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Jonathan Ratcliff shares his sales strategy insights on The Next 100 Days Podcast.

Jonathan Ratcliff, an expert in sales strategy, left corporate over 12 years ago, to set up JMR Sales & Consultancy Ltd. He helps a variety of clients with short to mid-term contracts by solving a wide range of their business challenges. His primary skill is Sales Management. His sales perspective has been enhanced through roles as a Purchasing Director, Marketing Manager, Commercial Director and Sales Director.

Jonathan usually focuses on strategy development with his clients.  He has worked with Retail, Hospitality, Primary Care, Caterers, Automotive, Pharmacy, Financial sector and Drinks. His early career gave him real understanding of handling national accounts. This has helped him develop highly tailored sales training and coaching answers for sales problems in his target £5 to £50m target companies.

Working for Carlsberg, he “probably” figured out how to run a p*ss up in a brewery! He loved working there and was promoted through the ranks, including helping them develop an innovative non-beer sales strategy. After Carlsberg, he started to get asked to do purchasing for companies. For a hotel group and Little Chef! They gave Jonathan an insight to selling from a buyer’s perspective.

What has Jonathan observed?

  1. The relationship between buyer and seller is of paramount importance. The buyer needs to understand the business. The buyer’s need to understand requirements, how much and what things do they need? So, when sales people asked him as a buyer, he knew. That enabled him to be prepared. So, sales people are advised to investigate what the branches and parts of the group at an operational level need. What would they like head office to buy for you? What are your current suppliers not doing what they should be doing? Knowledge is power.His experience as a buyer showed him that skills between national account managers were great. Some were good and others woeful. The good ones did their homework. Planning and preparation – who were you going to see, objectives, objections, etc. The worst NAMs didn’t have an agenda, didn’t have a plan, which allowed Jonathan win advantages that he wouldn’t have expected.
  2. Listening and understanding. Good sales people are great listeners first. Active listening incorporates non-verbal cues too. How is the buyer being measured? In 3 ways, day to day, regional or site objectives and long term company strategic objectives. Knowledge of these layers – strategic, regional and specific. The more you understand of these issues, the greater the opportunity to sell more successfully.

A sales call can be very expensive, so companies need to understand the financial metrics as they relate to sales visits.

How does Jonathan advise MDs of businesses where sales are disappointing?

  • Jonathan investigates the business strategy, including the margins being earned to pull together a cost benefit analysis.
  • Is the business strategy translated into a sales strategy?
    • Which products should we offer, to which markets, at what margins, to achieve what goals, over what period?
  • It is primarily these gaps in products, customer base and skills that Jonathan addresses.
  • One tool he uses powerfully, is accompaniment. He goes to sales calls with sales people to identify their performance.
  • His focus is on planning and preparation. Objectives, knowledge, insight, listening, interrupting buyers, talking over them, hence they don’t get over the results.
  • Jonathan provides positive honest feedback, highlighting the good points and creates an environment that is open to receiving feedback. Good sales people love getting the feedback. Those that don’t Jonathan adopts the Scottish mantra…“Save your breath to cool your porridge”
  • The MD gets a report based on the accompaniment. Nobody is beyond hope. Every day is a school day.

Apart from sales skills. What about strategic coaching?

Jonathan adopts a holistic approach to talk to other departments that have an indirect impact or interface with sales. He gets invaluable feedback that helps him provide useful analysis of wider issues.

This analysis will also help Jonathan recommend dealing with customers who have lower margins and have a high cost to serve in a different way – by reducing their frequency of deliveries or increasing their prices.

Jonathan uses a sales strategy model that highlights 4 segments:

  • Low cost to serve & high profit
  • Low cost to serve & low profit
  • High cost to serve & low profit
  • High cost to serve & high profit

If you plot your customers by drawing a bubble showing their income in the model, it becomes a tool to inform sales strategy. Understanding and sharing this knowledge is one of the things to push through sales strategy development.

It is mid-size businesses that tend not to have this management information systems. They need a management accountant who understand economics of customers. This is something that Kevin has skills and abilities to offer mid-size businesses.

How can Jonathan advise you if you are faced right now – actions in the next 100 days…

  • The most common mistake Jonathan sees is that sales people do not spend enough time doing what they are most valuable doing – seeing customers. Are they spending enough time actually selling?
  • Decide to stop doing something else, to spend more energy on sales.
  • Pre-qualify what sales people do, get them to plan what they should be doing.
  • Make sure they measure their results.

How does Jonathan sell his own sales strategy consultancy?

  • His most effective tool is LinkedIn.
  • His profile says the right things to his ideal audience.
  • Look at your LinkedIn profile – does it truly represent WHAT you can do for your prospective clients.
  • Is your picture appropriate? Can you recognise the person on the other side of a room? Picture of you should be in your normal business dress.
  • Testimonials are other people saying far more about you than you might wish to. Jonathan has approaching 50 testimonials.
  • Get your advocates to provide you testimonialsDownload – LinkedIn Article
  • Jonathan uses his trusted contacts and look at who they know. He will meet with them. In preparation for the meeting, he will identify 6 people he’d like them to refer him or introduce him to.
  • For Jonathan, he is far more likely to have sales from this “transfer of trust”.
  • He meets them and researches their panel of connections. He does a talk about the ABC of Sales. The top section is tiny, the next section is bigger and bottom bit is massive. As are advocates, they know like and trust with. The Bs they know us and like us, but don’t trust us to do any business yet. The Cs are attractive because there are loads of them.
  • With advocates to transfer that trust to people? What’s in it for the referrer, you are doing your referrer a favour because you are delivering a quality service. That’s their reward. Focus on the right people, rather than quantity of people.

Find out more

Contact Jonathan via LinkedIn



The Next 100 Days Podcast is brought to you by Graham Arrowsmith and Kevin Appleby