Journal entry: December 10, 2009
“My calendar is full and my sales are on track. Looks like Ill end the year ahead of target. This means my boss will finally stop bugging me to get my sales on track. After several years of developing my client base, Im making headway. That means I can finally relax and start taking it a bit easier. I cant coast but the momentum should carry me well into next year and by then Ill have even more customers to which will make it easier to reach my quotas.”
Journal entry: March 21st, 2010
“Sales are below target and it doesnt look like Ill reach my quota this month. I was on track earlier this year but now it seems like Ive lost my momentum. I thought the recession was over and that business was supposed to improve. Companies are still reluctant to move forward and the people I have sold to arent reordering. Guess Ill have to step it up a notch to get back on track. It seems like this is a never-ending roller coaster ride.”
Its a very common problem that far too many sales people encounter. They forget that the action they takeor fail to taketoday, will affect their results several months down the road. They get caught up in the “moment” and fall into the trap of reducing their prospecting efforts when they are busy or when sales are on an upswing. They mistakenly believe that their sales will continue to improve even though they cut back on prospecting. Unfortunately, this creates the “peaks and valleys” syndrome whereby the sales person has a great month followed by one or two month of mediocre performance. As sales decline, the rep increases his/her efforts and a few months later their sales begin to improve again. As their sales start to climb, they scale back on hunting for new business. And they continue the pattern.
Unfortunately, every company and every person has to work at generating new business. Age, experience, seniority or expertise does not exempt you from this. I recall a conversation with a colleague who said, “Ive been at this for 20 years; I feel a sense of entitlement and I dont feel that I should have to work this hard to get new business.” We have all seen and heard about companies who went out of business after several decades of success. The business landscape constantly changes. New competitors enter the marketplace and erode our customer base. Products, services and solutions that were once state-of-the-art are now obsolete. And customers who were once loyal to you and your company abandon ship and no longer buy your product, service or solution.
This all means that you need to take consistent action to generate new business leads, regardless of how long you have been selling and how well established your business is. When my wife first started her business almost 15 years ago, her accountant suggested that she invest a specific amount of time each week marketing her business. It was wise advice then, and with the increase in competition that most businesses now experience, his words are even more valuable today.
This is even more important if you work with only a few customers and each company represents a large portion of your revenue. Many sales people and companies have found themselves scrambling to find new sources of revenue because a major client stopped using their services. Its a tough wake-up call that can be prevented by avoiding the complacency trap and assertively prospecting for new business on a regular basis.
So, what do you need to do to ensure that your sales dont suck in March?
It is essential that you block time in your schedule for prospecting. Otherwise one of two things will happen. First, the busyness of your day will take over and you wont invest time on prospecting activities. Or, you will spend too much time in just one area and will neglect other opportunities to prospect. Its easy to get caught up servicing your existing customers, dealing with emails, and other tasks. Whether you make cold calls, send direct mail campaigns, attend networking functions, ask for referrals, give presentations, or participate in social media; you need to determine exactly what type of prospecting activity you will do each day/week. Control and manage your time by blocking each activity in your calendar as an appointment. If you are diligent at keeping these prospecting appointments, your March sales wont suck.
MMIX Kelley Robertson, All rights reserved.