The most successful salespeople I know recognize when it’s time to jump-start sales. Whether it’s the beginning of a new calendar/fiscal year, after a prolonged slump or prior to the launch of a new product or service, they know how to get back on track (and stay on track). Here are 6 keys to jump-starting sales in the new year:

1. Retain/up-sell existing customers. Most of the businesses in the U.S. generate most their revenue by maintaining and up-selling their existing customers — just a 5 percent increase in customer retention can have a 20 to 80 percent impact on a company’s bottom line. Create an “account penetration checklist” to let you know what “share of wallet” you have with them today and to identify how much more is available. Weave a “web of influence” to uncover other departments, divisions and subsidiaries that may be a candidate for what you sell. Leverage your current contacts by asking them to make warm introductions to their peers on your behalf. Schedule refocus meetings with your clients so you can stay abreast of major initiatives/projects on their plate and to introduce them to what’s new or on the horizon from your company.

2. Win back former clients. Identify five former customers that haven’t purchased from you in the past 12 months. Create a “We want you back” e-mail or letter template to reconnect with them individually. Highlight what’s new since they stopped buying from you (e.g., new products, services, locations, employees, technologies, etc.). In the body of the e-mail or letter, share success stories of other satisfied customers. Be sure to use before-and-after metrics to create a sense of urgency. In other words, were you able to help your customers increase revenue, gain market share, decrease costs/operating expenses, improve operating efficiencies/profitability or become/remain compliant?

3. Ask for (and receive) referrals on a regular basis. It’s important to set the stage for referrals with all of your customers. A good way to do that is to teach your customers how to give referrals by giving them a referral. Identify five good customers that haven’t given you a referral in the past. Create a referral e-mail template (or telephone script) to reconnect with them individually.

4. Target specific companies/industries for new business development. Profile what your “best” customer looks like (size, location, industry, etc.) to find others that look like them. Create a target opportunity “hit list” containing 12 to 15 prospects that could make your month, quarter or year. The hit list should include competitive take-away accounts, accounts in your primary vertical markets (i.e., health care, financial services, transportation, etc.) or large businesses in your geography. Create an introductory email/letter/direct mail template to make your initial contact. Remember, the purpose of the email/letter is to create curiosity (tell me more), not to try to sell them.

5. Outsmart your competition. In order to outsmart your competition, you need to know who your strategic competitors are, what they sell and how they position themselves in the marketplace. For instance, if you are a retailer competing with Wal-Mart, you know that they position themselves as the low price leader. You’ll need to create your own unique value proposition (UVP) to compete with each of your competitors. Your UVP should highlight what you do that your competition doesn’t, can’t or won’t do in the marketplace. A test to ensure you’ve written a quality UVP is to delete your company’s name from the statement and insert the name of a strategic competitor. If the statement is still true, then it’s not a unique value proposition.

6. Stand firm in negotiations. It’s critical to make negotiations a win/win situation whenever possible. This means you should never let negotiations get down to one item. It’s also important to learn how different types of buyers (ego-based, risk averse, price-sensitive, loyalty-based, convenience-based or value-based) buy and, more importantly, how to successfully sell to them. Make sure you create a negotiations plan in advance of the meeting so you can cost-justify your product/service, even if it’s more expensive. Remember, if you wouldn’t buy it, you can’t sell it! Be sure you role-play with another salesperson to practice and/or rehearse before meeting with the prospect.

Lastly, think of all objections that may come up and think of five things that you could say or do to minimize or eliminate each objection. Your response and/or actions will become your “objection response library.”

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