Strategies to increase sales
Most businesses want to increase sales and when you break it down, there are only two ways to do it. You can sell more to existing customers, or attract new customers.
Increasing sales to existing customers is a good first step as it’s often more affordable than finding new ones. It also makes more sense strategically because once you’re good at maxing out sales to existing customers, each new customer is automatically worth more. So the money you spend to attract new customers will end up winning you a bigger payback.
Explore ideas to help increase sales
Check out common marketing strategies to increase sales:
Increasing sales to existing customers
Anything you can do to make it easy for customers to spend money with you will help. For certain types of businesses, it also makes sense to build a deeper relationship with customers.
Reduce barriers to buying
When working out how to increase sales, the first step is to reduce any barriers. Think about the purchasing process from your customers’ point of view. What might stop a customer from making a purchase? What might entice them?
Make ordering easier
Be honest – how easy is it for customers to get what they need from you? Is the phone always answered? Do messages get returned? Do you send quotes in a timely manner? Try to streamline these critical early steps so you don’t leave opportunities on the table. Perhaps you could offer online ordering, or standing orders for customers with recurring needs. And lastly, ensure the checkout is seamless, with multiple payment options to help seal the deal.
Make billing friendlier
Customer-friendly fees and billing can encourage repeat business. For example, flat fees – where you charge the same each month even though the levels of services may vary – can be really attractive to clients who prefer certainty of cost. Similarly, you can help customer cash flow by allowing them to pay for big-ticket items in installments. You may need software or 3rd-party services to help you provide this level of flexibility but the sympathetic billing could help increase sales.
Sales promotions are often a go-to for boosting sales but they have to be done strategically. Just discounting your goods or services may bring more business, but it also cuts into your margin, which can threaten profitability.
"Bundling" promotions can help mitigate that risk. These are promotions where customers "buy this and get that for half price". They’re less expensive to your business because the discount only applies to some of the products in the bundle. This can help attract higher customer spend while reducing the overall loss in margin. Very clever.
Loyalty-based discounts do the same thing, as the benefit of ongoing sales outweighs helps pay for the discounts.
Cross-selling is another effective way to increase sales per customer. It’s when you promote a product or service that’s related to a purchase they’re already making. You might co-locate items on a shelf, in a display, or on a screen (for ecommerce). Or you could build a recommendation into your sales scripts.
Bundling (offering a discount on the additional item/s) can help here but it’s not always necessary. Cross-selling is different to upselling, where you promote an upgraded or higher-end version of a product or service your customer is buying.
Expanding your range of products or services
One way to sell more, is to offer more. Here are some tips for adding new products or services to your offering.
Start by doing research:
- Ask your customers what else they need from you
- Ask businesses like yours what they’re selling that you’re not
- Ask your suppliers to suggest products that go together
Open your mind to goods or services:
- A goods business can sell related services, such as installation, training or maintenance for their products
- A service business can sell related products. For example, a hairdresser often sells haircare products. A web services provider might sell analytics tools.
Look at different ways of packaging your offer:
Sometimes just reframing or renaming a service or product for different customers can have the same effect as expanding. Besides running a pop-up shop, a chocolate maker might pitch themselves as a supplier for restaurants and caterers, for example.
Certain types of business can improve sales by moving from a transactional mindset to a relationship mindset. Instead of one-and-done sales, they aim to create a long-lasting customer connection that encourages repeat business.
This is most often done by:
- creating mailing lists (or social media groups) for more regular communication
- circulating newsletters (weekly, monthly or quarterly) with interesting news, tips, and occasional business announcements
- loyalty clubs that give customers special privileges such as advance access to new products, special discounts, or prizes and giveaways
- hosting engaging events such as information evenings, product launches, exhibitions and so on
Finding new customers
Once you’ve exhausted avenues for building on existing customers, exploring ways to find new customers will boost sales.
Expand your presence (physical or online)
Opening up new locations will expose your brand to the people who live and work in those places. It’s an obvious way to extend your reach to new markets.
This can be a costly strategy, however, so you’ll need some money on hand. It’s also worth considering modest beginnings for your new branch. You might be able to share a workshop, open a pop-up shop, use a shared office space, or partner with a complementary business.
It may be less costly to expand your presence through online means. A retailer might open an online store. A professional services provider might set themselves up to serve clients remotely. Suddenly you’re not so bound by geography. Take the time to learn how your types of products or services are typically sold online. And check out the guide How to start an online business.
Broaden your marketing
You may be able to increase sales by changing when, where and how you speak to potential customers.
Experiment with digital marketing
Have a play with social media and search marketing. If you haven’t already, you can test pretty cheap strategies and see what takes. Check out our guide Digital marketing for small business for tips to increase online sales. Creating content that’s shared socially is a form of marketing, so think outside the box of traditional advertising.
Tap into word-of-mouth marketing
Word of mouth is one of the most effective forms of marketing out there. As a bonus, it’s also one of the free-est. Everybody loves a good referral; we’d all much rather buy something we’ve been recommended. So don’t be shy about asking your customers to spread the word. If you’re a B2B service provider, tell your client you’re looking to work with more people like them. It’s a compliment and a request for work all wrapped up together. Hard bake those requests into your script to make sure you always say it. It goes a long way. You could go a step further and offer incentives for referrals but try the free route first. People genuinely like to help other people that they like.
Test new audiences
If you’ve been marketing to the same group, pivot slightly to include a different demographic. For example, a web services supplier to small businesses could decide to specifically target sports clubs and charities. A commercial kitchen supplies business could decide to open their offering to households as well.
Expand the range of products and services you sell
We’ve already noted how a wider offering can crank up sales with your existing customers, but it can also make you relevant to a wider group of customers.
Think about what you’re already good at and where else you could add value for prospective customers. For obvious reasons, the new products or services should fall within your existing field of expertise. Do some numbers to check the true cost of expanding in this way. And consider piloting new offerings before making permanent changes to your range.
Do the numbers on sales-boosting strategies
When exploring how to increase sales, make sure you also work out how to pay for that extra activity. Sales all come at a cost. Keep an eye on:
- any capital expenses such as new work tools, equipment, physical locations or websites you may need in order to execute your sales strategy
- increased operating (day to day) expenses such as more inventory, increased freight, extra marketing, more sales commissions and so on.
Pay particular attention to your margins. Increasing sales is all well and good but not if you lose your ability to make money off those sales. Changes to costs or pricing will likely affect your margin. If your margin is set to shrink – such as through discounting – then you’ll want to make sure the uptick in sales is sufficient to deliver an overall increase in profits.
Tips for sales can come from anywhere
Sales and marketing is an ideas business so cast your net wide for fresh thinking. Many of the sales tips here have been tried and tested but of course they won’t work for every business, or in every situation. Meanwhile there will be other ideas out there that could be perfect for you. Speak to your friends, family and business contacts for their tips and good ideas they’ve seen. There are dozens and dozens of tactics to boost sales so put in the research to list out some good ones, then run the numbers to see what’s practical.
Xero does not provide accounting, tax, business or legal advice. This guide has been provided for information purposes only. You should consult your own professional advisors for advice directly relating to your business or before taking action in relation to any of the content provided.
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