Entrepreneurship14 October 20208 min

#WisdomWednesday: 3 secrets for scaling your sales

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It doesn’t need to be said that sales are essential to growing your company: among other things, they make it scalable, raise your value and create independence. That’s why Start it @KBC is launching the Market Me program for growth-minded entrepreneurs to learn the ropes and raise their revenue. This #WisdomWednesday we’ll give you a sneak peek and share some basic tips to scale your sales:

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#1 Know when to close the deal

One thing a lot of entrepreneurs underestimate is the ability to recognise when a deal is ready to be closed. So how do you know if your prospect is ready to be converted into a customer?

There are a number of signs that a prospect really means business. The first is a willingness to engage and commit, instead of trying to postpone or blow you off. Someone trying to get off your radar by telling you to get back in touch in a few months is far from signing on the dotted line. If they are ready to go for your product or service, they will be open about the issue or goal they need to resolve and look to take action within a certain time frame. Your mission: to show them that you understand and can meet their needs.

When prospects are ready to get down to the nitty-gritty, you’ll also notice it in the language they use. You will hear them already placing themselves in a situation where they are the customer, saying things like “when we do this” and “then we could also use this option”. Although it may seem subtle, mentally the prospect has made a mental shift and is projecting a reality in which they have already made the decision to start using your product or service. Take their cue and nudge this reality forward by speaking in concrete terms yourself: instead of saying “if you were to decide to use this product” say “when you’re using this product you’ll notice…”. No, you’re not trying to brainwash anybody: this only works with people who are actually ready to buy!

Another sign that a prospect is getting close to signing on is that they ask very specific questions. This means they are interested, but they are just trying to resolve some concerns before they go for the purchase. Don’t leave them hanging: make sure your prospect fully understands everything your product or service entails. Then go for it by soliciting the sale.

Also important: it may seem obvious, but a lot of startups lose sight of the fact that the sales cycle is usually longer with B2B sales, because these customers usually have slower decision-making processes. You can hear all about it in our Selling to corporates podcast.

#2 Make sure closed deals mean revenue

Closing a deal is one thing: ensuring that it generates effective income is another. Many founders don’t put enough emphasis on what comes after the sale, but this can result in serious cash flow problems. Since cash flow is one of the most common causes of a startup going bankrupt, we’ll explain how you can ensure that closed deals equal money in the bank.

To start off, be upfront about pricing. A common mistake startups make with their product pitch is that they focus for too long on convincing the customer before hitting them with the price, so that it takes the customer a while to figure out how much the product or service actually costs. This strategy does not pay off. Serious customers are ready to invest in a fairly priced product or service and recognise that they have to pay for quality. When you let someone get too far into the process without knowing whether what you’re offering is going to fit into their budget, you are just creating costly delays for your company.

Once you have the price clarified, be crystal clear about the due date. If you are counting on cash flow to keep your operations running, you can’t be vague about when your customers or clients should pay their bills. State specific deadlines and have a system in place for flagging late payments and contacting the customer or client to follow up. The faster you act, the faster the cash will flow!

Finally, while you may want to give your customers or clients a taste of what you are offering to help them decide if your product or service is right for them, be careful about what you give away for free. Freebies have a tendency to cost more time and effort than you were counting on, once you tally up all the back-and-forth communication and administration. Although trials and demos may be a good tactic to help familiarise people with what you offer, be wary of undervaluing your product or service and spending resources in ways that don’t pay. If they like it then let them put a ring on it!

#3 Build a customer success team

You know you need a marketing team to attract leads and a sales team to close the deal. But don’t forget about building a customer success team for what comes after. Because making a sale isn’t the be-all and end-all: you need happy customers to keep the show running. Your customer success team makes sure your customers are achieving their goals. By giving them answers and support, they go beyond merely using your product or service to forming a relationship with your company.

Of course young startups might not want to put the cart before the horse and invest too much in customer support before getting their sales going. So these two aspects of the business have to scale in tandem. Automating sales processes can help you avoid losing too much time building up the customer success side of things. The more that repetitive tasks such as data entry are taken over by technology, the more a customer's success or sales manager can focus on the human element of relationship building. Just ask our partner GrowForce!

So where to start with your customer success strategy? It all begins with feedback. Get an overview of which customers are happy with your product and which ones have complained or cancelled. Then follow up with customers to find out what went right or wrong. Once you’ve collected all your feedback, pick up on the patterns and start fixing your flaws and consolidating your strengths. Once you get a critical number of customers, systematise your feedback process with regular surveys at key points in the customer journey, such as onboarding and cancellation.

One important way to support customers is by onboarding them right from the start. While you know how to use your product or service in your sleep, your customer may need a little help with all the ins and outs. Instead of sending them on their way and waiting for questions or problems to pop up, be ahead of the game and make sure your customer is comfortable with using your offering and guiding them where needed. Of course this is time consuming, which is why you should dedicate a customer success manager to the task as soon as you have a solid base of recurring customers. Yes there is a difference between a customer success manager and a customer service rep: our startup Sympl explains it all in this article!

Ready to become a professional sales machine? Market Me is a unique program for ambitious startups who want to boost their sales and grow faster. We have spots for 20 entrepreneurs, so don’t delay! Sign up by November 20.