Friday, December 23, 2011

Sales: New Year—New Plan

The beauty of a new year is it’s a chance to start fresh—an opportunity to make improvements. For some it means eating healthier. For others it means reading more self-improvement books or spending more time with family. At the end of every year, one thing is for certain—someone is planning to be “better” in the new year.
The same idea applies for business—the new year is an opportunity to evaluate the previous year and devise a successful plan for the year ahead. Where many fall short however, is in executing the plan.

  “It takes as much energy to wish as it does to plan” - Eleanor Roosevelt

As a sales coach, you must walk the proverbial walk and have your own plan in place—but don’t stop there. You will see the true advantage of planning when you make everyone on your team create his/her own business plan for year—and here is why:
  • You’ll understand what motivates each of your team members personally and professionally.
  • A plan clearly defines an agreement between you and the salesperson. It provides the foundation for communication throughout the year and prevents miscommunication or ambiguity. Both parties have ownership of the goals contained within the plan.
  • The plan can be used as a compass to help guide salespeople and keep them on the right track throughout the year.
  • A plan defines performance goals.

Goal Setting Meetings—Make Things Happen

Even though you and your team have a plan, you can’t just sit back and expect them to follow it. A good coach periodically checks in with his/her team by holding goal-setting meetings (GSMs). A GSM is a weekly (or monthly) one-on-one meeting between you and the salesperson—it’s a chance to review performance from the previous period and create and commit to a game plan for the upcoming period.
What’s important about GSMs, is that they keep the salesperson accountable for the goals they have set forth for themselves. They also:
  • Open up communication between coaches and sales people by providing both parties the opportunity to voice any concerns in a private setting.
  • Provide an opportunity to reexamine agreed-upon priorities and make sure that daily activities are in line with long-term objectives.
  • Provide a dedicated time for training activities. During a GSM, the coach should identify individual strengths and weaknesses so that these areas may be addressed.
  • Allows the coach some one-on-one time to motivate and inspire each salesperson individually.

Common Planning Pitfalls

Often plans are created at the beginning of the fiscal year and then not revisited until it is time to create the plan for the next year.  However, both coach and salesperson must keep in mind that the business plan is a process, not an event.  The plan must be “visible” and be the basis for regular dialogue between coach and salesperson.
Make sure you don’t set goals too high or too low. Objectives that are too high are unattainable. Goals that are too low will not allow the salesperson the opportunity to reach his/her full potential. The best solution is for the coach and salesperson to mutually agree upon a set of objectives. Goals should be based on past performance data or other statistics that can be measured.
Make sure that you document your plan. If an informal planning session is held with merely a few notes scribbled down on a piece of paper, it is impossible to follow up effectively and hold one accountable to the plan.  Remember: “If it’s not written down, it doesn’t exist.”