Out of Gas

Big snow storm in our neck of the woods this weekend.  Second big one in four days. As I woke this morning, the 11th inch was hitting the drive way and, within an hour, falling snow was giving way to falling sleet and freezing rain.

Anticipating a VERY long morning in the driveway if the 11″ snowfall absorbed a lot of rain, I roused my sleeping teenagers and we headed out to clear snow. [Yeah, yeah, and before you ask, ‘why don’t you hire someone to plow it,’ I’ll reply that it’s a family project that brings us together and maintains our New England winter conditioning.]

Roughly half-way through the snow clearing, the snow blower coughed and stopped – out of gas. A quick check of the reserve tank revealed…. No gas.  So, here we were, mid-storm, no gas.  I found myself thinking, “How in the world did we end up in this position? We’re more experienced than this! ”

The answer is: We got sloppy.  We didn’t have a plan. We weren’t really prepared for the first storm. And, after it passed, none of us were thinking ahead to the second.

So… as we head toward 2008, three reasons why a written sales plan is a good idea… even if we’re experienced.

1. Focus. Time spent on one set of tasks (e.g. blowing snow) displaces time that could be spent on other tasks (e.g. writing proposals). Once our 2008 goals and performance standards are clear, we’re able to decide which accounts and prospects we should focus on, which activities and tasks we must do, which we could delegate to others, and which we should forget about because they’re relatively lower value. In other words, we are able to choose the best uses of our time rather being driven by whatever storm arises.

2.  Resources. Once we’ve set our goals and standards,  we can also anticipate the resources we’ll need in terms of money, time, marketing support, help from others, and, yes, gasoline,  to achieve the goals and survive “second storms.” Written plans help us anticipate those needs and sell our ideas to the people who will fund them so we don’t run out of gas at inopportune times.

3.  Adjustments. Written plans and progress measures (if we actually use them on a monthly basis)  help us know whether we are on target or not and make adjustments.

Had I understood my fuel inventory and consumption rates, I would have focused first on the four foot wide, 15 inch high snow wall pushed into our driveway by the early plows rather than blowing the convenient “fun” snow in the back part of the driveway first. In sales world, this could mean that we blow our time and energy on accounts or opportunities that don’t matter much and then end up short on time, energy, and resources when we get to the deals that DO matter. Written plans help us see where we need to adjust and make those adjustments early.

So, Happy New Year wishes to all. Weekly Sales Thought will return on January 7 with plan in hand so we don’t run out of gas a second time.

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