If You Fail To Plan.. You Plan to Fail

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Jan 5, 2024 by Sean Luce

The title of this column is an old adage, but it is so true. Here is a typical scenario for many media properties around the world - a Monday in the life of a sales rep:

6:00 am: Alarm goes off
6:10 am, 6:20 am, 6:30 am, 6:40 am, 6:50 am: Alarm goes off
7:00 am:Wake up; mentally review "Plan of Action" for the week
7:21 am:Wake up child
7:45 am:Wake up child
7:48 am: Prepare breakfast of convenient, nutrition-free food substances
8:12 am: Rush to car, drive child to school, make corrective gestures at other drivers
8:30 am: Arrive at office, fix coffee, review week ahead, chit-chat with co-workers
9:00 am to noon:Work on planner for the week
12:00 noon: Decide where to have lunch
2:30 pm: Service account that should have been contacted Friday for copy changes
4:00 pm: Drive back to the office after walking through a couple other businesses
5:30 pm: Prepare for week starting Tuesday

This obviously is not every media sales rep's Monday schedule, but it's not too far from some I've witnessed. The point is this: Some sales reps use Monday mornings - or all day Monday - to prepare for the coming week. After Monday, however, they have only 80 percent left in the work week. If you discount Friday afternoon, when some reps mentally shut down after lunch, you can see that some reps use only 70 percent of their five-day week. Factor in actual "face-to-face" time with clients, and you'd be amazed at how little time is actually used in selling. With lack of planning, the lists manage the reps, instead of reps' managing their account lists with effective time management.

I'm not a big proponent of Daily Call Reports (DCRs), as I believe most managers don't read them. Research has also shown that 76 percent of DCRs are acts of creative writing. As you want to be proactive as a sales manager, it's more pragmatic to use weekly planners, rather than the laborious, "re-create the day" call reports.

I suggest using a comprehensive weekly planner that the sales reps turn in Friday before leaving for the weekend. On Monday morning, the sales manager reviews their plans with the reps to eliminate gaps of uncertainty and wasted time.

Here are the basic components of the planner:

- Every 15 minutes: Monday through Friday, the rep fills time slots for every 15-minute increment, from 7:00 am through 6:00 pm. Client calls, phone contacts and other activities throughout the day should be included.

- C/P: This identifies whether the call is made on a Customer or a Prospect, for the rep to track his/her prospecting ratio.

- Y/N: Rep marks in the box whether this call is an appointment (Y) or not a set appointment (N). The manager knows whether the rep is on a routing system or has specific appointments for the week.

- List: This correlates to the reps' account management system on their file designations
of A, B, C, D or S accounts. (For exact specifications, e-mail me.) This lets the manager and the rep track the rep's call-mix ratio.

- Task: The planner has activity numbers that reps use to represent specific tasks associated with the call: e.g., (1) CSP: Closing presentation with spec spot, and (2) CMP: Fact-finding call with Customer Marketing Profile form. There are 10 activities in the task box.

- Pend $: The amount of money that the rep is presenting to this client.

- % To Close: Sales rep's confidence factor on closing the presented dollars: 50-100 percent. Eighty percent or better is counted as business that will be written that week or is actual pending business that the manager can count on.

The weekly planner shows the rep's standing in relation to his/her sales goal for the current month, plus two months out. The rep's average sale and weekly "asks" average is also calculated in the weekly planner.

Besides an order, the most important paperwork for a sales rep is the rep's weekly plan. Good plans going into the week always turn into the highest productivity by end of week.

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