Wake Up And Smell The Sales

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We are now in the last third of the calendar year, and typically this is the time when companies are ready to make decisions and/or use their budget before year's end. What have you done to close business?

When most companies review their forecasts on a frequent basis, they should be looking for the "right" opportunities. It's amazing today how many companies will still try and become the lowest bidding winner. Is winning a project by low bid good business? Are you under the impression that even if you break even on that initial project that you will still make money on future service and support work? This might work for you during lulls throughout the year, but a bad business practice will resonate throughout your organization.

If you are consumed by hitting your revenue targets by year's end, analyze your opportunities by highest GPM (gross profit margin) first, and then identify the ones that are near closure. Focus your attention on those for the next 30 days and see what you have to do in order to close them first. When presenting an offer or a pass-through rebate from a manufacturer, it might help put you and your group over the top.

What about leads? Are you prospecting on a regular basis? Are you tapping alliances as great lead resources? Filling your pipeline so you have enough opportunities to close on a regular basis is always a challenge. Perhaps the sales are right in front of you and don't know it.

When was the last time you met with an existing client just to say hi? During this meeting you can discuss growth of the company, mergers or acquisitions on the horizon, renovations, and review new technology that is pertinent to their environment, or even ask them if they might have a referral for you. You would be surprised what people might tell you in a one-hour meeting.

When you take an interest in them and their future you might uncover opportunities that were not in your pipeline and could be quite lucrative. One advantage you have with this business is that your company is the incumbent provider and probably using you for support and ad hoc requests. If this is the case, you might be able to significantly increase your pipeline and close deals quicker.

Finding new opportunities in unconventional places is always a challenge, but when you succeed, it's always sweeter. Have you mined your database of possible clients that are working with your competitors? For example, let's say you have 50 companies that are not your clients, and you have identified each of the competitors they are using. Have you gathered the right data to mine them and exploit the knowledge of power? Hopefully, you have been asking those companies if they have a service contract and, if so, when it expires. Find out what type of technology they are using and when it was installed. You can write letters to them 90-120 days before the contract expires with the competitor and offer ideas to them for add-ons to their existing technology that would be a valuable complement to their environment, or potential upgrades they should consider. Make sure you identify the positive impacts to their organization if they consider these upgrades and include pictures with data sheet so they can visualize the solution.

Taking over competitors accounts can be a daunting task if they have a great relationship with them. Don't waste your time on the ones that are really happy with your competitor. Define your list to ones that were interested in talking to you about your services, or the prospective clients that have had known issues in the past but weren't enough to strongly consider you at that time.

By nurturing those relationships you will eventually win some of these accounts. There might not be a lot of new project work with these takeover accounts, but there will be service work. When they grow and expand their business, you will be right there to assist.

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