One of the great things about a career in Sales is that your achievements and your destiny lie in your own hands. If you focus on the right things and do them well then you can earn good rewards and feel the satisfaction of success. Ask yourself these questions and they will help keep you pointing in the right direction. Some are immediate and some are more strategic.
- What are my top three sales opportunities right now? This sort of question should be second nature to anyone in Sales. Once you have answered it you should refine it in several ways. What are the three biggest in revenue, the three where we have the best chance of winning and three that are most urgent in terms of a decision? Obviously any situation that ticks all three boxes needs your full attention. And this brings us to the second question.
- What do I have to do to close my top three opportunities? For each situation list all the actions that you have to take – calls, proposals, references, demonstrations, answers to queries etc. What might the competition be doing in each situation to steal the business? Who do you need to speak to at the client? What do you have to do next?
- What are the most important things that I have to do today? Now prioritise the most essential items that have to be completed today. Some will come from the answers to question 2. Others will be short-term urgent actions or long-term important objectives. Make sure that you complete the most important items on your to-do list first – whether you like doing them or not!
- What can I do to help my top customers? Taking orders and winning business are important but there is more to your job than that. You are there to help your clients and if you do that well it becomes easier to secure future sales. You should frequently ask customers about their needs so that you develop a broad understanding of their priorities and requirements. There are all sorts of ways that you can help e.g. you can proactively sort out problems for them, provide information, put them in touch with useful contacts etc. This question helps ensure that you don’t just think about your needs. You need to see the world from the customer’s point of view and think about his or her needs.
- What do I need to do to improve my performance? How can you become significantly better at your job? What skills do you need to improve or acquire? What training do you need? What bad habits do you need to overcome? Try to see your time at work as a continual process of self-improvement. This question helps you to focus on becoming a better Sales Professional.
- How do I advance my career? What is your career development plan? What is the next step and how do you get there? It is important to focus on closing business this week and this quarter but you also need to think about what you should be doing next year and the year after. Discuss your plans with your manager. Are your goals and timescales realistic? What options do you have to achieve your ambitions? Eisenhower said after the D-day landings, ‘The plans were useless but the planning was essential.’ Your career might not pan out as planned but the act of planning will help you to see a bigger picture and broaden your choices.
Try asking yourself these six questions now and on a regular basis in the future. They will keep you focussed on the right priorities.