Looking Back To Plan Ahead: 4 Steps To Success Next Year

Regardless of when your fiscal year ends, January is a great time
to start thinking seriously about your business goals, and your sales
plan for the year. Of course, it’s always a great idea to plan ahead.
But don’t make the mistake of setting new goals for your career without
first reflecting on your accomplishments – and your shortcomings –
from the last year.

This isn’t always an easy (or pleasant) task. But to truly control
the direction you take this year, you need to be fully aware of how
you fared in the last twelve months – and where you can really work
to improve. Once you have a clear picture of where you excelled, where
you need to focus more time or effort, and your overall results, you
can begin to set the goals and behaviors you’ll need to succeed in
the New Year.

Now for the hard part. The sad but true fact is that, in the overwhelming
majority of cases, most sales people fail to achieve their goals.
Why? Because they lack a detailed plan that tells them how to achieve
those goals, in the time they want to achieve them.

Setting goals without creating a plan to achieve them is like deciding
to hike up Mount Everest without a day of training, a route map or
guide, or any equipment besides your running shoes and a bottle of

Would you want to attempt this? Of course not (I hope!). Yet very
few sales people understand what we need to do on a daily or weekly
basis to achieve our goals. Just as most of us recognize that buying
a lottery ticket is not a viable retirement plan, we also need to
realize that simply setting a goal and then wishing or praying to
hit it is not an effective planning strategy.

So where do you begin on your trek up the mountain? The following
is a simple, 4-step planning tool you can use to build your career,
by building a clearer path towards achieving your goals each month,
quarter or year.

Step 1: Define your objective, and make this definition quantifiable.

What, specifically, are your sales and production goals?
Decide what your specific goals for the year are, and then state them
in a direct, concise – and measurable – way, that makes it clear what
you want to achieve, and when.

For example, if your focus is on revenues, then you might define
your goal as: "I want to close $1,000,000 in new business and
$1,000,000 in existing client repeat business this year." If
your goal is to increase customer numbers, then you might state something
like: "I want to make 10 new customers this year, and sell to
20 existing customers."

Other goals we have seen include:

  • I want to increase the annual dollarized value of each of my
    clients to an average of $20,000; or

  • I want to increase my amount of repeat business by 80%.

Step 2: Plan to succeed.
Once you have a clear, quantifiable statement of your goals for the
year, break them down into more manageable quarterly, monthly, weekly
and daily objectives.

For example, if your goal is to land $1,000,000 in new business,
and your average sales size is $50,000, then you need to make 20 new
sales to achieve that goal. Based on average sales statistics (and
if you’ve measured your own statistics, please use those instead),
the average sales person closes 1 in 3 qualified leads. Therefore,
to make 20 new sales this year, you would theoretically need to have
60 qualified prospects.

Now, the average sales person needs to meet 3 prospects in order
to qualify 1, and must usually make about 20 attempts (phone calls,
voice mail, email, etc) to get one meeting. So in the above example,
to realize your goal of $1,000,000 in new sales, you would need to
make 3600 attempts and meet 180 prospects over the next twelve months.

If this sounds like a frightening number, remember that 3600 attempts
over the course of a year really only translates into:

  • 300 attempts a month;
  • 75 attempts per week; or
  • Just 15 attempts per day.
    Now that’s what I call an easy plan to follow!

Step 3: Execute your plan.
Now that you have your plan, you’re ready to execute it.

To give you a baseline on the amount of time it takes to make those
daily calls, I make 25 attempts per day, which takes me 2-3 hours
to complete. As Zig Ziglar says: "Daily objectives are the best
indicators of character." So to help you complete your daily
sales goals, try some of the following tips and techniques:

  • Get to work! In sales as in life, half the battle is just
    showing up!

  • Call at all times of the day. Sometimes even Friday afternoons
    can be the best time to make sales calls.

  • Mix up the types of contacts. Make some on the phone, some face
    to face, some at Networking events and some by email. This will
    help you hedge your bets and keep things interesting.

  • Track your attempts, meetings and close ratios consistently,
    and measure your results.
    Then adjust your plan based on your
    real metrics. You may find that you’re above or below the averages
    I’ve used above, but if you don’t measure to find out, you’ll never

  • Stay focused. The top 10% of sales performers have one
    thing in common: they are consistently focused on what needs to
    get done to achieve their goals. Mark the time you’re going to spend
    attempting to reach customers in your calendar each day or week,
    and close your office door until you’ve completed the task. While
    you’re at it, turn off your email and don’t take any in-coming calls.
    If you work in a cubical, find a closed office in which to do your
    prospecting. In other words, force yourself to stay focused and
    avoid distractions. The fewer distractions you have, the faster
    the work will get done.

  • Prospect consistently. Whether you choose to make all your
    weekly calls in one day or do a small amount each day doesn’t matter.
    What matters is that you are consistent. Think of yourself as an
    elite professional. Tiger Woods would tell you that it’s the consistency
    of his practice time – the 100’s of balls he hits and thousands
    of putts he makes every day – that leads to ultimate success.

  • Keep records and make lists. Successful sales people record
    their progress toward each goal every day, and then list the 5 most
    important things they need to do the next day to move that goal
    even further ahead. This short "To Do" list is 100% focused
    on achieving their goals, because the most successful sales people
    also understand that daily discipline is the key to reaching their

Step 4: Reinforce your goals to stay motivated.
Finally, remember that tasks that get rewarded are tasks that get
done. So find a way to reward yourself after finishing your calls
each day.

My personal reward for completing my daily prospecting calls is
a trip to my local Starbucks for my favorite "venti triple
shot non fat extra hot no foam mocha!" (Hey, nobody said I
was low maintenance!). No calls, no coffee – it’s that simple.

Guess what gets done first thing each morning?

Help out a fellow sales professional
Staying motivated to consistently do the work needed to achieve
your goals is probably the single hardest part of sales. It’s not
surprising then that one of the questions I’m most often asked by
my clients is, how do I stay motivated?

I would love to be able to tell you precisely how to motivate yourself,
but the fact is, different things work for different people. What’s
important is finding what works for you, and then sticking to it
until you accomplish the tasks you’ve set for yourself.

In the interests of sharing some insights into success, I’d like
to invite all of you to send me your ideas for how you stay motivated,
and how you reward yourself for hitting your goals, making calls
or closing deals. Send them to me at contact us,
and each idea we publish in Engaging Ideas will get a free CD!

In the meantime, the best advice I can offer is to write your goals
down, update them constantly based on your real results, and make
them public, including displaying them close by. Studies show that
people who share their goals with others are 70% more likely to
achieve them. So share your goals with the people you respect the
most, and you’ll work harder to ensure that you don’t disappoint

The difference between top sales performers and the rest of the
field is that top performers have a plan to achieve their goals,
and they act on that plan every day. This year, commit yourself
to being a top performer. Design a daily and/or weekly plan, act
on it consistently – and monitor your results.

It’s been said that most people aim at nothing, and hit it with
surprising accuracy. We all have a goal in mind. Whether you hit
it or not will depend on your ability to define and focus on the
tasks that will consistently lead you to your goal, time and time