Not long ago, businesses set sights on more sales revenue. Now many will settle for any sales revenue.
It’s not an ideal goal but it’s realistic, especially in a COVID-19 economy, when businesses missed revenue projections for months or quarters.
Now it’s time to focus on shoring up business and consistently, incrementally, and perhaps slowly, increasing revenue until it’s back on track.
“It’s time to switch the mindset,” says Nigel Cullington, Head of Marketing for the Revenue Optimization Business Unit at Upland Software. “Think, ‘What’s the customer strategy and how can we help?’ It’ll be less transactional now, more focused on your customers’ strategies and where you fit in. You must deliver at every part of the sales cycle.”
That’s from brand or business recognition – which happens even more in the digital space these days – to customer success, when you can strategically optimize revenue with existing accounts.
Here are eight strategies to get revenue back on track after you’ve missed sales targets (coronavirus-related or not):
Focus deeply on existing customers
Nearly two-thirds of sales are done with existing customers, according to Upland research. So current customers are your best bet for revenue – as long as you stay focused on sales that benefit them and their needs.
“Look at the ‘white space,’ areas where you haven’t delved into before,” Cullington says. “Map out where your customers don’t have coverage, the territory where you can deliver value.”
But beware, he warns: “It’s one thing to see the white space. It’s more difficult to understand the problem and help the customers identify the outcomes they need and want.”
That’s the key: Even when you’re trying to meet reestablished revenue goals, the focus with existing customers still solely needs to be their success. Identify needs and solutions that will make them more successful than they are and hope to be.
Equate the possibility
When exploring possibilities with existing customers, avoid chasing deals just for the chance at revenue. Pursue deals that will make a difference for customers and your relationship in a year, five years and beyond.
One way is to follow Upland’s Sales Qualification Cheat Sheet. Ask these questions as you develop opportunities and review them throughout the sales cycle to increase sales revenue:
1. Is there an opportunity?
Things to consider:
- Project. Did a decision-maker get a key project approved?
- Business. Do you fully understand the customers’ business and current needs?
- Finances. Are the customers’ finances compatible with the project?
- Access. Is the funding lined up?
- Event. Has a decision-maker confirmed there’s a need and timeline for fulfillment?
2. Can we compete?
Things to consider:
- Decision. Do you know the decision-making criteria, process and timeline?
- Fit. Does your solution meet the most critical needs customers described?
- Resource. Can you win with the same effort as most opportunities?
- Relationship. Has a decision-maker indicated or ensured you have a competitive advantage?
- Value. Has a decision-maker indicated your solution has a unique value that differentiates you from the competition?
3. Can we win?
Things to consider:
- Support. Has a key decision-maker championed you?
- Credibility. Do you have access to key decision-makers and/or executive leadership?
- Compatibility. Is your company’s culture similar to the customers’ culture?
- Influence. Has a key decision-maker shared some subjective factors in their decision-making process that you can leverage?
- Politics. Is there a key decision-maker who wants you to win and will influence the outcome?
4. Is it worth winning?
Things to consider:
- Short-term. Will the initial order be at least the same size as an average order and will it happen in a normal sales cycle?
- Future. Will this relationship have the same or better average lifetime value?
- Long-term. Will the opportunity be equal to or greater than average opportunities and revenue in the long run?
- Risk. Is the level of risk equal to or less than the average deal?
- Value. Is this deal strategically important for your organization, too?
Make no excuses
When the economy tanks, unemployment spikes and outlooks are grim, it’s easy to blame all those factors on missed goals and lost revenue. Unfortunately, excuses that fit the times are often a crutch for lackluster efforts and abandoned sales habits.
Sales leaders and salespeople want to study drop points – when prospects exit or loyal customers bow out – for weak links. Customers might not buy as much, but they’re more likely to leave you if they don’t get the attention and answers they desire along the sales cycle.
Move into different markets
Businesses have relied on the specialized or hybridized approach to solutions and sales for quite some time. To increase sales revenue now, you might turn to the power of generalizing for markets you didn’t ever consider ideal.
A few approaches:
- Take a broader approach to your industry. What makes you stand above competitors in your market might be an advantage in a similar market. For instance, if you supply the automotive industry, where does your solution fit into other transportation modes – rails, aviation, freight, mass transit?
- Move from business to consumer or vice versa. If you supply B2B firms, consider packaging your solutions differently for consumers. If you’re a B2C, look for ways to bundle for businesses.
- Work with partners and/or distributors. If you’ve always sold directly, you might want to try distributors to get into new territories. Or maybe partnering with a vendor that supplies a different solution to many of your customers will uncover new leads and opportunities.
Create adaptive, long-term solutions, too
We’re all compelled to focus on short-term goals and efforts that will give an immediate bump in sales revenue. But McKinsey researchers remind businesses and sales professionals to take cues from history when developing rebound plans. Consider:
- Employment grew consistently between 1933 and 1937, not immediately and sharply, in the wake of the Great Depression
- Tourism to New York City didn’t fully recover for five years after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and
- It took seven years for unemployment rates to reach pre-recession levels after the 2008 financial crisis.
In the wake of disasters, full recovery doesn’t happen quickly. So plan and pace goals and policies for years in addition to months or quarters.
Be where prospects, customers hang out
Customers have changed – and so have their buying habits. They don’t look for the same information and solutions in the same places as they did before the coronavirus.
They probably aren’t hanging out at industry events (because large-scales events were reduced or put on hold). But they’re probably in more LinkedIn groups specific to their industry or challenges. They probably aren’t at local hangouts, but they’re scouring social media and participating in webinars more than ever.
To increase revenue now, you’ll want to uncover new ways to get in touch with your audience. Create marketing programs and sales development plans that match your ideal customer’s new profile and preferred habits.
Narrow your focus
Oftentimes, when businesses miss targets and aim to increase sales revenue quickly, they think about offering more, different or new solutions to existing customers. They hope expansion will increase revenue streams to refill the river.
But, according to Brian Greenberg, CEO of True Blue Life Insurance and author of The Salesman Who Doesn’t Sell, that takes away from resources – time, creativity and money – that is better spent elsewhere. Instead, concentrate on what brought in the most consistent revenue in the past. It might be the flagship product that’s not shiny and new anymore or the basic service that most customers opt for in their early stages.
Go back to those basics, Greenberg suggests, and re-introduce and/or repackage them to existing customers. Roll them out to new prospects, emphasizing proven dependability, return on investment and your highest quality.
Focus relentlessly on sales revenue goals
Mike Schultz, President of the RAIN Group, says salespeople and their organizations need three things to hit revenue targets:
- Firm goals
- A goal routine, and
- Goal action plan.
To that, Schultz recommends these actions:
- Set firm goals. Make them specific – with hard numbers, expectations and deadlines. You can adapt, but always have a clear picture of what the achieved goal will look and feel like.
- Follow a routine. Mark your calendar to:
- Review your big picture goal(s) every morning and lay out the action plan to work toward achieving it.
- Review your goal weekly with an “accountability partner” to see what you accomplished and what you must do the next week.
- Monthly, review goals with the boss to make sure you have the right target and are aiming toward it.
- Quarterly, account for what you’ve done toward the big picture goal and what you absolutely must do in the next three months to reach it.
- Plan your actions purposefully. Set the big picture goals and map out the smaller steps and goals you need to accomplish to maintain or build revenue over the next year, regardless of how grim or positive the economy or industry looks.