Over the decades that I’ve been involved in sales, I’ve worked with tens of thousands of salespeople. Certain negative tendencies — mistakes that salespeople make — keep surfacing. Over the next few weeks, I’ll share my top five. Here’s number two, not necessarily in order of priority. See to what degree you (or your sales force) may be guilty of it.
Mistake Number Two: Lack of Planning
The typical field salesperson has, as a necessary and integral part of his/her personality, an inclination toward action. We like to be busy: driving here and there, talking on our cell phones, putting deals together, solving customers’ problems — all in a continuous flurry of activity. Boy, can we get stuff done!
And this high energy inclination to action is a powerful personality strength, energizing the salesperson who wants to achieve success.
But, like every powerful personality trait, this one has a dark side. Our inclination to act often overwhelms our wiser approach to think before we act.
In our hunger for action, we neglect to take a few moments to think about that action. Is this the most effective place to go? Have I thoroughly prepared for this sales call? Do I know what I want to achieve in this call? Is this the person I should be seeing, or is there someone else who is more appropriate? Is it really wise to drive 30 miles to see this account, and then backtrack 45 miles to see another?
Customers these days are demanding salespeople who are thoroughly prepared, who have well-thought-out agendas, and who have done their research before the sales call. All of this works to the detriment of the “ready-shoot-aim” type of salesperson.
On the other hand, those who discipline themselves to a regular routine of dedicated time devoted to planning and preparing will find themselves far more effective than their action-oriented colleagues.
Overcoming The Tendency of Not Planning
Unfortunately, it almost always takes hard work and discipline to overcome a bad habit that is easy for us to create. That is true of this tendency. The habit of thoughtless action is easy to create because our basic personalities so easily gravitate toward action.
To change it, we need to use discipline to create the habit of thoughtful planning. I’d suggest that you build dedicated planning time into your schedule. During this time, you plan and prepare (in other words, you think about it before you do it). Here’s the schedule of thinking time that I recommend:
- An annual planning retreat of one to three days.
- A monthly planning time in which you create a specific plan for that month.
- A weekly time to plan and prepare for the coming week.
- A daily planning time at the end of every day to prepare for the next.
- A two-minute thought-time before every sales call to focus and ground yourself in the objectives and strategies for that call.
All of this sounds like a lot, and it is. My rule for years has been to spend 20% of my time planning and preparing (thinking about) the other 80% of my time. The discipline of thinking about it before you do it will make you much more effective in the 80% that is dedicated to actually doing it.