The first step to solving a problem is recognizing you have one. The second step is identifying the exact problem you have. If your sales are off, inconsistent or non-existent you may think you have a sales problem. This is often not the case at all. Most likely, you have a marketing problem. By most definitions of marketing, your efforts should generate leads for your sales process. Could the same person at your small business be in charge of both processes? Yes. Especially for a small business. If your sales are struggling or you are simply looking to increase your market share, you need to refine your sales process, but you absolutely MUST focus your efforts on generating qualified leads through your marketing efforts.
You may have the best closer in the business working for you, but if this salesperson gets garbage leads sent to them, they won't be the closer they could be.
Some Signs You Have A Marketing Problem
It Seems Like No One Is Buying Right Now
Someone is buying. They just aren't buying from you. Why? You haven't done a good job of staying in front of potential leads. You may not rank at all for your business' vital keywords or phrases.
You Don't Do Any Marketing
If you have a brochureware website that hasn't been strategically put together to generate leads and you have no other formal marketing processes, you are starving yourself to death. Things will always be good when current clients keep referring you business, and buying from you. What happens when that slows down? Do you want to be dependent on referrals forever? Don't get me wrong, it's one of the best ways to get highly closeable sales leads, but it's not a given. You should still be marketing your offering.
I've written more about this here.
Your Closing Ratio Is Low
You may have leads coming in but they aren't converting to sales. This is likely because the leads are not qualified leads for your solution. Again, your marketing should be positioning you so that the leads coming in are high value. If you find that your closing ratio is too low, you need to focus on getting better leads through marketing.
You Will Have A Major Problem If One Of Your BIG Customers Leaves
I've witnessed panic mode more times than I can count. A business loses one of their cash cows and now needs to fill the revenue gap so they want to start marketing... too little, too late. Starting from ground zero with your marketing efforts when you need leads the most is a bad strategy. If you are consistently, effectively marketing you will work on generating more big fish clients on an ongoing basis.
But Ongoing Marketing Is Too Expensive
No. Wasteful, interruption-based marketing tactics with very little means of measurement and accountability (ahem... radio, newspaper, tv, cold calling, etc...) are too expensive for small businesses. When we meet with small businesses that share their newspaper or other tactic advertising bills with us, we want to throw up. It's sickening the amount of money that is spent on tactics that aren't producing any results for the business.
Don't get me wrong. There are effective ways to use some of these marketing channels. They don't involve spending a small fortune in exchange for no return. It has to be done correctly, and for some reason most of the salespeople's definition to correctly involves re-upping for another term for more money than you spent last time, instead of improving the effectiveness of what you are already doing.
So the question then becomes, how do you generate high quality leads for your sales team?
Use Inbound Marketing Tactics To Generate High Quality Leads
Not familiar with inbound marketing? Shame on you. Just kidding, we still love you. That's what we're here for. Inbound marketing is a marketing mindset that flips traditional advertising (radio, newspaper, TV, etc...) on it's head and takes the interruption aspect out of the process. Instead of jumping in front of an audience when they don't want you to (e.g., while listening to music, reading a magazine or newspaper, watching TV, eating dinner - damn telemarketers), inbound marketing is focused on reaching buyers when they are looking for a solution to their problems. In other words, instead of interrupting your target buyers' lives, you are there when they are looking for the solution you provide. Doesn't that sound like a more buyer-friendly approach?
Think of your buying process now. If you want a new family room TV, do you watch TV until you see an appropriate advertisement to suit your needs? Of course not. Do you listen to the radio in hopes that an ad for TVs will come on? Nope. If you are like the vast majority of shoppers, you hop on Google, Facebook or some other online resource and search, ask friends/relatives, and look at reviews available for the type of product or service you're looking to buy. You need to be where buyers are actually looking to generate leads.