I'm always amazed when I talk with a business leader and find out they don't have a business plan or sales plan. Why? Because, they just failed the most important step in ensuring success with their business:
Develop a plan!
A former manager of mine, Dick Boren, used to put a slide up on the overhead in every sales meeting. It read the following words: "Fail to plan, plan to fail."
Now, while that slide is perhaps against the Law of Attraction (why put the words fail on a slide in the first place?) it does highlight a basic truth in selling: you must plan to succeed if you are going to increase your success. As a law of attraction coach, I recommend another quote Dick used even more:
"Plan your work, work your plan. Measure your success."
See, because, when you have a plan for success, you're much more likely to succeed, because you've made a written agreement for success. People tend to honor written agreements more than verbal agreements. Why do you think that out of 100 graduating students, the 3% who wrote down their goals achieved more than the other 97%? This statistic came from a study of graduating students at Harvard University over fifty years ago. In the study, they found that the 3% who wrote down their goals were wealthier than the other 97%, combined. Not only that, but they were also more content. Big surprise, huh?
I recently read that less than 1% of Americans write down there goals. While I haven't yet substantiated that statistic, perhaps that might explain why Americans have so much debt! Land of the free? It's hard to be free when you're buried under a mountain of debt. I've been on both sides of that picture and I'd much rather be debt-free, with money in the bank, than fighting debt collectors.
So, if you're considering how to succeed, maybe you're nodding and realizing, "Hmm.. Scott's right! I need a plan."
Do you have a plan for business success?
If you're writing a sales plan, you'll need some basic elements, which include:
- Vision. What are you trying to accomplish in your selling efforts?
- Goals. What numbers, strategies, and basic goals do you wish to accomplish?
- Company numbers. I've always found a good rule of thumb is to take other people's expectations of me and double them. Why? Because, if I miss MY goals, I'll still HIT THEIR GOALS. And, that's all upper managers seem to care about. You can even do this for yourself, just pretend you're a manager. Give yourself a quota. Then put on your salesperson hat and double the quota! Write down the new number as your goal.
- Know your territory. If you're going after a sales territory, chances are high that you probably are either organized by a geography, product offering, or vertical market. Out of all the strategies, I've always found that organizing outbound telephone or email calls by vertical market to be wisest, as then you're speaking with the same vernacular during your calls. For example, problems managing the flow of paper in healthcare will carry over from one hospital to another. Language can be quite different between prospects, so by organizing by vertical you can lower the impact of this challenge. However, when making outbound face-to-face calls, it is wisest to organize by geography. This is to limit the cost and time-impact between calls. So, use both strategies to effectiveness if you wish to maximize your time both inside and outside while selling.
- Know your customer. If you were to ask me the single most important skill a salesperson might possess, I'd have to say "The art asking intelligent questions and listening to the answers for meaning." How many salespeople are great at telling you all about their product? How many salespeople are great at asking intelligent questions, listening, and then converting that knowledge into a solution for the customer? The latter is the salesperson I want to hire.
- Know your product. Okay, so you did a good job questioning your prospect. You listened to their problem. But when it comes time to describe your solution to their problem, you need to know what you offer, and specifically how it relates to what THEY need. I've been shocked at the number of times in my life when a salesperson either "winged it" or outright "lied" when they didn't know the answer to a question. Don't be lazy. Do your homework, know your product. Especially the features, functions, and benefits that will apply to your prospect's needs. Don't leave it up to them to figure it out. Make it easy for your prospect to buy from you.
- Have a gifting strategy. Gifting is the #1 most powerful way to build relationships quickly.
- Have a follow-up strategy: Following-up is the #1 most powerful way to get remembered and strengthen the relationships you build.
- Have a plan to build value, differentiate, and surprise your clients on EVERY call and in every meeting. This is the #1 most important rule in executing sales calls.
- Have an action plan. Which accounts, contacts, and strategy will you utilize for each prospect? You ought to at least define your strategic plan for your top ten prospects.
Do you have a plan for personal success?
I even suggest to people to write down their personal goals each year. If you're running a business, evaluate your goal achievements on a monthly and weekly basis. Don't just wait for the quarterly review, as that might be too long of time-lapse between review cycles.
Last, if you need help with a plan, seek out professional assistance. My firm, ARRiiVE Business Solutions, offers executives help writing business plans to raise funding, business plans to improve strategy, sales plans, and personal growth plans. When you work with a professional, you cut the bull from "template" business plans you can buy. You eliminate the generalized answers and fluff you might get from your SBDC (small business development center) and software templates. Many software business planning systems use a "fill-in-the-blank" type of approach to generating business plans. I don't recommend fill-in-the-blank business plans. They are really obvious to someone familiar with reading plans. I use a template, yes, but I custom-write each plan for each client. Why? Because I find that I don't have as many holes. And, even more than that, I don't get FLUFF in my plans. You really don't want a plan if it is full of guesses and generalizations.
Get a plan that offers specific actions, dates, and ways to measure results against the plan to ensure you succeed with your objectives and strategies.
Last, remember, if you plan your work, you plan to succeed. Plan your work, and work your plan. Measure your results. And celebrate your wins! Life is too short not to have a little fun along the way. After all, success is in the act of doing, perhaps as much or more than the act of accomplishment.
The quality of your plan for success directly related to the quality of your results!
If you don't have a solid (quality) plan for success, you might be blocking your development. Either write one yourself; or, better yet, hire an expert to help you plan for your success. Watch how many positives will be drawn to you when you are working from a well-written plan. You can succeed. You will succeed. Make this your mantra. Make a plan. Write it down. Tweak it, work it, measure it, and celebrate it when you win.
Post by Scott Andrews, CEO of ARRiiVE Business Solutions.
ARRiiVE Business Solutions helps executives improve sales, launch products and services, and build dynamic, cross-functional collaborative teams. For more information, contact info (at)ARRiiVE (dot) com or call us at 1 (805) 459-6939.
Copyright © 2007 by ARRiiVE Business Solutions. All Rights Reserved. You may republish this article only if you publish in WHOLE with the COPYRIGHT and ALL ACTIVE LINKS intact.
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