Glenn is a salesperson who drives sales managers and upper management crazy. For months at a time, he can close just about every sale without so much as breaking a sweat. Right up there at the top of the chart, far outdistancing anyone else in dollar amount closed. Then, for just as long a period, it is as if he has totally lost his ability. Months go by with his name on the very bottom of the chart.
“What goes wrong?” asks everyone.
When Glenn’s hot, he’s on the phone getting the appointments. One right after another. Doesn’t waste any time getting through the screen right to the person in charge. In person, he digs right in with the prospect, finds out what the needs are and sets up the prospect to come to only one conclusion, buy from Glenn.
And then with each new account, he goes back within a day or two after the product is delivered and comes up with at least three or four referrals to others.
“Then,” says George, his sales manager, “it’s like there is a weird alignment of planets, and suddenly Glenn can’t do anything right. Oh sure, he continues to make sales, but not like the previous months. At first I thought he had a substance abuse problem or a psychological problem, but that’s not it.”
One of the other salespeople adds, “It’s like he loses his road map of what to do. You should see him, though, when he’s on top, never writes anything down and never forgets anything. His favorite phrase during those times is, “Hey, I’m too good to worry about why I’m good.”
“I’ve never sold as much as Glen in one of his good months,” adds a third salesperson, “but I have to tell you, his low months make my low months look like sales award time. And his comments about me using my written sales plan as a crutch are beginning to really bug me.”
Glenn will, as he has in the past, get out of his sales slump. He, and everyone else, will attribute it to some change in the weather, the phase of the moon, the price of gold, Glenn’s new tie, anything but what really happens. Ascribing the change to something mystical or magical is more compelling than ascribing it to following a plan. And Glenn does follow a sales plan when he’s doing well; he just has never written it down. Which is a shame because it is a real winner.
Glenn doesn’t have a written plan. And since he doesn’t have a written plan, when things start going wrong and the sales start sliding downward, he has no objective way to figure out why. And neither does anyone else.
However, the most likely reason Glenn goes into a periodic slump is that he starts skipping steps in his unwritten sales plan. He unconsciously skips the steps to save time since at the moment, everything he touches turns into a sale. So he wants to do it faster. Faster means skipping something.
How can he know what he has skipped if he has no objective awareness of what steps he takes to begin with? He can’t. So the slump happens and eventually, after a few months wandering in the basement, he “rediscovers” what he did in the past and does it again.
Most salespeople don’t have a written sales plan, other than a vaguely worded list of goals and some specific monetary levels, usually set by the sales manager.
Having a plan, regardless of what the plan is for, is the first step.
The second step is following the plan step-by-step. That’s the hard part for many. Why bother with steps three and four, since I can skip them? Here’s the question you need to answer at that point. Why did you have a step three and four to begin with? To have written them down meant they were important. If you have forgotten why they were important, you have forgotten the plan you made.
If you forget the plan, then you are flying blind, making it up as you go. Sometimes you can get away with this. Most of the time you can’t.
So, when you want to skip steps, ask yourself why they were important. Can’t remember? Take a deep breath. Accept the fact you are now off-track. Somewhere you got derailed. You need to go back to step one and start again.
This is not exciting stuff, but is being in a sales slump exciting?
Follow the plan and consistently make money.