Looking Back To Plan Ahead: 4 Steps To Success Next Year

By Colleen Francis

Regardless of when your fiscal year ends, January is a great time to start thinking seriously about your business goals, and your sales plan for the year. Of course, it's always a great idea to plan ahead. But don't make the mistake of setting new goals for your career without first reflecting on your accomplishments - and your shortcomings - from the last year.

This isn't always an easy (or pleasant) task. But to truly control the direction you take this year, you need to be fully aware of how you fared in the last twelve months - and where you can really work to improve. Once you have a clear picture of where you excelled, where you need to focus more time or effort, and your overall results, you can begin to set the goals and behaviors you'll need to succeed in the New Year.

Now for the hard part. The sad but true fact is that, in the overwhelming majority of cases, most sales people fail to achieve their goals. Why? Because they lack a detailed plan that tells them how to achieve those goals, in the time they want to achieve them.

Setting goals without creating a plan to achieve them is like deciding to hike up Mount Everest without a day of training, a route map or guide, or any equipment besides your running shoes and a bottle of Gatoraide.

Would you want to attempt this? Of course not (I hope!). Yet very few sales people understand what we need to do on a daily or weekly basis to achieve our goals. Just as most of us recognize that buying a lottery ticket is not a viable retirement plan, we also need to realize that simply setting a goal and then wishing or praying to hit it is not an effective planning strategy.

So where do you begin on your trek up the mountain? The following is a simple, 4-step planning tool you can use to build your career, by building a clearer path towards achieving your goals each month, quarter or year.

Step 1: Define your objective, and make this definition quantifiable.
What, specifically, are your sales and production goals? Decide what your specific goals for the year are, and then state them in a direct, concise - and measurable - way, that makes it clear what you want to achieve, and when.

For example, if your focus is on revenues, then you might define your goal as: "I want to close $1,000,000 in new business and $1,000,000 in existing client repeat business this year." If your goal is to increase customer numbers, then you might state something like: "I want to make 10 new customers this year, and sell to 20 existing customers."

Other goals we have seen include:

  • I want to increase the annual dollarized value of each of my clients to an average of $20,000; or
  • I want to increase my amount of repeat business by 80%.

Step 2: Plan to succeed.
Once you have a clear, quantifiable statement of your goals for the year, break them down into more manageable quarterly, monthly, weekly and daily objectives.

For example, if your goal is to land $1,000,000 in new business, and your average sales size is $50,000, then you need to make 20 new sales to achieve that goal. Based on average sales statistics (and if you've measured your own statistics, please use those instead), the average sales person closes 1 in 3 qualified leads. Therefore, to make 20 new sales this year, you would theoretically need to have 60 qualified prospects.

Now, the average sales person needs to meet 3 prospects in order to qualify 1, and must usually make about 20 attempts (phone calls, voice mail, email, etc) to get one meeting. So in the above example, to realize your goal of $1,000,000 in new sales, you would need to make 3600 attempts and meet 180 prospects over the next twelve months.

If this sounds like a frightening number, remember that 3600 attempts over the course of a year really only translates into:

  • 300 attempts a month;
  • 75 attempts per week; or
  • Just 15 attempts per day.
    Now that's what I call an easy plan to follow!

Step 3: Execute your plan.
Now that you have your plan, you're ready to execute it.

To give you a baseline on the amount of time it takes to make those daily calls, I make 25 attempts per day, which takes me 2-3 hours to complete. As Zig Ziglar says: "Daily objectives are the best indicators of character." So to help you complete your daily sales goals, try some of the following tips and techniques:

  • Get to work! In sales as in life, half the battle is just showing up!
  • Call at all times of the day. Sometimes even Friday afternoons can be the best time to make sales calls.
  • Mix up the types of contacts. Make some on the phone, some face to face, some at Networking events and some by email. This will help you hedge your bets and keep things interesting.
  • Track your attempts, meetings and close ratios consistently, and measure your results. Then adjust your plan based on your real metrics. You may find that you're above or below the averages I've used above, but if you don't measure to find out, you'll never know.
  • Stay focused. The top 10% of sales performers have one thing in common: they are consistently focused on what needs to get done to achieve their goals. Mark the time you're going to spend attempting to reach customers in your calendar each day or week, and close your office door until you've completed the task. While you're at it, turn off your email and don't take any in-coming calls. If you work in a cubical, find a closed office in which to do your prospecting. In other words, force yourself to stay focused and avoid distractions. The fewer distractions you have, the faster the work will get done.
  • Prospect consistently. Whether you choose to make all your weekly calls in one day or do a small amount each day doesn't matter. What matters is that you are consistent. Think of yourself as an elite professional. Tiger Woods would tell you that it's the consistency of his practice time - the 100's of balls he hits and thousands of putts he makes every day - that leads to ultimate success.
  • Keep records and make lists. Successful sales people record their progress toward each goal every day, and then list the 5 most important things they need to do the next day to move that goal even further ahead. This short "To Do" list is 100% focused on achieving their goals, because the most successful sales people also understand that daily discipline is the key to reaching their goals.

Step 4: Reinforce your goals to stay motivated.
Finally, remember that tasks that get rewarded are tasks that get done. So find a way to reward yourself after finishing your calls each day.

My personal reward for completing my daily prospecting calls is a trip to my local Starbucks for my favorite "venti triple shot non fat extra hot no foam mocha!" (Hey, nobody said I was low maintenance!). No calls, no coffee - it's that simple.

Guess what gets done first thing each morning?

Help out a fellow sales professional
Staying motivated to consistently do the work needed to achieve your goals is probably the single hardest part of sales. It's not surprising then that one of the questions I'm most often asked by my clients is, how do I stay motivated?

I would love to be able to tell you precisely how to motivate yourself, but the fact is, different things work for different people. What's important is finding what works for you, and then sticking to it until you accomplish the tasks you've set for yourself.

In the interests of sharing some insights into success, I'd like to invite all of you to send me your ideas for how you stay motivated, and how you reward yourself for hitting your goals, making calls or closing deals. Send them to me at contact us, and each idea we publish in Engaging Ideas will get a free CD!

In the meantime, the best advice I can offer is to write your goals down, update them constantly based on your real results, and make them public, including displaying them close by. Studies show that people who share their goals with others are 70% more likely to achieve them. So share your goals with the people you respect the most, and you'll work harder to ensure that you don't disappoint them.

The difference between top sales performers and the rest of the field is that top performers have a plan to achieve their goals, and they act on that plan every day. This year, commit yourself to being a top performer. Design a daily and/or weekly plan, act on it consistently - and monitor your results.

It's been said that most people aim at nothing, and hit it with surprising accuracy. We all have a goal in mind. Whether you hit it or not will depend on your ability to define and focus on the tasks that will consistently lead you to your goal, time and time again.

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Nonstop Sales Boom by Colleen Francis Make sure you check out Colleen's latest book, Nonstop Sales Boom for powerful strategies to drive consistent sales growth quarter after quarter, year after year.

Colleen Francis, Sales Expert, is Founder and President of Engage Selling Solutions (www.EngageSelling.com). Armed with skills developed from years of experience, Colleen helps clients realize immediate results, achieve lasting success and permanently raise their bottom line.

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