To achieve their goals, professional salespeople must develop the habit of routinely pausing to evaluate their successes and failures.
Examining the critical factors that contribute to both is necessary not only for growth but also for making important adjustments that will allow a salesperson to either continue to achieve his or her goals or get back on track.
This time of year, the fourth quarter, is the time when many salespeople begin to lose steam. However, this can be the best time of year to regroup, reevaluate, determine what has worked well over the past nine months, what has not, and set goals for the end of the year and into next. To place yourself in a strong position for the remainder of the year, I encourage you to take a few minutes this week to sit down and review your sales performance over the last nine months.
How have your sales efforts gone so far this year?
Be honest with yourself. Have you met your goals yet? If not, now is the time to start making the necessary changes to get back on track. Have you already met or exceeded your goals? Now is a good time to analyze how and why you were successful and how you can continue that momentum into next year. What has worked well for you this year? What hasn't? What adjustments can you make to increase your effectiveness, both as a sales professional, and as a person? What goals can you commit to today that will help you make improvements in your life before the end of the year?
One of the single most important questions a salesperson can ask is: "Has anything changed?"
Not only is this the first question you should ask each time you meet with a customer or prospect - whether it's the second meeting or the 22nd - it's also the first question you should ask as you sit down to review your own performance.
Asking this question gives you the opportunity to evaluate your situation objectively, taking into account not only the choices you've made over the last several months but also the factors that may be beyond your control.
Once you've identified and considered how these choices and factors have impacted your sales this year, it will be easier to revise your goals accordingly.
It's important to understand that acknowledging problems is not tantamount to admitting failure; by contrast, recognizing problems allows for the opportunity to develop new and better solutions to them.
Unmet goals, lost clients and even circumstances beyond your control can be overcome with the right attitude, the setting of realistic goals and the commitment to sticking with them until they are achieved.
However, if you never ask "Has anything changed," you run the risk of operating under false assumptions.
A bad year can become a disastrous one if you aren't honest with yourself about the reality of your situation. Your sense of personal accountability is your greatest asset in overcoming obstacles.
True sales professionals hold themselves to a high standard, regardless of the challenges they face. It is the only way to meet and exceed expectations under all, but especially difficult, circumstances.
As you devise solutions to overcome obstacles, you should also consider the current climate within your company.
With nearly every business these days making a concerted effort to trim their budget and become as lean as possible, as a salesperson, you must constantly be positioning yourself to be seen as "part of the solution" - an invaluable part of the only department in the company that actually brings in the dollars.
To bring in those dollars, however, it is essential to make customer care your top priority.
Since customers are your company's lifeblood, how you treat them directly impacts your company's bottom line.
What are you doing in each interaction to ensure your customers are satisfied and well-served?
Have you won any "big" clients this year?
What factors have contributed to your success?
Can they be duplicated in the future?
Have you lost clients?
If so, why?
Change is a constant in selling. Keeping abreast of what's going on in your industry is vital. School is never out for the sales professional, so you must dedicate yourself to staying current on industry trends and information, including overall market conditions.
Finally, it's imperative that the salesperson keeps a constant eye on the competition. Has your industry grown or shrunk this year? How is your market? What is your competition doing? Are they profitable, growing or adding staff, introducing new products/services? Have they had any major customer wins this year?
It's important to always keep your goals clearly in mind by reviewing them regularly and making adjustments as needed.
Are you on track to meet your goals this year? If not, what can you do differently to get back on track for the remainder of this year and into next? If you are on track, how can you keep your momentum going? Have you set goals? Are they realistic? Would you like to change anything?
If so, the time for change is now.
Roy Chitwood is an author, trainer and consultant in sales and sales management and is president of Max Sacks International, Seattle.