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Most people have heard the saying “Proper planning prevents poor performance.” It’s a popular saying in sports and business but surprising how few salespeople heed that advice while working their territories. This column will discuss why salespeople won’t plan and some positives that come from better planning. I believe it’s imperative for salespeople to both plan their week and their day. For purposes of this column, the focus will be on planning the week.

One of the reasons I’ve heard salespeople give for not planning a week is that it takes a lot of time to look over a sometimes very large customer list and try to figure out who to call on. Then factor in that the plan very rarely comes to fruition, so the time spent planning seems useless. I don’t share that sentiment; in fact, taking a more focused approach to weekly planning can turn struggles into success.

Most salespeople will start a week with an idea of what they want to do. There may be a few appointments already set for the week when Monday rolls around and the remaining part of the week just fills in naturally based on issues that arise or customers calling with fires to be put out. You feel busy, because you’re running around taking care of things, but if you looked back at the end of week at what you got done, you may not be that excited. Starting your week with a written plan of which customers and prospects you would like to interact with can be extremely beneficial to you. Let’s look at three areas that can increase your productivity and your sales results.

Customer Contact Log: Let’s tackle the “I don’t have the time” excuse by introducing you to the Customer Contact Log. This is a log where you list every customer you are responsible for and any prospect you have contacted and want to continue to work. This log has twelve columns representing months of the year, with a goal of seeing or contacting all customers once a month. That timeframe can be modified based on your own situation. On Friday afternoons, close out your week by placing an “X” in the appropriate column for each customer and prospect you had contact with that week. Then planning the next week is simply an exercise of documenting appointments you already have set for the week and filling in the rest of the week by looking over the Customer Contact Log for accounts without an “X” that makes sense for you contact that week. This takes your planning time down from an hour or more to 10 minutes or less and allows you to look over your customer base from a more strategic vantage point, allowing you to plan for customer interactions that makes the most sense for you.

Quit Playing Pinball: Although it’s a fun game, running around your territory putting out fires and reacting to the whims of every customer phone call is a very inefficient use of your time. Without a written plan in place every phone call, problem, or issue becomes magnified in its importance and everything can seem like an emergency. Having a plan in place let’s you decide what constitutes an emergency and gives you the chance to politely push back on customer requests by explaining “I will be in that area the today after tomorrow, can it wait until then?” Sometimes it can wait and other times it can’t, but having a plan will certainly minimize the time you presently spend pinballing around your territory.

Effective Territory Coverage: Combining the Customer Contact Log with a written weekly plan makes it easier for you to manage your territory more efficiently. You will maintain consistent contact with your customers, as well as prospects that you are working through the sales cycle. This ensures that customers will not feel neglected and helps combat a competitor swooping in to woo an unappreciated customer from you. The time saved by minimizing pinballing and working more efficiently also provides you more opportunity to prospect for new business which is gaining greater importance this year as business is tightening.

If any of you would like a copy of a Customer Contact Log to see if it could help you, contact me at [email protected] and I’ll send you one. Although having a plan is important, working that plan effectively every day is equally as important. Next month’s column will tackle that subject. Happy Selling!!