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Issue 1 “We have those sales figures Steve, I just need to go through the paperwork and tally them up…”

How can you boost sales? There are many options, however two obvious ways are: review your current sales process, and develop your sales staff.

The issue

So I arrive at my new clients premises to do the exploratory meeting and see if I can help them boost their sales. First step? Review the process.

In response to a question like “So how are sales going at the minute?” I often get wordy answers which talk about results in a very general way. I enjoy hearing the owners’ perspective on it; it’s good to get a feel for their industry & business from their point of view.

However it’s when I start asking for specifics, “What volume of enquiries are you getting?” that I regularly get a response along the lines of: “We have that figure Steve; I just need to go through the paperwork and work it out…”

The response

It’s been said before, but I’ll say it again “if you can’t (or in this case don’t) measure it, you can’t manage it”

If you’re already tracking your enquiries – great! Be mindful here; are you only tracking this in terms of knowing where your valuable marketing budget should be spent? This is crucial of course, but it would be useful to know how effective you are with each of those leads wouldn’t it?

There are many ways to measure sales effectiveness, but here are some basic measurements that can help build a picture of your current business performance:

  1. Sales
    • a. Sales by number (volume of sales)
    • b. Sales in good old pounds sterling (value of sales)
    • c. Sales Conversion rate = ‘Total Sales’ divided by ‘Total Enquiries’
  2. Sales’ Cost
    • Cost of an Enquiry = ‘Total Marketing Spend’ divided by ‘Total Enquiries’
    • Cost of a Customer = ‘Total Marketing Spend’ divided by ‘Total New Customers’
    • Total Cost of a Customer = ‘Total Costs’ divided by ‘Total New Customers’
  3. Sales’ Value
    • ‘Average Worth’ of a customer = ‘Total Revenue’ divided by ‘Number of Customers’
    • …it’s also worth looking at the average lifetime of a customer.
    • ..and the most popular product choice.

N.B. The above calculations should have specific timeframes. To use the most obvious examples: Weekly, Monthly, Quarterly & Annual.

Interesting to note, often well established companies struggle to provide these figures, though the reasons be different from a start up business: perhaps they have too many measurements (can’t see the wood for the trees) or simply with the passage of time their ‘Key Performance Indicators’ are no longer ‘Key’ anymore!

So you want to boost your sales? You need to lead your salespeople! Current frontline sales-relevant figures are the first step!

Action: Does this relate to you & your business? If so, based on the above, what will you STOP doing, START doing and CONTINUE doing today?

Related Articles: This is the first in the series: “Boosting sales: Things my new business clients say to me” which follows this introductory piece ‘Your new business is exciting isn’t it!? DON’T talk about it!’ See it here: Part 1 Part 2

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One of the first things you need to do when you set up your own business is to find yourself a good accountant. However simple or complicated your business’ finances are, you are going to get yourself in a muddle if you don’t know exactly what you need to record, how to fill in your tax returns or when to file your accounts.

Speaking to the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW)’s Clive Lewis the other day, I learned that many start-ups don’t use their accountant as much as they could or should.

You should be able to rely on your accountant to be there for you if you call up with a query about your book-keeping, however trivial it may seem, or if you have a sudden change of circumstances – for example if a client suddenly puts in a big order and your cashflow is thrown off-balance. They should also be reminding you of deadlines for self-assessment or, if you’re a limited company, when your accounts are due to be filed.

There is certain information your accountant will need from you in order for him or her to understand your business and do your accounts for you, too, but again, a good accountant will tell you what they need. According to Lewis, your relationship with your accountant should be a long-term one with regular contact.

Ask other business owners you know who they use, or visit one of the accountancy associations’ websites to do a search for your local accountants. Even if you have a good brain for maths, you still might need somebody to hold your hand while you work out how to use your new accountancy software. Ideally, you will choose an accountant who has previously worked with other businesses of your size and in your industry.

So, don’t be shy; pick up the phone and ask away. And if the person at the other end doesn’t want to help you out, take your fees elsewhere and find an accountant who will make life easier for you.

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Many business systems are now offered as a hosted service, for instance SalesForce, an on-demand sales and CRM management system. I suppose it was only a question of time before someone came up with set of practical online tools to help business advisers work more efficiently with clients.

The Adviser’s Edge is the brainchild of Vicky Carne, who used to run Email Reaction (now smartFOCUS DIGITAL). BHP has known Vicky for three years, and we continue to partner with smartFOCUS for all email-based comms projects. We’re not at all surprised she saw a gap in the market for a web-based suite of tools and products to help advisers market, manage and deliver their services rapidly and effectively.

Many advisers would agree they use the same techniques and methods with most clients. Bringing these together in one place, improving and adding to them seems like a great idea.

At the heart of the system is a large library of standard questionnaires, for example, a business health-check. Advisers can create questionnaires for their own use. If they have merit then they might be made public and that adviser paid a royalty.

Advisers are able to tailor and send out emails to clients and prospects based around some very practical and timely business articles (from BHP, funnily enough). 

Vicky has pulled together an impressive role-call of partners, such as BeProfessional, Business Plan Pro, VideoArts and Jordans, who should provide savings in time and cost on key products and services (including business planning, HR, accounts, legal support, company formation and training).

In an industry where advisers must be consistent in the quality of work they deliver for clients, The Adviser’s Edge seems to sit well alongside adviser accreditation in giving clients confidence.

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Last week I suggested that the experience we have of formal business support depends on how closely the experience of advisers matches our requirements. It’s also down to personal rapport and trust.

I was at a Business Link seminar yesterday where the presenter, Andy Poulton, won on both counts. He gave the delegates a great, no-nonsense introduction to Search Engine Optimisation and Pay Per Click, avoided the jargon and kept the whole room interested.

As you might expect, the 20 or so people in the room had a range of experience, and pitching a presentation at the right level is not always easy in those circumstances. But I learnt a lot, and I wasn’t the only one. The woman I sat next to ran a site selling toys for children. Chatting with her over coffee, she was quite clear that her web developers were giving her less-than-brilliant SEO support. She now has practical and proven techniques to take back and implement at her business.

Someone pointed out that, while this event was free, ultimately our taxes paid for it. Anyone in business who is not taking advantage of such events is missing a trick.

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