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Plotting The Path To Success

“Per Ardua Ad Astra”  – ‘Through Struggle to the Stars’ – Motto of the Royal Air Force

“Efforts and courage are not enough without purpose and direction.” – John F Kennedy

“If you shoot for the stars and hit the moon, it’s OK, but you have got to shoot for something. A lot of people don’t even shoot.” – Confucius 

A) The Importance of Clarifying Sales Objectives

B) My Sales Objectives

C) The Action Plan

D) Reacting to Feedback

E) The Power of Multiple Perspectives

F) Future Customer Analysis

G) What Business Are You In?

A) The Importance of Clarifying Sales Objectives

Establishing clear objectives is one of the key things that identifies highly successful entrepreneurs. It brings with it commitment, direction and motivation. The more committed you are to something the easier it seems to become.

Have you watched friends start up their own business from home, as a fly on the wall? To me they fit into two groups. Those who are permanently on the phone, busy writing, etc with a real sense of urgency. At the end of the day they cannot believe that it went so quickly, there is so much more they wanted to achieve. If you ask them for five minutes of their time, they say no. Then there are those who seem to be constantly searching through directories and old files or surfing the Internet. If you ask them if they can spare five minutes the answer is, yeah sure. The difference is usually that the former group are working towards clear objectives and are not prepared to be digressed off their focus. If that means doing something they don’t like they have the attitude, ‘I’m going to get through it as quickly as possible in order to get to my objectives beyond.’ Their passion for what they are doing married with a clear focus generates all the motivation, energy and confidence they need. They know exactly what they want to achieve and have a plan for getting it.

The second group will always work on what they enjoy most, or hate least, then justify to themselves and others why they are working in the way that they do, often getting very defensive. Ring any bells?

As an entrepreneur you will find yourself doing more than one person’s job and have to budget your time accordingly. It is easy to fall into the trap of focusing on what you enjoy or what pushes you the most. You need to make at least part of your passion running the business itself. As such you will apportion your time according to what is in the businesses best interest. When you go out to see a prospective client to sell, look forward to it, get excited. Somebody is affording you their time to listen to your ideas and proposals. Think of the business as a separate entity to you and ask what it’s needs are. If you need to budget two days a week, or one hour per day to selling then do so and keep to it.

You should have an overall business plan of some description. I want you in a moment to write down your sales plan, objectives and a timescale for when you want to achieve them. Be realistic rather than optimistic. The trick of success is to set goals that you are fairly confident of hitting and then raise them slightly. Have the big plan and break it down into small manageable chunks, representing staging points to success. In sales we say by the yard is hard but by the inch is a cinch. By focusing on small steps at a time, your confidence is never threatened and your motivation is high as you are always near to the next step.

B) My Sales Objectives

Write down in specific terms what you want to achieve. Keep everything in the positive. Think in terms of what you want, not what you don’t want.

Determine an exact sales figure. Break this down to a weekly if not daily achievement target. Include non financial sales targets such as number of phone calls, visits, contacts, tasks.

Test each goal by asking questions of it, ‘Are you prepared to do whatever it reasonably takes to achieve this?’ “Is this the best goal I can set myself?”

Establish what exactly you will have to do to achieve your sales targets.

Type out the plan, broken down into objectives for each quarter, then month, then week and perhaps by day depending on the nature of your business. Think of each quarter’s objectives as rungs on a ladder. Then stick it on the wall or somewhere prominent where you will see it every day. Goals in drawers or in a file in your laptop are no use, you need to keep reminding yourself so as to stay on focus.

Let us make a start at the first one: What is it that you want to achieve?

If you have just started out the first thing to do in selling is to network among your current contacts. It makes no sense to prospect from cold contacts (mails shot, advertising, telesales), if you have warm contacts. Write a list of everyone you know. Initially do not concern yourself if they are useful or not, just think of as many names as you can.

Progress Now:

My Overall Sales Plan:

From now on forget past results. Decide, in detail, what you want to achieve. OK, so we are going to define precisely what we want and then develop a clear plan to get it. List everything you want, take as much time as you need. A new house, a sports car, lots of money, two luxury holidays per year, a board appointment, promotion, to sell most in your company, write a book, lose that extra stone of weight…. Be as detailed as you can, for example, what new house exactly, what car exactly, how much money? Do this now on the following page in pencil and change it until you are totally satisfied. When you have done that imagine you are in the future at the time that you have all those things. Looking back to now, see what it was that you had to do that led to those achievements. This will help you in developing a clear plan and knowing exactly what you have to do and also what you don’t have to do. If you are doing something that is not supporting you towards your objectives, drop or change it. Looking back from a future point is important as, firstly, it is a final check that you are totally sure that it is what you want to achieve. Secondly, by putting your achievements in the past tense your brain codes them as reality, as opposed to possible future events.

Progress Now: Write down what you want:

Now, divide your list in terms of what you want to achieve within 12 months (ring the number) and those over a longer period. When you have done that put both lists in order of priority.

C) The Action Plan

Now write down How you are going to get what I want:

The above is what I am going to achieve by

Signed Dated

Witnessed Dated

Make a copy of the previous two pages and stick them on the wall where you work. This will constantly remind you of what you are working towards and provide a challenge every time you do something which is not taking you towards your goals.

Effective selling is relationship building through the art of dovetailing your objectives to those of your future customer (or career ambitions to those of your company). To do this you need to establish both your own and your target’s objectives. Having established your own objectives, you help your customer to ascertain what his objectives really are; then you show him how to achieve them, in a way that is consistent with the realisation of your own objectives.

The sales process is in fact an objective-setting exercise:

• Setting objectives for yourself.

• Eliciting your future customer’s objectives.

• Dovetailing the two together.

Now that you have a clearly laid-out plan, the next essential stage is to get going!

D) Reacting to Feedback

Once you have realised how vital it is to listen and observe for feedback, you now have to use that knowledge skilfully. You must be flexible to continually alter your response to reflect a developing and changing situation. As you gather input through a presentation, you must change your approach to match the new situation. Knowledge is only power when it is acted upon. Or to put it another way:

‘If you keep doing the same things, you will keep getting the same results.’

‘You trim your sails to the wind that blows.’

First read the signs (observation and calibration) and then adjust your behaviour accordingly to home in on your target.

What exactly is it that makes flexible behaviour so hard? Perhaps it is the fear of failure, or that you are not confident that your calibrations and deductions of what your future customer is thinking are right. In this case, what you are doing is not producing the results, try something else.

If sales presentations were suits, some would perfectly fit the customer and some would not. You may have won some accounts and lost others without really knowing the reason for either. My aim in this chapter has been to show you the importance of flexibility, to put those lost sales into the winning camp. When analysing sales success, most people concentrate on what they did and then what the potential client did as if they were two separate entities. I would like you to start thinking of successful sales presentations as when two people behave as one.

This approach is in direct contrast to the ‘numbers game’ mentality. While credible evidence can be produced to show that selling is a numbers game, it is a dangerous belief to adopt. It firstly puts you in the frame of mind to accept the situations where you lost. ‘Well, you can’t win them all’ say the supporters of this belief. ‘Why not?’ is what I want to ask. After each situation where you did not get all that you wanted ask yourself two questions.

• ‘What could I have done differently to get a better result?’

• ‘What can I do, right now, to change the result?’

These questions will focus your mind on learning from your experience and concentrating on further action.

E) The Power Of Multiple Perspectives.

As already discussed, our personal perceptions filter memories of events by generalising, making distortions and deletions. We cannot not do this. Therefore you will find that if you get two people to meet and then ask them independently to write a one-page summary on what transpired you will have a surprise. Reading such reports it is hard to believe that the participants ever met. This phenomenon is the reason why many sales are lost – remember the sales rep who thought things were going his way and was surprised when no order appeared?

Our perceptions of the world are completely individual to us, and as such have large holes. The technique of ‘viewing positions’ allows us to get outside of our own models of what transpired and see it as if we were somebody else.

Imagine if you could take the two people in business you most admire with you on every visit to give you feedback afterwards. This information would considerably accelerate your learning, from each experience, wouldn’t it? After all, making mistakes, as long as we recognise them, is how we learn. And learning is how we progress to excellence and peak performance.

A ‘viewing position’ is the point of view from which we see the ‘world’ at any particular time. Developing the skill of taking regular differing viewing positions is simple and requires no more than a vivid imagination.

There are three main viewing positions:

• First position: the sales representative.

• Second position: the future customer.

• Third position: a fly on the wall, noticing the communication between you simultaneously.

Following each presentation, take fifteen minutes with a pen and paper in a place where you will not be disturbed. First, run through the presentation again in your mind from start to finish. Run it slowly, and listen and watch as much as possible. With the knowledge of how the meeting actually progressed it will probably make more sense to you than it did at the time.

From the first position (your own), write down any notes that come to mind. Ask yourself what would you do differently if you could wind the clock back.

Now take second position, this time imagining that you were the customer, looking through his eyes. What do you see? What do you now feel about the presentation of the person who has come into your office? You will find that doing this exercise helps you tremendously in seeing why the customer reacted the way he did. Write some more notes. What would you now do differently with the totally new perspective of the customer’s viewpoint?

Now, take the third position. In your mind, imagine that you are in a cinema watching a film of the presentation taken by a hidden camera. Imagine you have a remote control and you can freeze-frame, go slower, or replay selected sequences. What do you notice from this position? In all three positions you will find it works better if you can allocate different locations. This will also help to identify which role you are playing if you run it through more than once or do it in a group.

Although it may seem a bit strange at first, in fifteen minutes or so this simple exercise will provide you with six months’ worth of work experience – an accelerated learning path, I’m sure you will agree. Psychologically what is happening is broadly as follows. Our unconscious mind records all that we are seeing, feeling and hearing. However so that our conscious mind (left brain) is not overloaded it filters out most of the incoming data, concentrating on what seems the most important at the time. Consciously, therefore, we don’t usually have access to all that we know. When you use your imagination (which is a right brain activity) you access the unconscious and all the information that is there. What we are doing in this exercise is calling up the relevant files, viewing them at our leisure and then consciously drawing deductions and conclusions from them.

This exercise will take you from being clever to being wise. Its purpose is to provide you with the maximum amount of feedback possible. With that feedback you must be flexible to change your style accordingly in order to control the outcome of subsequent meetings.

F) Future Customer Analysis

Each prospective customer needs to be analysed. Knowledge is potential power and certainly helps when you call them again. Throughout the book we will be looking at ways to get even more value from this knowledge.

Name: Position:
Web Page:

Words: Repeated words
Repeated phrases
Favourite metaphor
Tonality: Volume: Quiet / Loud
Pitch: Low / High
Tone : Soft / Harsh
Speed: Slow / Fast
Spaces: Short / Long
Language: Pictures Feelings Logic Sounds Smell/TasteSee Touch
Decision-Making Style: Moving towards / Moving away
Positive / Negative
Self / Written / Others
Similarities / Differences
Generalisations / Specifics
Past / Present / Future
Short-term / Long-term
Task / Relationships

Result of Call:
Next Contact/Objective:

G) What Business Are You In?

Progress Now:

What business are you in?

As an entrepreneur you will typically have limited resources and as such you have to become creative and get as much out of any resources as you can. The rule is always to ask a customer if they know of anybody else who may have an interest in the proposal. For that matter don’t just ask customers, ask everyone you talk to. I have won clients from talking to the person next to me in a bus queue. There are even networking groups set up with the sole aim of meeting others. This might be useful, personally I prefer to go to gatherings which are likely to have people that I have an interest in meeting. When I was in Accountancy Recruitment I went to financial seminars. Just ask yourself what the most useful types of contacts that you need to make are. Then ask where do they go?

Every adult realistically knows at least another 100 adults. Write down now a list of everyone you know.

Colleagues, Ex colleagues, Sports club friends, Neighbours, Association memberships, Relatives, General Friends

Do this until you have at least 100. Now ring them and tell them what you are doing. Every hundred people knows another hundred. So what does that make your potential contact/referral pool. 100*100 = 10000. Wrong because you forgot the fact that those 10000 also know at least a 100 people and so on.

Now the real world of people does not always follow the rules of mathematics. They are not all going to ring all the people they know for you. But they might bear you in mind when those 100 happen to ring them and what you offer becomes relevant to the conversation. You have a 100 unpaid sales representatives working for you. On top of that you have no direct cost for advertising and all the other marketing costs.

In fact the world has many companies with millions and billions of pounds turnover where there entire sales were and are made up from networking (I am currently researching and recruiting successful network marketing and franchising companies for a forthcoming book).

Do you ever get telephoned or mailshotted by companies? Well I do and am grateful for it, unlike everyone else. I immediately tell them about what I can do for them. “I can improve the success rate of your letter by at least 25%, would you like to hear how?”

There are people and companies everywhere with hideously abundant needs not being satisfied. Bubbles burst and new ones are formed. Tides subside and rise again. Winds blow with all their might and then settle to a calm. Rivers flood and then cause drought.

A good yachtsman knows how to manipulate nature’s forces whatever they are. She will have ideal conditions, but actually her skill is in making the best of what is presented. People in sales on the other hand seem to do a lot of hanging about and chatting whilst waiting for ideal conditions to come. You can sail a yacht quite easily to America without a single ideal day on the journey. If you waited for an ideal day for such an objective you might remain a long time at your port of embarkation!

Glider pilots don’t even have an engine to keep them in the sky, and gravity is working on them relentlessly. Yet the skilled glider pilot can fly great distances cross country.

They are motivated and enjoy the challenge of beating the elements by moving from thermal to thermal whilst moving towards their destination. They look ahead to set themselves up. A factory in the distance might generate heat and heat rises. Some days they have good thermals and some bad. Yet even on bad days there are often thermals that go unspotted. In sales you might be going through bad market conditions, but there will still be opportunities and you only need one to get working on.

The business you are really in is “customer acquisition”. I learnt this myself whilst attending a seminar for a company called A.C.N. (American Communications Network) They entirely use independent representatives only making contact with people they know. They earn in two ways. Firstly they receive customer acquisition bonuses and a commission on their sales. Imagine getting a commission on someone’s phone bill every month. They also start by bringing in two other people as representatives and continue to do so. Then those two bring in two etc. This clearly becomes 2,4,8,16,32, etc. They have a group expanding all by itself and receive a commission on everyone the group brings in. Like many network or co-operative marketing companies they focus very well on identifying and profiling who would be an ideal person for their service and their business opportunity.

ACN happen to focus on utilities, telephone, gas, electricity and the Internet. As they don’t invest in advertising, telesales and teams of office based sales representatives and the like their operating costs are far lower than those that do. It is a very efficient and cheaper way to provide electricity etc to their customers. Imagine being an agent and getting a commission every time a customer you acquired turned on a switch or picked up the phone! Nobody finds gas, phone or electricity supply interesting. They themselves like cheaper bills and figure they also know some people who would. The customer and their agents share between them what has been saved on expensive advertising etc. They launched their business in the early nineties and had a turnover of $2million in 1993 which at the time of writing has topped $400million with a listing as the 22nd fastest growing company in America! The point is that if you ask one of their directors what business they are in, they will answer customer acquisition. I suggest whatever business you are in, get out of it and get into customer acquisition and only stop when you have $400m worth of them! Without customers there is no business.

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