In a long and varied career, I have spent a few decades in coaching, sales, sales management, IT and running my own businesses.
Time Is Money
Sales people are busy people, and in sales ‘Time is Money’, especially if a sales person is commission-based—which most are to some extent. So, making the most of time ‘on the road’ and visiting customers for those all-important sales calls is key to any good sales person’s success and financial rewards. Here are a few tips and strategies that any sales person can use to squeeze the maximum benefit out of their time visiting customers to make sure their busy days are productive ones.
Visualising Your Day for Success
Many top athletes use visualisation to improve their performance and sales people can do the same. One of the easiest ways pre-plan your sales calls is to use visualisation. This is easy to do and it doesn’t have to be perfect every time.
For visualisation to help in your pre-call planning, you need to imagine a call from start to finish and mentally note any aspects of the call that would cause you problems in achieving your goal of a successful sales call.
You need to do a minimum of a couple of visualisations on this to ensure you get the best out of it. But don’t worry, visualising a call is not done in real time, so you should be able to 'see' the entire call in 30 seconds to 2 minutes—this is time well spent.
Visualise and Take Action
Here’s how you do it…
Close your eyes and imagine yourself preparing to set off for your appointment. In your mind’s eye you consult your road map to ensure you know the way, or program your SatNav (mental note: Remember to take a map/SatNav?).
The first half of the journey takes you along a road you know well, imagine this in detail, some of the road signs, those road works that seem to have been in place for months (mental note: set off slightly early to ensure on time). You arrive at the customer premises with a little time to spare, you use this time to re-read your customer notes/product literature (mental note: Take relevant notes and product literature).
You next see yourself being shown into the customer’s office and after some pleasantries begin the sales interview in earnest. Imagine some of the questions the customer might ask you (do you know all the answers? if not make a mental note to brush up on them). The customer asks to see a sample of the product and later some testimonials (mental note ensure you have the relevant samples and testimonials). You see the call going well throughout and in the end the call the customer placing an order (mental note: have you the necessary orders forms/details) or agreeing the next stage in the buying process. Imagine yourself shaking hands with the customer and leaving their office.
OK that’s visualisation one, now write down all your mental notes before you forget them:
- Road Map/SatNav
- Early Start
- Notes and literature
- Answers to obvious questions
- Samples and testimonials
- Ordering forms/details
Take action on all the points of the above list and ensure you have them all covered before doing the call for real.
Reinforcing the Visualisation
A second visualisation is often useful in a similar vein to the one above, but this should be even slicker, as you won’t need to ‘pause’ to make mental notes (having ensured the potential glitches don’t occur), this one should go smoothly and without a hitch culminating in you achieving your goal. The best time to do this second visualisation is just before the call for real. Arrive a little early, and when you have safely parked the car, close your eyes for a minute and run through this second visualisation—it goes without saying do not attempt to do visualisations whilst driving, operating machinery etc.
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Planning Your Day
Getting organised for your days on the road and route planning are relatively easy concepts to grasp, and although there are several systems that are commonly used (your company may have one in place now), territory route planning boils down to a few simple basics.
- Plan ahead: Ensure you know where you are going each day, well in advance and allow enough time to get between appointments. This seems obvious, but it is surprising how often a poor (in both senses of the word) salesperson steps out of the front door in the morning with only the vaguest idea of where they are going—you can imagine how much this impresses their manager!
- Be prepared: Stuff happens, be ready for it. If it’s winter, ensure you allocate enough time at the start of the day to clear the snow off the car should the temperature drop. If it is summer anticipate the holiday traffic, what is your back up plan if you can’t make that next appointment in time (see below).
- Give ‘options’ when booking appointments with customers that favour your diary commitments whenever possible. This way they are likely to ‘go’ for one of your options rather than picking something that favours their diary (and not yours —you will have to re-organise your diary), or worse, putting off booking a meeting with at that moment.
- ‘Cluster’ calls in the same geographical area to minimise driving time/maximise customer time.
- Use ‘Down-time’ (arriving early for appointments, waiting on delays, coffee breaks) to review literature and make plans.
- Prioritise calls: This is important. You should prioritise your calls by how much they will positively or negatively affect your target.
How to Prioritise Your Day
As mentioned above, prioritising your day and how that will positively or negatively affect your target is crucial to your ongoing success.
What do I mean? Here’s an example.
Say you have 4 calls to make tomorrow at:
- 12 noon
Call number 1 is a good customer who has been encountering some problems with your company/product, you need to sort the problems out or you could lose business.
Call number 2 is to a new prospect, and the call is basically to find out who they are and what the potential is.
Call number 3 is to seal a deal you have been working on for some months and could potentially win you some good business.
Call number 4 is a good prospect, has shown interest but so far hasn’t committed to buying.
This is how you should prioritise these customer calls using the ‘Bottom Line Rule’.
- Call 1: Top priority, call on at all costs, it will be hard to win this customer back should you lose him, and losing him even for a short time will negatively affect your chances of hitting your target.
- Call 3: This is your second priority, this appointment can positively affect your chances of hitting target, earning you more bonus.
- Call 4: This call is your third priority, potential business but not yet in the bag (don’t get carried away, a ‘Maybe’ can be a long way from a ‘Yes’).
- Call 2: This call is the least important of the day, the potential customer isn’t earning you any bonus, and you don’t know what the potential is, it could be good or it could be bad, so you need to favour the calls with guaranteed potential over this one. If you have to do any re-scheduling during the day, this is the one to drop and re-arrange for another time.
When prioritising your calls for the day, always implement the ‘Bottom Line Rule’—which states that the calls which have the most chance of significantly helping you hit your sales target (or in the example above hindering you) always get priority.
Following the above strategies will ensure that your time with your customers is well spent wisely and keep you on target for hitting your commission bonus.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2019 Jerry Cornelius