The job of the sales person is always a bit of a balancing act. On one hand, we continually cruise our territory to see what opportunities look the most promising. We’re constantly scanning the account base to identify that to which we should react. On the other hand, we also need to be proactive, determining which accounts hold the most long-term potential, and strategizing our approaches to those accounts.
It’s the second part of that equation that is the subject of this piece. The best sales people regularly (annually, quarterly and monthly) think deeply about their highest potential accounts, and create a step-by-step plan for methodically penetrating them. That’s the definition of a strategic plan.
Note that the practice assumes some prior work: The sales person has methodically identified the highest potential accounts. That’s a special process all by itself. In order to do that, he/she has collected meaningful information, analyzed it, and applied some thoughtful criteria to it in order to bubble up to the surface those accounts which offer the highest potential.
Those top 5 to 20 percent have so much potential that they warrant special attention. And that special attention means a well crafted, constantly reviewed strategic plan.
Typically, these plans involve:
--A clear understanding of the opportunities within the account.
--A specific plan for expanding and broadening relationships with key people within the account.
--A set of short term, as well as long term, objectives for penetration of the account.
--A specific, step-by-step sequence of actions to follow in order achieve those objectives.
--Benchmark measurements to which to compare your results.
--A written commitment.
The best sales people spend time annually reviewing and refining their list of key accounts. They then spend time either quarterly or monthly defining, in writing, their strategic plans for those accounts. The resulting document helps them to effectively focus their investment of sales time in those actions which will get the best results.
It's a matter of “thinking about it before you do it,” one of my ten secrets of time management for sales people. And that means devoting the necessary time to the task, acquiring the important disciplines, and asking the right questions.
Alas, so few sales people do that. Of course, that is why this is one of the best practices of the best sales people.
Dave Kahle is one of the world's leading sales educators. He's written nine books, presented in 47 states and eight countries, and has helped enrich tens of thousands of sales people and transform hundreds of sales organizations.