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Is Failing to Plan a Sale Planning to Lose a Sale

Blog post by on November 27, 2012 No Comments

Why is sales management all about planning? Surely its about talent, activity and commitment? There’s no point in getting too sophisticated with anything so mercurial as the relationships between prospects and sales people. It’s obviously about bringing the right tactics into play, at the right time. There’s nothing scientific about it. It’s a black art which some have and most don’t. And we perhaps won’t broadcast it, but there’s always a healthy dose of luck involved as well.
Agreed. That’s the way its been since the first bible sellers knocked on doors and used moral blackmail to get the orders. Forget the clever stuff. Just knock on more doors, present more positively, and ask for the order more confidently. The sales will take care of themselves.
Agreed that is, except for one question. If you don’t plan an activity to deliver the best possible result, how do you know whether its going down the way you want, and how to fix it when its not?
Most of the things you do in life you plan ahead of time. Got a meeting? You need to plan travel. Which route? Departing from where and when? You’ll need an hotel. You’ll need to reorganise your schedule so as not to miss other appointments. You’ll plan your trip, and when delayed by traffic, or a missed flight, you’ll know who to call, apologising for late arrival.
The fact is if you don’t plan how you’re going to get there, you’re unlikely to get where you want to go, when you want to be there.
If you’re going to plan your travel, it might make sense to plan your sales call – what insight will you want to get, and what impression will you want to leave?
And if you’re going to plan your travel and the call, it probably makes sense to plan the sale.
  1. First you’ll need to qualify the prospects inclination and ability to buy. There’s no point in selling to somebody who doesn’t want to buy, or have the budget.
  2. Next you’ll need to agree some kind of buy/sell process in which you and the prospect collaborate, agreeing how particular products will meet her aspirations, at a price she things is fair value, and makes you a profit.
  3. Paperwork is always the stumbling block sales reps forget. Who’s contract will you use – buyers or sellers? And who needs to approve the choice?
  4. When will you decide to cut your losses and walk away if the deal starts to go wrong?
  5. Once you’ve won the deal, how will customer satisfaction be guaranteed?
  6. Once the customer is happy, how will you leverage your success into even bigger wins?


If you don’t plan all this, how likely are you to get what you want? Who’s in control of the sale when you don’t have a plan, but your prospect does?
The sales rep with a plan stands a much better chance of winning the deal than the competitor flying by the seat of his pants. Unfortunately, sales reps are usually long on optimism and short on detail. That’s why sales managers need to be paranoid about planning, to make sure the sales guys get serious about it too.
The sales manager with a plan is much better placed to help the team. Review meetings are targeted on what needs to be done, and weighted probability forecasts are more accurate when milestones show how the sale is progressing.
And of course, if the sales manager is going to get paranoid about sales plans, then she probably ought to be planning a lot of other things too.

It might be a little harsh, and more than a little trite, to suggest failing to plan is planning to fail.
But failing to plan is certainly failing to plan to win.
Why doesn’t the traditional approach to selling and sales management work so well any more? What can the modern sales professional do to stay relevant in today’s customer driven markets? Check out our eBook Reengineering Sales Management for ideas on how to embrace the new order of customer driven buyer/seller relationships.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

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