Successful companies today find that staying ahead of the competition requires more than what it did 3-4 years ago.
If your business has reached parity on features, production costs and other areas of cost efficiencies, then you may be having a hard time differentiating yourselves. What is often overlooked as a competitive advantage is your sales coverage model. If you feel that you may not be covering your market as effectively and efficiently as possible, then your coverage model may be designed to meet internal needs, not the customer’s.
As companies prepare to take advantage of the next economic growth cycle, business leaders need to look at the market and develop a coverage model that will align with the opportunity. In today’s environment, using a single sales channel is risky. No one channel can give you total flexibility, which begs the question: How does your customer want to do business? Having a sales coverage model in place that meets clients’ needs can be your differentiating factor.
Here are a few areas to focus on to determine if you are on the right track:
ANALYZE YOUR CUSTOMERS’ BUYING PREFERENCES
Survey your customers to determine how they would like to interface with your sales organization. One of my clients was surprised to find out that their smaller customer’s number-one preference for sales rep contact was by phone, not face-to-face. They extended their survey beyond small business to their major and national accounts and found that the results were the same. However, the larger clients also wanted the face to face personal contact with their sales representative when the solution became more complex and internet access to sales information that didn’t require any sales interaction. How do your customers want to interface with your company?
Benchmarking can help you look at different approaches and obtain first hand feedback as to the risks and benefits of changing your coverage model. It helps you better understand what customers are experiencing and expecting in the marketplace. After the preference analysis in step one, the same company conducted a benchmarking exercise where they discovered they were not maximizing the use of Inside Sales the way other companies were (including their competitors). Ask yourself the following questions when doing a comparison:
–Do you need your field sales force to focus on strategic, complex solutions, but find that they spend too much time on less complex products with lower margins?
-Is there a benefit to having a less costly channel that could generate good leads for the field and sell the less complex, higher frequency orders via phone and Web?
-Are you contacting customers in the most effective way that meets their needs and meets your sales objectives?
DEVELOP A CONTACT STRATEGY
How frequently should your customers be “touched?” On average the company above found that for national accounts, it was daily/weekly; for major accounts, monthly; and for small business customers, every four to six months. It’s important, however, to remain flexible, as companies will have a different standard based upon their service or product offering. Frequency is also dependent upon the product life expectancy, how often accessories or supplies may be needed, or how frequently you bring new solution offerings to market. By reviewing buying habits, you gain a better understanding of the contact frequency required. Sales and marketing teams should work together to develop an approach that meets clients’ needs and the company’s objectives.
DETERMINE TERRITORY SIZE
The average number of calls per day for field sales rep in B2B firms that I’ve worked with is three face-to-face visits. Since this is your most expensive channel, ensure those calls are of high value and more strategic with your top customer tier. A B2B Inside Sales organization will make 30 to 50 outbound calls to reach 10 to 15 decision makers per day. By combining Inside Sales with field sales, you gain productivity advantages, cover the market more efficiently, and enable cost-of-sales improvements.
Mary Donato is President of Applied Principles and can be reached at Mary@MaryPDonato.com