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VIEWPOINT: Where Businesses Should Focus this Year to Recapture Sales

By Thomas J. Armitage

Date:

Suggested tools that will make the biggest impact

With COVID-19 behind us, it’s time to refocus on our pre-pandemic priorities. For most of us, that’s back to the old grind: finding ways to generate more sales and revenue for our companies.

The past 18 months were tough on many businesses. Focusing on sales and marketing is the best place to start when looking to make the most significant impact on your bottom line. 

Here are five areas to concentrate on to generate more sales this year.

Local optimization
Featured tool: Yext

For local companies or multi-unit operations with storefronts, local optimization is important. 

With so many businesses closing down, pausing efforts, changing hours of operations, or requiring new protocols, the online-listing world (websites that give out business information) was an absolute mess.

Business owners neglected to update their listing pages, so when consumers Googled, they found outdated misinformation.

Google My Business, Facebook, Yelp, Bing Places, and TripAdvisor are some of the more prominent names, but there are dozens of directory sites that consumers use. 

As a business owner, it’s important to have full control over these listings and always keep them up to date. A tool like Yext can help.

And local optimization doesn’t stop with just listings management. Information on your website and ensuring your site is applicable for relevant Google searches is equally important. Google can contribute to more than 50 percent of a company’s traffic (and ultimately sales).

Build out location pages on your website and improve your website so customers in each of your local markets can easily find you and buy from you.

Social selling
Featured tool: LinkedIn Sales Navigator

Venues are open. Events are being held. But not everything will go completely back to normal.

Knowing some folks will be forever skittish with in-person events, you may need to expect lower turnouts at trade shows and accept that you won’t get as many leads from those outings.

You should also be mindful of the many companies that have gone partially or fully remote and have reduced travel budgets as a result.

One way to compensate is through social selling or using social media to support your sales efforts. Look at it as an extension of your company’s ongoing marketing and sales efforts. 

The only difference is it’s you. It’s your profile; it’s your comments; it’s your content, it’s your personal brand; it’s your direct messages; and it’s your responsibility.

Use a prospecting tool like LinkedIn Sales Navigator. From there, find appropriate folks in your target audience and connect. Give them a reason to accept. 

Create content and educate your users. Talk about what you know and keep it relevant based on what you sell, what your company stands for, and what you stand for.

Comment and interact. It’s important to be an active part of the social community. Develop real relationships. 

And finally, when the time is right, go into sales mode. 

Keep your eyes on the prize. You are investing time to sell. But you need to avoid being a 1970s used car salesman. Be a resource for the online community, and the leads will follow.

Digital customer service
Featured tool: Smith.ai

Today, customers expect responses from businesses much faster than they had in years past. As a matter of fact, folks increasingly expect answers within the hour.

“Customer Service 101” tells us that the faster and better you respond to customers’ needs, the more likely you are to get that sale and keep them coming back to buy again and again.

If you want to increase sales and increase the average lifetime value of customers — you have to give proper attention to customer service. Today, that’s mostly done through digital communication.

Look beyond the phone and consider the many ways that customers engage online:

• Google My Business chat

• Facebook Direct Message

• Instagram Direct Message

• Direct email

• Forms on your websites

• Live chat on your website

• SMS (text) to a dedicated number

The more channels you open for customers to engage, the better, considering everyone has different digital preferences. 

Remember though: With that, comes increased complexities in directing all those lines of communication to staff members, and increased labor demands in how you will manage all those interactions successfully.

Software is available that can help aggregate all chats and requests into one place for easier management. Smith.ai is an example.

Some tools can even incorporate bots (i.e. auto responses via technology) and virtual live assistants to help manage the inquiries until they’re viable enough for a human salesperson or customer-service representative to get involved. That makes for a more-efficient system and allows you to offer better customer service.

Aligning sales and marketing
Featured tool: Hubspot

There is one thing that almost every business — regardless of size or industry — has in common.

They don’t use their CRM correctly. CRM, which stands for “customer relationship management,” is software used by most companies to unify, organize, and manage their marketing, sales, and customer-service efforts. 

They come in many shapes and sizes and have features ranging from contact or lead management to live chats, ticketing systems, email marketing, and digital quoting. 

Some well-known names include Salesforce, Hubspot, and Active Campaign. 

If a business cannot find success with these tools, it’s rare that the tool is the problem. Rather, the business itself is typically not using the tool the way it’s intended to be used. 

The best place to begin is to make sure sales and marketing teams are aligned. Both teams have the same overall company goal but at the same time, sales and marketing also have different goals and responsibilities of their own. Sharing this one single tool, it’s imperative they agree on how to use it.

Select the right tool, the one that makes the most sense for your business. Upon purchase, make sure the software provider offers onboarding and training. Set up the account fully and customize it to fit your needs. 

Make sure marketing has a role. This can include data capture via forms and live chats on the website. It can also include list segmentation, social-media scheduling, email marketing and automation, and campaign tracking.

Make sure sales has a role, lead qualification, tasks and prospect management, outreach and follow-ups, quoting and closing, as well as pipeline measurement, forecasting, and other reporting.

Make sure each team understands the other team’s role. Operate off a standard operating procedure and keep the data clean.

Marketing and sales needing to work more closely together isn’t a response to the pandemic. But as many businesses suffered from dry pipelines last year, it emphasized the need for better alignment among the two departments. 

Start with better shared use of your CRM and use the tool to help bind the two teams together. 

Lead intelligence
Featured tool: Site-Insight

What if I told you there is a way to see the companies coming to your website before they contact you?

Even great websites of great companies still see conversion rates at only 3 percent. In other words, only 3 percent get in touch with you. That means you have no idea who the other 97 percent of visitors are.

A lead-intelligence tool helps fill in that gap and provide that data. Site-Insights is one of the software tools that will do it.

It works by identifying the IP address of a company that is visiting your site and runs it against its database of company information. In doing so, it provides rich information on who that company is and whether it is worthwhile to you and your sales team.

Google Analytics (the most popular website analytics tracking tool in the world) provides excellent data. But it’s all anonymous data, due to privacy concerns. So a lead-intelligence tool is a great complement to the analytics tools you’re already using. 

You’ll be able to see a whole bunch of information beyond what Google Analytics provides, including: company name, location, size, description, website, number of pages visited, total number of visits, pages visited, and source.

If integrated with your CRM, this solution can help you better understand the makeup of your audience, can allow for better and more regular contact with prospects, and can ultimately fill your sales pipeline faster to help you close more deals. 

Big-name companies are using tools like this to help glean better insight into the visitors to their site and be more active in their outreach efforts. 

For sales teams that are hungry, this tool can work wonders.

Getting started

Like anything in sales and marketing, it’s always best to start with a plan. 

What are your goals? Who is your target customer? What data do you have on hand? What are you going to do with that data? How many are on your team? And how much time can you devote to sales and marketing support? 

For any local company, make sure you build a plan first. In doing so, you’ll be able to better fit new technology into the mix and properly allocate the right time, resources, and budget towards activities to improve the bottom line.                     

Thomas J. Armitage is team lead at Site-Seeker, Inc. Contact him at tomarmitage@site-seeker.com.