Do Your Job: The Power of the Sales Plan

Do Your Job: The Power of the Sales Plan

Categories: Sales Coaching Tools

Years ago at Xerox, I remember sitting at my desk late at night. In my hand, was my commission statement for the 4th quarter. This commission check would be the largest of my sales career. I absolutely blew the doors off of my business. I was the number one rep in the region for the year and I earned another trip to Hawaii.

So why was I miserable?

My buddy Keith came to my desk and said a couple of things to me, but I did not even respond. I just sat there staring at my commission statement. He took the statement out of my hands, looked at it and went crazy. He was whooping and hollering about it, but I just sat there.

“C’mon Kap, what’s the matter?” he asked.

No answer.

After realizing that I wasn't going to be any fun, he put the commission statement back on my desk and said goodnight.

I was thinking about all the hard work that I had put into my territory that year, all the business that I had generated and I knew that I could not do it again. Back in those days, it was common to base next year’s quota off your achievement the previous year. I felt like a veteran all-pro offensive lineman who is about to start another training camp, realizing another long season is just around the corner, but his body feels like it just played yesterday. No energy, no excitement about another year, just wearily approaching the routine.

Luckily, I worked for a perceptive manager. He noticed my disposition and called me into his office. Right away, he asked me how I was feeling about the upcoming year. I could not even fake it. Instead of sitting there and commiserating with me, he did something I will never forget. He made me “participate in my own rescue”, asking me questions about my territory which I previously had described as a drained swamp. We focused on all of my non-user accounts which I had not called in the last 12 months. He walked me through an interesting strategy that would make it very lucrative for me to convert these non-users into users. It was effective and I began to change my thoughts about the upcoming year.

I'm sharing that story with you because I think my manager at the time did one thing that made the difference.

He did his job.

He asked me questions about my territory that I hadn't thought of before. He helped me identify areas of opportunity within my assignment that motivated me. After that, the execution was up to me. That night, I took apart my entire territory and looked for opportunities. I segmented it by users and non-users and then by product lines. I created a list of my biggest opportunities, added them all up and came up with a number that would blow my previous year out of the water. Then, I mapped this number with my financial goals and I was back in the game! The next day, I went to my manager’s office and walked through my plan. I asked him to keep a copy of my plan and, no matter what, ask me about it every day.

The next day, my boss asked me, “What did you do on your plan today?”.

I smiled and said, “Good one boss. I am gonna leave now and attack my plan!”

The next day while I lounged in the thick of thin things, my boss asked me again, “What did you do on your plan today?”. This time, I was a little more irritated and explained to him all of the administrative crap I had to do in this territory. He just looked at me and did not say a thing. You can probably guess what happened the next day. When he asked me again, I was so frustrated with my boss that my words were short. This time he did say something.

“John, you put a great plan together. In fact, if you execute this plan, you will have your biggest year ever. I can’t figure out why I am more excited about your plan than you are."

What a great boss he was. Those words motivated me to grab MY OWN plan and execute it. That year was one of the most rewarding work experiences of my life. Again, I produced the biggest number of my career, even after a large quota increase. And once again, I was one of the top reps in the company and on my way to Hawaii.

What did I learn?

A few years later when I became a manager, those valuable lessons from Xerox came back to me. I loved helping reps with a concept we call - The Plan to Make the Plan. This later turned into a concept called - The Power of The Franchise.

Here are some concepts to keep in mind as you plan to hit your number in 2018.

For the reps:

  • Think about your business as if it were YOUR business. The most successful salespeople I know operate this way consistently.
  • Link your plan to your professional, financial and personal goals
  • Commit yourself to actionable time-based pipeline activities
  • Share your plan with all of your colleagues whom you will call on to help you execute. Remember, if you don’t make your plan, they don’t make theirs. Be sure to have a clear plan that covers accountabilities (i.e., who is signing up what).
  • Be honest with yourself on the plan. Don’t just keep accounts because you have them. If you can’t cover it, give it to someone who can.
  • Own it. Don’t fill out some form just to get a task done. When you write it down, that means you are committing to it.

For the managers:

  • Your number one job is to add value to your reps. That should be your primary focus. If you ask your team to put a plan together, you must be prepared to review it (not just once, but throughout the year). Have a cadence. Understand what your role is in the plan.
  • Be open to what your reps are telling you about their assignments. Some will have more than they think they have and others will have less. It's your job to create winning assignments. There are too many leaders today who don't do this or do it poorly. Give your reps what they need to win.
  • Anybody can ask someone repeatedly about a forecast. True leaders understand how to help their teams drive real, qualified pipeline.

Recently, I had lunch with an outstanding sales person in Charlotte whom I am mentoring. He was telling me about his year in 2017 and all of the deals he was tracking for the end of the year. He was all over his qualification process. When I asked him about his forecast for the next two quarters, he smiled at me. Then I asked him again and the smile turned to a grin. I reminded him that his ability to remain confident and on top of his current quarter is ALWAYS related to the strength of your next two quarters. Everything relates to pipeline.

Your ability to hold your water on discounting at the end of a quarter is equal to more pipeline.

Your happiness over the year-end holidays is equal to more pipeline.

Your ability to be promoted or considered for more resources is equal to greater pipeline.

It's your business. Its failure or success is up to you...

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