One of the questions most often asked of sales representatives is how are you going to increase sales next quarter? If you’ve been in the same job for a while, it can be hard to come up with a solid answer that is easy to implement. I suggest skipping the complex marketing plans and strategic partnership ideas in favor of simply narrowing your focus to increase your sales.
A vertical is defined as a specific industry or market sector. Each vertical that a sales representative covers takes time, money and effort on the part of both the company and the representative. This is often recognized as the need for industry-specific sales literature, attendance at conferences, sales calls to remote client locations and increased requests for pricing discounts to secure an anchor client who can be a reference for future business. Although these additional requirements can often lead to new business and increased revenue, there may be a more efficient avenue.
Sometimes going deep and narrow will get better results than going wide and shallow. If your company or sales force is already serving specific verticals, you may be better off looking for ways to increase market share in the verticals you’re currently servicing rather than attempting to move into new ones. You can benefit from using existing contacts to help you open new doors as well as leveraging your company’s reputation. By looking to expand the number of clients your company is servicing in current verticals, you can save time and money while increasing revenue faster than moving into new market segments.
As with any strategy, this one has some limitations and its success is primarily dependent upon the amount of market share your company currently has in any given market. The lower the market share, the better a deep and narrow strategy will work. If your company has more than 60% market share in any given segment, going deep and narrow will be harder to employ. If you are the representative, make sure to look not only at the company’s overall market share in a segment but also its market share in the specific geography you serve. If you find that an area has a low percentage market share, you’ve found a good place to start.
The first thing is to contact a few of your existing clients to find out exactly why they decided to work with you and continue to do so. Ask them to tell you about the biggest problems they are facing relative to your product and service. Next, call on a few prospects in your specific territory and lead them into a conversation regarding the problem issues you uncovered when you talked to your current clients. Find out from the prospects how big of an issue that the problems you are talking with them about are, relative to their overall job. Find out if they have the budget to pay for a solution to the problems. Ask them what the process is or will be for getting approval to spend the money to purchase the solution to solve their issues.
At this point, you are likely to have made a few additional sales. The next step is to talk to those recent sales about who else they know that may be facing similar problems. Ask them who they know from industry or local professional group meetings. Once they give you a name or two, ask them if you can pay for a lunch meeting with you, your client and your new prospect. If the lunch meeting won’t work, then just ask them if you can use their name when you contact the new prospect in order to get a meeting with them. If you’ve done a good job working with the client to this point, they will almost always say yes. Lastly, find out what industry groups the client is a part of and if they participate regularly. Are they a board member or officer of the association? Do they know the education committee chairperson?
If they are a board member, officer or educational chairperson, ask them what the process for getting an opportunity to speak with the membership is. Can you do a break-out session at an upcoming conference? If they are not a board member, officer or educational chairperson of the association, ask them if they know who is and if they can introduce you to them. Associations and professional groups are the keys to being able to get meaningful exposure within a vertical and overtime, increase the market share for your company by becoming a trusted advisor. This will take some time, persistence and schedule management on your part, but the result will be worth it. Rather than always having to seek out new business with non-stop prospecting, the business will come to you more and more often as you increase your exposure within the professional groups that are important to each vertical. By the time you get to being recognized as one of the trusted advisors for that group, you will have a steady flow of business coming your way and solid market share within that vertical. If you want to be financially successful, do what the most successful professionals in other industries do and become a dominant player in the verticals you serve.
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