How many selling days do you have available to you this year?
During my tenure as a sales trainer, I have heard countless excuses why sales people did not reach their monthly, quarterly or annual targets. Aside from the traditional “competitor”, “price” and “economy” reasons, I have also heard reps say things like, “I was at a trade show for four days this month”, “The sales meeting took me away from my territory” or other such excuses.
Long-term success in sales doesn’t just happen; it takes planning and strategizing and part of that planning is calculating the actual number of selling days you have available.
Virtually every company I know requires some of its sales people to travel. They schedule sales periodic meetings. They participate in trade shows and conferences. And they often have new product launches. Plus, everyone takes vacation time.
A few years ago I worked through an exercise that helped one of my clients dramatically improve the productivity of their outside sales team.
We started by having the reps estimate how many selling days they had available for the upcoming year. The numbers ranged between 145 and 175 days.
We then had them block their calendar for the pre-determined commitments such as trade shows, conferences, meetings, anticipated vacation, etc. This included travel time to and from each event (this varied from rep to rep depending on their geographical location). Then we asked them to calculate travel time to and from “out-of-town” client appointments. We got them to record their office/admin days as well.
After this was completed the team realized that they had far fewer selling days than they originally thought. In fact, after the revised calculations, the average dropped to 105 and 135 days.
However, this was only phase one of our exercise.
Next, we had each rep plot out their annual sales target and identify how they would achieve that goal (existing clients or new prospects). This activity was an eye opener because no one had actually taken the time to figure out HOW they were going to attain that year’s sales target.
This helped the team actually determine where they would get that sales revenue from rather than just think about it. Several of the reps realized that they needed to get more business from their existing clients. Others thought acquiring new clients would be a more effective approach.
But wait! We weren’t done yet.
We had the reps look at their existing clients and rate them on sales volume and profitability. Then we had them look back and calculate how much time they spent with each client throughout the previous year.
This was a huge eye opener!
Several of the reps noticed that they had spent an inordinate amount of time with clients who generated very little revenue or profit and they realized that spending that much time with these customers was actually costing them money. They started to see that they could improve their results by investing more time with higher-value customers.
Business planning is not just an exercise for business owners, sales leaders, executives and shareholders. Successful sales people also create business plans to outline their strategy.
Planning may not be glamorous or fun work. But, it is extremely effective in helping you achieve your sales targets, exceed your sales goals and quotas and improving your overall sales productivity.