Albert's Posts - Albert's Site
This is an opportune time of the year to talk about the relationship between sales and the life-cycle of a business. As the summer ends and the autumn is upon us, it reminds me that everything has a life-cycle; trees turn leaves, flowers cease to bloom and crops are ready to be harvested. Most salespeople concentrate on product, marketing material and branding, but when was the last time you thought about using the life-cycles of businesses to boost your sales and cement client relationships?
Any regular reader of this blog understands the basis of any good SME sales strategy: establish trust, maintain frequent contact and seek opportunities to help. While these are fundamental basics, the tactics involved in such a strategy depends on the life cycle of the business. Having had the privilege of serving as corporate counsel to businesses in various life-cycles, I share the following experiences:
1. The "kids" need help beyond your product or service - be a part of their team. I often define start-ups/early stage businesses as "kids" - full of enthusiasm and energy for their business. At the risk of a gross generalization, most kids are great technicians - they know their product or service inside out; however, they may not have the experience or have developed the skills to know everything about their business (I readily admit there are obvious exceptions to the rule). Kids need a team around them to help them with their business beyond the goods or services they are selling. The priority of a sales-person at this stage is to develop a relationship by providing advice. The advice given may not be about the product or service being sold and it might not lead to an immediate sale, but providing this advice will build credibility with the kids.Those selling administrative support products and services (e.g.: sales tracking software, book-keeping software, computer hardware, accounting and legal services) have a particular built-in advantage at this point. While sales may be modest, it is these types of products and services that most kids recognize they may need. If the salesperson positions themselves as a resource for their team, the kids will turn to them for assistance when needed. This helps build trust and the salesperson may even find they are apart of the team. When a salesperson becomes apart of the team they should be focused on the long term relationship and not an immediate sale because eventually the kids become...
2. Teenagers! They need you to maintain constant contact lest you are perceived to be indifferent to their needs: Teenagers form that "mushy middle" of businesses- they are beyond start-up stage but not large enough to be considered "big business" or institutional. I typically define teenagers as businesses with employees and a significant amount of assets but not so great as to employ divisional managers, multiple vice-presidents or a purchasing/procurement department. Teenage businesses are like teenagers in high school - there is always someone new trying to get their attention - your rival is much like that new cute guy or girl in class. Teenage businesses are at a size where they are desirable targets for your competitors. If you have teenagers as clients or want to sell to businesses in this life-cycle, emphasis should be placed on maintaining contact with them, regardless of whether a sale needs to be made, to ensure you are not perceived to be indifferent to their needs. Indifference, whether perceived or real, is a leading cause of business loss and especially so in this business life-cycle.
3. Adults are mostly self-sufficient and you need to make sure you maintain their trust. Businesses in the "adult" life cycle are mature business with significant revenue and assets. Much like being an adult, their "team" has been established. They are not likely to make too many new friend/service providers. You are already part of the team or they are occupied by so many competing priorities that maintaining constant contact is neither required nor welcomed. At this point, the largest priority is maintaining trust. In my experience, most businesses in this life-cycle only switch service providers and/or product lines if there has been a betrayal of trust (e.g. quoting one price and billing substantially over that, openly putting your needs before your clients) or the product is notably inferior to the competitors. Thus, most salespeople and sales teams need to concentrate on ensuring they do what they say they are going to do and otherwise maintain trust.
There are always exceptions to the rule, but this may be an effective general guideline to help sell based on the life-cycle of your potential clients or clients. Best of luck!
Labels: Albert Luk