Business and Operations
Stalled Sales? 7 Steps to boost your revenue
By Jill J. Johnson
How to use strategic market analysis to your advantage
By Jill J. Johnson
If you are struggling with sluggish sales, there are two critical areas you must review. The first is determining if the slowdown is due to changes in your target market. The second is determining if your sales and promotional approaches are ineffective.
While there may be complicated factors beyond your control, most of the time a sales slowdown can be attributed to one or both issues.
Conduct a Demographic Analysis
A demographic assessment determines if your products remain feasible. Understanding your target market demographics provides insight regarding the impact of any changes in market volume. A review can help you determine if you are in a short-term sales slump or if a more significant market decline is occurring. The key is to allow the data to show you objectively what is going on: A well-executed demographic analysis evaluates shifts in the variables of your consumer’s age, gender, income and other economic variables impacting the market you sell to and identifies potential market risks impacting your business survival. Be careful in defining your market area boundaries. Too many businesses measure wider sales zones for their market than they realistically serve. Demographics will help identify new opportunities, or they will confirm your market has shrunk to a level where you should re-consider your offerings.
Conduct Market Interviews
Some companies probe customers, employees, key community leaders, industry associations, and vendors to gain insight on what is changing in the marketplace.
Study Your Competitors
While the Internet has made it easier to gather basic information on competitors, competitive intelligence involves more methods. Compare what products and services they promote. Evaluate how they position their resources, including how they address pain points to meet customer needs. You can use research techniques like networking with industry experts, customers, suppliers, key referral sources and even competitors to better understand your market. Combine this information with secondary sources such as news media or subscription databases to give you additional insight. Researching your competition provides you with a deeper awareness of opportunities or the need to revamp your products and services.
Secret Shop Your company
Secret shopping allows you to understand how effective your clerks are at sharing your brand with your target clients. You can assess their conversation, sales techniques and courtesy when responding to contacts from a customer. You can combine this approach with secret shopping your key competitors. Both your team and competitors will reveal opportunities for improvement and enhance your sales effectiveness.
Complete a Marketing Audit
Effective strategies balance your marketing mix with your company’s strategic plan to reach your target market. A marketing audit evaluates your promotional effectiveness to identify what needs to be improved. This would include a review of your website and sales approaches (phone, drop-in, social media or website.) Evaluate how you use your social media channels to identify more effective tactics for sharing your marketing message and engaging with your prospects or key referral sources.
Coach to Your Team to sell
Sometimes your team needs outside support to review their sales approaches to improve overall performance. Large orders do not resolve in a single interaction and they often involve multiple decision points before the final decision to buy. Sales professionals often have to tweak how they converse with prospects. Developing better skills and questions for probing prospects can help isolate decision criteria and move your sales forward.
Engaging in a Strategic Market Analysis is a powerful approach to uncovering the true reasons for your revenue slowdown. The goal is to determine if your marketing techniques or your lack of a viable market is the cause of your situation. If it is your marketing, you can adjust your sales and messages to resonate with your customers and their decision triggers. If it’s the market, you can review your pricing strategy and geographic market area boundaries to better optimize those elements impacting your target market.
Sifting through the data will help you reassess your market trends, growth factors and competitive dynamics. You will understand the implications of this information relative to your organization, and assess how well you are positioned for long-term success. /BJ
Jill J. Johnson is the president and founder of Johnson Consulting Services.