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7949879_mWell, following on from last week’s article about strategy this week I’m looking at planning and I’m defining planning as, “The organisation of action, or a series of actions to achieve an objective”. So the subject is not “doing”, but planning to do, it’s not the action itself but the organisation of time and resources to achieve the objective and the objective, in the big picture, is already defined under the strategy you need to achieve. Of course planning could be something fairly small, like getting yourself to work on the morning, but if that’s an issue for you then this is not the blog for you.

The first thing you need to do planning is time, an appointment with yourself, a piece of closedown time when you can sit and think, planning on the run will always lead to gaps and then you will be improvising and fighting fires all the way to what may, or may not be your objective. In the famous book “Think and grow rich”,  by Napoleon Hill. which was published in the 1920s and has never been out of print since, Hill describes how he interviewed all of the successful people who were alive in America in his time. The purpose of the exercise for him was to find out what is the difference between highly successful people and people will just go along with their daily lives without achieving power of success. Now I’m not going to make an assumption here that what you’re looking for is power and success, maybe that’s an American dream that doesn’t apply to you, although I know a lot of people in this country (UK) who could do with a little more power and success. Hill discovered that they all had one thing in common and that was that they allowed themselves time alone to think through a situation, set strategies and make plans.

So, when you give the yourself this thinking time, what is it that you are supposed to be thinking about? I know the majority of people may sit in a room with a blank piece of paper and have thoughts coming into their head thick, fast and furious and won’t stand it for more than five minutes before going out and doing something, doing anything in fact to fill the space and the time. Well here is an idea for you, why don’t you invest in a little time travel? Did you know that your mind is capable of this? Now you may be making it up as you go along you may be using your imagination but think through a plan step forward into the future and imagine what it’s like, what you will need, when you will need it, what it looks like, what it feels like and be in the place where you need it. As a salesperson this is something that I did prior to every sales call and the objective was to get to the call 10 minutes before I was due. Now this may sound crazy, or maybe not, but I would sit in my car and rehearse the sales call before I went in. I would imagine what I needed to say, how I would say it and I would even rehearse the imagined responses that I get from the customer. What objections would I get? How would he receive the information I was giving him?  What did I need to change in order to avoid a negative response. 10 minutes for a sales call may equate to a full day for a ten-year plan.

So what is the purpose of planning? Briefly I would say that it’s about having the right resources to hand at the time when you need them so that things can flow smoothly and the objective can be met in a shorter time and in a more efficient fashion. The resources that you are organising the planning of all the things that you need to make a sale, the product, your prices and your price options, any promotions or tempting little hooks that you can use to build a compelling presentation and most of all if you’re a manager people.

By far the toughest thing to organise when you’re planning as a manager is the people element and at this point I want to talk about Bob. Bob is one of the most successful sales managers that I know, he worked with talented people, he develops them and they have a great deal of respect for him, because he helps them to achieve their goals. Now many managers would look at this situation and count themselves lucky to have such a wonderful team and expect that this team will stay with them forever, not Bob. Bob’s philosophy has always been “everybody is always leaving”, he is wise enough to know that if he develops a team of top individuals, capable achievers who can achieve great things, then they will not want to stay with him forever. They will want better opportunities, more challenge  and greater rewards than they can achieve working for Bob. So Bob was always recruiting, always developing, always coaching, always motivating and always aware of the timescale of the members of his team to inevitably move on.

if you are a sales manager reading this, or if you are an employer of sales managers reading this, how important is planning to you? What kind of training and coaching do you need, or does your team need to plan better? What kind of coaching and training your salespeople need to ensure that they only move when a better  opportunity is presented to them and they don’t just go for the next offer of a slightly higher basic or a bigger car. That’s not career planning, that’s job hopping.

If I can help you with any of these things, please give me a call, because I’m in business to help you, I would welcome the opportunity to work with you and I can do one-to-one coaching, leadership and sales training, and I can even teach your managers how to coach. Please go to the contact page and get in touch.

Next week I am going to get technical and talk about the elements of sales success, so please join me then and if there is a special subject that you would like me to talk about, please let me know. Oh, and while you are here, check out my site, I’ve done some work on it and I would appreciate your feedback.

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