Tuesday, June 28, 2016

How to Write Your Sales Plan In Five Minutes

Your Sales Plan In Five Minutes
This is the first time in nearly six years writing my blog, that I decide to title a post with something like this. The reason being I wanted to call up your attention upon a point I believe is quite important: the time it takes to get things done and how this time should be taken into consideration when writing your sales plan.

If you pay a little attention and analyze most of the ads we receive nowaday, in many cases, its main promise revolves around the following statement: "You can accomplish these wonderful results only dedicating to it a few minutes every day."

And you can see it applied to many different areas: learning a new language, earning a professional degree, professional improvement, losing weight, quitting toxic habits, growing your muscular mass, making money, achieving professional success, overcoming our deepest fears ... increasing your business’ sales.

It looks as if the more complicated the matter at hand, the more attractive the offer to achieve it in the minimum time possible becomes. That is, the more valuable and important the result we want to obtain, we are less likely to be willing to devote the time it involves.

And unfortunately, this trend has also become popular in managing the sales area of many businesses.

And my question to you is: Why is this so?

The cult of immediacy is moving ahead of us and winning.

This "why" is directly related to your need of “having everything done by the end of the day tomorrow”, as it happens to many entrepreneurs as well. Perhaps because we are all pushed by short term deadlines, perhaps because many entrepreneurs are thrown into the entrepreneurship adventure after having invested much of their lives in projects which have not been worth it, perhaps for a very urgent need of cash.

The “reason why” can be as varied as you would imagine! If you do not have this necessity, I'm really happy for you, because you are one of the few who are this lucky. As I wrote in a past post, "it is not the same thing being an entrepreneur, than an adventurer".

There is a saying you've probably heard more than once which goes like: "The important thing is not the destination but the journey" and I'm pretty sure one of the worst mistakes we are making these days is focusing too much on promoting the benefits of the destination and paying very little attention, if any, to the journey itself, that is, we are doing exactly the opposite.

I am sure you might be fighting yourself against this situation on a personal level, especially if you have teenagers or even younger kids. Let’s take a look at YouTube, for instance: it allows you to identify many young people who are making an important amount of money uploading videos on a variety of topics.

Just about every corner on YouTube you can come across things like: "John Doe earns millions of dollars a year for advertising placed on his videos", "Manny Lopez earns hundreds of thousands of dollars for each video that goes viral",or  "Jim Brown was hired by Google and transferred to California, being paid an awful lot of money".

But no one takes the time to talk about the process each of these personalities have gone through from the moment they started out to the moment they are living nowadays because, if there is one thing you can be 100% sure, it is that each of them started out from scratch.

The "must be done as soon as yesterday" phrase doesn’t apply when it comes to crafting your sales plan.

To make sure your sales plan is bound to be successful, you have to understand it is exactly that: “a plan”, therefore, a series of strategies and corresponding actions aimed to taking your sales from where they are today to a higher point sometime in the future.

And when we say "sometime in the future", what we really mean is that such moment in time depends solely on the point you’re starting from and the distance separating you from the point you want to get to.

Yes, I know it's very frustrating to listen someone telling you this, being that you really want to get there as soon as possible, and I’d like to tell you your sales plan can transform your company or your product within two weeks or even a month, but unfortunately, I cannot unless you want me to fool you. It Just doesn’t work like that.

How do you know what to do, if you do not know what is wrong with you?

Once you have this “process” concept clear, the first step is then to make a correct diagnosis.

And so that I can make myself more clearly understood, I offer you an example: Suppose you spend a week with fever, vomiting, diarrhea, tremors and cold sweats. You've been self-medicating some things after you had initial symptoms, but none of them have worked. You are extremely worried about your health when you finally go to see your doctor.

After explaining your doctor what your situation is, he simply responds: "What you have is just a virus".

How does it make you feel? Wouldn’t you be asking yourself whether you do need the doctor to run some further testing to rule out you might have something more serious than a simple virus?

Does his prompt response make you feel confident about his professional diagnosis?

To put together a sales plan the same holds true: The first thing you have to know is exactly where you are and the real reason why you are there:

  • Why has your sales movement stopped? Why sales have begun to decline?
  • Why aren’t you selling more even though you keep a good ratio of meetings with customers?
  • Why don’t your customers buy, although all of them say your product is great?
  • How long ago did your sales reached their peak? What were the conditions that led to that peak in sales? Do you know them?
  • Where are your sales coming from? From one very high-volume customer and several tiny ones, or from a bunch of tiny customers?

As you can see, each of these questions takes you to a different place, so you need to have the most accurate answers for them because, in the end, you could be taking a painkiller when what you really need is chemotherapy.

And with the proper diagnosis, your doctor can then decide on the appropriate treatment.

It is then time to define the actions you must take to take your sales from where they are to the place you want them to get. Remember that sales is only a small part of a much broader process involving product promotions, corporate communications, marketing and other things.

And I bring this up because it’s easy to think that just sending a sales team to hit the road, properly dressed and with a product catalog under their arm, will be enough to make your sales goal become a reality.

Nothing could be further from the truth: Your sales team is just the tip of an iceberg represented by your company and all the people working for it.

Sales is just one more unit of a much broader concept called “a strong company”.

Although is quite an important area, your sales team is simply the collector of the results generated by all the actions you put together as a company, whether you call it product promotions, special discounts in prices, advertising campaigns and communications, PR events, social networking presence, sponsorship of sporting events, acts of solidarity with the community, supporting charitable causes, and many others actions.

In a post published in this blog, entitled "What role should your sales people occupy within your company?" I make reference to this point.

I hope to have achieved my goal: A sales plan can’t be written in five minutes, definitely not.

First because it is very dangerous to base your sales plan in a superficial diagnosis of your real situation. As I said above, it could invite you to take a painkiller when what you really need is chemotherapy.

Second, because your business’ sales are not an autonomous and independent area among all other areas within your company. In a highly connected world, in many cases connected through invisible platforms, your future customer can get in touch with your company through endless ways, therefore everything should work in sync to cause a profound and positive impact in the market.

Third, because the real situation of each company is particularly unique, therefore, what works for many, might not necessarily be what you do you need.

So the next time you ask someone to assist you in developing a sales plan for your business, don’t trust in anyone who says it’s something that can be done in five minutes, because it’s not.

Photo credit: Theartofphoto / View Portfolio

You will find below links to the posts I’ve mentioned today:
It’s Not The Same Thing Being An Entrepreneur Than An Adventurer
What Role Should Salespeople Occupy Within Your Company?

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

"Til Death Do Us Part" Doesn’t Exist In A Professional Relationship”

"Til Death Do Us Part" Doesn’t Exist
A couple of weeks ago I read an article posted by Andrés Pérez Ortega in which I first came across the word "job-dependant" and with it, Andrés was referring to the widespread practice among professionals nowadays whom hope to establish a dependency relationship with the company offering them a decent job opportunity, based on the premise (a wrong one from my professional point of view) that there must be a mutual and long-term commitment between the company hiring and the  professional being hired.

A commitment implying the company will "guarantee" the employee's workplace, as long as it maintains an outstanding performance in carrying out the tasks for which the company is paying it a salary and offering additional benefits.

It is reasonable to believe any company will be interested in retaining an employee who has an outstanding performance, and it is also reasonable to believe a high-performing professional would aspire to receive from its employer a long term professional opportunity.

Yes, it is definitely reasonable, but in no way implies an obligation on either side. I do think that expecting such a long term commitment between the employer and its employees is a mistaken premise held by many professionals because they continue to feed a distorted concept of what a labour relationship truly is.

As always, whenever I make such an statement, I’ll explain myself.

An employment relationship starts up being a business relationship.

When any business is looking to hire a professional to occupy a certain position, it really means they’re looking for a person who has a number of personal and academic qualifications which guarantees it will be able to perform its job with an outstanding performance, therefore assisting the company in achieving its proposed goals and moving forward.

The company is then ready to offer the successful candidate a certain amount of money in exchange for its professional services.

As you can see, it is a commercial exchange: the company has the need to fill a particular area and searches for a product, (sorry!!), I mean a professional who has the ability to meet and fulfill such need. In return, the company is willing to pay a certain amount of money.

A company that hires you is really a customer who decided to buy the product you offer.

If you are the person who, professionally and personally, has complete credentials for the position, then they can establish a professional relationship with you.

If you don’t, they do not have any obligation even to take you into consideration, in the same way no person is obligated to purchase a product which is not going to help them meet their needs.

One thing leads to the next one: No employment relationship is to last forever

And here I’m going back to the title I gave to this post: "Till death do us part" does not exist, and should not exist, in any employment or professional relationship. Why?

Because there are two conditions that must be met on such relationships: On one side there must be a professional who is having an outstanding performance and is helping the company achieve its objectives. On the other side there must be a company that continues to have a need to fulfill, and is also offering any professional who satisfies this need money and benefits according to professional qualifications required and expected performance.

Would you still buy a product you no longer need? Would you continue to do business with a non-paying customer?

The reasoning is simple: when a product is no longer useful for what it's supposed to be useful, then it ceases to be a viable purchase option and there is no need to buy it.

Similarly, if you have a product (in this case your professional services) and you’re dealing with a customer (call it “employer” if it makes you happier) that is not willing to pay the price you are asking for, then such customer is not a proper fit for you.

Going back to the situation we are referring to today, if a company has no way to put together a decent offer for your professional services, you have no obligation to commit to it. And even more if it happens to you, as it did to me, the company is no longer honoring their side of the “commitment”, and stopped paying you for no reason.

As you can see, and I do hope you see it now, expecting a professional or business relationship to last "until death do us part" is a bad thing for both sides: the company hiring and the professional being hired.

Why you should fight the "job-dependency"?

Expecting to have a job lasting forever is like trying to have a customer who buys your products for the rest of its life. It is a very comfortable situation on your side but it entails very significant risks for both parties. Why?

It is a comfortable situation for your side because, professionally, it means you no longer need to worry about finding yourself a new job, or going through a new hiring process, or even having to prove your professional value again.

It is a comfortable situation for your side because being sure that every week, every two weeks or every “end of the month” you will receive a certain amount of money, and it is gonna be like that for the rest of your life for sure will give you plenty peace of mind, that’s for sure.

But it is nothing more than a comfortable attitude on your side and, perhaps, a little bit self-defeating. If for a moment you put yourself on the hiring company’s feet and think about the whole thing: Is it the best for us to secure job positions for “a lifetime”? Isn’t it better to secure the positions we truly need, as long as the employee has an outstanding performance or as long as we have the money to pay for what the job is worth?

What if your employer has some other problems and simply can’t guarantee its jobs’ stability? Have you ever thought about it?
In addition to all these things: By relying on a “lifetime” job, you stop being open to new opportunities for professional growth, you no longer have the opportunity to be hired by someone who offers a better value for your services, and you stop looking to the world through the eyes of ambition and begin to nurture in your heart an attitude of conformism.

Is professional conformism what you really want for yourself?

That is, why in the world would you become attached forever to a company that can’t pay the salary you deserve ? Would you be willing to forever do business with a customer who does not have the money to pay what your products are worth?

Who would do that?

Below you’ll find the post I did refer to at the beginning of this one. It was written by Andres Perez. (Sorry, no english version) And the second one is mine and I thought you would find it interesting.

Photo credit: Karen Grigoryan

"No seas empleo-dependiente" by Andrés Pérez Ortega
7 Easy Steps To Building Your Personal Project: Why Should You Have A Plan "B"?