Imagine a market in which opportunity abounds. Imagine housing starts rising fast enough that current supplier capacity is not enough to fulfill orders.
In this world, gross margins are better; customers are more cooperative; and the future feels brighter. If this sounds too good to be true, then prepare yourself for 2014. Suddenly the folks I’m talking with during my travels are beginning to believe in the future again—and with good reason.
To cite the great rock ‘n’ roll group Boston, it’s more than a feeling. Housing inventories are nearly back to pre-recession levels. If rising interest rates are a concern—and clearly they have nowhere to go but up—they still remain as low as any in the last 40 years. And unemployment is at its lowest level since December 2008. In short, organizations and individuals serious about achieving sales growth have a lot of good news to leverage.
As far as I’m concerned, the 2014 selling season has begun. Most of the sales you’ll get for the remainder of the year are from clients you already have or prospects you’ve already cultivated.
The question is: What are you doing to prepare for next year?
Here is what I suggest.
Prospect for 2014 today. Ask any industry veteran and they’ll tell you that a prospect who becomes an instant client is a dangerous client. They likely have credit problems or will be just as disloyal to you as they were to the supplier they’re leaving. In other words, astute salespeople plan for a lengthy sales process. Therefore, the winners in the future economic upturn will be the salespeople who planted seeds of growth today.
Measure prospecting energy. I remind people that the key to losing weight is using the right metrics. You can measure your weight daily, but nothing happens until you measure the energy it takes to lose the weight, that is, diet and exercise. If you want to achieve future sales growth, stop measuring last month’s sales and take a look at the value of prospects in your pipeline.
Build a repeat sequence. Contractors choose new suppliers when they are struggling with an existing supplier. Plan to be the new supplier of preference by positioning yourself as the first alternative. This means planning a lengthy sales process that enhances your credibility and trustworthiness.
During your company’s next sales meeting, conduct a group exercise to envision a series of sales calls focused on relationship development. The transformational exercise illustrates the many ways you can create reasons for repeat calls to the same audience, such as discovery, product presentations, marketing support programs, technical advice, and training. This will shift your focus from transactional selling to relational selling, which puts the right relationships in place for 2014.
There’s no certainty that the market will return to utopian abundance, but it’s worth preparing for. If the market continues to expand, you’ll have a better pick of profitable prospects. If the market stagnates, you’ll be more prepared than your competition.