Whether you are a small business person, or a professional sales person, you can utilize a powerful strategy to take your sales performance to dramatically higher levels — leverage.

Leverage revolves around the idea of multiplying the effects of some effort.  Think of a lever.  It allows you to lift a very large weight with disproportionately small effort.  A little bit of effort moves a large force.  In business, the same idea holds true.  A little bit of time, money and effort can accomplish a great deal when you leverage that small amount of time and effort into disproportionately large results.

Typically, in a business setting, this means that you examine some of the things that you are now doing, and find a way to leverage them to greater effectiveness.  You use the same amount of effort, or money, but you use it in a way that produces multiple better results. You think a little differently.

Here’s an example.  At one time in my life, I sold surgical staplers.  In order to sell them, I had to detail the stapling system to a surgeon, and then train him in a lab to use the products.   That was a time intensive process.  It occurred to me one day that I could leverage my time by training more than one surgeon at a time. So I developed a process where I would have 4 – 6 surgeons attend a short seminar, and then spend the afternoon working in the lab as a group.  In the time that it took me to train one surgeon, I trained 4 – 6.  That’s leverage.

Here’s another example.  In other sales position, I represented 70,000 line items to a customer base of about 30 hospitals.   I would see each on a regular schedule, and always made it a rule to have one of those 70,000 items to present to them.  Then, one day, in an effort to leverage my time in front of them, I decided to take two items!  What a flash of inspiration.  Now, in roughly the same time, I had doubled the likelihood of creating a sale.  That’s leverage.

Notice that in both cases, I thought a little differently about something I was currently doing, and found a way to lever that activity to greater results.  That’s the secret to begin to use leverage to increase your business or your personal sales.  Look at what you are currently doing, and think a little differently about those activities.

There are literally unlimited ways you can apply this concept to your business.  Here are a few:

  1. Leverage the sales relationships you have to create more relationships. It’s a pretty simple idea.  The people who currently buy from you probably know other people who could buy from you. So, you lever the relationships you have to create more.  In a large account, for example, you do this by making it a practice to always ask everyone you call on to introduce you to someone else within the organization.  It won’t be long before you have thoroughly penetrated all the decision-making levels of that organization.

Contractors can leverage the work they do for one customer to create others by simply canvassing the neighborhood around their work site and passing out business cards and brochures.  The relationship created in one job becomes the leverage point for potential additional relationships and sales.

I can go on for pages with ideas, but you get the idea.  Just ask yourself “How can I leverage this relationship into more potential sales relationships?”  Think differently about what you are currently doing.

  1. Leverage customer demographics into market-segment focuses. Study your customer base and see if you can find any trends in terms of the types of people or accounts who are buying from you.  Use those trends to point you to market segments, and begin to proactively address those market segments.

One of my industrial supply clients has taken this approach to a high level, and has multiplied his business by a factor of five.  Instead of selling everything to everyone in a specific geographical area, he discovered that a number of his customers fell into two or three market categories.  He then created specific catalogues for those segments, and backed it up with a national sales approach, specifically focused on only those segments.  This approached allowed him to be the expert in those niches, and to leverage his marketing time and resources to places where it would get the greatest return on investment.

Here’s another example.  When I first began my consulting practices, I’d work with whoever popped up on the radar screen.  As I began to acquire a big enough list of clients, I noticed that a significant number of them were wholesale distributors.  I had a great deal of successful sales experience in that industry, and began to focus on them as a special market segment.  Today, I have written four books for the wholesale distributor market, have spoken at 90+ national trade associations for them, and do the bulk of my business with them.

Both of these examples illustrate the power and potential of leverage applied to an analysis of your customers.

  1. Leverage successes and failures into opportunities to expand your knowledge and refine your systems.

I am perplexed by the fact that the vast majority of organizations and the overwhelming majority of individual sales people never use a significant event – either a success or a failure, to add to their knowledge base and improve what they do next time.

We just had a failure in the number of people who subscribed to one of our open-enrollment seminars – a number of enrollments that was a fraction of what we were expecting.  Instead of feeling sorry for ourselves, and blaming whatever we could think of to blame, we decided to lever as much value as we could from the experience, and scheduled a meeting to uncover things we could have done differently.  Next time we’ll be better.

Leverage, applied in multiple ways in a business and a career, can be one of those key concepts that fuel your growth to the next level.


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