5 Tips for Small Business Sales Success - Page 2

By Pedro Hernandez
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3. Spot the best opportunities

Look for cool outcomes, suggests Fuster. "Who's using your products in an innovative way?" Evaluate deals beyond how much revenue they generated. Which customers are succeeding and in which industries? Do a little digging and find out why your product or service is doing really well in healthcare, for instance, and shift your strategy accordingly.

It goes back to maintaining that outward, customer focus. The same goes for your internal dynamics of your sales teams. "Rather than try to replicate your best salesperson" or "make everyone behave like that salesperson," maintain an external focus. "Look at your customer base, look at similar accounts," and find commonalities and opportunities.

"Get out of the dependency of hiring the eagles," adds Fuster. You're probably already sitting on a team of all-stars; they're just not focused on the right outcomes.

4. Communicate with customers effectively

There is no shortage of ways to engage with customers, but are you really getting through?

When approaching customers, "always come information-rich, in a mechanism that they want," says Fuster. If you're offering information or guidance, "think about how they want to consume it and then provide it," he adds. Over the phone or via a website, align your approach to their tastes.

Also, consider your role as a salesperson. A salesperson's goal should be to become a "trusted advisor," says Fuster. But who has that kind of time in today's hypercompetitive business environment?

It's a common misconception, says Fuster. "You think that to become a trusted advisor you have to be with the customer for a very long time."

In truth, it's all about "solving the customer's customer problem" and framing your communications along those lines. That's the "difference in mindset" between good salespeople and those that just push product. With a little preparation and being well-versed in the needs of your customers -- beyond stocking their storerooms or setting up their tech, that is -- you can become a trusted advisor in no time.

5. Love your software, but stay connected with your customers

Don't rest all of your hopes on customer relationship management (CRM) software. In Fuster's experience with past startups, "CRM-only solutions tend to handle about 20 percent of the lead-to-cash process," he says.

It's easy to get lulled into checking off requirements, working through task lists and losing sight of your customers needs as a result. "Lead-to-order is not the goal," for successful sales organizations, stresses Fuster. "The thing that they are after is the lifecycle."

Essentially, put as much consideration and effort into fostering an ongoing relationship with your customer as you did landing that first sale -- if not more. "Maintaining customer intimacy," is a challenge as small businesses grow bigger, admits Fuster, but it's one that's definitely worth tackling. Software, while indisputably powerful, isn't always the most intimate.

Seems a little odd for a sales executive at SAP to offer such insights, doesn't it?

Good vendors not only serve their customers, they also consider their customers' customers (a recurring theme) by offering solutions that cater to those needs and by helping them succeed.

If it's good enough for SAP…

Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at InfoStor and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.

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This article was originally published on April 26, 2013
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