Being organised makes good dollars and cents.

To be on track with your sales quota you need to be organised, have a plan you stick to, and use a system for effective selling.

It’s never too late to start, regardless of where you are on the road towards realising your sales targets. All it really takes is some thought and self-discipline to organise yourself.

Probably the single biggest reason we see sales executives struggle to make sales targets is simply a lack of organisation or discipline to stick to a system of selling. We are not talking about a formula, but rather the self-discipline needed to stay focused.

Most of the salespeople we meet have a calendar and have defined blocks of time set aside for such activities as meetings, making appointments, training, etc. The problem is that a lot of the schedule is blank, with the intention of using it to prospect for new business or follow up on some sales activity. Yet somehow those hours get spent aimlessly. And all of that is due to a lack of any real planning.

Sun Tzu (Chinese military strategist – 25 BC) said it a long time ago: “To enter into a battle without a plan is the height of arrogance. Such generals should be put to death for they risk the lives of their warriors…”

What we are saying is that you can’t really expect to be successful if you haven’t done anything to make it happen.

What we see is some salespeople trying desperately to catch up on their sales targets by doing the only thing they can think of – cold calling. Of course, it doesn’t take them too long to realise that the numbers just don’t add up.

Most people would have been asked to write a business plan as part of their job requirements. Typically, what managers want to see in these business plans isn’t really a business plan at all. It is the old “I plan to make this many calls to get this many appointments to make this many presentations to get this many sales.”

That’s not a true business plan – that’s the old, worn-out sales training model that worked once upon a time, but is now outdated and obsolete. 

Granted, it makes sense in theory. But if most salespeople are brutally honest with themselves about how many cold calls it takes to get a *qualified* appointment with someone who is in a buying mode, and what their true close ratio is, they’ll see that there simply aren’t enough hours in the day to make that model work. The reality is that when time for meetings, conducting appointments, drafting proposals, doing expense reports, traveling to and from prospects, servicing current clients and other routine duties are added, there are not enough hours left.

If one defines a sales call as being face-to-face with the intent of inducing a purchase, then salespeople really only spend about 20% of their time selling. Something like 30% is spent on travel and waiting for appointments, another 30% on admin and meetings, and around 14% of their time servicing current clients. That leaves about 6 – 10% for  prospecting. Taken that there are really only 4o hours for work in the week there is about 3 hours to prospect.

Now, with a closing ratio of 1 deal in 3 (around the Australian average) you already run into trouble. Assuming you need 10 deals in a month, that means you have to have 30 prospects; to get 30 prospects –assuming you can sustain the same call to close ratio of 1 in 3– you need 30 contacts to make 1 qualified prospect, so your target of 10 sales demands 300 contacts. These numbers clearly illustrate the difficulty of chasing numbers rather than quality.

What we’d like to suggest is that salespeople write a real business plan for the territory they serve. This will ensure their success.

Even if your manager isn’t impressed with your focus on efficiency, creating a business plan goes back to the concept of having a disciplined system. 

So what do you need to do?

  1. Take time to consider your strengths and weaknesses. These are your personal skills, knowledge, motivation, attitude and behaviour
  1. Next consider your territory – geographic, market segment or other
  1. Identify the opportunities and threats in the segment – these relate to your organisation and its products, services and solutions
  1. Evaluate your competition. Gather data on the organisations you repeatedly compete with and the sales executives you often cross paths with in the opportunities you are chasing
  1. Now set your S.M.A.R.T. goals. Start by looking at what you have to achieve in terms of value and / or volume between now and the end of your sales cycle
  1. Break down those long-term-goals into 4 medium term goals. Then divide those medium term goals into 4 individual monthly goals
  1. Now you are ready to develop a range of activities
  1. Work on a day-to-day plan with the inherent discipline that whatever goals you fail to achieve today, must be added to your activity list for tomorrow
  1. Any over delivery of your goal is banked for a rainy day – in other words, if you exceed you daily goal, don’t slack off – keep the momentum. If you do have a serious slip in achieving a daily goal, you have a back up

Whether you are using the individual systems Barrett teaches, systems you’ve learned on your own, or systems learned elsewhere, it’s very important to have each and every day planned out in writing.  Then, and only then, you can write a master plan that ties everything together into one overall business plan that will work for you to achieve the goals you’ve set out for yourself.

Remember everybody lives by selling something.

Author: Sue Barrett, 


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