Increasing sales in a down economy should be a subject near and dear to the heart of all those that read this blog. Few things are as important in today’s economy as building your sales funnel and increasing revenue. It is no wonder that amongst the most frequent e-mail inquiries I receive each week are messages asking for suggestions about how to increase sales. This week I received an e-mail with an interesting twist on the age old topic…Perhaps a sign of the times, the question was: “What is the fastest way to increase sales?” The message was sent in from the CEO of a mid-market company whose sales have been flat for the last few quarters. The introduction of speed into the equation gives me a chance to put a fresh spin on an often over-discussed, but nonetheless mission critical topic…

There are any number of strategies that can lead to increases in sales over time, but few that are designed to have an immediate impact. The bottom line is the fastest way to increase sales is to acquire new business in bulk. The following strategies (in no particular order of preference) represent just a few of the available options, which if implemented correctly, will allow you to jump-start sales in an aggressive fashion via various forms of bulk sales acquisitions:

  1. Hire a Rainmaker: Not all sales people are created equal, and moreover not all sales people are rainmakers. Rainmakers are the rock stars of the sales world in that they not only come with an established book of business, but they also possess the ability to create new business via their well honed professional network. Rainmakers are not merely experienced sales reps, but rather they represent the top 1% of the sales profession. These are seasoned pros that rain significant transactions like they were going out of style. One of the most important things any CEO or entrepreneur can do is recruit rainmakers. While rainmakers won’t come without a tier-one compensation plan and a significant amount of freedom, they are worth the investment. Real talent produces real results, and I’ll take a proven performer over a project eleven times out of ten.
  2. Form a Strategic Partnership: Find companies who sell non-competitive products or services into the same vertical, and form a partnership to mutually increase one another’s distribution. Joint Ventures, strategic alliances, corporate partnering, licensing and distribution agreements, and numerous other collaborative business arrangements provide an exceptional opportunity to catalyze sales growth. In addition to rapidly generating a new revenue channel, the formation of key partnerships often times provides the additional advantage of creating competitive barriers to entry into certain markets or product lines.
  3. Remembering to include the WIIFM Factor: Understanding your clients/potential clients WIIFM (What’s In It For Me) position is critical. It is absolutely essential to clearly communicate how and why your product, service, or solution will benefit them. Remember that sales isn’t about you, rather it’s about solving the needs/problems of your existing and prospective clients. If you approach sales from the perspective of taking the action that will help others best achieve their goals you will find few obstacles will stand in your way with regard to closing the deal.
  4. Focus on the Right Clients: Few things add instant credibility and bulk revenue like being able to say that Apple, Bank of America, Disney or other name brand businesses are counted amongst your clientele. While there is considerable revenue associated with landing the big account, the real value comes in the ripple effect of being able to leverage their brand equity into increasing yours. Engaging name brands will add value to your business, your revenue and your brand. Develop a sales strategy for winning the business and begin the process of landing key accounts. The sooner you start the faster you’ll find the power curve in your selling process start to shift in your favor.
  5. Roll-up the Competition: Find competitive or synergistic businesses and target them as candidates for mergers or acquisitions. Growth by M&A can rapidly increase market share. By targeting businesses that sell into your vertical, but have a different client mix, both companies can add revenue and better manage your risk via diversification.
  6. Better Serve Your Existing Clients: What many organizations fail to do is to understand and serve the unmet needs of existing clients. Doing this one things can unlock huge revenue potential from your current client base. It is far more cost and time effective to increase the revenue from your existing clients than it is to develop new clients. Don’t make the mistake of overlooking the proverbial bird in hand…
  7. Launch an Aggressive Marketing Campaign: The first six items mentioned above require you to drive the results and find the customers, whereas this tactic will drive the customers to you. A well conceived tactical marketing initiative can drive targeted results in a short time frame. An aggressive combination of PR and digital marketing can create a windfall of new business sometimes within a matter of days. For these reasons I tend to favor direct marketing campaigns that utilize digital mediums which are extremely cost effective, highly targeted, and measurable in real time.
  8. Outsourcing Funnel Development: I am a big fan of outsourcing the front end of your sales engine…The highest and best use of your sales force is to be engaged in direct engagement opportunities. If your sales people are spending all their time generating leads they are not engaging in serving clients and potential clients. For substantially less than the cost of one fully burdened sales employee you can outsource lead generation to a firm whose sole competencey is filling the funnel for your sales staff. With this model your sales staff will now spend the overwhelming majority of their time selling as opposed to prospecting. Two side benefits of this model are that you can recruit sales people more easily when the company provides the leads, and you can also drive down your overall cost of sales by reducing your sales compensation because they are no longer required to engage throughout the entire sales cycle.
  9. Expand Your Brand Online: Since the large majority of all buying decisions either begin or conclude on the Internet, you better be visible online. In addition to the basics of search engine optimization and traditional search engine marketing, I would strongly suggest getting involved in social networking. Just by having a presence on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, YouTube and other social networking platforms, you not only open-up a new communications channel to your existing clients, but you also make yourself readily available to those looking to find what you have to offer.

The bottom line is that there is no reason to have a sales trend line moving in any direction other than upwards. If you understand how to architect a sales engine that hits on all cylinders throughout the entire sales cycle it is possible to see rapid sales growth even in a declining economic environment. Good luck and good selling…

*Disclosure
N2Growth is in the business of providing many of the services contained in today’s post.