Chapter 11 Getting Down to Sales Technique and Planning – Innovative Selling

CHAPTER 11

Getting Down to Sales Technique and Planning

This chapter is comprehensive, with a great deal of detail relating to sales principles, such as whom to sell to, your opportunity CRM listings, closing fear, and the process of prospecting up to cold calling. Take it slowly with the information, and reread areas that may need further clarification.

What Are The Five Principles of Sales?

  1. Customers generally buy products and services that benefit them: The first thing you need to know is that consumers don’t buy from you because you’re a great salesperson. It behooves you to accept and receive this truth in your business. Some companies have a “greater than God” attitude to selling their products and accept that they are empowered with this principle they follow. I call this

    believing in your own destiny

  2. Value comes with a price tag! This principle is simple. The more your product or service benefits the consumer, the more you can raise the price. Some believe this philosophy, but in our competitive sales environment, companies that sell a “high-quality product” are brought back to reality when competitors have the same product and quality at a far cheaper price. We have seen this scenario play out with the introduction of Korean carmakers undermining the small Japanese car market at a very good price and long warranty cover.

    You see many companies follow this quality marketing principle, but in the long term they are confronted with global market reality. This principle is held fast to by companies that sell a premium product and promote this concept, as, for example, the more expensive European carmakers. However, an examination of their product range shows that of late, they have been introducing a less expensive product in order to compete with their competitors. Is this product domination or competition pushing them in that direction? Even the best car made now has an SUV! So the answer, as we see this is, to offer a dual range, one cheap and the other expensive, sold under the premium brand.

  3. Credibility is dependent on two factors—trust, expertise, and reliability. We develop this powerful, intangible quality of influence by cultivating the trust of our customers. This falls into two areas—personal credibility and company credibility. Your personal credibility is vital to your ongoing career and current sales situation. Without credibility (Me Brand), you lose the customer’s trust, and doubt enters the customer’s mind. Moving on from this negative situation, recovering from the distrust situation, is near impossible.
  4. The most valuable gift you have to offer is yourself, your Me Brand. As long as you’re trying to be someone else, or putting on some act or behavior someone else taught you, you have minimized your opportunity. The most valuable skill in sales is yourself. Being natural and not making out you are somebody else is one of your most powerful tools. Trying to change your own personality to engage customers will be picked up by customer perception. Hiding yourself, to be another person, is deceitful and will be found out.

Persistence in Life and Sales

The best advice I can give to all new sales starters and existing salespeople is that dogged persistence is the key to achieving sales results. What I mean by persistence is not giving up in any circumstances. The best example of this is that if you were to lose a sale to a competitor, start the next day fully fresh and push on regardless. However, if you continue to lose sales, you may also need to review training, selling skills or your product you are offering the marketplace. You will find the great sellers of our time are patient, persistent, and always positive—PPP.

Attitude

You go “all in,” with your head and your whole heart to provide the solution to a consumer’s problem. This attitude is the fertile soil, where the trust the consumer gives you is nurtured and grows. In addition, you will feel great that you have solved a problem for your customer.

We are talking about being yourself, not trying to pull off somebody else and acting natural in the presence of other people. Never believe that the customer or client can’t look into you and judge you. Do not underestimate the intelligence of our customers. In addition, your relationship with your company personnel and sales team is equally important.

BE YOURSELF!

So if you are about changing yourself, be yourself first!

Is My Company Helping Me or Not? True Story

Consider this situation. You have been working on a major sale worth US$500,000.

The sales cycle has been around 18 months, and you are at the quotation stage. Your customer has evaluated your offering and has given you excellent feedback on the product performance. Your company has been chosen over two other competitors to tender.

At the tender meeting, your key buyer has made it clear to submit “only one price” and indicated clearly that they will not be going through a negotiation stage for final selection.

You call a meeting with your sales manager and other management to discuss the tender offer and relay the customer’s instructions of one price only. As the account manager, you put forward your recommended price to be offered and submitted.

Your company prepares the tender and sends it off for customer consideration without your consideration. Two months later, you receive an e-mail saying you have been unsuccessful for the tender. You follow up the reasons for the loss and are told your price was far too high and indicate to them that the offer was a starting offer, ignoring their full instructions. You relay the news to your boss and are asked, “Why did you not listen to me in the first place?” This scenario happens very commonly and indicates the lack of value management places on their people in the field.

This is the worst scenario to be caught up in. You go out of your way to work up a great deal that takes 18 months, many hours of work, and are blown away by ignorant and ineffective management that either disrespects your recommendations or are incompetent.

Sadly, this happened to me, and the deal was worth AU$850,000. Management did in the end acknowledge my recommendations, but they didn’t listen!

Undertaking the Importance as a Salesperson

With all the responsibilities of the sales position, are we giving into management influence when you think you are right? The scenario says that I was neglectful in not being persistent in following up the final quotation going out. I recall I was very busy with many other installations going on at the same time and forgot the quote went out without my insistence on “one quote final only.” I do take on this responsibility, but I didn’t persist and push my management to do a first and final quote. Even at my age, you never stop learning.

Key Decision Makers in Sales

Who are these people, and which of them do I take seriously and whom do I ignore?

Key Decision Makers’ Rating Scale

The following list breaks down who makes decisions and who can override any final decision.

V: Veto person can veto any decisions put to them

H: High decision maker

M: Moderate decision maker

L: Low decision maker

I: Influential decision maker

N: Not influential in any decision

My attitude is that any person with a stake in the use, operation, and function of your offering is important to convince.

When we analyze the preceding list, we notice that it describes the influence some of our customers wield. N is the customer that has no influence on decisions, but tread carefully with this person. They may have no decision making but they talk; they give their opinions to others that are key decision makers, so do not dismiss this person in the chain of command.

M: Moderate and low influence are again used as influences in the final product purchase. Although they have a lower rating of influence, they are asked in the final evaluation for their own opinion, and, collectively, their vote adds up considerably.

H: High decision makers are to be taken seriously. They are often in a purchasing position and are linked closely to the final Veto decision person. This person, or group of persons, often sits on a committee that decides the final recommendation of purchase that is passed to the board for approval and/or veto. Their decision process can be very complicated, such as purchasing, say, 20 anesthetic machines worth $1.5 million, or as simple as an additional set of power tools for the workshop.

V for Veto: The ultimate decision maker, end of the line, and the most difficult to gain access to.

The Veto person generally holds a position such as CEO, CFO, Director, or Department Director. Others are, for example, the Director for ICU, who has a great deal of pull, and his decision, depending on how respected it is, says a lot for the final decision maker.

Helpful Hint

To dismiss the high decision maker is akin to committing sales suicide. To overlook an N, no influence person, is to be an idiot.1

At the end of the day, the Veto person could up and change his or her mind against all the recommendations. Is there another agenda going on here? Some say yes, some say no.

My personal experience says the Veto person is generally inaccessible to see and only listens to deals that give them and their company leverage. In a lot of cases, your management may play the game or not. From a global company perspective, your company may wish to “get into bed” with the ultimate buyer and reap the benefits; however, continued financial requests come thick and fast after the order goes in. The Veto person is generally an expert in financial manipulation in favor of their own business and will keep on exercising the business arrangement continually.

My message is this: Whether you are seeing the H, M, N, or V decision maker, see them all and tick off your notes into the project sheet and CRM; at least you will know more about who is the decider and who is not.

Suggestion

If you wish to influence the Veto decision maker over to your side, use your own managing director to meet up with the veto. This puts heads of companies in a much better leverage position and shows respect to the Veto person. Heads of private companies use every opportunity to do well for their organization. The deals that tend to go under the radar are doable only if your company ethics allow this kind of dealing.

Identifying funnel opportunities and how to prioritize.

What Is a Pipeline in Sales?

Every sales organization is limited in terms of how much effort and resources they can pour into closing each opportunity. Sales managers have only so many salespeople to work with, and salespeople have only so much time in a given day, week, month, or quarter.

It is therefore essential for managers to delineate an effective execution plan for tackling opportunities as part of their optimal sales pipeline management strategy; and a great part of this execution plan should focus on the prioritization of opportunities. The best sales managers rely on objective analysis to prioritize their sales pipeline opportunities and guide salespeople toward focusing on the most important or urgent sales to close.

We Call This Low-Hanging Fruit

The key to prioritizing sales pipeline opportunities is to find the right balance between level of engagement or effort and likelihood of closing, considering risk factors and the value of the opportunity and likely sales cycle time period. When we define the sale value, we are referring to the dollar amount up for closure and the value of the sales to product entrenchment and product brand expansion.2

Obviously, opportunities can’t close unless they are being actively worked on by the sales team. Engagement could entail any number of different activities such as calls, e-mails, voice mails, productive connections, and product trials. Opportunities that display a low level of effort on the part of sales reps and haven’t been engaged with in some time are less likely to close and should either be heavily focused on in a last-ditch effort to save the deal or purged from the pipeline as a dead opportunity altogether.

Purging an opportunity is completed from the funnel only if the opportunity is lost, not completed, or the customer has locked out the opportunity. Purging must be qualified face-to-face or confirmed by phone prior to deleting.

Suggestion

The assumption here is that the company is using a CRM software, and you are, like all others, using this tool as a major funnel and planning sales tool.

Opportunity Close Date and Forward Dating

Has this opportunity moved too frequently in recent times? Constantly shifting the close date forward could be an indication from the opportunity that they are not ready for your product now or that they are merely leading you along, with no serious intent to purchase. To justify this opportunity entry and to delete it, you must qualify the customer first in an honest discussion. Other date moves imply that the project has been delayed or that funding has been cut. In the end, you must find out the truth to decide the status of an opportunity. When I refer to truth, I mean your best hunch given the information you can collect.

The habit of forward dating or moving on an opportunity in CRM is being practiced all the time. What is of concern is the reason for forward posting the date of the opportunity and why.

Value

Is this opportunity worth significantly more (three times or greater) than your typical deal size? This should be a red flag. Typically, deals that are worth more tend to have smaller win rates and longer sales cycles, making deal size a critical component of your sales pipeline. These outliers should be carefully considered, not only when delegating opportunities (more experienced or successful salespeople should probably tackle these valuable opportunities) but also in forecasting sales. In addition, a large opportunity should be transferred to a project sheet form. Some companies say anything over US$250,000 should earn a project sheet automatically.

What Is a Sales Funnel?

Indifferent to a sales pipeline, the funnel represents the opportunities passing through the sales pipeline attaching close dates, description of product, service, and details appropriate to the opportunity. Sales funnel and pipelines service are a monitoring tool for management not only to assess sales potential but also to provide advance insurance for product need and build.

The following diagrams demonstrate two various sales funnels to understand. It is important to understand that all opportunities start at the top, outside of the funnel (the event horizon), and progress through verification to closure and order.

A Typical Sales Funnel

Figure 11.1 A typical sales funnel to use

Note: The author acknowledges the use of this diagram, Fits Small Businesses.

Above the Funnel (the Event Horizon)

At this level above the funnel are many of your opportunities that are not yet qualified or sorted, in a hover situation. Frankly, I rate this area as the most important since the future opportunities end up as future sales. Sorting them by importance is vital so they take a place in the funnel.

What Are the Seven Steps through the Sales Funnel?

The sales funnel can be applied to any small business from the funnel opening down to the close of the opportunity sale.

  1. First contact with customer: Engaging your first customer contact
  2. Qualification of opportunity: When an opportunity becomes real, qualification status
  3. Develop solution for customer: Offer solution to fit customer needs
  4. Presentation of solution: Full demo/presentation of solution
  5. Evaluation and quotation: Customer requests tender or quote
  6. Negotiation with customer: Customer talks price
  7. Closing the sale: The purchase order is received

Figure 11.2 Customer engagement

So when you’re thinking about the difference between a pipeline and a funnel, remember this: A pipeline report shows what a seller does during the sales process, and a funnel report shows the conversion steps through the sales process.3

Why Do Companies Place Such Importance on the Sales Funnel?

It comes down to an internal company process developed over many decades. When you consider the system used in the nineties for sales printouts and the enormousness of the paper put in front of you, the process now becomes much more meaningful and easier to understand. The other reason is that management can review, assess, and predict better sales forecasts generally 18 months out with reasonable accuracy. Finally, manufacturing can predict and forecast future materials and product needs.

For you as a salesperson, you have a ready-made system at your fingertips waiting to be updated and reviewed. This process is imperative to keep up to date.

Weekly/Monthly/Quarter and Yearly Sales Activity Reports

First, the weekly sales activity report will go to sales management generally by Monday morning for review. This report is independent of the CRM pages produced. Sales reports generally show the following information:

  • Sales for the week.
  • Sales against weekly budget in a unit plus percentage.
  • Product groups may be split up and produced in separate increase versus previous months.
  • Sales reports will include monthly, quarterly, and yearly sales to date results.
  • More detailed reports will show sales results against CRM funnel opportunities.

Be aware that some companies will not register your sale to your territory until delivery is enacted and signed off by the customer. This is ever important in the medical capital arena since some large installations entail a long complicated installing process.

The list can go on and become even more complicated with the slicing and dicing of results. All you need to know, as a sales person, is what monthly sales budget you need to achieve, how you can get this result through funnel opportunities that mature into close, and what sales are coming up for the next few months.

It does get a bit sensitive when you are perhaps only 60 percent of the sales plan by end of November and you only have one more month to close business, given that delivery may take 6 -8 weeks. If you follow the review process ahead of your current sales at hand, you should be driving the closing deals early before November and cleaning up in December, ready for the start of the new year, given that your company works on a calendar year.

Strategic Sales Project Sheets

Project sheets are great to use and can be a valuable part of analysis for the sales team to bring in other assistance. Project sheets demonstrate the scale of the project and the number of participants needed to execute the final order. Project sheets come in various styles and can be as simple as a one-sheet project form. The information of a project sheet should show

  • Size of project
  • Product offering or group of product/service offerings
  • Total dollar sales worth
  • Bring together sales team participation
  • Bring together sales management cooperation
  • Force accountability of all working parties
  • Coordinate dates of task completion
  • Ensure a winning offer
  • Anticipated close of the project details in dates
  • Customer details
  • Company people involved
  • Key players

I have used many project sheets from the ad hoc to global prepared software strategic analysis sheets linked into CRM. Believe me, they all work as long as the parties involved are contributing to their designated tasks and delivering the results on time.

Some of the Details Needed for a Comprehensive “Project Sheet”

Strategic project sheets provide visibility into sales opportunities, documenting plans with the program’s project sheet. This involves identifying all key players in the customer’s organization, understanding each player’s degree of influence and their reasons for buying, and uncovering essential information. Salespeople and organizations will be equipped to evaluate their competitive position, address the business and personal motives of each decision maker in the client organization, and differentiate their company by leveraging its unique strengths.

Strategic selling significantly improves the odds of winning complex sales opportunities. It gives organizations a common process and language for pursuing sales opportunities and criteria for allocating resources to determine when to walk away from resource-intensive deals with low probabilities of success. Date, closing date, objective, overall components of the plan, direction of flow, deliverables, and who, how, and when are just some of the details you need to record on the project sheet.

What is interesting is that when tasks for the forward progress of the project and allocation of tasks have been agreed upon, it is very interesting at the next project sheet meeting to uncover who has not completed his or her allocated task. Ever more so when your sales manager has not completed his or her task! This process forces accountability and also exposes the one who has not seen the KDMs, key decision makers, of your project. Finally, it is important that you, the owner of the project, contribute equally and drive the project to its conclusion. You must take responsibility and full control here, so be strong and determined to complete your project. As the project sheet leader, you are ultimately in charge.4

Customer Buying Cycle

How important is it to understand the customer buying cycle, and can we be confident the cycle is relevant today? My personal opinion is that buying cycles differ according to what type of industry you are selling in. The variations come in retail sales, vehicle sales, housing sales, food and wine sales, luxury goods, and so on. These buying cycles are not only variable but seasonal too. When an economy goes into decline, we see a drop of retail, and luxury items go on the back burner. In the medical business sector, I have seen seasonal buying play a role and fiscal influence determining ordering pattern change. Ordering in January is generally slow for obvious reasons, and June is the same, but when governments release funding for hospitals in July to September, we see peaks in orders.

Buying cycles are also interrupted by specific customer need. One-off or, for example, a generator going down and the hospital needing a replacement urgently changes the routine of the cycle.

The Customer Buying Cycle in General

Figure 11.3 The customer buying cycle process

As a very simplistic description of a customer buying cycle, the diagram shows the process as the customer progresses through the four buying stages. In retail buying, the process happens fast, but in, say, capital sales, the process could take up to 2 years from start to order. The four steps (free trial or evaluation) could be the longest process. Evaluation trials could take up to 12 months to complete.

Customer and Your Behavior during the Sales Call

As you begin your selling career, it is important to ask yourself the following questions so you can do a quick assessment on how you perceive customers.

  1. Do you see the company’s side first and neglect the customers?
  2. Do you think the customer is always wrong or right?
  3. Are you too close to your customer so your judgement is clouded?
  4. Do you see the customer’s vision?
  5. Are you willing to go the extra mile for your customer?
  6. Are you able to see your customer’s needs?
  7. Are you able to deal with your customer’s problems and issues?
  8. When quoting, do you give too much discount to favorite customers?
  9. Are you uncomfortable to ask for the order (closure phobia)?
  10. Are you able to conduct a post sales call critique?
  11. Do you understand the seven critical steps of the sale?
  12. Do you treat the customer as a real person?

It is very important to answer these questions honestly. If, for instance, you answer questions 4, 5, 9, and 10 negatively, then there is a need to get with your mentor and discuss the results of this questionnaire.

If you are suffering from several phobias that restrict you from functioning as a professional sales person, then seek help in the field. Having a phobia or fear of closing or asking for the order is common, but, unfortunately, this is a key function of selling; get help please.

Put Yourself in the Customer’s Position, and Consider How They See You

The questions below dig a little deeper to uncover how the customer views you and the things you do to earn customer respect.

  • Are you a good listener and show this skill?
  • Do you avoid wasting time?
  • Are you prepared with valid selling tools?
  • How do you show respect to your customer?
  • How do you show you are attentive to your customer?
  • Do you promise and not follow through?
  • Do you undermine your competitors?
  • Do you use third-party references without checking first?
  • Do you look at your presentation, including your dress code?

Remember that the name of the game is for you to return to your customer many times in the future. The evidence shows that revisiting your customer on a regular basis is an excellent way to develop a lasting sales relationship that leads to sales.

Closing Order Phobia

Phobias are irrational anxieties. Salespeople can be overly fearful of closing a sale. Closing phobia is surprisingly common. Watching salespeople try to close a sale and ask for the order when the person suffers from a phobia is devastating for the coach and the person concerned. Fortunately, there are effective ways to overcome this devastating problem. Firstly, let’s look at the closing phobia and why it happens.

Symptoms of Sales Closing Phobia Are

The main symptoms are, anxiety, sweaty hands, willing to cancel the sales call, increased heart rate and a complete feeling of fear.

Consequences If This Were to Happen?

Consider what it would mean if you never made a sale again. Some terrible scenarios might include getting a job that doesn’t involve sales at all, hiring a salesperson for your business, or getting outside help to improve your sales technique. When you follow through on your fears and imagine the worst-case consequences, you’ll see that they’re not nearly as catastrophic as you imagine.

One of the most common challenges facing people trying to make a sale is the fear of rejection and the consistent fear and uncertainty of knowing when to ask for the order. The following are some of the signs that show that the potential for rejection is crippling you:

Your Focus Is on the Possible Rejection

You have one major question at the back of your mind: “What if they say no or I will think about it a little?” You’re not thinking about more critical concerns, such as “Is the client a good match for your target market? What can I help them with?”

Every Rejection Feels Like a Sign of Failure

You usually feel like rejections are a sign that you’re not good at your business or that your product or service isn’t good enough. You also feel this way even when customers are merely unresponsive or defer their buying decisions.

You Take Days to Recover from Rejection

Whenever a lead doesn’t want to take your offer, it’s at the back of your mind for more than a day. It’s possible you even replay the interaction to see what you could have said or done to close the sale. You might even feel some bitterness toward the person or sales in general.5

These are just a few of the symptoms many of us have in regard to asking for the order. The opposite is the salesperson that never stops asking for the order. This person seems to be far removed from the conversation going on during the sale but thinks, “I’d better ask for the order anyway. I myself suffered for a few years from closing phobia.”

How Do I Get Past the Fear of Rejection?

Think about the type of person you’d be if you didn’t have this fear. Include everything from what you’ll be feeling internally, how you’ll carry yourself, and what you’ll do to prepare for the sales task. Note also how your body responds to the idea of sales. For example, if you get sweaty and feel butterflies in your stomach when trying to make a sale, think about how you’ll react instead if you weren’t afraid. While this won’t eliminate your fear responses, you’ll at least have an idea of what your next action should be and how you should carry yourself despite your fear.

How to Overcome Fear in Closing the Sale

When the fear is too much, list some small wins you can accomplish more easily. These small wins don’t have to be sales tasks, but they should be relevant to customer acquisition or lead nurturing. Going for easer or low-hanging fruit bolsters your closing confidence and gives you the enthusiasm to push up for more difficult closing situations.

Recognizing Closing Fear and General Anxiety

The fear generally follows the same symptoms of severe to moderate anxiety. You will feel the following.

  • Excessive worrying about all things
  • Agitation
  • Being very restless
  • Suffering from fatigue
  • Avoidance of exercise
  • Lack of concentration
  • Being irritable
  • Muscular tenseness of chest and shoulder area
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Having panic attacks
  • Avoidance of being with people
  • Irritability

Many of the items on the preceding list fall into classic anxiety, playing out into closing phobia and the fear of rejection.

Helpful Hints to Reduce the Fear and Anxiety in Selling and Closing

  • Upload some new content into your business’ social media pages. Anything short will do, as long as it fits the voice of your brand, such as links to an article, a link to a specific product page on your site, an inspirational quote, or a fun GIF (graphics interchange format).
  • Optimize your social media pages, if you haven’t done it yet.
  • Respond to messages from potential customers who are asking for more information about your products or service. Give them the information they need (no need to overtly sell), then follow up with a face-to-face sales call.
  • Read a chapter of a book related to entrepreneurship, sales, marketing, or your industry.
  • Find ways to improve the product pages of one or two products or services on your site. Use one or more of these psychological triggers for inspiration.
  • Prior to the sales call, think of positive results and past wins.
  • Practice breathing prior to and during the sales call.
  • Get excited about a new sales possibility.

Most importantly, before asking for the order, put yourself onto another mental plane. Mentally detach yourself from the current reality and see the meeting from above. Ask for the order and step back; do not continue to talk and wait for the reply. If it is rejected, then be prepared to fight on another day. By putting yourself into another space, you will feel protected and will not take it seriously. Remember the best sellers loose some sales too.

Don’t take rejection to heart: You are in business, and there will always be sales you can’t achieve. So, accept that you will win some and lose some. Stop stressing over this, and get on with the business of sales. Additional things to do:

Set a regular time every day for 30 minutes to exercise.

See a doctor to discuss the problem and some treatment if needed.

Mentor, discuss the problem, and work out a feasible action plan. If the problem continues and seems impossible to overcome,

Stop–Assess–Plan–Review–Accept Help–Try to Overcome–Practice6,7

I too suffered from rejection, and I firmly believe every new sales person shares the same fear. Practicing the above strategy over a period will build your confidence, so asking for the order will not work unless you are more than, say, 80 percent sure you will get it. If you are unsure of getting a yes, then keep probing for objections and positive answers. You will overcome this with positive thoughts and persistence. Believe me, it works!

If Your Customer Says No

When you ask for the order and the customer say’s no, there is a very good reason for this answer. There is no harm in asking why. You have not lost anything so ask why and then you know where you stand and what the next move should be. Just so I am clear why you wish to not go ahead with the order, may I ask why please” you should get an honest response.

Being Too Pushy

To be pushy in sales is being arrogant and disrespectful to the customer. Being pushy in business is sometimes considered as driving to be successful too quickly. Being pushy is also associated with not giving anybody around you recognition that their feelings and ideas count at all. Finally, the individual needs to recognize the need to stop being pushy and to seek intensive coaching. In the end, it is an inherent or deliberate persona an individual portrays as a method of getting what he or she wants.

To overcome the fear of being pushy requires you to dig deep. Sometimes, we think of sales as something manipulative or sleazy because we often think it’s coming from a place of dishonesty. While there are certainly unscrupulous people trying to make a quick buck, the fact that this makes you feel bad means that you aren’t likely to be one of those people. The pushy salesperson will have some success as some customers will cave in to the pressure.

Taking Ownership

There are two types of salespeople, those who do not take ownership and those that do. Have a look at the following list and see which sentence applies to your ownership style.

  • You know your personal limitations.
  • You have a clear single sales objective prior to the sales call.
  • You treat your territory as your own business.
  • You show leadership in your patch.
  • You learn from your mistakes.
  • You build trust with all sales and business members.
  • You are a good team member.
  • You think outside the square.
  • You thank people who assist you.

The preceding list touches on the more personal items we need to check prior to selling. The more you take ownership, the more respect you receive and the more people are willing to help you. Taking ownership of your territory shows your manager you own everything going on within. This, in turn, provides your manager with a degree of confidence that you are managing your business well and competently. There is no course you can take to learn ownership. It comes from within and shows pride and keenness on being the manager of your patch.

Ultimately, taking ownership is showing a high degree of pride and responsibility for your sales area.

Territory Planning, Guide, Techniques, and Suggestions

Of all the territory functions one has to perform, territory planning seems to be the most difficult to carry out. Acknowledging that territory planning requires an organized mind, there is a specific system you can learn to become effective. In my career, I have not met a coach or trainer that had a logical and specific method of teaching territory planning. This is a big statement, but most, if not all, salespeople I have taught need and want to know how to plan the territory effectively. It almost falls into the area of mystique, and salespeople need to master the holy grail of planning.

My method is proven, simple, and easy to follow.

What You Need to Do First

You must commit to being an organized person and always have a medium- to long-term goal. Develop a strategy for each day and week, jot this down, and post it on a wall. Utilize your CRM opportunities, and prioritize the low-hanging fruit. Set aside time every week to review opportunities and appoint new business, and review where your customers are and delineate metro from country accounts.

For larger accounts, plan visits together with multiple accounts to save time; also learn how to use CRM and Outlook well, and use a reminder “to do” folder within. Finally, utilize Sunday nights to start with, so the week starts clear of planning needs. With larger opportunities or projects, set up a project sheet meeting to call in company personnel to work with.

Territory Planning Starts with Paper and Pencil and a Willingness to Prospect for Sales

This is a go-to list for planning. If you are missing some of the suggestions, try to include them in your week. Remember that encouraging others to help you is great, but understand that they too have a job. For the nuts and bolts of how to get territory planning activated, read on further.

Prospecting for New Business—Time Involved

Prospecting should be around one-third of your week’s activity. Calling and servicing your current client base is imperative, and new business comes from this activity. If you go weeks without any prospecting activity, it will set you back months and create a huge gap in the future sales and opportunity pipeline. Actively prospecting new customers and opportunities secures a healthy funnel and removes the opportunity gaps. When the gap in opportunities comes around, you wake up one morning with “no” work on.

Remember, many sales managers and coaches do not know how to teach territory planning effectively. This statement was clearly reported in the research.

A healthy funnel would be going out farther than 18 months and should include short-term opportunities closing in 2 weeks, opportunities in the medium and long term.8

How Do I Start a Prospecting Planning Method?

This method assumes you have just started in a new sales position, job, or territory.

  • Plan allocated time each week for active prospecting appointing. The following weeks’ activities should be full, with provision made for emergencies.
  • In most cases (depending on distances), plan for a minimum of five appointments per day.
  • Classify your customers into A, B, C according to past sales records.
  • A customer is your best buyer, B customer is a lower but important buyer and C customer is and opportunity buyer or customer that has not purchases whatsoever.
  • Plot on a map your territory and where your customers exist if you are unsure.
  • Review distances between customers for background knowledge.
  • Carry out a diary cleanup, providing ample time for driving and review between sales calls. Always leave ample time to arrive and review your sales strategies prior to your customer meeting.
  • Review and appoint metro versus country sales trips with a balance of 25 percent for country visits and 75 percent of sales calls in metropolitan areas. Please note that visits to the country should be booked on a regular basis and not a six-monthly turn up because you had a gap in your diary; regular attention to country customers pays dividends.
  • Prospecting activities should take you out 2 months ahead. This is because appointments made more than 3 months ahead always change or are canceled.
  • Reconfirm long appointments just prior to the sales calls.
  • Review your task notes to include in this planning system.
  • When in the country, plan driving times from account to account.
  • It is important to see all customers in your territory so as to assess potential sales and any past problems unresolved.
  • Appoint the first 2 weeks and then progress with the weekly method thereafter.
  • For the first 2 months, appoint “all customers,” not half for the start.

Your manager may say leave the C- and some B-class customers for later. What your sales manager is saying is “I want sales now.”

To begin to prospect gathering, keep an objective mind. If the prospect is given to you by a third party, first qualify validity, business existence, and local knowledge; in other words, ask around. You may without qualification make an appointment and continue with the sales call, wasting valuable time and resources. Always be shrewd about every prospect given to you by another party. Qualify first!

Appointing Techniques for Beginners

Appointing over the phone when you do not know the customer is daunting. The customer will take into consideration your company name and reputation, how you approach them over the phone, and when you are able to visit or when the customer is available. Also, the tone of your voice is vital. Being overly respectful or gushy is not cool these days; be natural.

These are some examples of appointing approaches: at all costs, avoid being cheesy.

“Hi Susan, my name is …...... I represent …………, and I would appreciate some of your valuable time to introduce myself and find out a little more about your department needs please.”

“Hi Susan, my name is ……………., I represent …………………., and would love to catch up with you next week regarding your transport truck fleet used in Dallas and what current challenges you have.”

“Hi Susan, my name is…………………., I represent ……………., I would appreciate some time with you next week to talk about your department’s patient monitoring needs and, if time permits, to introduce our new monitoring systems.”

“Hi Susan, my name is ……………, and I represent …………………., a colleague or yours; Dale Smith recommended I give you a call to touch base regarding your new office renovations project for next year.”

“Hi Susan, my name is…………., and I represent …………………, I have replaced {last rep name}, and I would appreciate visiting you to establish contact with your department, please?”

There are no assumptions built in. Be respectful and introduce yourself first. Take a big breath before calling, and have an objective. Try not to be specific unless asked first, and be flexible around the customer’s time schedule. These techniques always work because you are courteous and respectful.

Why Is It So Difficult to Secure a Second Appointment?

If your meeting goes very well, you tend to forget to ask if you can visit again when you are in town next.

This is one of the key failings of salespeople, and you are then required to call back and obtain the customer’s authority to meet up soon. I am not referring to “cold calling.” I am not against cold calling but only in very select situations. The technique is simple, and there is no follow-up required. Just as you leave, ask, “by the way, may I visit you again when I am in town next, please?” Your customer will, in most cases, agree. Next time you call or e-mail for an appointment, they will recall their previous commitment.

Unless the customer is expecting some further information from you, he or she is not expecting to see you on a regular basis. It is up to you to initiate this permission. Alternatively, if there is no opportunity foreseen, just ask, “Could I keep in touch with you from time to time or send you new product updates?”

Always ask for the customer’s business card, and seek permission to keep in touch through e-mail. We call this a “foot in the door.” There is nothing wrong with this technique, and if you don’t do this, your competitor will.

Follow-Up Second Sales Call, What to Do and Include

I have been challenged many times. If a customer asks for a quote, I send it by e-mail, and then I drop a copy plus brochure in personally. I am criticized for what is seen as over servicing. Absolutely not! It keeps your face in your customer’s face and demonstrates you are active in your territory. The second call may give you the opportunity to answer any customer questions they may have. It is smart selling. Don’t listen to the doubters, deliver the quote in writing as a cold call and you will see the magic of what happens.

Always include a quote promised to the customer in a hard copy folder.

After following any customer needs, progress to a product demonstration. Make sure you have plenty to talk about, and listen carefully to customer needs to react in the right way. Utilize CRM notes to follow up on what strategy is next.

Pros and Cons of Cold Calls

Cold calling used to be one of the best—and only—prospecting strategies salespeople could use. But in the past 40 years, a range of more effective alternatives have emerged.

  • Consistent: It reliably generates new leads, according to the older establishment of sales professionals, but find a customer who has plenty of time to receive cold calls these days! In fact, it’s fair to say that anyone interrupting your day with an uninvited 3-minute patter is going to have to do some seriously fast and impressive talking to keep you on the line. Let’s face it, the odds aren’t on the salesperson’s side, so why bother cold calling at all.
  • Chances are that the caller has already had to get creative about how they got through to your office in the first place, and the sales call itself has probably begun with you being mildly irritated at best.
  • This practice is based on opportunistic behavior and a lack of real planning. Other sales trainers call this “see more numbers of customers to gain more sales.”

Yes, seeing more numbers is the name of the game, but what about quality sales calls?9

There is an upside to playing the numbers of additional sales calls, but when you analyze the actual hit rate and the numbers of orders that come from cold calling, you will find it sadly low. Customers see this as a lack of respect and an avoidance of making a proper appointment. The likelihood of getting to see a customer is slim unless you know his or her work movements well.10

The only time cold calls should be utilized is when you are working near a customer; try it, but don’t make a habit of this practice; you must be sensitive to this practice.

Territory Planning in Summary

Haplessly trolling your territory is inefficient; avoids targeting the low-hanging fruit; and says you are not interested in short-, medium-, and long-term sales. It is primarily an unscrupulous way to operate. Territory planning takes discipline and commitment to put down a plan that reflects regional and metro appointments matched to your sales funnel.

I was asked numerous times how to do territory planning as a coach. I came up with a process (covered in this chapter) that produced excellent sales results, with a healthy funnel that panned out at least 18 months.

You may disagree with my technique, and your sales manager may also claim to have a better method. What management wants you to do is make customer appointments on the run and not take time off for appointing. I understand that from a manager’s perspective, but planning appointments with your funnel in mind takes concentration and thought, and this is not completed effectively on an ad hoc basis.

Your manager essentially does not want to hear about how much time you spent in the car or home office appointing opportunities; he only wants to see “sales.” So, you take the choice to inform or not to inform. When he/she calls you and you say you are at home appointing, immediately they will think negative thoughts. Don’t let this bother you. Do your job and get on with appointing business; end of story. The business in the end is judged by continuous sales and appointing is just the process we do.

 

1 Identifying the five Key Decision Makers in the Sales Process/October 2018 by Zachary Cohen. A good author on this subject, he emphasizes the key decision makers as being critical to the sales process.

2 Pipeline research by Wendy Connick October 2017/Much has been posted on pipeline advancement and is a good reference to follow up on.

3 What is a Sales Funnel, Examples and How to Create One (Guide) Home Analytics Last Updated on January 15, 2019?

4 Blue Sheets – Not Just for the “Sales” Department/12/02/17—This paper is an honest assessment of project sheets and their place in sales.

5 How to Overcome Fear of Selling, May 30 2012 by Susan Martin/Martin explains the sheer fear for some that suffer from such a phobia and how to deal with it effectively. Four Things Mentally Strong Salespeople Do That Average Reps Don’t.

6 Nine ways to overcome fear of rejection in sales/I fully recommend this article.

7 Australian Research.

8 Prospecting the future. A reference that shows other ways of prospecting and reinforces the importance of this sales function.

9 200+ Sales Statistics You Must Know [Real data for 2019 & beyond and ideal analysis of sales statistics]

10 The Harvard Business Review reported cold calling is ineffective 90 percent of the time, and more recent research shows that less than 2 percent of cold calls actually result in a meeting. Assuming a 0.3% appointment-booking rate and a 20 percent win rate, it would take 6,264 cold calls to make just four sales.