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Planning for Success

By Dave Burgess

December 4, 2017

width=207It’s always amazing to me that as soon as we get beyond Labor Day, we start to think about our goals for the following year—2018 in this case. Most larger companies are now starting to transmit their budget packages to key employees, looking for concrete answers on next year’s business within 45–60 days, so they can start planning for capital and human and cash resource requirements. That whole process has to start with sales!

Success in sales doesn’t come by accident. It requires a lot of thought and a high level of planning. The thought process gets me to a sales number that I think is attainable, and the planning involves all the steps necessary to make the numbers, namely:

  • Who are the customers I am targeting?
  • Where are they?
  • What are they planning for capital purchases?
  • How do I show them an ROI that makes my value proposition more appealing?
  • Who am I competing with (many times I am not really competing against a fellow competitor; I am competing for a slice of the capital budget money)?
  • Who is in my pipeline from last year and still hasn’t purchased?
  • Which trade shows, conventions, summits, etc., do I need to attend to meet the influencers and the targets?

An old marketing professor of minein the U.K. used a phrase that I have always remembered and is still 100 percent true 40 years later. “If youdon’t know where you are going, anyroad will take you there!” In simpleterms: If you fail to plan, you are,in effect, planning to fail!

Once I have my plan in place and my sales target has been approved, it’s time to execute and hit the road, knowing that my plan has to be flexible enough to deal with change. Our traditional independent market is going through some rapid changes. Pick up the trades any day to see which integrated company has purchased which independent. Suddenly, that project you pitched to an owner now needs to go in front of a committee. If it passes that test, there are an additional eight levels of approval needed, and it may take months—even years—to be approved. But that doesn’t stop me from trying.

I live by four fairly simple rules in sales—the 4 Ps—and I think that they are common for all of us:

  1. Planning. Perhaps the most important of all.
  2. Professionalism. Look that part, do your research, make the appointment with the decision-maker, get there early, and make your points clearly and concisely.
  3. Patience. The days of making the presentation, quoting the project, and receiving a PO seem a long time ago. I just received a purchase order that I have been working on for four years with five different plant managers—now that’s patience!
  4. Persistence. If you feel strongly that your product is viable and can show a positive return for the customer, then persistence pays. He or she will eventually see that you are sincere; but if you stop calling or contacting, you will soon slide down his or her list!

I hope that 2018 will be another great year for this industry, and I am sure I will see you on the road!


This article was written by Dave Burgess.