How To Give Your Sales Job A Strategic Tune-up
In happens every year in June.
Six months down and six months to go. What will you do differently during the second half of the year to improve your selling results? If you don't take time to think about what you'll do differently, you may not do anything different. Now that's okay if you're happy with your year to date results. If however you'd like to do more during the second half of this year you'd better think about making some changes now.
One of the keys to raising the bar is effective sales planning. For most of us selling is fun and planning is not. Remember that selling success doesn't come from doing what everyone else is doing. The most successful salespeople do the things that few salespeople take an interest in doing. There are two requirements for planning. First set aside some quiet time for creative thinking. Second, be sure to put your thoughts on paper.
At least once a year professional salespeople should dedicate a minimum of one-day to strategically think about their businesses. Don't be too quick to say you're already doing it. Most sales reps acknowledge they think about their territories and customers daily. When pressed however most will admit they don't have time to creatively think about blue sky scenarios that may happen a year from now. If you can't devote one solid day for unrestrained creative thinking, don't think about aiming for the stars. Your best bet is to wait for a shooting star to come your way.
Begin your planning process with these six critical questions. Direct these questions at your business, your territory, your accounts, your customers, and naturally your competitors. These questions will raise more questions and you should consider this process a success if you end up with more questions than answers. Here are the six questions.
1. Where are you are now? Where are you now relative to your sales results and selling skills? How's your performance? What's your relative rank within your region and within your company? What kind of overall growth do you have in your territory and in your top-10 accounts? Where are your competitors making inroads in your accounts? How well are you managing your time in your territory? What are your biggest challenges and best opportunities for growth?
2. Where are you headed if you don't change anything? What's the implication for you if you don't acquire new skills? What happens to your overall performance next year if you don't make up the loss of your second-largest customer? How will your customers react to a strategy that is really based on a "more of the same" concept, especially when your competitors are becoming more creative in their approach? With more work and less time available, how are you planning to manage next year when your business is expected to grow 10 percent across the board? If you can't handle the sales and marketing challenges and opportunities this year, how will you respond to the one's you face next year?
3. Where should you be headed? Do you have specific personal and professional goals? Are these goals specific and clearly defined? Are they in writing? Do you have completion dates established? For each of your top-10 accounts do you have specific objectives for sales, margins, growth rates, product mix, etc? Have you made a commitment to read sales books and to subscribe to sales publications? Have you analyzed your travel time and your time allocated to large, medium, and small accounts?
4. How will you achieve your objectives? You really can't "do" a goal or an objective. What you can and must do is create an action plan detailing how specifically you plan to achieve the goals you outlined when considering question three. For example, if your goal is to increase your sales by 12 percent in your largest account, how specifically will you do it? How many "how's" will it take to achieve your goal? Your goals define (what you want to achieve) and your strategies define (how specifically you'll do it.) Without proper linkage between goals and strategies, your goals begin to look like dreams.
5. What are the specific details involved? The details referred to are the who, what, where, why, when, which, and how as they relate to initiating and implementing your strategies. Ben Franklin once said, "Small leaks can sink big ships." In sales, minor adjustments often create big impacts and higher sales in your territory.
6. What should you measure? Always measure what matters. One of my favorite old sayings is "what gets measured gets done." To keep you on your stated course (objectives) how will you measure your progress? What key elements of success should your review monthly? Personal growth and development are often the result of careful measurement and evaluation. The difference between first-place and second place is often a very narrow margin.
These questions can make a significant contribution to your selling results, but only if you invest the time to ask them. The favorite day of the week for procrastinators is tomorrow. Action-oriented people, the real doers in life, recognize, if you focus your energy on today, tomorrow takes care of itself. The future is yours to live one-day at a time. The shape of your future depends on the foundation of your plan.
Are you planning your future today or waiting for tomorrow to do it? It's a clear choice and it's all yours.