Planning Is Everything
Plan for success; don’t plan to fail. You have likely heard it said, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” Or put another way by President Eisenhower, “Plans are worthless, but planning is everything.”
Whatever you are trying to do rarely works out as planned, but the process of planning prepares you for success.
The best salespeople plan. They plan the month, the week, the day, and each sales call. In each person’s sales funnel there are prospects at various stages of the buying process. Near the top are those who have just begun thinking about a purchase and at the bottom are the few who are not ready to buy. And they are distributed throughout your sales territory.
The best companies have an annual sales plan. Each territory is assigned a sales goal and perhaps a goal for each product line or type of customer in the territory. The salesperson’s job is to meet or exceed those goals. The goals are met by following a plan laying out the sales activities to be done each day.
Review & Look Ahead
During the time set aside each week for planning, review what happened the previous week. Look at your sales funnel to see which customers need the most attention in the coming week. If you have a large geographic area for a sales territory, divide it into several compact areas and spread your time among them over a month or several months depending on your business model. Begin setting or confirming previously set meeting times; then build your weekly schedule around them. Remembering what President Eisenhower said, also have other prospects in mind for when a meeting is cancelled.
Once you have a confirmed sales meeting, you need to prepare for the meeting. What is your goal for that meeting? Of course the answer depends on where you are in the sales process for the customer. If they are early in the selling cycle, the sales call goal might be to build rapport and learn more about upcoming needs. Perhaps it is the first meeting with the decisionmaker and your goal is to find out how decisions are made and to review and confirm the discussions you have previously had with others on the sales team. Whatever the goal is, write it down.
Then make a sales call plan which will lead to achieving the goal. Note what you might need to bring to the meeting. Arrange for technical or management support to join you if necessary. List what you know about the customer’s need so far and what other information you might need. Role play the meeting in your mind or aloud as you drive. Be as prepared as you can be.
Being prepared means that when you begin each day you know exactly where you are headed and what you plan to accomplish. Be ready for the pleasant surprises that will happen and unexpected challenges popping up. Don’t get to the end of your driveway only to stop and think, “Is it left-turn day or a right-turn day?” Work your well-planned day.
But remember: only in the movies does life follow the script.
If your business model is a one-call-close, be prepared to quickly qualify the buyer and move on if they are not ready to buy. Know the questions to ask and how to build value before discussing price. Make sure all parties involved in the buying decision are present so you know the decision can be made.
And most importantly, get a commitment up front when you ask for the order. Convey to the decisionmakers that the only two acceptable answers are “yes” or “no.” “I want to think it over” is the worst answer you can hear because, in truth, you are the only one thinking it over. Clear up any misunderstandings and again try to get the order.
Without planning, success seldom happens. Plan for success and achieve your goals.
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Don Crawford & Lois Carter Crawford