Q. My business needs some serious TLC. Where do I start to make sure I get it firmly back on track?

A. Growing a successful business doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, the key is to keep it simple – break it into bite-size pieces and work on improving each step at a time. In this week’s answer we introduce a method that will help to improve your sales process. This is the quickest way to boost your profits. In the coming weeks, we’ll deal with each of the eight steps in turn so that you can start to see the solutions and get your business back on track.
Start by identifying the different areas of your business that need to be sharpened up. It’s important to focus on each one individually – don’t be tempted by the ‘gung-ho’ approach. Prioritise, plan and be patient.
‘Success Driver Mapping’ (SDM) is a useful tool in helping to monitor business development and ensure that you remain on track. SDM is based on a simple premise – every sales generating process can be broken down into a series of activities, such as meetings, proposals and wins. It can also reduce each process into an activity rate, including the proportion of meetings that turn into proposals, and the number of proposals you win. By putting these activities and rates into a logical sequence you can build up a complete (and mathematically accurate) picture of what is happening and how it can be improved.
Firstly, break down your sales and marketing process into eight simple steps – from how you generate interest, to what you do when you receive an enquiry and how you establish customer buy-in. You will quickly begin to build up a list of relevant steps, as well as the questions that need to be asked in order to progress.
For example: Step one: PR and marketing – how do I get people to know about my business?
Step two: Advertising – which publications and websites will get my business in front of the right audience?
Step three: Enquiries – how do I handle initial enquiries in a more professional way?
Step four: Following-up enquiries – what’s the most effective way of dealing with an enquiry? Is it a face-to-face meeting or a further telephone conversation?
Step five: Preparing a quote – what information does the customer need to help them make a decision?
Step six: Winning a job – how do I improve my conversion rate?
Step seven: What’s the average value of a job – how do I increase the sales value, and therefore the profitability on each job, when everyone else seems to be cutting their prices?
Step eight: Retaining customers – what do I need to do after the work’s been completed?
Always place yourself in the customer’s shoes. Focus on what will improve customer satisfaction, while increasing your margins. Once you’ve identified the different sales and marketing processes that apply to your business, and you’ve asked yourself the relevant questions, start to implement changes in a phased approached – one that is carefully monitored, assessed and revised if needed

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