It’s All In Your Head!


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Sales people are notoriously bad at writing things down and documenting things. I talk to thousands a year. When I start talking about documenting something–a deal plan, an account plan, territory, call plans, even a to-do list–all of a sudden you can see the resistance in their faces.

They sit back, fold their arms. Most say nothing, but a few courageous one’s will say, “Dave, you don’t get it. I’m too busy to do this. I don’t have time to document these things–it’s too bureaucratic–I’ve got a plan, it’s in my head!”

I’m used to this. I respond, “OK, I get it, let’s talk about your plan for this opportunity………” It’s always the same, they start talking, they tell me about the deal, they tell me about what they’ve done. I start asking questions, “Where are you in the sales process, how do you know you are aligned with the customer buying process, what are the risks to the customers in this project, what is your positioning vis a vis the competitors, ….. the list goes on.” I get more data, but as we proceed, it gets sketchier and sketchier.

We then talk about “What are the next things you need to do, who do you need to do it with, when are you going to do it? What’s the positioning you need to win this deal?” They respond, they outline action plans and strategies, I take notes, writing down the next steps. Ususally they don’t. They say, they’re under control, they can do the deal, they don’t need to document the plan. I smile and thank them.

At the first milestone, I call or email, “How did it go?” You know what happens–the majority of the time, the response comes back, “I forgot to do it, I’ll get right on it.” The second milestone, “How did it go?” You know…..

We sit down, I pull out my notes from the last meeting and ask “We developed these strategies to position ourselves to win. We committed to these steps and actions to execute the strategies. Where are we in executing the plan?” The discussion usually involves a lot of hand waving, some apologies, a re-commitment to execute the strategy, then a quick escape. This time they write a few things down, but too often, they’re forgotten.

Sales people are right, they are busy, they’ve got a lot of things to do, different deals, different accounts, different sales callse. Changing customer requirements, shifts in our strategies. It’s impossible to keep it in your head. You lose most of it–you may remember one or two things, you may have jotted down a couple of reminders, but most of the time we’re busy with activities, responding customer requests, reacting to what may have happened in the last call. We drift further and further away from our plans and strategies. Sales cycles get lengthened, deals go away.

It is impossible to keep it all in our heads! We need to document our plans, we need to use the plans to guide our actions, keeping us focused, on target, moving forward purposefully in the execution of our strategies. We need to document our plans–they provide the basis for what we do every day. They provide the foundation of taking our daily activities and transforming them into accomplishments.

Being too busy to document your plans–whether it’s a deal plan, prospecting, call, territory, account or other plan–is just an excuse. It’s an excuse for being less productive, it’s an excuse for winning less, it’s an excuse for not being accountable.

Writing it down, keeps us focused, having it documented, means we don’t have to remember and we never forget. Many of us work with teams–a documented plan keeps the team focused, well coordinated and moving forward.

  • Do you take the time to maximize your productivity, impact and effectiveness?
  • Are you documenting and updating all your deal/opportunity plans?
  • Are you documenting and updating your prospecting plans?
  • Are you documenting and updating your account and territory plans?
  • Are you prioritizing all of these in your day to day activities?

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Dave Brock
Dave has spent his career developing high performance organizations. He worked in sales, marketing, and executive management capacities with IBM, Tektronix and Keithley Instruments. His consulting clients include companies in the semiconductor, aerospace, electronics, consumer products, computer, telecommunications, retailing, internet, software, professional and financial services industries.


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