Reasons why your sales strategy failed

Updated on 2 December 2016

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A sales strategy can be a daunting task for an SME. In between targeting the right target audience, promoting the right message and keeping track of sales leads, we take a look at some sales strategy mistakes and how you can fix them. Technology has opened up business’ reach to millions, and maybe billions, of potential customers. But it has also meant that those customers are exposed to thousands of businesses each day.

As a startup, how do you sift through the masses to find your target audience? More than that, how do you get them to buy into your products or services?

While most businesses have some sort of sales process, many often struggle with their lead generation strategies.

What is a lead generation strategy?

A lead generation strategy, according to Marketo is the process of “sparking interest in a product or service with the goal of developing sales pipeline”. The article further explains that lead generation often uses digital channels, and has been undergoing significant changes in recent years from the rise of new online and social techniques.

What this means for your business is that you want your sales process and your lead generation to be as streamlined as possible, says Matt Fisher, incubator manager for New Ventures Studio, an accelerator focusing on young entrepreneurs in Cape Town.

Working to upskill the entrepreneurs and help their businesses succeed, Fisher has seen first-hand some of the critical mistakes that startups can make when implementing their lead gen strategies.

He share with us the 5 biggest mistakes that he’s seen as well as the strategies that they use to combat them.

Mistake 1: Not knowing your target market or targeting the wrong market
That can happen in many ways if you don’t necessarily do your customer discovery or your research. Theres an old saying that when you talk to everyone you talk to no one.

How you can fix it: Targeting a specific audience, knowing who your customers are, and doing thorough research [are critical]. [This includes] doing your customer interviews, to always be testing and re-evaluating the facts, refining it and trying to gather as much intelligence on your sales as possible so that you know that when you start curating some leads you know that ‘that is our main customer base’.

So a bit of pro-activity there in terms of determining your target market.

Mistake 2. Promoting the wrong message or a mixed message
That can be in terms of the message that you’re trying to get across for a certain campaign or strategy. Are you doing a promotion? Is it a discount? Is it a new offering? Are you looking for clicks? Are you looking for sales?

How you can fix it: Have a deliverable promise. You always want to promise 80% and deliver 100%, that you can actually delight the customer. You don’t want to promise 100% and then have the scenario where something could go wrong and you under-deliver.

Keep to a specific message, for example, “For this month we’re doing a summer special” and that’s the message that you push across, and that campaign is generated at getting leads for sales. Of cause you iterate according to the response that you get back.

Mistake 3. Not tracking your leads
The last thing you want to do is to have spent X amount of money on a campaign and then you can’t actually work out what the conversion rate was there. How many leads did it actually generate, and how many of those leads converted into sales?

How you can fix it: Setting up a tracking system where you can actually measure and quantify your return on investment.
What you want to be doing is setting up systems, and there’s lots of plugin tools that you can use if you’ve got a website. Facebook has got some really good tracking metrics and plugins that you can put onto your website. Google as well, if you’re using online advertising.

And if you’re doing more offline advertising or promotional leaflets or posters in a community or something like that, you can always have on your website or your landing page a question tab asking ‘how did you hear about us’?

I think that’s an important thing to actually measure and quantify because at the end of this campaign that you’re going through or this lead generation you want to be able to say ‘ok, so that worked for us, that didn’t work for us. So when we do the next campaign we say that didn’t work last time it’s unlikely to work again, lets save our money and be more focused on this next set of lead generation’.

Mistake 4. Not being ready for leads
You can have this great marketing campaign but if your phone is switched off, or you haven’t rehearsed your sales pitch, you’re not sure what your marketing team has put out on social media, it can be a big problem. It could be any number of scenarios where you’re not ready for leads and you need to be ready for the influx of phone calls that are happening.

How you can fix it: Everyone in your team needs you know “we’ve got a campaign going out here, expect the phones to ring. If someone phones asking for this take down their details and we send them this e-mail with the latest special and a voucher” or whatever the case is. Whatever you’re offering needs to be already packaged so that you can forward it to the prospective lead that you get and you’ve got the plan and capacity to work with them.

If you’re a gardening service business, for example, you don’t want to be putting out marketing that you can take all these new clients but you’re booked for the next two months and you can’t actually take them on.

So you need to be ready for the leads. Some of the strategies are rehearsing your sales pitch, actually doing some role plays, having a system in place that’s ready to capture all the leads that you get so that if you can’t follow up with them on the day because the leads exceeded your expectations, you can follow up with them the next day or during the week. And if you do that let them know that.

Automation strategies are very important here and that comes from being ready for your sales flow.

Mistake 5. Not following up on leads
You may have received the leads and delivered the product [but you can still lose the customer if you don’t follow up with your customer properly]. Your after sales service becomes that much more important.

How you can fix it: You need to dedicate time first to actually retain that customer. Customer retention is what actually grows the business because once you retain one customer and you make them happy by over delivering on your promise, (so this comes back to that second point) if you’re delivering 100% on an 80% promise they are now likely to go off and tell other people.

It’s easier to retain a customer than it is to acquire one. That is something that we always tell our entrepreneurs. Client referrals are more likely to stick than the generic marketing campaign. If you do get some lead customers that you are actually fortunate enough to deliver your service to, make that experience such a good one that A) they want to come back to you and B) that they want to tell all their friends and family about you that you can have those new customers.

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