Trust the process and don’t think short term
Making plans and sticking to them doesn’t sound exciting or sexy, but consistent results that bring safety and security to your business is a lot more important than spontaneity or winging it.
When you have a plan that you and your team are confident in, the short term fluctuations that all businesses have hurt so much less.
The deals that fall out of your pipeline due to any one of the many reasons that cause a deal not to close are not as big of a deal anymore.
When the timeline for a deal changes and it gets pushed past the reporting period that you are currently in, you don’t lose sleep over it.
You can go to networking events self-assured in the idea that you will get introductions that lead to business, instead of being the person who is pitching everyone in the room trying to make something happen.
When you are talking with a client and discover that what they need or want is not something you can deliver, you can fearlessly tell them that they should talk to someone else.
If you are an entrepreneur, you will be able to knock out a lot of work in different areas and not feel pressure to work the 80-hour work week that gets talked about so often in startup circles.
For this to happen, there are two important things that we have to have first: a plan and trust in that plan.
Many struggling salespeople don’t have a plan when it comes to their days and their weeks. We probably all started out like that, and some of us never learn a better process. They react to everything that comes their way, and when they hit their goals, it is usually from luck more than anything else.
More often than not, those salespeople feel like they have to be “on” all the time. They feel that they can’t take a weekend away from their email or plan that vacation that has been discussed many times.
Entrepreneurs have it harder because they have to be salespeople (don’t forget that if you run your own business, you are the salesperson until you hire someone else to do it) and handle all the other things that are required to get a business off the ground.
They are busy selling, servicing clients, creating marketing, blogging, and also building their systems and processes so that hopefully they can eventually put people into key roles.
Humans are not great planners by default, it is an acquired skill. Even after learning the skill, they apply the ideas badly most of the time. They try to over-plan every second of every day without taking into consideration that sometimes things go wrong.
The client who calls you with an emergency when you are about to start cold calling. The internet goes down when you are going through your LinkedIn contacts.
These things happen.
Sometimes, even with our best intentions, we invite opportunities to be taken off course.
When you are about to make cold calls and decide to check your email before you start, you practically ask to be distracted by something else.
When you have a recurring networking group but allow a client to schedule a call during that meeting, you are inviting someone to impact your plan.
Managing your time is one of the things that you will consistently hear top salespeople and entrepreneurs talk about. They have their day, week, and month planned around things that they have complete control over, and they build time into their plans for when things don’t go right.
Creating the plan
Every salesperson we have worked with has talked about how a trusted and well-followed plan has reduced the pressure off of conversations. It has allowed them to stop taking on bad clients or worrying about not getting good ones. And the lessening of that pressure has helped them sleep better at night and enjoy their time away from work.
Good sales teams have plans built around both the parts of the process that they have control over and the abilities of each individual on their team. Someone who is a qualifying machine doesn’t need to send as many proposals, so that metric might be different than someone who is really good at getting people into conversations but struggles with qualifying.
The plan needs to be built with each person in mind and then adjusted as necessary to get to the goal. One of the biggest mistakes a sales team can make is creating a plan that is the same for every person. It just doesn’t work. They end up constantly churning through salespeople.
Another downfall of creating a plan occurs when the plan isn’t given enough time to produce results. Either from the pressure to succeed or just lack of patience, some people have a problem with giving a plan time to run its course. We all know that success doesn’t happen overnight, and results need to be monitored over a longer period of time to be accurately evaluated. But knowing that doesn’t make it easier for some people. They want to make something happen right now, and they fall victim to small sample size.
This is where confidence in your plan really comes into play. Even though it may not seem like it’s working immediately, if you’ve created a plan that everybody agrees is efficient and effective, then it will be easier to give it time to do its job. There is nothing wrong with adjusting if it isn’t working, but give it time to make sure that is actually the case.
Executing the plan
It will get to the point where the days and the weeks run themselves and you may get bored. Although this is a sign that your plan is a success, it can lead to a bit of monotony in your day to day. This happens to many people, and this is the moment when you have to double down on your trust in the process.
When people stop being successful, it isn’t because the plan stopped working. It is almost always because the person grew bored and tried to do something new. Something outside (or even completely opposite of) the plan. They try to mix it up, and when it comes to business and selling, this can be a slippery slope.
Tips for planning
Start with your ultimate goal and work backward
A plan that starts from a revenue goal or take-home goal is going to be better executed than a goal that starts with purely guessed at numbers such as “we will send 15 proposals per day” or “each person should talk to 5 new people at every networking event.”
Goals like that might work, but only if you’ve put in the time to figure out why you’ve chosen them.
Look at the big picture first. How much do you plan to make in a year? What do you need to make in a month to hit that goal? Then keep working backward until you’ve reached a point where you know that, for example, sending 15 proposals per day will result in the number of closed deals a month to hit your revenue goal for the year.
Own your calendar
This sounds easy, but everyone struggles with this when they start out. Everybody knows to block out time for the important things. But building a habit around blocking time for the things that you struggle with completing or the parts of your job that you enjoy the least will make a huge difference in making sure that they are handled. And set expectations for those around you that you are unavailable at those times.
It is also important to block time in such a way that adjustments can be made if something doesn’t go according to plan. A meeting runs long, traffic delays make you late to your office, etc. If your calendar is too tightly packed, one little thing can cause a domino effect.
And, as hard as it can be, stick to your calendar. It can be tempting to skip something and assume you’ll be able to make it up later, but this can lead to disaster in your day or even your whole week.
There is a lot of debate about whether sharing your goals is a positive thing or a negative thing. While we are not advocating that you need to do a social media post for every goal you have, we believe in the power of accountability. Having someone who is genuinely interested in seeing you reach your goals and will hold you accountable can be a game changer.
Be open to adjusting
Most goals are built around averages and there is nothing wrong with that, but you have to be able to adjust if the average you started with is off. Remember, we are not just trying to be robotic in our efforts, we are trying to hit a goal.
Eventually, you will get to a point where selling will become the process you run and you won’t feel pressure around it. This is a great thing! You may also get to a point where the wins are less impactful because you are getting them so much easier than in the past. Don’t let boredom creep in and take you off the path you have created for yourself because this is the path every salesperson wants to be on. Enjoy the process and enjoy the freedom it brings.