WILLY CAMPBELL: Develop a Strategy to Strengthen Sales
Your business may be doing fine with a regular core group of customers and the occasional new client.
But if you allow your sales to stagnate, your bottom line will gradually erode through rising costs, competition and unexpected problems. And if a key customer scales back its consumption of your products or services, or disappears altogether, the results could be devastating.
That's why every small business needs a strategy to continually grow its sales volume, even if only in 5 percent increments. Set a reasonable annual goal and evaluate your progress every month. A one-month drop in sales can be corrected, but a three-month downturn is much more difficult to remedy by year end. Here are some other ideas for getting sales back on track.
Make it a practice to regularly examine your sales records for trends. Do certain products and services sell particularly well? Are there other products or services that don't move at all? Do you see seasonal variations in sales?
Your sales goals should be based on indicators of past performance. Do you get most of your sales at the beginning or end of the month? How does weather affect your customer traffic? Is your sales force pulling in sufficient sales to justify its cost?
These considerations factor into your sales goals as well as your timetable for achieving them.
Revisit the demographics of your customers regularly, as well. Identify their age, income level, education level, and, where possible, buying triggers. When you can clearly define your customer audience, you can develop effective new marketing approaches and refresh your product line.
Can you increase market penetration among these customers? Are there other demographic groups that could constitute an additional customer base if you found the right strategy for pursuing them?
Talk to your suppliers. Their perspective on the industry and access to information makes them an excellent source of insights and ideas. Also talk regularly with your customers and discern the value they believe your business offers to improve their own business or personal lives.
If you have done your homework, you can be confident that your experience, judgment and imagination will lead to strategies to increase sales volume. Not only will you become more effective in retaining existing customers and increasing the per-customer sale, but also gaining new customers who add to your sales volume.
If you would like advice on sales trend evaluation, informal customer research, sales goal setting or sales force motivation, contact the Sandhills Chapter of SCORE "Counselors to America's Small Business." SCORE is a nationwide nonprofit association of expert business counselors who provide free and confidential business counseling to small business owners.
The Sandhills chapter is very active in counseling, mentoring and presenting free business seminars. It is currently expanding these activities and is seeking motivated volunteers. You can reach the chapter on the Web at www.sandhillsscore.org or by calling 692-3926.
Remember to send your business questions to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and don't forget to provide a way to contact you. I may not be able to answer all of them in this column, but every one will receive a personal answer from one of our Sandhills SCORE counselors!
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