Astute Planner

(Excerpted from Chapter Four from Take Your Sales Performance Up-a-Notch)
By: Dave Kahle

Here’s one of the foundational principles for sales success: You’ll always be more effective if you think about what you do before you do it.

Can you imagine a football team not creating a game plan or not practicing before the big game? Can you imagine a musician not preparing a piece of music before the recital? Can you imagine a politician not practicing the big speech? Or a doctor not reviewing the x-rays and the procedure prior to a major surgery? Or a lawyer barging into a case without having planned it? The answer to all these questions is,”Of course not.” In every event of any importance at all, professional, effective human beings plan and prepare beforehand. It’s an essential step toward success.

The same is true for sales people.If we think about what we do before we do it, providing we think about it in the right way, we’ll significantly improve our performance.Unfortunately, many sales people are often guilty of the same mindset that provided this speaker an excuse for his lack of concern and preparation. Our intuition and incredible spur-of-the-moment, ad-lib skills will get us by.WRONG!

You have a great treasury of wisdom and insight that you’ve acquired through a rich set of life experiences.Much of that wisdom and insight can be directly applied to your sales job, if you will only tap into it and use it.Of course you’ll be able to tap into some of that accumulated expertise on the spur of the moment, but you’ll be far more effective if you take the time to tap into it before you get into the situation.

If you’re going to be effective with this hat, you’ll think about what you do before you do it – you’ll think about every telephone call, every sales call, every customer, every presentation, every interaction with your customers and prospects. Yet it’s not enough to think about what you do before you do it, you must also think about things in the right way.

Good planning is a matter of asking yourself the right questions, and then answering them with detail and precision.

An amazing thing happens when you ask yourself questions – you think of the answers! What sounds so elementary is really a powerful key to unlocking your success. When you ask yourself a good question you stimulate your thinking. For example, you could ask yourself, “What are the three most effective things I could do to improve my sales performance?” That question would prompt you to analyze your performance, develop some possible changes in your behavior, and then select three that appear to be the highest priority. That’s a very worthwhile set of thoughts. And they were prompted by the question you asked yourself.

While this is just one example, the principle is incredibly powerful. Learn to ask yourself good questions, and you’ll think more effectively.

It follows, then, that if you want to think well, you need to ask yourself the best questions.For example, you could ask yourself the question, “What are all the things that the customer will not like about me in this upcoming sales call?” Ask that question, and your mind will dredge up all the flaws and faults you’ve filed away in your memory.That’s probably not the most effective way to prepare for a sales call.After thinking about that question, you’re liable to be depressed and discouraged.Rather, you could ask yourself the question,”What are two or three things I could find out about the customer that would uncover things we have in common?” Think about the answer to that question, and your mind will dwell on your customer, not yourself, and focus on finding common ground in order to build a relationship.Which of those two questions will be the better one for you to ask yourself prior to a sales call?

The answer is obvious. But the point is this – if you’re going to adequately prepare and plan for your sales interchanges, you need to ask yourself the right questions.When you ask yourself the right questions, you think in the most effective way.

In order to implement this principle, you’ll need to master two basic processes.Each of these processes is really a series of questions, asked in a certain sequence. Master these two processes, and you’ll master the first hat, Astute Planner. You’ll gain a competency that will serve you well the rest of your working life.

The Processes

To implement this principle and acquire the power of the first hat, you’ll need to master two processes: The prioritization process, and the planning process.

The prioritization process is used to help you make good decisions about where to spend your time, about what to plan.There is just not enough time in the day for you to plan everything.So, you must first prioritize those things that are important enough to plan.You then follow that up with the planning processes.You’ll find that you use the two together.