10 Steps for Managing Customers to Maximize Architectural Sales Success
The professional architectural sales representative of construction products is continually seeking better ways to manage his customers to maximize sales. How do you know which customers to call on when, and how often? How do you stay organized amid your phone calls, sales visits, paperwork, and planning? Managing your customers is not complicated. It takes organizing and time management skills to develop a plan suitable to meet your sales goals. Finally it requires a focus and personal commitment to follow the plan.
10 Proven Ideas to Manage Customers and Maximize Sales
Organizing a sales calling plan must begin with a full understanding of a manufacturer’s market plan and sales goals for its sales representatives. The type and number of customers that a sales representative must call on must be appropriate to meet the sales goals specified in the plan.
- Use a modified 80/20 rule, referred to as the Pareto Principle, as a guide to establishing customers who should receive the major focus of time and effort. A general rule of thumb is that in any customer data base, approximately 20% of customers will generate 80% of total sales. The specific customers that comprise the 20% are not static. Revaluate classifications annually (or more often if necessary).
- Do not forget the remaining 80%. Although the top 20% must get the most attention, every customer can and should be significant. Use the letters A, B, and C to classify customers. The A customers are the top 20% that generate approximately 80% of sales. The B group generates approximately 10%-15% of total sales; and the C group generates the balance. The 80/20 rule also applies to the time spent with each category of customer. About 80% of a sales representative’s time should be spent servicing the A customers. The B group requires about 10% -15% of time, and the C group the balance of time. Do not to spend a disproportionate amount of time with B and C customers, because they happen to be more likeable or they create fewer problems than A customers.
- Establish strong personal relationships particularly with A customers. Strong personal relationships can overcome many objections such as price or an occasional missed delivery. Customers normally buy from the architectural sales representative they like and respect. Building these relationships take time and effort.
- Keep an accurate record of what is discussed on each personal visit and telephone call, particularly regarding commitments and subjects that foster a personal relationship. Recording takes time, but it is critical for sales success and maximizing sales.
- Use the correct CRM. Historically Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems have not been widely used in the construction industry, but that is changing. See an article from the AGC of America, “Does CRM Matter for Construction?” If a manufacturer uses a particular CRM system, the architectural sales representative must use that prescribed system. If a sales representative has a choice, select the simplest system that provides the information needed to track both sales and service history as well as important interactions with each customer. Sales Force and Outlook are examples of two sophisticated CRM systems that are used by manufacturers. If your need is simply to keep track of contacts, addresses, and appointments, Google’s gmail suite, a free suite of tools, may be all you need.
- Organize a personal visit or telephone contact schedule that is appropriate for each customer. Depending on the type of product, this might be a regular “route” schedule or it may be periodic visits based on sales or service actions required. Each contact should be carefully planned. Many times, the plan can be simple and just be mentally reviewed before each contact. For complex sales or service activities, a brief written plan should be used. Plans are important for two reasons: to show respect for a customer’s busy schedule and to be sure that all the topics are properly covered. For most customers, set the appointments 2-3 days in advance. Rarely just stop to see a customer without an appointment. Certain customers may require additional advance notice. Others may request that an appointment be made the day before or even the day of an appointment, because the customer does not know his exact schedule and is very busy.
- Utilize downtime. If a customer cancels an appointment or if there is free time between calls for any reason, use the opportunity to call on other customers in the area. Keep the focus on the A customers if they need a call or visit, then call on B customers, followed by C customers. A quick mental call plan is still recommended to optimize the use of downtime.
- Make time for prospecting for new customers. Hopefully manufacturers will supply qualified leads. Follow up on most leads within a few weeks or earlier depending on the type and quality of lead. Cold calling can be used if there is available time between existing calls. Target cold calls to potential A-type customers as often as possible.
- Use emails and the appropriate type of social media to supplement personal sales calls and telephone contacts to keep customers up-to-date with important information such as product updates, special sales programs, important industry information, and major successful projects. Although the use of social media is intimidating to many and might seem complicated to use at first, it is becoming a critical part of sales and marketing programs. There are many national companies that provide consulting assistance, or a smaller, local social media consulting firm might be the best alternative to gain the personalized relationship and support you desire.
Follow these steps to maximize architectural sales success with all your customers. Enjoy selling!