The Art of Sales– Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail
By Frank Gallo
The hardest thing for most sales people is to plan their sales strategy. This is because it requires the individual to sit down without interruption, take themselves out of the field and frame out a plan that they will be held accountable to. Accountability puts even more pressure on us because there is always the specter of missing a goal and failing.
Additionally, the art of planning a sales strategy is not something you can look up in a cookbook and simply apply it to every industry. It requires knowledge, experience, flexibility and humility. To compound this even further, sales people are expected to be toughened individuals that have all the answers and never display any sign of weakness to management, their peers or the customer. So now what do we do?
Building Your Battle Plan
It can be argued that sales is a battle of competing individuals and companies fighting to gain customers that will buy their given products or services. It is up to the individual sales person to disarm the competition, establish his or her brand as the best value, and earn the needy customer’s business. Every battle requires a plan for success.
In the 6th century BC there was a great Chinese Military General named Sun Tzu. He was able to define 13 chapters or steps that he followed in order to succeed in battle.
His masterpiece, The 13 Chapters (aka the Art of War) has relevance in how we can plan a winning sales strategy. But for today’s purposes, let’s boil these down to seven chapters and put a sales spin on them. Assuming we have determined that today is a good day to fight and we have the resources to wage a winning campaign, Sun Tzu’s plan might look like this:
- Who will we target and is our intelligence reliable?
- What product or service will we sell them?
- Where are they located and can we properly service the account?
- Who are the right people to approach in the account and is there a relationship?
- When is a good time to approach them?
- Why will they want to meet you? Do you have a compelling story and business fit to share?
- How will you reach them?
Without first answering these 7 key questions, a sales person will definitely be challenged. Successful goal retirement will be difficult as well if you take a shotgun approach to targeting your accounts. Planning for battle is the first step in establishing yourself as a sales leader. The next step entails a “Strategic Sales Process”
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Frank Gallo is a Strategic Partner of Oak Hill Business Partners, specializing in targeted sales strategy and coaching to medium- and small-sized companies. He has more than 25 years of enterprise selling experience.