrastructure to support it or external / outsourced, if not.
    • Your Sales Process. This covers the whole spectrum of the systems you select to enable your business development to take place to the tools and techniques required to guide your sales team to deliver it.
    For further reading on the topic I recommend the chapter on Building Out Your Sales Capability in Automate & Grow by Michael Devellano.


    The Sales Process

    This is when you get into the nitty gritty and add further detail to the sales playbook. It's such a huge area that it has become a sales specialism in its own right. You may have heard about Sales Enablement but not truly understood what it meant or maybe recognise it under another name such as the newly in vogue portmanteau “Smarketing.” Put simply, it is the infrastructure, tools and techniques used to generate Sales Revenue. That is the process of creating alignment between sales and marketing for the purpose of achieving your revenue aspirations with the goal of producing predictable and sustainable revenue being paramount.The sales process can vary in complexity depending on the requirements of your business with many starting out on spreadsheets. Although sufficient when starting out, please consider that there are some great software and CRM (customer relationship management) tools available that support a rudimentary sales process enabling you to scale as your proposition develops. Starting from free versions they at least can map out a basic process that monitors progress from generating leads and starting conversations to closing deals and retaining custom. Once in place you can begin refining and adding tools and materials to improve momentum and sales performance.

    In addition to your process further consideration must be given to the sales team infrastructure, whether internal or external, basically those adopting these processes. The best visual reference comes in the form of Aaron Ross’s infographic below articulated in his book, “Predictable Revenue: Turn Your Business Into a Sales Machine with the $100 Million Best Practices of Salesforce.com” whereby he is an advocate of splitting out sales functions into 4 core roles which is achievable no matter what size the business is.




    So having completed a lot of work to get this far, now for the fun part (depending on your point of view, of course).


    Sales Implementation and Campaign Execution

    Without taking time to go through the steps outlined above then the implementation and actual business development part becomes tricky. That said, this is a process in itself which will be refined, developed and improved the more iterations you undertake. The aim at this stage is not to make it perfect but rather have a framework that develops and scales along with your business.

    Once you have organised your sales resource as per the previous sections you will find yourself in a good position to reach out to those qualified prospects you have identified as a good fit for your business. This structure can best be illustrated by referencing Hubspot’s inbound methodology highlighted below:


    Hubspot’s Inbound Sales Methodology



    Once you have identified which prospects are a good fit for your offer and having then connected with them via your sales development team resulting in a meeting, you now have an opportunity to develop a relationship with them. You will be in a position to really get to know your prospects to further confirm if a good fit exists between your businesses.

    To better position yourself as a credible supply partner it is always worth adopting a framework that enables the conversation to take place that adds value to the interaction going forward. The best example of this I have seen again borrows from Hubspot in the form of their CGP, TCI, BA exploratory call framework. Simply put it covers the following elements which is key to aligning your offer to your prospects buying situation.


    C = The CHALLENGE your prospect is trying to overcome

    G = The GOAL your prospect is trying to achieve

    P = The prospect’s PLAN for overcoming their challenge


    T = The prospect’s TIMELINE for achieving their goal

    C = The negative CONSEQUENCE of failure

    I = The positive IMPLICATIONS of success


    B = The prospect’s BUDGET

    A = The AUTHORITY required to move forward with your solution


    Taking time to go through this process better equips the sales person to advise on a solution (their solution) going forward. Whether that’s via a demo or an on / offline presentation and it is here where sales people normally come unstuck. How else would you know if they are going to be a good customer if you don’t take the time to learn more about them?

    Furthermore, by taking the time to go through this step better equips the sales person to handle objections as they can reference their prospects previous comments and demonstrate alignment so therefore the value of their proposition which makes the process of closing far simpler.

    You may think this is pretty generic stuff and what has it got to do with resellers specifically. The truth is resellers share the CGP, TCI, BA characteristics outlined above but the answers they provide may differ.

    The main point of difference I can share in my experience of selling to resellers is in terms of how to retain them as customers. This is where it is worth assigning a customer success or “account manager” to champion them within your business. Providing them with the support required for them to succeed. That can be done by developing marketing collateral to share with their customers, providing them with staff training (on or offsite, maybe even via a webinar) or simply using crib sheets.

    Put it this way by being strategic in your approach to this specific market and thinking through each individual step into delivering success for them is the best way to ensure a great commercial relationship that is sustainable going forward.

    So to reiterate my earlier comments, as someone who cannot profess to being a naturally talented sales person who never really had “the gift of the gab” it was always my intention to develop a business development framework or approach to support me in becoming effective in sales which it has done. Moreover, it has supported my mission to enable others in similar positions to become successful in sales too. I hope this has provided some useful insights that can be applied to deliver success in sales for your venture going forward too!


    So what do you think?


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  • Manufacturing Production Line
    04/05/2020 - Sian Thomas 0 Comments
    5 Key Considerations to Power up Your Sales Engine during Lockdown

    So we are into week seven of the lockdown and it looks like some of the restrictions we’ve become accustomed to may be lifted in the coming days which surely is welcome news to many businesses whilst at the same time presenting logistical and operational challenges.


    Suffice to say there are going to be more questions than answers with the most significant being how are we going to come out of this with our business intact?

    It’s been widely reported that many manufacturers have been successful in reframing their offer and finding new channels to reach new consumers but at the same time a survey carried out by Make UK, the body that represents manufacturers, show that a many of its members have experienced dramatic fall in sales and question whether they can recover to pre-pandemic levels. Its survey showed:


    • Over three-quarters of companies said sales have decreased.
    • Four-fifths of companies have reported a decrease in orders.
    • One in five companies said their orders have fallen by more than half.
    • One in five companies have furloughed up to a quarter of staff, 15% by up to half.
    • One-third of companies will wait for an increase in orders before taking staff off furlough
    Unfortunately I cannot predict what will happen to these businesses post lockdown but having been actively involved in sales during the pandemic one thing is clear and that is there are still opportunities for those businesses supplying great products.

    I want to share with you some of what I have learnt firsthand and as a result of conversations with industry peers over the past few weeks. Please note that none of the suggestions should be anything new to seasoned sales and marketing professionals but sometimes we need to go back to basics and reflect on these especially during unprecedented times.


    1. Take Action


    The one thing that’s certain is that nothing is certain. Uncertainty usually brings about two kinds of behaviours: A complete standstill or some knee jerk response that can lead you down a rabbit hole.


    The businesses I have seen that are faring better are the ones that are taking stock with view to finding a path through this. I cannot recall the number of times I have heard business owners concerned about engaging with prospects and clients alike through fear of coming across as opportunistic but this thinking could be doing yourself and your market a massive disservice.

    The real opportunity here is to recalibrate and find a better way to engage with your audience, you never know you could come out the other end with a better offer that really addresses what your market wants and is fit for purpose going forward. So take the opportunity to:


    2. Understand your customer

    There is much being said about pivoting your business so by taking the time to observe what is happening in the economy and engaging with your market you may find that your offer serves alternative applications which you never previously considered. This could then appeal to a new audience or your existing audience in a different way. For example, customer A may have not placed an order recently as it is not a priority for them but could think differently if it serves another purpose that they consider is more critical to them at this moment in time.

    3. Review your outreach strategy

    The past few weeks have affected people in vastly different ways so factor this into how you approach conversations with your clients and prospects alike. Think about the tone you are setting during these conversations. Like I said, there is still an active market for great products but give thought as to how you communicate as you want to invite the opportunity for dialogue rather than diminish it.

    4. Refine your conversion process

    We are all working differently so the way you convert opportunities into clients need to reflect that. How easy is it to do business with you in the current climate? This is a great time to review your conversion process to determine whether it is still fit for purpose given the many restrictions we are currently under. Does your process present any obstacles or friction points which could impede progress? Adversity brings about creativity and there is an abundance of technology solutions which could make doing business with you far easier and therefore increasing your chances of bringing on new business.

    5. Implement a programme for delivering customer success

    Of all the suggestions provided in this article this one should surely be the most obvious but for some reason it’s the one that is most frequently overlooked. It’s simply a case of looking after your customer, offering the best service and experience you can and thinking about how you can support them make a success of doing business with you.

    After all (as it is proclaimed with frequent abandon) we are all in this together so how can you work together to come out of this at worst, still operational but at best in better shape than you were in before?

    I would love to hear your comments on this article however if you want to discuss any of the strategies above in context of your business then feel free to message me here.

    #ManufacturingSales #ManufacturingUK #ManufacturingServices

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  • 23/01/2020 - Sian Thomas 0 Comments
    How to Engage with Outsourced Sales Teams

    Never has it been a better time to set up in business.

    With the combination of low cost technology platforms, the numerous communication channels giving you direct access to your market and increasing deployment of remote teams whether direct or indirect means that any business that addresses the needs of the market and delivers it well stands every chance of success.

    Well okay, I acknowledge that in reality it’s not that simple. Choosing the best systems that scale can be daunting, the ever increasing number of communication channels available make the task of deciding where to focus your time overwhelming and selecting who will help you achieve your mission...well, it can really question whether all these considerations are worth it.

    Business is not for the faint hearted but for those who want to venture out and at least start realising a dream then note, it is a path well trodden and can be extremely rewarding.

    Having spoken with many business owners and entrepeneurs it’s surprising how much oversight has been made in terms of their infrastructure going forward. Here I have outlined 4 considerations to make note of in terms of working with an outsourced sales agency.

    Good outsourced sales businesses really want to do a lot of the heavy lifting for you but they need your help so:

    1. Know Your Business (and Your Market)

    This may seem dumb but it’s surpring how many businesses are unable to articulate this. It’s not about what you sell, it’s about the problem you solve. So to adopt a well used mantra, you are not selling the drill but rather the hole. This effectively comes under jobs theory, think about the job your solution is being employed to do.

    If this is challenging to do then ask around, send a survey to your customers to find out how they get the best from what you do for them.

    As regards your market, it can’t be everyone. Look at your data to understand who gets the best from what you supply. And if you don’t have data then create a hypothesis and test. Effectively there will be trial and error but until you get started and test it out you will never be any the wiser.

    2. Decide on Your Goals

    Unless you have thought about what you want to achieve then how will you know if a campaign has been successful? Again, when working with a client I have often asked what they are looking to achieve and have been met with “some sales.” This is not going to get you anywhere.
    It is best to be as clear as possible here to stand a chance of achieving your goal whether that is number of appointments made, demos completed, attendees on a training course or simply revenue created.

    Also be clear on the qualification requirements to ensure the numbers reflect a good fit between what you sell and what they need to not only stand a better chance of conversion but retention too! And if you miss the mark then you are more likely to get genuine insights when conducting the campaign post mortem.

    The main objection external sales teams get from prospects is whether they will get a decent ROI. Well, by giving due consideration to the above points you should be halfway there.

    3. When Engaging with an External Agency...

    ...whether you have searched them on Google, Linkedin, a freelance site or asked for a referral my top tip is to observe how they interact with you as a prospective client. Do they look after you and offer you reassurance in a way that you want to translate to your prospects?

    How prepared have they come to the conversation? Are they asking you questions that are enabling them to learn enough about your business that fulfils the brief whether that’s at the lead generation / prospecting end of the conversation to closing the deal?

    Are they presenting themselves in a way that you can see yourself or your team working with them? To be successful this must be an effective working relationship.

    Are they setting expectations in line with the brief? Are there SLAs in place?

    If all looks good here then at least you’re starting out on the front foot.

    4. Ensure You Follow up

    You have invested a lot of time and money in the process so don’t fall down here. Ensure there is a system and process in place to continue from what your outsourced service provider has achieved. Whether that is to keep the appointment made, call as promised or ensuring they are properly taken care of once they have made their purchase as that is really when they do become valuable and should be valued in turn.

    So how have you got on with these musings? I am conscious I’ve skirted over a few details but only intended to give you enough food for thought while keeping it relatively light.

    I would love you to share your thoughts on this or let me know if you have other similar topics you would like me to cover. Equally if you want to find out more or arrange a call to see whether I can offer help to your business then click on the following link. https://www.integrowsalesbristol.co.uk/contact-bri...

    Thank you for reading.

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