Have a Plan?

worst-of-2016

No matter how your 2016 went (or didn’t go) the question we all have to ask ourselves is, “What is my plan to make 2017 better than 2016?”

Maybe your 2016 was a matter of being out-performed by the competition.  Maybe 2016 could have been better if you had anticipated some critical changes to your industry or the market, and had been better prepared.

Maybe 2016 is a blur for you because you weren’t paying attention for one reason or the other.

Regardless of how you feel about your 2016 if you don’t have a plan for 2017 you are probably going to get more of the same.

We’re not talking about making New Years resolutions, we’re talking about figuring out what “success” is going to look like for you in 2017 and developing a strategy for realizing that success.

  1. Where do you want to be at the end of 2017?
  2. What do you want to have at the end of 2017?
  3. What do you have to do in 2017?
  4. What do you want to do in 2017?
  5. Who’s assistance is necessary for your success in 2017?
  6. Who do you need to get out of your way in 2017?
  7. What obstacles are in your way in 2017?
  8. What advantages do you have on your side in 2017?

Hope is not a strategy.  If we are going to get what we want, live the life that we want, have the relationships that we want in 2017 we are going to have to have a game plan.

Not only do we have a have a strategy, we have to have the skills necessary to execute that strategy, so part of our plan for 2017 needs to be ways that we intend to sharpen our skills and abilities.

Essentially, we have to figure out what it takes to get what we want and do those things every day.  We can’t take a day off from living into our purpose and executing our plan.

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BE A PRO

It is so cliche to try to compare sports to business, but in the case of sales there are a lot of parallels.

I am sitting here watching the Cubs play the Cardinals, and the Cubs are shredding the Cardinals pitching.  It is the top of the 2nd, and it is 7-0.  The Cubs are hitting all the way through the lineup, and that got me thinking about how baseball players, especially in the National League where the pitchers are in the lineup and get an at-bat, baseball players are professional hitters, just like a salesperson is a professional seller.

steps of a swingThis I know from my experience around the game of baseball; depending on the coaching philosophy a baseball players swing is 3, 4, 5, 6 and sometimes even 7 steps.  As a matter of fact, as players become more advanced in their abilities a lot of times coaches will take a player who had a 3-step swing and make it into a 4 or 5-step swing.  This makes it easier to isolate places in the swing that need work.

Do you think a baseball player ever skips one of the steps in their swing?  Of course not, they are professional hitters.  Why then do sales people skip steps in their sales process, if they are professional sellers?

How ever many steps there are in your particular sales process, make sure you stick to it and execute every one of them.

Performance Selling

I do a lot of “stand up” training for dealerships, and I was thinking about how communicating in front of a room (which most people are terrified of) has a lot of parallels to communicating to a single customer.

1.  Credibility is everything

If you don’t have credibility when dealing with a customer on the showroom floor, you might as well give them a card and turn them loose.  They aren’t going to buy from you, and if they do it will be because your manager has intervened with, “How cheap do I need to sell this vehicle to make this make sense?”  Likewise, my credibility in front of an audience has to be established early, or I end up speaking to the backs of everyone’s smart phone.  Lou Holtz says that customer’s have to answer 3 questions about a sales person before they will make a decision to do business with them.  Those 3 things are, Do you know what you are talking about?  Can I trust you? and Do you care about me?

Whether I am speaking to an audience of 1 or 1,000 for me to be successful, they each need to be able to answer “Yes” to those 3 questions.

Microphone-on-stage2.  You have to have good timing

The best stand-up comics are good at what they do because they have good timing.  They respond to their audience, and they space the jokes and the punchlines appropriately.

A successful sales person has good timing as well.  They respond to their audience, and they don’t try to force the “punchline” (the close) on the customer too early.

There are a lot of little closes in a sales transaction, before there is the big one.  There is closing that I am the right sales person to help the customer achieve what they are trying to achieve.  There is closing the needs-analysis conversation, then the product presentation and demonstration.  The timing of those closes has to be perfect, or at some point the customer becomes disconnected from the sales person, or the process.

I had a sales person who rarely ever had to negotiate.  When this person brought me a deal, it was a deal.  I asked him once how he was so successful closing on the first offer and he told me, “Some sales people close the customer on paper, I just don’t go to paper till the customers are closed”.  He timed his closing right so he didn’t have to negotiate; it wasn’t a matter of “if”, it was a matter of “when”, “how” and “how many times”.

3.  You have to close with impact

Simply put, if I get to the end of a performance or the end of the sales process, I need to have earned the right to ask for commitment.  This means that the previous 1, 2 or 3 hours had to have been spent building value in me, my message and my conviction.  For these things to be true, I need to have been in touch from the start with what my audience/customers expectations were, and I should have spent the balance of my time meeting those expectations.

Credibility, timing and impact are 3 things that effective communicators have a handle on, whether they are communicating with an audience in a stadium or a customer in a showroom.