Sales can be a highly rewarding profession, both personally and financially. But, unlike most other professional disciplines, sales is entirely what you do (or don’t) make of it. What you achieve tomorrow is entirely dependent upon what you choose to do today.
That’s why some of the most accomplished salespeople take extra time and effort to set themselves up for success. What that means is that they don’t just ‘dig in’ and work through the day – they prepare for what the day has in store, and what they want to achieve out of it.
Here are three steps that smart salespeople take to consistently, and reliably, prepare for success.
1. Prepare Your Sales Schedule
Your sales schedule is one of the most powerful tools you have in your arsenal. How you spend your time as a salesperson can often make the critical difference between survival and success. That’s why you need to carefully prepare your sales schedule to meet your sales needs.
Begin by setting aside reasonable blocks of office time that you can use to review opportunities, read incoming emails, follow up with your best customers and stay on top of sales priorities and issues. Many salespeople set aside all or part of Mondays and Fridays for these activities. Then, block out appropriate time for your inside sales activities (outbound phone calls, outbound and reply emails, proposal follow-ups, lead nurturing and prospecting).
This is separate from your office review time and needs to be clearly and consistently set in the calendar. Finally, try to organize your field sales activities into well-established segments or planning blocks as well.
For example, you might officially schedule one hour for a prospect meeting, but on your calendar set aside 90 minutes. Then, give yourself 30 minutes to get to your next appointment, even if doing so usually takes just 15.
2. Prepare for Your Sales Calls
Preparing for your sales calls (both phone calls and in-person meetings) means more than just knowing who to ask for and what address to meet at. Take time to research the person on LinkedIn, their company on the web, and their competitors as well. Learn more about the company’s market position and vision statement, as well as how it competitively differentiates so you can walk in ready to have a meaningful, in-depth conversation.
If you’re selling to consumers rather than businesses, take a similar approach by learning about the neighborhood, the prospect’s profession (if they are on LinkedIn or another professional networking site), and anything else you can glean from their lead information or prospect profile.
3. Prepare for Follow-Up Success
The greatest challenge for most sales professionals at the end of the day is follow-up. Follow-up is demanding, exhausting and relentless. No matter how much of it you do, you could (and probably should) always be doing more of it.
This is where you have to commit to a customer relationship management (CRM) system that can track and prompt you to keep in touch with your prospects. And make sure to set aside time at the end of the day or early the next day to manage your sales follow-ups from that day’s meetings. If you find yourself too tired to really do justice to follow-ups at the end of the day, then commit 1-2 hours at the start of the next one, but do so consistently.
That means you don’t communicate with or get engaged in discussions with anyone else until after you’ve completed your thank you notes and follow-up tasks from the day before. What these three steps all share in common is a commitment to professional discipline. That also means doing the same thing, in the same order, reliably every day.
Of course, you’ll need to modify your calendar and deviate from your schedule to deal with situations that come up or prospects who are particularly hard to meet with. But a true sales professional — one who is in the game to win over the long term – always re-focuses and resets her or his sales preparation steps as soon as possible.
Follow these three proven sales success steps to prepare your schedule, prepare for your sales calls and prepare for your follow-ups…then watch your sales impact soar.
Editor’s Note: This is the first of two stories in a series on preparing for sales success. Read the second story on How to Prepare for a Successful Sales Conversation with Your Prospects.