Make your business more profitable

One of the best ways to grow your business and become more profitable is to improve efficiency and maximise your return on investment (ROI). A successful, profitable business will focus on marketing and sales to keep money coming in and efficiently to slow the money going out – make every penny spent work harder.

Sometimes a single factor can significantly increase profitability. However, for most businesses, a series of minor improvements are needed across several areas.

This guide aims to help business owners identify and implement simple improvements to each area of your business to increase overall performance and profitability to maximise your return on investment. Retaining customers is essential; having spent time and money on your marketing and sales activity, why not put effort into keeping them? Getting existing customers to spend more is also easier than finding new customers – but you must do both to be profitable.


Step one: Customer service

Customer service is where your product/service meets the real world – where the rubber meets the road. This is an important area to get right, and you should invest in good people and efficient systems. Firstly, keeping customers happy will ensure they continue to use your business and refer you to others. In addition, listening to their feedback can help identify new markets, tailor your marketing and sales messaging, and gradually improve your overall delivery.


Step two: Complaint handling

If you haven’t already, create a robust system for handling complaints. Humbly paying attention to negative feedback will make you a better business. Not all feedback is constructive, but simply ignoring negative feedback can be devastating. In some circumstances, receiving negative feedback and then demonstrating how you overcame a particular issue can become a winning sales message.


Step three: Managing your delivery

Essentially, this is delivering what you promised – both externally and internally. Before you begin, ensure you track and measure your delivery against your quotes. For example, if you quoted 10hrs and it takes 20hrs, you are losing money! You either need to increase your prices or improve your delivery. Likewise, if the situation is reversed, you should ensure you’re not short-changing customers and risking dissatisfying them – potentially eliminating repeat business.


Step four: Customer loyalty

It’s easier and more cost-effective to keep a customer returning than to find new ones. Businesses should reward customer loyalty as this helps clients continue to use your products/services over your competitors – especially if your product/service is easily replicated. For example, think of supermarkets; they all sell similar products at similar prices. Therefore, their loyalty programmes are essential in helping customers spend more in their store than with their competitors. Businesses can reward customer loyalty in several ways, including offering discounts on repeat orders, retainer rates and loyalty cards.


Step five: Account management

For business-to-business customers and larger retail accounts, an account manager’s role is to nurture a client post-initial sale. Account managers are important as they can help retain clients and grow accounts. They shouldn’t be too involved in the delivery and act more like project managers or translators between the client and the business. Having account managers will allow other departments to focus on their specific delivery tasks, significantly reducing the number of general emails and phone calls.


Step six: Employee performance

Regularly monitoring and measuring employee performance will help develop your team and ensure skill sets in your business are improving. In addition, workplace culture is becoming an important hiring factor. Working with employees to understand how to get the best from them will enhance productivity and identify potential hiring benefits.


Step seven: Outsourcing

Not every part of your business needs to be handled in-house. While it might cost you more short term, outsourcing can bring in additional services and skills that might be too expensive to implement fully. An obvious example is hiring a web agency to manage your website; it is probably too costly to hire a full-term website developer. A less obvious example could be to hire a specialist in a particular market or area; bringing in support short-term can allow you to meet a critical need without committing your business to a long-term cost.


Step eight: Finance

Keeping a close eye on your financial situation is critical if you want to remain flexible and grow. As early as possible, it’s usually advisable to hire an accountant. However, to keep costs down, learn the basic principles and pay attention to the essential numbers. For example, the difference between revenue, profit and cashflow – revenue is vanity, profit is sanity, and cash is king. Understanding your financial situation can make every decision easier, whether that’s hiring, outsourcing or which projects to take on.


Step nine: Management meetings

Every business should have a formalised management meeting – even if there are just two staff members. These meetings help to ensure top-level, strategic decisions are being answered. In these meetings, avoid getting into delivery specifics and focus on your progress towards achieving business objectives. These meetings should be regular enough to progress the business without stalling productivity. Typically, longer meetings are held once a month, and smaller check-ins are held once a week, depending on the size of your team


How ETC can help

If you need help streamlining your business operations and improving your return on investment, please get in touch.

If you are new to ETC, why not contact us for a free new business review? We’ll spend two hours with you, giving you professional coaching and will leave you with actions for immediate implementation.

The importance of after-sales and upsell

Completed the sale: Job done! – or is it? On average, it can cost up to five times more to attract new business than to keep an existing one. Therefore, after-sales and customer care is essential to building and maintaining a profitable business.

According to Fundsquire, in the United Kingdom, there are approximately 1,800 companies founded every day. As a result, competition is extremely high, and as a consequence, customer loyalty needs to be earned. Poor after-sales, customer service and failure to build loyalty through upselling services can negatively impact your sales.

Here are three things you can do to maintain customer loyalty and increase sales revenue.


1. After-sales and onboarding

Many companies, after the sale, will switch the customer from a sales process into a delivery or operations workflow. This is extremely common and can be an effective use of skills and resources for your business – but is this change in relationship always best for the customer?

For the best customer experience, it is vital to ensure one of the final steps in your initial sales process is to create a smooth, gentle transition between sales and customer service. An effective means of doing this is to establish a customer onboarding process.

Customer onboarding significantly impacts whether a customer keeps using your product long-term, becomes a repeat customer, or leaves to find an alternative. Creating a customer onboarding process will help ensure you’re giving the customer the best possible start to their journey with you. Done well, it sets your customers up for success. Done poorly, it leaves customers questioning why they signed up in the first place.

Typically, the onboarding process covers the whole journey: from initial sign-up to product/service activation and first use. This process is a gentle, structured way to move away from the sales relationship and starts building customer service relationships.


2. Regularly schedule an aftersales follow-up

Perhaps a really obvious one, but regularly keeping in contact with customers to make sure they are happy will genuinely retain customers and boost sales.

According to HubSpot, 93% of customers will likely make a repeat purchase with companies that offer excellent customer service. So, as a small business, your customer service is the greatest indirect sales weapon. However, on a day-to-day basis, you’re likely working on delivery, not thinking about how to get more money out of your customer – which is a good thing (mostly).

Separate from operational meetings, ensure you arrange a regular, dedicated after-sales meeting. These meetings are essential to ensure you’re delivering what you promised and to help you identify additional services or any revisions of service the customer may need.

Top tip: Make sure you’re prepared before the meeting and speak to everyone with day-to-day contact with the customer. Understand the value to the customer and you as a business. Sometimes it can be just as profitable to reduce services (if you’re over-serving) as it can be to upsell new services.


3. Don’t neglect to upsell or cross-sell

It’s far more efficient to upsell or cross-sell to existing customers than gain a new one. The actual process is more cost-effective to you as a business and can also demonstrate innovation to your customers – you’re not a one-trick pony.

Upsell: Selling a more expensive version of the product or service. For example, convincing the customer to buy a 55inch TV over the 42inch one they intended to buy.

Cross-selling: Selling additional/supporting products or services related to what the customer already intended to buy. For example, convincing the customer to buy a speaker system alongside the TV.

Studies have shown that 40 per cent of customers get annoyed when employees upsell or cross-sell them during customer service interactions. Effective timing is critical when selling additional products or services. It’s probably best not to try to do this while you’re resolving a problem, and we recommend (as detailed in point 2) having a dedicated meeting to discuss further opportunities.

Ultimately, both upselling and cross-selling help the customer get more value from your business and help your business get more loyalty and revenue from the customer.


How ETC can help

If you need help improving your after-sales, creating an onboarding process or upselling to your customers, please get in touch.

If you are new to ETC, why not contact us for a free new business review? We’ll spend two hours with you, giving you professional coaching and will leave you with actions for immediate implementation.

Improve your sales follow-up sales process

Improving your sales follow-up process is one of the simplest and most efficient ways to increase sales conversions.

Many small businesses and entrepreneurs often find themselves too busy running a business to follow up on sales proposals and leads. While some customers will be easy to convert, others may need more than one meeting, email or conversation to progress them from a ‘prospect’ to a ‘client’ in your sales pipeline. This constant follow-up process can be perceived as an unnecessary drain of time – but it shouldn’t be!

A study by Brevet revealed that 80% of sales require an average of five follow-ups. However, 44% of businesses only follow up once, and 94% follow up four times before giving up.

So, why do some people need so much convincing? The common misconception is they’re not interested. However, the more likely barrier echoes your own business challenges: they’re busy too. Decision makers have a lot of conflicting priorities and different demands for their time. According to Harvard Business Review, professionals have, on average, over 200 emails in their inbox at any time.

Many business owners and salespeople fear the follow-up stage of the sales process because they worry it annoys the prospect. Some people also don’t like to hear the word ‘NO’. However, this can be a gift, as a definitive answer means you can cross it off your list and divert energy to another prospect.

Here are five ways to improve your sales follow-up approach and increase your sales conversions.


1. Change your mindset

Following up on sales quotes and proposals is the simplest way to increase sales conversions. You’ve already put in all the hard work; it would be a shame to let all the potential go to waste because you didn’t send a few simple emails or made a telephone call.

Remember, you’re not following up with your prospect to spam them, annoy them, or pressure them into making a purchase. Instead, see this process as part of building a relationship, and you’re being persistent because you have a solution that can help fulfil a need.


2. Vary your approach

When people are busy, certain platforms (such as email) may become overloaded, and you may need to look at things differently to break through the noise.

If you’ve phoned a few times, perhaps follow up with an email or WhatsApp message. Alternatively, you can try ‘popping in’ on your way to another meeting or message your prospect on LinkedIn.

We’re not suggesting you bombard prospects. However, different people may respond better on alternative platforms. Varying your approach will help you understand which platform they are more likely to respond to you through.


3. Space it out

Decision-making processes can vary widely. Therefore, ensure you understand your client’s timescales and plan your follow-ups accordingly.

For example, on shorter timescales, when there is a looming deadline, it might be appropriate to follow up a couple of times within a week. However, following up frequently may be annoying if the process is longer.

Don’t be afraid to ask the prospect the best time to arrange a follow-up call, meeting or email. Once agreed, make sure it’s in your diary and follow through. Fulfilling these simple agreements will help demonstrate trust and reliability.


4. Provide value with each follow-up

The hard sell doesn’t work anymore. Instead, try and use each follow-up to build your relationship with your prospect. Even if they choose not to buy from you this time, keeping the relationship strong will increase the likelihood of them considering you in the future.

With each sales follow-up, try and add more value. You don’t need to continually focus on the sale; vary your approach and instead focus on building a relationship. Try:

  • Asking them about certain aspects of their business (use your notes from your initial sales meeting)
  • Send them a link to a relevant blog or news article
  • Send relevant case studies
  • Notify them of an upcoming sale

Remember that “value” does not have to be financial. You need to ensure that you are offering something useful to the prospect each time you speak.


5. Know when to stop

At a certain point, you will need to stop your sales follow-up process if you’re hitting a brick wall; continuing may seem pushy and aggressive. But, ultimately, unanswered contact can be a waste of resources. Know when it’s time to move on.

There is nothing to stop you from adding the contact into a ‘lapsed prospect’ list and occasionally updating them on relevant offers or services in the future. However, ensure enough time has lapsed before you reestablish contact. You can use your marketing intelligence to determine an appropriate time, for example, at the end of a typical contract length.


How ETC can help

If you need help creating a sales follow-up process and converting more sales, please get in touch.

If you are new to ETC, why not contact us for a free new business review? We’ll spend two hours with you, giving you professional coaching and will leave you with actions for immediate implementation.

Write a winning sales proposal

The sales proposal you send your client is perhaps one of the only tangible references to your compelling sales pitch. Therefore you need to make it personalised and easy to understand.

Often, sending over a simple one-page quote with a summary of work and the price is perfectly adequate. This is usually the standard approach for existing clients who are familiar with you and your solution. However, for new clients who may compare you to other services, this won’t help you stand out – and a well-written email summary with an attached price is NOT the answer.

Remember, your sales proposal may sit on your prospective client’s desk for a few days or weeks – or they may have to share it with colleagues who aren’t as familiar with your pitch. Therefore, your sales proposal needs to be memorable and convincing.

Here are five simple tips to help you structure and write an effective, memorable sales proposal:


1. Keep your sales proposal brief

The key here is to balance helpful information with backstory and evidence. Ultimately, people are busy, and we all have shorter attention spans than we used to. You need to keep your proposal short and to the point.

While there is no set number of pages in a proposal, keep the information essential. The key is making every word count, breaking down content into easily digestible sections/chapters, and including quotes rather than complete case studies (these can be included in appendices or as links to your website).


2. Focus on the client and value

One of the most common mistakes businesses make when writing a sales proposal is making the proposal all about them, not the client

Your proposal should outline your understanding of the problem and how your solution is the best way to overcome challenges and add value to their business. You don’t need a comprehensive backstory about your company. Instead, weave your history and experience into the solution.

While it might be necessary to provide technical detail, try and keep these technicalities relavant to solving a problem or adding value. A laundry list of features may be required for a quick side-by-side comparison with competitors, but you should always be sure to connect features with benefits.

Top tip: When you outline a solution or reference a product’s capabilities, ask yourself: “So what?”. If your following sentence doesn’t outline how the client will benefit, it may not be relevant.


3. Give them pricing options

Traditionally, most proposals only offered one solution. However, you could miss out on a higher sale if you didn’t outline all the available options.

Providing multiple options at different pricing levels can make prospects feel they are getting the best value for money as they have more information and context when making their decision. In addition, with multiple options within one proposal, prospective clients are less likely to shop around at your competitors. This effectively sets you up as your own competition, creating a win-win scenario for you.

Typically, the rule of three works best for pricing. Think Gold, Silver and Bronze, or Enterprise, Business and Startup. In our experience, most people will settle on the middle option.

Finally, don’t forget to add timescales. Make sure you answer the following questions: how long will it take? And when can you start?

Top tip: Consider putting together a simple Gantt chart within the proposal. You can use the number of days/weeks/months instead of actual dates if you want to keep things open. This can help give the client a sense of urgency.


4. Don’t forget the design of your sales proposal

This document is perhaps one of the only tangible sales documents you’ll send your customer. Therefore, this document needs to looks great.

Humans are visual beings. Not only do visual elements such as graphs, flowcharts, or tables help break up large blocks of text, but they also help communicate complex theory simply.

While professionally designed documents can help you stand out, you don’t need to spend hours on the design. Using a simple Microsoft Word or a free Google Doc template can help structure the layout of your proposal can also work.

A fancy document with terrible content can lose a sale just as quickly as an excellent proposal presented poorly.

Top tip: Visuals should look professional and on brand. Coordinate your colour schemes, fonts, and graphics. This will help ensure your business appears capable and credible.


5. Create a flexible, personalised template

Creating a template will help save you, and your team, time when writing your proposals. They will also ensure your proposals stay consitant and on brand. Making them flexible is vital to ensuring you keep them personalised and not a copy and paste job.

For example, you can create templated sentences that help summarise your solution to the client:

This proposal is for [client] who [client needs]. [Your company name] provides [main benefit that differentiates your offering from competitors]. When [target client groups] partner with [your company name] we’re able to achieve goals like [example #1], [example #2], and [example #3].

The more tailored and personalised your proposal, the more effective and persuasive it will be.


Bonus tip: Always include a call to action

Always end your proposal with a call to action. What does the client need to do if they want to progress with things?


How ETC can help

If you need help writing winning sales proposals, please get in touch.

If you are new to ETC, why not contact us for a free new business review? We’ll spend two hours with you, giving you professional coaching and will leave you with actions for immediate implementation.

Quote based on value, not price

When you quote the price of your product or service, are you selling a thing, or are you selling something that will add value?

Many businesses, particularly small businesses, believe they need to be ‘low cost’ to win business and to be competitive against more established companies – this is not the case. If you understand the client’s pain points, you should be able to quote a solution that solves a problem and adds value to their business.

Quoting your solution based on value, not price, will increase your sales conversions, and as a result, you’ll be able to increase your prices and boost your profits.


How to establish value

Establishing the value of your service comes from the work you put in before and during a meeting with your prospective customer. Learning how to prepare for a meeting and asking the right questions in a meeting will give you everything you need to understand the problems their business faces (the pain). This information will allow you to outline how your solution can add value.

For example, imagine you are a roofer quoting to repair a leak at a factory. The owner describes how he’s had to stop or remove machinery because of the leak. Your solution (fixing the roof) is worth the lost revenue from the inactive machinery over time, not the cost of the repair.

Sometimes, the ‘pain’ isn’t so apparent to the client, and you’ll need to work a little harder to establish value. The key here is to understand things like:

  • Current conversion rate
  • Average order value
  • Profit
  • Time taken to fulfil an order (including aftersales)

This information can help paint a picture of how an investment in your solution will increase future sales and productivity.

For example, imagine you’re selling order processing software to track customer orders and send automated progress updates internally and to the customer. The value here is the reduction in time someone needs to spend updating people on the status of an order. As a result of your solution, more hours are available to achieve other things. Perhaps you’ve saved an additional salary, which would have probably cost the business much more than your solution.

With the right information, you may be able to outline both cost savings and increased revenue in one go.

For a guide on how to get the information needed to add value to your quotes and proposals, read our meeting preparation article and our conducting a sales meeting guide.


How to quote based on value, not price

Factfinding is essential in creating a value-based quotation. The questions you ask your prospective customer can help reveal the company’s pain’ points – which can sometimes be unknown to them.

Here are some example questions you can ask in your meeting:

  1. What is your current conversion rate?
  2. What is your average order value?
  3. What is the average profit from each order?
  4. How many sales do you need each month to maintain operations?
  5. How is the company structured? How many departments, and how many employees are in each?
  6. What are your growth plans?

For more information on how to conduct an appointment that gives you the best chance of closing a sale, read our conducting a sales appointment article.


The competitive edge

It’s important to remember that value is based on the customer’s perception. Without establishing value, your solution will likely be compared to a price they found online or the last thing they bought – which could be a cup of coffee.

By establishing value based on a genuine understanding of how your solution will meet their requirements, you will have a competitive edge regardless of whether your price is higher or lower than an alternative.


How ETC can help

If you need help increasing your sales quote conversations, please get in touch.

If you are new to ETC, why not contact us for a free new business review? We’ll spend two hours with you, giving you professional coaching and will leave you with actions for immediate implementation.

Conducting a sales appointment

The key to a successful sales appointment is to listen to the client’s pain points and directly outline how your product or service is the best value solution.

Many people believe that you need to be good at talking to sell your products or services. However, sometimes, the stereotypical, chatty salesperson trait can be counterproductive. Instead, to increase the chances of winning business from a sales appointment, you should concentrate on developing your listening and processing skills.

Here are our top tips on how to improve your sales appointment technique and give yourself the best chance of closing a sale.


Establish rapport

The first thing you should do in any meeting is to establish a relationship with everyone in the meeting – even if it’s a video call. Of course, everyone knows you’re there to talk about your solution, so there’s no need to be too familiar. Still, it helps if you showed interest in topics unrelated to the purpose of your meeting, such as their weekend activities, families or interests outside of work. Remember, people buy from people, so if there’s an opportunity to find common ground, use it.

The aim is to gently transition from this less formal conversation into the purpose of the meeting. Ideally, this transition should be seamless. A great way to do this is to talk about finding more time to engage in hobbies or spend time with the family – your solution can help.

TOP TIP: Keep an eye out for any personal items in the room. This could help break the ice. For example, they could have sports memorabilia on show. People love to talk about their hobbies. However, don’t pretend to be knowledgeable about something you’re not. You don’t need to share the same interests. The purpose is to show genuine attention and get them to open up about their experience.


Clarifying what their needs are

In every sales appointment, you need to position your solution as a means of solving their pain points.

If this is the first meeting, ensure you fully understand what they’re trying to achieve. This is also the time to validate any prior research done during your meeting preparation.

If this is a follow-up meeting, ensure you outline the key talking points from the last meeting and the purpose of this meeting. This helps to set expectations and remind everyone why you are there.

When asking questions, avoid closed questions that invoke a “Yes” or “No” response, and instead, practice using open questions that invite people to provide a detailed answer. These types of questions usually start with ‘what, ‘when’, and ‘how’.

Finally, make sure you really listen to their answers. When it’s your turn to talk, your answers will be much more factual, and it will be easier to directly link back to how your product or service is the solution to their pain – this is how you establish value.


Talk about value, not cost

One of the most common stumbling blocks in a sales meeting is your product or service’s cost.

Some people are uncomfortable about giving a price, and you can see them physically shy away from talking about it. Others are happy to provide one, as they are confident it is fair.

Regardless of the situation, it’s not about how you feel about the price. It’s always down to their perceived value of your solution. If you provide a price without establishing value, the cost will almost always be too high. So, how do you demonstrate value?

After you understand the pain points of your potential customer, you need to know how much it costs them to work around their problems or how these pains prevent them from achieving growth.

Ideally, you want to get a financial figure from them to understand their pain cost. This information can help outline how your solution is a more cost-effective option or identify how it can add additional value and open up new opportunities. Again, it’s always about the value to the client, not the price of the solution.

If you take this approach, you’ll find that you rarely ever talk about the actual price of your solution.


Always close

You might be familiar with the ‘Always Be Closing’ (ABC) sales technique. And while this does conjure images of ‘pushy’, perhaps unethical salespeople, it is a phrase you should remember for each meeting.

In a sales meeting, everyone knows you’re there to sell, so there is no need to be afraid to ask for business. If you have established value, the close should flow naturally, and you can move from talking about how you can help to when you can start helping – this is called an assumptive close.

The assumptive close can be a gentle way to establish a commitment by creating an easy way to start. A great way to achieve this is to get the diary out and pencil in a delivery date.

Finally, don’t fall at the last hurdle, get the paperwork over as soon as possible. Whether this is a quote, proposal or summary of your agreement, get it in their hands as quickly as possible. Generally, people are busy, and as soon as you leave the meeting, they will get absorbed into other things.

TOP TIP: A great way to keep at the forefront of a prospective client’s mind is to send them a ‘thank you for your time’ email following a meeting. Why not create an email template in your email client to save you writing one each time. Here are some guides on how to create a template for the most common email clients:


How ETC can help

If you need help turning your sales meetings from a conversation about price to one about value, please get in touch.

If you are new to ETC, why not contact us for a free new business review? We’ll spend two hours with you, giving you professional coaching and will leave you with actions for immediate implementation.

Five ways to prepare for a sales meeting

Most of the time, you’ll need to have a sales meeting to convince the decision-makers that your product or service will provide a significant return on investment (ROI). Developing a strong sales meeting strategy can boost your small business sales process, win more business and increase your profits.

There are two vital elements involved in preparing for a sales meeting: the first is preparing your attitude (read the first part of our sales series: A sales winning attitude), and the second is research.

There are two schools of thought when preparing for a sales meeting; either you can thoroughly prepare and investigate the company or you can have a more open approach.

Ultimately, your approach will likely depend on the type of sales meeting and your personal preference. However, regardless of your prefered approach, it’s always best to do some research and make sure you understand the company and their market before you meet with them. Nothing stalls the progress of a meeting more than making the wrong assumptions or delivering incorrect information.


5 things to help you prepare for a sales meeting – The full preparation approach

If your preference is to prepare for meetings fully, then here are five tips to increase the chances of a successful sales meeting.


Step one: Do your research

Start with the company’s background and understand why they exist (their purpose), not just what they offer. This can go a long way in establishing confidence in your understanding of their ultimate business goals. The best places to do company research include:

  • Companies House
  • Website
  • Review platforms
  • Social media
  • LinkedIn profile of the person you’re meeting
  • Partnering websites

TOP TIP: Remember, looking at a company website or literature alone won’t give you a true reflection of what the company needs. A company’s marketing is (or should be) customer-focused. It’s giving you a clue as to what they want the end goal to appear to be, not how they operate. Think Wizard of Oz – you want to see ‘the man behind the curtain’, not the Great and Powerful Oz.


Step two: Prepare questions

While conducting research, make notes and prepare questions. Make sure these questions open-ended questions to ensure the prospect elaborates on their answers.

As well as company questions, make sure you ask vital sales questions too. For example, understanding their timescales and budget early on could save you a lot of time if expectations are unachievable (or unrealistic).


Step three: Decide your approach

Tailor your pitch or story to the client. Again, your research will outline what’s important to the client. For example, if the client values responsiveness and good customer service, include case studies and instances where you exceeded existing customer expectations.

If multiple members of your organisation are attending the meeting, ensure you are all aware of the game plan. An uncoordinated sales meeting could be disastrous. Make sure you know your roles and responsibilities and agree on silent queues to know when to speak or stop speaking.


Step four: Decide your expected outcome

Defining the purpose of the meeting and setting expectations of your desired outcome will help ensure you keep your meeting preparation on track.

For example, is this going to be an exploratory sales meeting or do you need to close the sale in this meeting? Depending on the purpose, you may need to prepare a quotation to take with you, or ensure you ask certain questions to help you put together a proposal to send at a later date?


Step five: Practice

Practising your meeting with colleagues can help identify particular areas of strength or gaps in your knowledge. For example, if you have a presentation, this can help ensure it’s working as it should, and you know the order of the slides in relation to your pitch.

Asking someone to role-play the prospect can be a great way to test your knowledge and fine-tune your answers. Make sure you present your pitch as if it were an actual situation, as this will help you practice body language, tone of voice and the speed of your presentation.


Prepare for a sales meeting – The open approach

The main benefit of the open approach to sales meeting research is you shouldn’t have any preconceptions or assumptions.

It’s always best to do a little research, like understanding who you’re meeting and the purpose of the meeting. However, only doing this basic research should mean you don’t have any preconceptions about the company. You’ll have to ask questions and seriously pay attention to their answers.

This approach can make the meeting feel more natural. However, it does rely on your skills as an interviewer. If this is something you’re concerned about, it’s best to write down some questions you know you need to answer before you enter the meeting – it’s always best to know what you don’t know.


What is the best sales preparation approach?

At the end of the day, neither of these approaches has been proven to be better or worse than the other. However, understanding each method should help you refine your chosen technique, and you may even find that your approach is entirely dependent on the industry or individual client.

Whichever position you take, it’s about working in the best way for you. Your objective during these meetings should always be to gather enough information to answer their needs with your product or service effectively – and close the deal. How you get that information is up to you.

If you’re still unsure, one of the most effective ways to understand which approach to take can be to practice a technique called ‘Mental Rehearsal’. This visualisation process is what top-performing athletes use to help prepare themselves before a competitive performance.

Mental Rehearsal is designed to help you visualise your journey to success. This can be visualising your walk to the car, the car to the meeting, the questions in the meeting and the handshake accepting the deal at the end. It may be that by mapping out this journey, you identify where barriers to your success are going to be and can help you think about how you’re going to overcome them – either through research or writing a question to ask in the meeting.

There are lots of resources on visualisation techniques online. This one from American coach Jack Canfield is simple to follow and provides a practical example of Mental Rehearsal.


How ETC can help

If you need help preparing for a meeting, or want to discuss either approach to preparation, please get in touch.

If you are new to ETC, why not contact us for a free new business review? We’ll spend two hours with you, giving you professional coaching and will leave you with actions for immediate implementation.

Building a Successful Sales Pipeline

The sales pipeline, or sales board, is a set of defined stages that a prospect moves through to become a customer.

An effective sales pipeline allows you to track the progress of sales opportunities and ensures you take each prospect on the best possible journey to maximise conversion. Keeping track of prospects also means you shouldn’t forget to follow up on leads, and it allows you to ‘qualify’ or prioritise opportunities.

If you want to increase sales and profits, you need a sales pipeline.


Do you have a sales pipeline or sales list?

It’s common for the sales pipeline to be confused with a list of prospective contacts. Although a contacts list is valuable information, it isn’t the best way to manage sales opportunities.

Here’s a quick test to see if you have a pipeline or a list of people you’re trying to sell to:

Right now, without opening more than one spreadsheet, document or app, you should be able to answer these simple questions:

  1. How many new prospects do you have?
  2. How many quotes are with clients?
  3. What’s the value of your last quote?
  4. How many days until you need to follow up on your latest quote?

If you can’t answer each of these questions with a number, you need to re-evaluate your sales pipeline.


How to create a sales pipeline

When creating your pipeline, we recommend you start by looking at the stages you went through to secure your last successful sale.

The structure of a sales pipeline can differ from company to company, but here are some typical stages:

  1. 1st Contact. This is the initial exchange of information; this could happen via a referral, a phone call or a meeting.
  2. Appointment. This is where you set time aside to understand their needs and outline your solution. This could be via a phone call, an online meeting or face-to-face.
  3. ProposalAt this stage, you outline the solution that best fits the prospect’s need and the cost.
  4. Follow-up. You should always follow up on each proposal. Sometimes, it may take several attempts to close the sale. Keeping on top of your follow up schedule will keep your pipeline live and useful.
  5. Sale (Close). This is where the final negotiations are made, and contracts are signed. The prospect is now a customer.

After you’ve written down the stages you need to make a sale, talk it through with someone who knows your business. They can help fill in any gaps or remove any unnecessary steps.

You may find that there are steps you want to add based on your sales experience. For example, you may like to send some introductory marketing between 1st contact and appointment, or your business may typically need two meetings before you can deliver a proposal.

The idea is to keep the sales pipeline simple but not void of substance. As a guide, why not refer back to the questions at the start of this article. If your pipeline doesn’t allow you to answer these questions quickly, you may have missed a step.

Top tip. At the appointment stage, it is important not to sell your services until you understand their particular needs or challenges. Your time at the appointment stage should be heavily weighted to understanding your customer’s challenges (often referred to as ‘pain points’). It’s important to understand your customer’s pain so you can tailor your sales proposal to directly outline how your services are the remedy.


Create your pipeline today

Today, most businesses have their sales pipeline on a spreadsheet or use a sales tool built into their CRM system. If more than one person is working on sales, having a pipeline that can be accessed remotely will help keep it up to date.

However, if you are a new business or sole trader, at an early stage, it’s probably best to keep your pipeline as simple as possible. A complex tool or spreadsheet might prevent you from continually using it.

Ultimately, a sales pipeline is only useful if updated and reviewed. Here are some simple ways to help you create and maintain a pipeline:


Online tools

Free tools like Hubspot and Trello allow you to create digital boards. You can then move each contact through the various stages of your sales pipeline. Here’s an example of what a digital pipeline can look like:

hubspot sales pipeline
Credit Hubspot:



Don’t want to use online tools? Why not use a spreadsheet? Create a list of all your prospects and detail what stage they’re at in your pipeline. You can then use filters and formulas for summarising information quickly.



Have your sales board information prominently displayed in your office on a whiteboard. Then, divide your board into a grid and manually move each contact through the board. This is a great way to feel physically connected to each stage of the sales journey.

Top tip. If you prefer to go down a digital route, we still recommend using a whiteboard. You can keep the detail on your digital version, but use the whiteboard to remind you how many contacts are in each stage without opening up a document or app. This is a great way to keep you sales focused.


The benefits of a sales pipeline

If used correctly, the sales pipeline is probably one of the most powerful sales tools at your disposal.

Without complicating your pipeline, adding additional information will allow you to measure sales success and evaluate specific areas of your business.

For example, if you record when you first made contact and when you closed the sale, you can start to understand how long it takes you to convert a prospect to a client (on average). This helps you better forecast and understand how many prospects you need at the start of the year to pay the bills and grow your business.

Likewise, this information can be used to understand how many prospects turn into customers. This will tell you how many prospects you need at the start of the pipeline to make a profit.


How ETC can help

If you need help creating a sales pipeline, or if you have one and want to get more from it, please get in touch.

If you’re new to ETC, why not contact us for a free new business review? We’ll spend two hours with you, giving you professional coaching and will leave you with actions for immediate implementation.

Interested in winning more business and earning more profit? Read our summary guide to creating a winning sales process for your small business.

A sales winning attitude

Great products can attract business, but it’s your attitude that determines whether a customer buys from you. If you don’t believe you can close the sale, you’ve already lost the battle.

We often get asked to help entrepreneurs and business owners with their sales techniques, as many believe that only salespeople can sell. We’re here to tell you that this is not the case.

Anyone can sell. The only difference between you and ‘salespeople’ is attitude.


Preparing your business’ attitude for sales

First things first, are you talking to the right people? Building a pipeline of warm contacts to have a conversation with is much easier than cold calling.

If you focus on marketing and promoting your business to the right people, you’ll find your sales calls become a conversation with like-minded people rather than a hard sell.

Need help in creating a simple marketing strategy that works? Read our How to market your small business series.


Always allocate time for marketing and sales

When business is good and you’re busy doing the stuff you love, the first thing to drop is usually marketing and sales. Neglecting these core functions can have a potentially devastating impact on your sales pipeline and cash flow. So, even if you hate sales, make sure you set time aside to prepare for the future.

Interested in winning more business and earning more profit? Read our summary guide to creating a winning sales process for your small business.


Preparing your own attitude for sales

Many people, even if they’ve got a warm lead, still find it challenging. More often than not, your attitude towards the sale is the key to success. If you find selling difficult, here are some tips to help you get into the right frame of mind and increase sales:


Meeting preparation

In addition to your standard meeting preparation (researching the company, familiarising yourself with the contact and planning the best route), how many of you mentally prepare yourself?

Every sale starts with you, not your client. Time is precious; if the prospect wasn’t interested in what you had to say, they wouldn’t be meeting with you. Don’t waste everyone’s time by leaving the office and telling yourself you can’t close the sale.

Before you leave for the meeting, remind yourself that you will win the business. Keep pushing out any thoughts that contradict this and reinforce a positive attitude.


During the meeting

There are very few people who like to be sold to. So, why are you so worried about selling?

If you know how your offering will solve their problem, then engage in a conversation rather than selling to them. The best way to ‘sell’ is to tell a story, not directly selling to people. To help maintain a positive attitude, use pro-active language such as “when you do this with me, you will get this result” and “by working together, we’ll be able to solve this problem”.


After the meeting

Hopefully, your attitude during the meeting was enough to win them over, and you get a yes right away. If they need time to think it over, arrange a time to follow up.

Don’t let all your effort and that positive attitude go to waste. Always follow up sales meetings, even if you ‘think’ it isn’t going ahead. You may be pleasantly surprised.

Most customer relationship management systems (CRMs) or email clients, such as Outlook, allow you to set follow up reminders. You can even save pre-written email templates to help speed up the process. If you don’t have a CRM system in place, why not check out the free version of Hubspot?


Maintaining a positive attitude

Regardless of if things work out or not, remember to keep your positive attitude.

A positive, friendly and relaxed attitude to sales will help you build a sustainable relationship with your prospective clients. Your service might not be what the client needs right now. However, by maintaining a positive attitude, you’re more likely to be remembered when it is.


How ETC can help

If you need help preparing for sales meetings, getting the most from your CRM system and improving your overall sales process, please get in touch.

If you’re new to ETC, why not contact us for a free new business review? We’ll spend two hours with you, giving you professional coaching and will leave you with actions for immediate implementation.

Interested in winning more business and earning more profit? Read our summary guide to creating a winning sales process for your small business.

Create a Winning Sales Process for Your Small Business

An effective sales strategy and process can make all the difference in a highly competitive market. Unfortunately, many small business owners and entrepreneurs feel overwhelmed when it comes to sales; either they don’t like ‘selling’ or don’t have enough time to follow a structured process.

In this guide, we’ll look at the top eight things you can do to improve your sales process, win more business and increase your profits.


Step one: A sales winning attitude

Many small business owners believe that only salespeople can sell. This just isn’t the case. Anyone can sell. The only difference between you and ‘salespeople’ is attitude.

When business is good, and you’re busy doing the stuff you love, the first thing to drop is usually marketing and sales. However, neglecting these core functions can have a potentially devastating impact on your sales pipeline and cash flow if you’re not careful. So, even if you hate sales, make sure you set time aside to prepare for the future.

Learn more about adopting a sales winning attitude.


Step two: Building a successful sales pipeline

The sales pipeline, or sales board, is a set of defined stages that a prospect moves through to become a customer. Each businesses’ pipeline might be different, but its objective should always be to keep track of progress and maximise conversion.

Learn more about building a successful sales pipeline.


Step three: Sales meeting preparation

There are two schools of thought when researching a company before that first sales meeting; either you can thoroughly investigate the company or go straight in there without doing any research at all.

Regardless of your prefered approach, it’s always best to understand a bit about the company and the industry they operate within before you meet with them. Nothing stalls the progress of a meeting more than making the wrong assumptions or delivering incorrect information.

Learn more about preparing for a sales meeting.


Step four: Conducting a sales appointment

Remember, people buy from people. So it’s always best to establish a rapport with your prospective customer. You’ll find people open up more, give you more information and will sometimes tell you exactly how to win their business. Ultimately, the key to a successful sales meeting is to listen to the client and directly answer how your product or service is the solution.

Learn more about conducting a sales appointment.


Step five: Quote based on value, not price

Many businesses, especially small businesses, believe that they need to be ‘low cost’ to win business and be competitive against more established companies – this is not the case.

Quoting your solution based on value, not price, will increase sales and boost your profits. If you understand the customer’s pain points, this should be easy enough to demonstrate.

Learn more about quoting based on value, not price.


Step six: Writing a winning sales proposal

Sending a quote or proposal to a client may seem like a basic step in your sales process, and something that must be done after a meeting. However, it can be one of the most powerful, tangible sales tools you have. So don’t underestimate its value.

The proposal you send your client is perhaps one of the only tangible references to your compelling sales pitch, so you must make sure it’s personalised, get’s your value proposition across and is easy to understand.

Learn more about writing a winning sales proposal.


Step seven: Follow-up

After each meeting, quote or proposal, don’t forget to follow up. Your customers are just as busy as you are, so sometimes they’ll forget to take action. In addition, prospective clients may have questions they’ve since thought about after your meeting or receiving your proposal; a follow-up call gives you the chance to address these.

Learn more about improving your sales follow-up process.


Step eight: After-sales and upsell

Once the sale is complete in larger organisations, customers may transfer over to an account manager or to the customer service team to handle any further communications. However, in small businesses, it’s usually best for the salesperson to stay in contact with the customer.

Keeping in contact with your customer will help you understand how they’re getting on with the product or service, allowing you to provide after-sales care; you will also have the opportunity to up-sell additional services.

Learn more about the importance of after-sales and upsell.


How ETC can help

If you need help with your marketing and obtaining new clients, please get in touch.

If you are new to ETC, why not contact us for a free new business review? We’ll spend two hours with you, giving you professional coaching and will leave you with actions for immediate implementation.