At XTRF Summit #online 2020, Richard Brooks, CEO of K International and Richard-Brooks.com, joined Andrzej Nedoma, XTRF CEO, to talk about sales in the current climate. In particular, how can you maintain current client relationships, upsell to current clients, and bring new clients on board? This article is based on that discussion.
How does the new reality affect our business?
It goes without saying that the pandemic has had a significant impact. But not all of it has been negative. In fact, our industry is in a fortunate position compared with many others and many LSPs haven’t fared too badly. That said, much of Europe is now technically in a recession, and perhaps heading to a depression. And in this context, it will be the companies that learn about their customers, that respect them, and listen to them, that will survive.
But how can you get to know your customers or clients? Previously, we might have held a summit or conference, had a few drinks with them and found out what’s really going on. Naturally, we can’t do that anymore. So what now? We need to use spaces and events like the XTRF Summit #online or LocTalks by XTRF. Moving these relationships online goes some way towards replacing the in-person interactions we would have previously had. We need to use technology, to be digital, attend online conferences, and participate in podcasts. We need to use these technologies to populate our sales pipeline. Companies that can’t do this will simply disappear.
Now let’s consider the three different types of client relations and what they look like in the Covid era.
1. Maintaining current client relationships
In my opinion, you or your sales team needs to understand the customer’s ecosystem, their supply chain, problems, and industry. You need to understand what they’re trying to achieve with the service or product you provide. That’s what your customer cares about. And if you talk to your customer about this, you’ll have a different conversation than if you’re simply focusing on what you do. Remember that they’re buying the outcome – what your product or service delivers – rather than the product or service itself.
In some ways, it’s now easier to maintain client relationships since video conferencing tools mean you’re suddenly in people’s homes. It’s a very personal form of communication. What’s more, as we’re no longer commuting, many of us have more time to have these conversations.
But salespeople also need to make the effort to find out all there is to know about the company before these conversations. Read their financial reports, their investor statements, the sort of information that’s readily available. Then talk to them and make sure it’s you who drives the conversation. For instance, look at the profit they’re making in certain regions, and discuss that with them – relating it back to how you might be able to help.
Another challenge is that clients don’t always want to talk specifics. But they do love to talk about themselves and about their competition. If you understand their situation, issues, or challenges, then (without breaking confidentiality), you can share some insights on how similar companies overcome them, and that can lead to interesting conversations.
Sales itself has changed, and Covid has accelerated this. Now you charge and sell based on the value your product or service brings to the client. And this is something that you can actually calculate. Even if you choose not to charge for this make sure you can put a figure on it and demonstrate the value created to your clients.
2. Upselling to current clients
It’s worth noting that there’s a trend to consolidate supplier and vendor bases across the supply chain across many industries. In other words, companies want to work with fewer companies overall. And this can present an opportunity. Consider whether you can sell more to the same person. Maybe there are other services you can offer your existing clients, or an opportunity to develop a new service to fit within your clients’ supply chain.
The localization industry has an advantage in that we’re very lean. We’ve adopted technology and we’re very hardworking. Other sectors aren’t like this. So you may see wastage elsewhere in the supply chain and think about other service areas that you can move into.
3. Bringing new clients on board
Let’s just start by saying that, when times are tough, like in the current recession, it’s best to focus on keeping the customers you have and taking care of them. Try to avoid being distracted by the next new thing. That said, there may be room for selectively bringing new clients on board, but I wouldn’t recommend allocating too much of your resources to this.
It’s also worth thinking about this in terms of the Ansoff matrix, which you can see below.
As you can see here, selling existing products or services to existing markets or customers is low risk. It’s relatively straightforward to sell to someone who’s bought from you before. This is the low-hanging fruit.
Meanwhile, selling existing services to new accounts is slightly more difficult. And selling new services to new customers is the highest risk of all and the most difficult. And this is kind of a crazy thing to do right now, in times of uncertainty. However, it is possible, and you could be lucky. Your sales team could even dedicate a small percentage of their time to this work, say 5% for example, but you probably don’t want to spend any more time or resources than that.
Not just one way to increase profits
It’s worth remembering that there’s not just one way to increase your profits. Of course, you can generate profits from increased turnover, from increased sales. But you can also grow your profits by focusing on internal efficiencies and processes, and by improving productivity. And which of these you’ll favor will depend, to some extent, on where your company is in its lifecycle.
When you think about sales, you need to start with strategy. What metrics do you want to focus on? What do you want to achieve? This will help you determine which profit and sales strategy you should adopt. And If your sales strategy is in line with your overall business objectives, then you’ll be better set up for success.