Shortly after I started my first outside sales role, I traveled 9 hours from my home office to see a small account. I continued to see them on a semi-regular basis even though growth potential was limited. I made that nasty trip two more times in the first year.
In some warped sense of reality, I thought I would impress my boss by doing the extensive travel.
The two other painfully long trips and lack of growth in the second year gave me an “ah-ha” moment!
I realized that these trips were not productive uses of my time. I ended up dropping them altogether the year after when sales diminished to almost nothing.
I would sign up any account early in my career, because that is how sales people are wired right? When you are on commission, every sale counts, so you have even more incentive to bring on new business. True, but only to a point.
What I soon realized is if negotiations with a prospect are difficult and time-consuming, there is a real possibility that they will continue to give challenges as a customer in the future. This is not true all the time. But I have “broken up” with prospects before we have had our “first date”.
I learned a very valuable lesson from an ex-manager several years ago. He stated,
“The best business deals occur when both parties give something to the deal”
Rarely do business relationships work when one party gives, gives, gives and the other party gladly takes, takes takes.
I have dealt with customers who were always upset and/or angry with myself and the organizations I was working for. Although these occurrences were rare, I ended up letting them go too. There was negative energy, and since they were smaller with respect to revenue, it was an easy decision based on the value of my time.
I serviced the occasional account who did not support my companies at all, but were more than happy to ask for pricing when a customer specifically requested our products. Eventually they were dropped too. Those were very sad relationships!
Selective = Success
Once I realized that every company is not a suitable business partner, I gained much better perspective on my account base and territory in general. Some tough decisions were made, but at the end of the day I focused my attention on the accounts that had the most growth potential.
- When was the last time you looked at your customer base and identified troublesome relationships?
- Can you scale back the time you spend with them, or drop altogether?
- On the flip side… Do you spend enough time with your largest customers?
Tom Petty was right. The waiting is the hardest part!
We always seem to be waiting. On the surface waiting sucks, but why not take advantage of the down time? Waiting can equal learning while you are:
- Waiting for, or riding public transportation
- Commuting to work and/or driving to meetings
- Waiting for an appointment
- Waiting in line at a store
- Waiting on a golf course between holes
… You the idea. There are many other examples.
- When you are on public transportation or waiting anywhere with respect to your role, have some “catalog time” with your company’s literature. It is incredible how much more comfortable I became with catalogs by focusing on them as little as 10 minutes per day.
- When you are commuting to work in your vehicle, or driving to appointments, listen to podcasts or audio books that will help you with business and/or personal development.
- When you are waiting for a business appointment, go over your notes to prepare and focus before the call. Don’t get distracted by email or phone calls. That can wait until later
- When you are in line at a store, always be in engagement mode (check out earlier post here http://bit.ly/KAcGXS )
- If you are golfing with customers, take time to really get to know them when you are waiting between holes. You have their undivided attention.
I used to get VERY frustrated with all the waiting that goes on in everyday life. But now I embrace it, and get as much done during business hours when I have time to spare. If I have put everything in to my work during the day, it gives me more time to devote to my family out of “office hours”.
- Do you make valuable use of your “waiting”, or do you just waste time?
- If not, what improvements can you make going forward?
Remember, waiting can equal learning if you use your time wisely!
Let’s connect on Facebook! Stop by and “like” my page if you like what you see at:
When I was selling in a retail market many years ago, it became common knowledge that one of the chain stores had a simple selling strategy:
- “Make sure that you sell to the first person that walks through the door every morning. It will set you up for the rest of the day.”
Really think about that for a minute. How different would their mindset and attitude be if they had a great start to the day? Don’t get my wrong, I am not asking you to beg for the sale, or hang on to their leg as they try to leave the store. But you get the idea!
For sales reps, business people and anyone trying to sell “Widget XYZ”, listen up….
You should have laser focus from the moment the calendar changes to a new month, and start that selling period with a “Bang”! A strong first day or two (or even a week) sets you up for the rest of the month. You will feel more confident, have a bounce in your step and presentations will flow more naturally. Heck the challenges won’t even feel as painful! You won’t feel as much pressure to sell, because you are already well on your way to reaching the monthly goal.
Think back to those months that you had a fantastic start vs. a poor one. One felt great while the other one felt like the weight of the world was on your shoulders. I can vividly recall having both types of feelings, and one is obviously better than the other!
Sales is a lot like sports, and when you are “feeling it”, good things happen.
Try “feeling it” when you have only achieved 25% your monthly goal with three days left in a month. OUCH!
Get in the mindset that NOTHING will get in your way to starting a month with a “Bang”!
Don’t get distracted in the office doing busy work and returning email. Focus on a detailed sales plan for that first week and don’t deviate from being in front of customers unless absolutely necessary.
I would love to hear if a very focused sales strategy for the first week of every month helps your results. Keep me posted – I would love to hear from you!
One of the first rules that I learned as a parent was infants and toddlers thrive on routine and consistency. As adults we tend to lose our way much of the time, and planning and scheduling becomes a dirty word.
Sales professionals can get lost without planning and scheduling as well. If we thrive on routines early in life, should the need for “the expected” not extend throughout our lives? Think about how much more efficient you would be if you stuck to a schedule even 70, 80 or 90% of the time?
A classic story that I heard during my career involved an executive and the sales team at his office. He walked in to the “sales bullpen” mid morning one day, and saw all the reps sitting at their desks. He asked his manager if he could “reorganize” the sales area when they left for their territories. The reps were very surprised the next morning when they found their desks stacked on top of each other in the warehouse! He did it to prove a point, and strongly believed that by mid morning, they should be out in the field making sales calls and getting orders.
As often as possible during my career, I have operated under the system of a “Daily Powerplay” for 4 days each week. Many sales experts have their own theory on this, but somewhere between the hours of 9 am and 4 pm is the ideal time to be in front of customers.
This is a sample of my schedule:
7:30 am – 9:30 am
- Return emails and phone calls
- Complete any outstanding follow-up To Do’s
- Phone cold calling (if applicable) & setting up appointments
9:30 am – 4:00 pm
- Sales Calls, lunches with clients/prospects, training sessions or golf (and other relationship building time) with clients
4:00 pm – 5:00 pm
- Similar to the morning, clean up as much as possible by the end of the day
The key to a good schedule is to know yourself, and when you are at your best. If you are “in the zone” first thing in the morning, then conduct important cold calls or face to face meeting then. If you gain momentum later in the afternoon, conduct these activities then instead. I colleague of mine was not functional until around 10 am, and he was still one of the best reps in that organization. He worked later than most of us, and our boss was comfortable with that. It was all about the numbers, and it would have been counterproductive for the company to expect him to do a big presentation at 8 am.
If you expect to leave the office every day at 9 or 930 am, do so when possible.
There should be very few excuses why you cannot leave the office when you intended to. Less important things than face to face selling can always be dealt with later. Speaking from experience, issues come up from time to time, but they should not derail your plans very often. Go sell!
The key to the “Daily Powerplay” is the fifth day each week is an office day. I typically use Mondays as the day to catch up from the previous week, and plan the next four days. Some people prefer the office day to be on Fridays. Be careful though, there is always the temptation to start your weekend early.
- Do you have a daily planning and scheduling system?What changes do you need to implemented in your daily activities to start a schedule and/or follow one more closely if you don’t already?
- Do you stick to it?
- If so, how often?
Do more of what is working for you, and stop doing what is not. Evaluate your processes and planning regularly, and tweak systems as you go along. The pain of spending the time making a plan and sticking to it, will be much less in the long run than being disorganized, without focus, and becoming frustrated by the lack of results.