Top sales and business coach Grant Cardone says, "White space on your calendar is the devil of productivity and plants the seeds of doubt."
In sales, if there's white space on your calendar, you aren't in front of prospects. If you aren't in front of prospects, you aren't getting paid. That's the bottom line.
Tom Hopkins says, "In sales, work is only the time you spend in front of someone who can say yes to your product or service. Everything else is preparatory to work."
So how do you fill you schedule and ensure you are spending the right amount of time engaging in the right activities to grow your business? Follow these steps:
1. Crystallize your goals
What is your goal to sell this week, this month, this quarter, and this year? Before you take action, you have to know what you're shooting for.
It doesn't matter if your goal is to sell $1,000 this year or $1,000,000. If you don't have that number written down, chances are you won't get to it.
Think about the last vacation you took. Did you plan it out beforehand? Chances are, you did. You most likely booked a hotel or vacation rental, maybe airfare or a rental car, and you surely planned what you were going to do while you were there, right?
The problem is most people spend more time planning their vacations than they do the personal and professional goals they want to achieve.
Having clearly defined goals makes them far more attainable, simply because you know what you're shooting for.
2. Quantify your activities down to a weekly number
What are the key activities that get you in front of customers, and what is the best medium, or combination thereof, in making that happen? How many appointments can you fit into your schedule, and what is the optimal time of day for your prospects to meet with vendors?
This aspect of sales planning varies pretty widely, depending on the industry you are in, the length of time and steps involved in the selling process, and even as far as how many decision makers or layers there are in your sales cycle.
Sometimes this information is tough to figure out, especially at first. This is where it pays off to get a veteran sales person in your company to take you under his wing. He or she can help shape these expectations and share valuable insight with you.
Regardless of what the number ends up being, the key is to find out the proper, and realistic, quantity of specific revenue-generating activities you can carry out in a week, and then build the habits and discipline to consistently execute those actions on a weekly basis.
3. Leverage your existing network
Earl Nightingale once wrote an article titled Acres of Diamonds, where he tells the story of an African farmer who, upon learning of other farmers who'd made millions by discovering diamond mines, decided to sell his entire farm and go on a quest to find a diamond mine of his own. After he spent the rest of his life unsuccessfully searching for diamond mines, he threw himself into a river and drowned.
Meanwhile, the man who bought the farm from him was wandering on the property one day and found a shiny rock floating down the stream. Not thinking much of it, he picked it up and took it home with him. He thought it was a cool-enough-looking rock to put on his mantel above his fireplace.
Long story short, one day a friend who was over visiting spotted the stone. After looking at it for several minutes, he informed the new farm owner that he had stumbled across one of the biggest diamonds in all of Africa. The new farm-owner soon realized he had just purchased one of the most productive diamond mines in all of Africa!
Often times in sales, we are so focused on building new customers and adding new accounts that we forget our most valuable aspect of our business: our current customer base. If you take care of your existing customers, and treat them like the diamonds they are, they will have no problem opening doors for you that you may not be able to open on your own.
4. Hang out where your customers do
Most of the time a testimonial and a referral from a current customer is your best bet to get you in the door with a prospect. Trust me, they can convince their friend to meet with you far better than you can.
So why not find out when and where your customers hang out, and go there?
My grandfather was the hardest working man I've ever known. A husband and father of five daughters, he was the sole breadwinner for his family, and he took that responsibility very seriously. Aside from being a full-time police officer for 32 years, he was also a rice farmer and real estate investor.
Every morning he would eat breakfast at six o'clock at the Denny's in our small town. For the longest time, I never understood why. After all, Grandma cooked breakfast for everyone, and she was a great cook.
One day I asked him why he went to Denny's every morning for breakfast. His response: "that's where the deals are."
"What do you mean, Grandpa?" I asked.
He replied, "Joe is a local real estate broker. He knows all the good deals before they ever even hit the market. Most of the real estate I buy, I get it before anyone else ever has a chance to look at it. But Joe is at Denny's every morning at 6, so that's why I go there."
How can you use this lesson in your own business?
If you utilize a social selling platform, which sites are your customers and prospects most likely to go to? It all depends on your target audience. If your audience is a bunch of corporate executives, LinkedIn may be your best bet. If your target demographic is stay-at-home moms, millennials, or recent college graduates, then most likely Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest will give you the best chance of getting in front of them.
Regardless of who your target market is comprised of, the bottom line is you need to know how to get your message in front of those people in the most effective way.
Even though we are in the digital age, don't think for a minute that Grandpa's tactic is outdated. Is there a particular coffee or bagel shop, or a local cafe, your top customers stop at every morning? Is there a local bar or restaurant where your targets hit up for happy hour after work? It's worth your time to find out and put yourself there.
5. Don't neglect yourself or your family
Without a doubt, this is the hardest part of being in sales, especially if you meet with customers in non-banking hours. When I was in business-to-consumer sales, I had to work extremely hard at this.
Although I didn't have a family yet at the time, I did enjoy my time off to recharge, work out, attend baseball games, and travel. Nonetheless, it always seemed like a top prospect would want to meet during a time when I had something else I wanted to do.
Early in my career, I'd buckle and schedule the appointment, blow off my plans, and often times the friends I had made those plans with. As you can imagine, my life became really unbalanced and far less enjoyable.
Especially so if I cancelled plans with friends or family, went to a sales appointment, and then never made the sale with that customer.
Over time, I realized that first and foremost, I needed to make plans for myself, and no customer or prospect was going to be scheduled into those time slots. From that point on, if a customer requested a meeting at that time slot, my response was, "I do apologize, I already have an appointment at that time. Can we find a different time that would work?"
Even if the appointment was with myself. If it was something important to me, I already had an appointment. I didn't owe them an explanation, and you don't owe your customers one either.
The interesting thing is, if a prospect is truly open to meeting with you, and is someone who you'll want to partner with for a long time, they will be more flexible. At the end of the day, you must stay true to you and your family.
Holding your commitment is the most important piece of executing a well-disciplined sales plan. And the biggest commitment you'll want to keep is to yourself and the ones you love.
How are you doing executing your sales plan?
Bret Barrie was a Hall-of-Fame and Presidents' Club-winning sales rep and is a top-producing sales leader in the medical device industry. He is also the author of The Selling Edge: How to Reach the Top in any Sales Industry and Promoted: The Proven Path to Career Advancement. A baseball enthusiast and fitness junkie, he is happily married with three children and lives in the greater Sacramento area. For more information, visit bretbarrie.com.