“Now What?” Goals and Plans Should Go Hand in Hand

Did you make big goals for the year? Goals are wonderful but developing a plan that supports your achievement of those goals is an even more important effort. In fact, they should go hand in hand.

One of the things I've noticed about top performers is that they not only their focus on their top priorities but also what comes next. So often, the inexperienced salesperson will ask me, "what now?" or "how do I follow up with this person?"

As smug as it may sound, the answer to both questions is that they should have known the answers long before they asked.

If you don't know what (at least) the next two steps are in your sales process, then you're not ready to take any steps in your sales process.

Seriously.

Most companies have created a cut and dried routine that was created for a reason, so for many of you, this is merely an exercise. Maybe it’s an exercise you haven't done in a while, but a simple one at that. You've been doing this long enough that it just requires a review of what's been done before.

More often than not, however, a salesman with blinders on forges ahead like a bull in a china shop without any knowledge of what he's doing or where to go next. "Need me to make calls? I'll make calls!" Then those calls don't go anywhere. There isn't any follow through because there was never any vision beyond those calls, and that's how otherwise talented salespeople end up getting frustrated that they aren't as successful as they feel they should be.

Vince Lombardi said that "The will to win is nothing without the will to prepare to win." So, how's your preparation? What does your sales process look like? You probably have some inbound business, and you'll take that all day, but what is your outbound process? How do you find your best prospects, and then how do you engage them? What comes next? What's your discovery process like? Can you even help them or are you making assumptions? How long do you stay in discovery before you're absolutely sure you can help them, and what's your call to action once you are sure? What is required of them at this point, and how long, on average, does it take for them to act? Do they need to see a demo or get their hands on the product? Who else is involved in the decision?

There are a lot more questions to ask and be answered (I haven't even gotten past discovery), but I'm going to stop right there because you probably can't answer a lot of them, and you need to be able to.

This is what I want you to do. Take out a pen and a paper, and list all of the things that need to happen from beginning to end in your sales process, in order if possible. It's even better if you can map this out (I use MindNode for these types of exercises). Think of every possible outcome of every meeting and write it down. Then look at what you just did. That's your map. Where are you on that map in each of the deals you're currently working? Are you pointed in the right direction? What twists and turns are up ahead?

Once you have a grasp of the entire landscape, you realize how different your perspective becomes. You start to inquire about things in your meetings that don't normally come up. You ask for the next logical commitments rather than leaving things up in the air. You move through the sales process more efficiently, and with greater success rates.

In sales, only when you are prepared for what happens next are you fully prepared for what's happening now.