At the start of every January—and now the beginning of a decade—many of us welcome a new year with updated resolutions and goals to reach.
For some, that may mean getting in shape, eating healthier and saving money; for others, that may involve shifting their business routines to meet new sales goals.
Print+Promo recently spoke with Gerry Barker, president of Barker Specialty Company, Cheshire, Conn.; Cliff Quicksell, MAS+, MASI, vice president of affiliate marketing for iPROMOTEu, Wayland, Mass.; and Steven R. Flaughers, owner of Proforma 3rd Degree Marketing, North Canton, Ohio, about how salespeople can position themselves for success in 2020.
1. Plan in advance
Chances are, you’ve already outlined a few professional goals for the new year. If not, don’t wait any longer, because a new year without a plan is essentially setting yourself up for failure. If your 2020 goal is to increase revenue by 30 percent, for example, there’s an entire strategy—complete with a lengthy list of subtasks—that goes into hitting this target, and that takes time.
But as Flaughers suggested, there is such a thing as overplanning, or as he calls it, “persecution by analyzation.”
“You have to have a plan and you should have started that 2020 outlook back in October [or] November only to shore it up and be ready for implementation in December,” he said. “You can’t effectively plan out your entire year during that dead time from Dec. 25 to Jan 1. I mean, you can put down numbers and figures, but there is not a lot of thought in that if you have not prepared properly.
“Once you have that plan in place, go [and] hit the ground running,” Flaughers continued. “Make those calls, do the prospecting, hit the social media, ask for those referrals, review your prior year with clients, find a reason to stop in [to see clients] to find out what is coming up this year. Do something instead of spending too much time talking about what you are going to do and plan to do.”
If you’re new to the industry, it may benefit you to find a mentor who can help guide you through creating a profitable business, Quicksell mentioned.
“If you really want to elevate the game, you really need to do things differently to create that differentiation between you and your competition,” he stressed. “The reality is, anybody, can sell a coffee mug, but how do you grow or form a … a profitable business that maybe years from now, down the road, will have some value that you can sell.”
Quicksell added that, as a mentor himself, he doesn’t tell people what to do. Instead, he gives advice so that his clients can come to their own conclusion.
“That mentorship is critical in business,” he stated. “That goes for the promo business [or] any business that you’re in.”
2. Check-in with your goals periodically
The easiest way to know if you are staying on track with your business and sales goals is to check in periodically. Whether that is daily, weekly, monthly or quarterly, staying on top of it will ensure that you’re on the right path.
Barker prefers to reassess his own goals daily and review staff goals on a monthly basis.
“We set goals for our staff in many areas and review them monthly,” Barker explained. “However, we view goals as an ever-changing process (i.e., goals ebb and flow with the constant evolution of business and relationships). While goals certainly provide direction, we all want to enjoy the journey getting there. I check-in and question myself on a daily basis, and have great respect for my staff, who are straightforward and honest when giving me opinions. I learn so much from everyone at Barker Specialty Company, and see every day as an opportunity to grow.”
Flaughers and his team stay on track by posting oversized adhesive notes around the office. Whenever they walk in or out of a room, that’s something they notice, so it serves as a constant reminder.
“We look at our trends monthly, and also our written plan for the year to ensure we are on track,” he said.
3. Stay focused and on track
One of the biggest distractions when completing any task can be unanswered emails in an inbox. For some, answering an email as soon as it comes in may feel great, but doing so can take time away from a project, thereby reducing productivity. Flaughers recommended programs, like Mailbutler and Boomerang, to help schedule emails or halt incoming messages while you focus on the task at hand.
Another tip he shared was to designate a certain day of the week to visit clients.
“You can also incorporate a strategy of having a known out-of-office day that is strictly reserved for being out in the field,” he said. “We have a sales professional on our team that has a ‘Tuesday field day,’ [and] on Tuesdays, he has groomed his many great clients that he will be walking through the door no matter what. Just saying ‘hi,’ dropping off samples, sharing supplier information, etc. His clients expect him there on Tuesday, and it is truly a sight to see him come back into the office at the end of the day with stacks of orders.”
4. Know when to say ‘no’
In any profession, you want to stay busy, but it’s important to know which tasks are worthwhile so that you can stay focused on your goals. One of the biggest lessons Quicksell learned from 2019 was that there is power in saying “no.” As someone who genuinely enjoys helping people, he realized when he had to step back and say, “My bandwidth is such that I can’t do anymore.”
“I guess the one thing that I have been able to weed out of my system is to [not] chase the shiny object,” Quicksell said. “I think a lot of people that I work with and a lot of my friends that I know in the business, they do have a tendency to do that. And … I think it all goes back to having your plan and understanding what you want to accomplish in that particular year, and what are the goals that … [will] get [you] there. People, as you can imagine, that do not have a plan are the ones that are bouncing all over the place. Those that have a plan really become more strategic and focused.”
As an example of chasing the “shiny object,” Quicksell shared the case of a consulting client competing for a 1,500 T-shirt order—even though the end-buyer wasn’t part of her targeted vertical markets. Quicksell advised against it, but the client went for it anyway. After an entire day of working with this potential client, she didn’t get the order and wasted her time.
“It could have been totally the other way around,” he said. “An hour deal and she could have walked away with two or three grand in her pocket. But, when you do that, you take your eye off of your strategy and your plan.”
5. Own up to mistakes
No one likes to make mistakes, but they’re sometimes hard to avoid. In any case, honesty is the best policy—a point that Barker and his staff live by.
“The best favor you can do for your clients is [to] make sure you avoid them having those ‘oh [snap]’ moments when they are taking a shower in the morning,” said Barker. “It happens to all of us. [We question] ‘Did we forget to email the order?’ ‘Did the factory ship?’ ‘Did I double-check the phone number?’ ‘Did I anticipate this snowstorm?’ ‘Will the order arrive on time?’
“We teach our staff to anticipate the unexpected because we expect the unexpected,” he continued. “And we communicate with our clients, both good and bad news. If [it’s] bad news, we own up to problems and take responsibility.”