(This article originally appeared on Deb Calvert’s blog)
In sales, being in the right place at the right time really matters. But it’s not luck that will land you in the right place at the right time. Instead, it’s strategic thinking and business acumen.
One of the greatest obstacles for many sellers is the notion that there is something mysterious about selling. Sellers often believe that luck or karma or having the “it” factor makes for a good month. The temptation to rely on and blame something intangible and unidentifiable is strong. But it isn’t helpful.
What makes a seller successful in any given period and over time is not nearly so nebulous. It’s good old fashioned blocking and tackling, selling with the basic skills at the forefront. It involves a scientific, planned approach to following the steps of a sales process. The most successful sellers are the ones who make a plan and work that plan… up to a point.
Timing comes into the picture when that plan is not just rote, not the same week after week and the same for every seller. The plan needs to be strategic and strongly founded in business acumen. Here’s how this would look for three different sellers:
- Seller A has a methodical approach to selling, following all the best practices in her industry for time management. She works a straight 9-to-5 schedule, and she has set activities for each day and time. She knows that calling on Thursday to set appointments for the following week is good business. She knows that calling decision makers over the lunch hour bypasses gatekeepers, so she takes her lunch break at 1:00 instead of noon. And she knows that Monday mornings are the best time for doing research because it’s difficult to reach buyers at that time. Week after week, she follows a formulaic routine. It’s a good discipline, but…
- Seller B is more successful. He, too, is aware of the best practices in the industry and adheres to them up to a point. But he also remains flexible and responsive. He is not rigid about his schedule. He plans ahead by basing his plans on what will be happening in a given week with the customers he will be calling on because he is more strategic about time allocation. He is willing to work until 7:00 p.m. when he knows his top prospect will be attending the chamber mixer (a little tidbit he learned from a gatekeeper he befriended). He does pre-call planning research whenever he has to wait for an appointment, in bits and pieces, rather than taking big chunks of time away from selling activities. He works to set the most important meetings as far in advance as possible, and then he fits less important and less urgent ones in around the key meetings. He reads trade journals and is actively involved in industry associations so that he can build his business acumen and his network. He is always on the lookout for the sales opportunities presented by any changes he reads or hears about. Both Seller A and Seller B are more successful than…
- Seller C who chose the field of selling because it doesn’t require sitting behind a desk all day. Seller C feels that he’s at his best when he can follow his intuition and instincts. Planning just isn’t appealing to Seller C because he doesn’t want to be boxed in. He starts each day fresh and gets done what needs to get done that day. He prefers to let his emotions be his guide, making cold calls when the mood is right and dropping in on customers when he feels like it instead of by appointment. He “goes with the flow” and makes sales and deadlines “by the seat of his pants.” He genuinely believes that his luck is related to his gut instincts, and he goes and does what feels right in any given moment. When tied down to routines and appointments, Seller C feels like it takes him “off his game.”
You probably know sellers like A, B and C. You may even know successful sellers of all three types. Perhaps you believe that individual style should not be compromised or managed. I’d agree with you. If you take a closer look at Seller B, the one that is most successful over the short-term and the long-term, you’ll notice that this style is a blend of Seller A and Seller C – planning strategically and as needed but remaining open and nimble to respond to customers in a way that makes good business sense.
Seller B types usually start out as A or C types. They adapt, though, in order to improve their selling effectiveness. This doesn’t require a wholesale personality change. It requires a deliberate focus on knowing the business and the needs of the customer well enough to be where you need to be when you need to be there. Of the three types, only Seller B gets that timing really is everything in selling. He doesn’t rely on luck alone nor on hyper-structured scheduling alone to time things right. He uses both.
Sellers who over-rely on one or the other miss out on opportunities that others get. Seller B misses fewer of those opportunities because he sees and responds to more. So if you are too much A or too much C, consider modifying your approach just enough to find that balance like B.
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