Friday, March 9, 2012

Planning Skills for the Industrial Distributor

Often how we see ourselves and reality
are two different things.
I place planning at the top of my list for the effective salesperson.  No matter how talented you may be – it’s impossible to reach your peak performance level.  This is especially true in the new world of team selling.  Distributor Specialists, applications support people, customer service representatives and supply partner sales teams must be coordinated.  Whether you think of the salesperson as the “leader of the pack”, “conductor of the orchestra”, or just a person trying to maximize their sales revenue, strong planning is more critical than ever.  But for some reason, it often falls through the cracks of skills measurement.  

I have been on joint sales calls where the salesperson had not planned.  He had no demo, no literature, and no real purpose for the call.  When I asked what we were going to talk to the customer about, he rifled through his trunk to find a bruised and bent piece of product literature.   Another time, I arrived at a distributor location for a day of calls.  I arrived early.  And as I sat in the conference room returning a few of my own calls, I could hear the sales person frantically calling some of his accounts.  My surprise was he was trying to find an audience for the morning’s calls.  Our appointment had been set weeks ahead.  He had over a month to plan out the day – yet nothing had been scheduled.  He had planned to schedule. 

A few of you are thinking; I set appointments, I bring demos and I generally follow up with my accounts on known problems and open projects.  I have a plan.  Let me push the envelope just a bit further.

Think about your best account – the one you most likely call on or touch on a regular basis.  What is the plan for your next call?  If you are a planner, you most likely have that nailed.  Now project yourself into the future.  What is your plan for the coming six months?  What steps will allow you to gage your success?  The best sales people have a plan that extends into next year (even when the calendar isn’t tilted toward December 15th).

As I indicated earlier, just like the judges at the Olympic Diving Contest, I score on a scale of 1-to-10.  Here is a template to score your own skills.  Give yourself a number closest to the point described below.

The scale:

1 – You plan is dropping by a few accounts tomorrow to see who is available.

3 – Someone is expecting you tomorrow morning and you are thinking about what to talk about.

5 – Multiple appointments set for the rest of the week

7 – Your calendar is filled with appointments for you as well as appointments you have set for others on your team (Specialists, Management, important suppliers).

10 – You have a multi-step strategy with time milestones set for all of your key accounts and products.

We would love to hear how you score yourself.  Drop us an email and we will share a couple more thoughts on planning with you.

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