Denys Shortt: Seven tips to sell more in 2012

I co-founded Enable Software ten years ago with Andrew Butt. We couldn’t afford rent so we started the company at my home on a farm in the Cotswolds surrounded by cows and sheep. And we couldn’t afford salesmen so we did all the selling ourselves. 

My other business, health and beauty brands distributor DCS Europe, was already at £50m sales after just six years, so I decided to try and apply the same tricks to Enable. 

Sales are currently at £1.6m and on track to increase sales by 25 in per cent in 2012.

Here are my seven secrets to selling more:

  1. Have a laser-like focus on growing sales. Many companies think they sell well but I am not convinced they do. Score yourself on how well your company sells. Are you winning the majority of pitches you make? If not, study why not. Watch what other successful companies do. You might learn some tips.
  2. 70 per cent of sales can come from networking and referrals. We track where every sale comes from: on £1.6m sales, 56 per cent has come from networking, followed by 14 per cent from referrals. Be ruthless at networking and asking existing clients for referrals. Use Linkedin, Google+ and Twitter. You will be surprised how many people find you through these. 
  3. Use your current client portfolio to win more customers. People love to see who you work for. Make sure you show off your client list on your website. Be proud of your blue-chip client base. If they see big names, it immediately builds trust and looks impressive.
  4. Have a good website – it just needs to be simple and clear. Ten per cent of our sales come from inbound calls (from companies finding Enable on the web). 
  5. Find a great salesmen who can cold call and work out the best pitch. It is very hard to find good sales people and it has taken us nearly ten years to find a “sales pitch” formula that works. Keep honing your approach. 
  6. Attend one-to-one sales events. Exhibitions do not work for us. We have blown probably £60k on trade exhibitions and we found that most of the visitors are not serious buyers. We do not do them any more. Where we do win is at one-to-one sales events (see Richmond Events, for example – it’s a bit like speed dating for business and you can make 80 business contacts in three days).
  7. Be prepared to wait. It often surprises us how long it can take to win a client – some have taken 12 to 18 months. It can take a while to identify a project, find a solution and win an order. We started with orders of £30k and we are now winning orders of £300 to £400k. But the big orders are slow burners.
Denys Shortt runs DCS Europe and Enable Software. He won the Local Hero gong at the 2011 Growing Business Awards.

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