Sales planning

Written by bluelook. Posted in Marketing

  Introduction to planning

sales planningSales planning is an activity, or a set of activities designed to begin the salesperson to move towards achieving his, or her goals. All planning is by its’ nature imperfect, but as Dwight D. Eisenhower, 34th US President and ex Army General once said of planning, “In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning indispensible.” Effective planning requires the salesperson to put in a lot of thought, effort and hard work, but the effort is worth it in the long run. I want to demonstrate to you, in this book, that planning is simple and can be easily built into your routine.

Most salespeople, when you look at the amount of turnover they are responsible for, are running the equivalent of a small to medium business. When you begin a small to medium business the first thing your bank manager asks is to see your plan. This is why I now encourage all my delegates on the sales courses I run, to go away and write their sales plan and go and sell it to their manager. (Sales manager in this case, rather than bank manager!) Let’s think first why planning is important.

Why planning is important

Why is planning important in sales? If you look at the role of a typical salesperson it involves lots of different activities. These include managing their time, prospecting, booking appointments, selling to customers, making presentations and negotiations. All of these activities need careful preparation if we are going to be successful and hit our targets. The problem most salespeople have, at least those who sell face to face, is that they spend such a large proportion of their time on their own. There is no direct supervision and they don’t have a manager nearby, looking over their shoulder to see if they are doing things right. One of the most appealing prospects of going into sales is the freedom you are given, but to succeed you need a lot of self discipline and the ability to plan and prioritise your time. When I discuss planning on my training courses a large percentage of salespeople admit they rarely plan and, to use the expression, ‘just wing it’. Apply this to any other profession; medicine, accountancy, the law and you would be horrified at the prospect. So, planning is important for a number of reasons:
  • It gives us direction. In Alice in Wonderland, Alice is standing at a crossroads and asks the Cheshire cat “Which path should I take?” He asks “Where are you going?” She says she doesn’t know. “Well then, it doesn’t really matter which path you take.”
  • Once we know where we want to get to we can begin to plan how we are going to get there.
However, we also need to appreciate that planning is never perfect. The plan is a beginning. As it is implemented things change. Our initial assumptions may prove to be incorrect, so we need to amend the plan along the way.

Why salespeople avoid planning

In my experience salespeople avoid planning for a number of reasons:
  • They can’t be bothered. Many people go into sales because they have a certain kind of personality. They are assertive outgoing and extrovert. They enjoy the thrill of the chase and interaction with customers. Planning just doesn’t give them the same buzz.
  • They think it takes too long. In fact, most planning activities involve repetition so when you have a process for planning it can be repeated very quickly. I have a planning process for negotiations that we will look at later. It is a simple process that makes you define your objectives, identify your information needs, look for concessions, work out a strategy and, for team negotiations, define tasks for each team member.
  • I had a delegate on one of my courses, Eddie, who needed to plan for an important, upcoming negotiation. I gave him the process and asked him to let me know how he got on.
2 I received a phone call a week later and asked him how it had gone. “It was a complete waste of time” he said, “We spent nearly a whole day planning and preparing for the negotiation and when we offered him our proposal he accepted it straight away!”
  • Eddie was disappointed because he was expecting a fight that didn’t happen. I told him maybe, because they were so well prepared they looked and sounded really confident and this convinced his customer he was getting a great deal. Or maybe he should have asked for more. Either way, the time spent on planning was well worth it.
  • They don’t know how to do it. In England a lot of companies don’t spend time investing in training and development. They say that most companies in the UK spend more on their Christmas party than they do training their staff. Planning can and should be taught.
  • They don’t have time. This is a perception, not reality. We fill our day with activity, but how much of that activity is focused on our job purpose? If you want to find out you have to begin by writing down your job purpose. This is a summary in 2 sentences as to what your job is and why it exists. Once you’ve written it you can look at what you are doing right now and decide whether it is moving you closer to achieving your job purpose.

Tags: ,

Trackback from your site.

Comments (1)

Leave a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.