By MikeVoories, CSP
All too often I see a random, undeliberate, unfocused approach to setting and attempting to accomplish sales goals. This tops the list of mistakes that are holding sales professionals back from reaching tremendous success.
Violators of this sales sin typically fall into one of two categories: those who work really hard to sell their service but do so without any specific plan and those who set a specific sales goal but don’t create and work a specific, deliberate plan toward that goal. These folks work really hard and hope that when all the dust settles, enough sales will show in the win column to exceed their goal.
Unfortunately, neither of these approaches is reliable or predictable. Hope and chance have no business in the sales professional’s life. The most successful sales professionals are specific, deliberate and calculated in everything they do. Top-performing sales professionals can typically predict their results confidently and rather accurately.
We want to be in total control of our outcome and not rely on luck. Not only are we able to accurately predict our results, but we can be confident in our ability to achieve our objective through well-planned, deliberate actions.
Obviously, goals and the specific plans to accomplish them will vary by product or service, company, and sales professional. With that said, don’t kid yourself into believing this doesn’t apply to you or your company. People tend to say, “Yeah, but that won’t work for us” or “Yeah, but we’re a little different because […].” Our perception of reality is skewed because it’s being pulled from our past experiences. If you’re not completely delighted by the results of your sales efforts, I encourage you to try this plan.
A sales plan with a predictable outcome is built from measurable and completely controllable metrics. Focus on what you can control.
Find the right approach
If you are new to working from a detailed, deliberate sales plan, experiment to arrive at the specific actions necessary to achieve your desired outcome. Moving forward, you will need to continue measuring your results and adjusting your approach. Your results will continue to improve over time. The key is to never resort to randomness.
A sales plan with a predictable outcome is built from measurable and completely controllable metrics. We focus on what we can control. We cannot control whether a prospect does business with us; but, we can control how many prospecting calls we make, networking events we attend and referrals we request. By focusing on controllable actions, we can predict and achieve our desired outcome.
Our job is to create a plan to achieve that goal and then be committed to working that plan persistently until completion. For example, assume we have a sales goal of $250,000. We have to start with the end in mind; however, we’re not going to focus on the $250,000. We’re going to focus day in and day out on the actionable tasks we can control. Spending much time on details and data we cannot control is a waste of time. Instead, we break our plan down into easily manageable pieces.
Think about the sales plan like this: If I do Y, there is a high probability that X will happen. No algebra required, just painting a quick picture. We want to know the exact steps, the repeatable process, deliberate action items that will result in $250,000 in signed deals. It’s performing these action items, measuring and adjusting as necessary that will drive us across the finish line.
Work the plan
First, identify the action items to which you will commit. In this simple example, assume we’re going to call on prospects, attend networking events and ask current clients for referrals. Working backward, how many proposals do we have to present to sign a deal? How many sales calls do we need to make to generate a request for proposal? Remember, we don’t propose every opportunity that comes along (see my August article on qualifying prospects). How many calls, networking events and referral requests do we need to make to set a meeting or sales call? It’s not glamorous. It’s a process, and it works.
Let’s assume the following scenario:
- Metrics reveal it takes, on average, 20 calls, two networking events and five referral asks to get one opportunity from each effort.
- For every two opportunities, we present a proposal and our closing ratio is 50%.
- Our average sale is $25,000.
Using simple math we can determine how many of each action item we need to commit to and create our plan. If our average sale is $25,000, we need to close 10 deals. To close 10 deals, we need to generate 20 proposals, because our close ratio is 50%. To generate 20 proposals, we need 40 opportunities. The question that must be answered is how many action items need commited to in order to secure 40 opportunities? A sample plan may look like this:
- Generate 35 of our 40 opportunities from making calls = We need to make 700 calls.
- Garner three opportunities by asking for referrals = We need to complete 15 referral asks.
- Net two opportunities through networking = We need to attend four networking events.
By breaking our goal down into easy-to-manage pieces, we’re able to turn 100% of our focus toward what we can control - our action items. We’d then figure out how much time we have to work with and create a schedule. This is where discipline, commitment and perseverance are paramount. The challenge now becomes trusting the plan, working it and sticking to it. This is why we measure and adjust, to learn these numbers and be able to accurately predict our outcome.
Time and experience will also teach us what action items work best and where our time is best invested. Common sense tells us that we want to spend our time on the action items that yield the best results. We have a finite amount of time. We must use it wisely to produce our sought-after results. Results matter, and we’re in total control!
Mike Voories, CSP, is chief operating officer at Brilar, a commercial landscape & snow maintenance firm with locations across the Midwest. He also is a consultant to the service industries. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.