Very often we are caught up in our success or in the crisis of the moment. We are reacting to everything that happens around us. We forget to ask ourselves, “why are we doing this?” We lose sight of our goals or don’t update the goals. Without that awareness and ability to change and adapt, we cannot be successful.
Here’s the best part: a business plan doesn’t have to be exhaustive to guide you. There is no need to think that building your plan is a daunting task that requires a lot of time or resources to develop. But the plan should include a few fundamental elements, including understanding where your business is coming from and the strategies and tactics that you will execute to be successful. You will never know if you are making the wrong turn or wrong investment if you don’t have a plan to compare.
A long time ago when, in the days when you started selling, life was pretty easy. I’d take a list of prospects and, one by one, start calling names, starting with the letter A, of course, at the top. Clients were eager to meet with you to hear what new services you had to provide, which would make your business more profitable. You knew everything back then. You were a leading sales representative, sought out by manufacturers for your talent and experience in the field.
Over time, he built relationships with these contacts, slowly moving from the stage of “getting to know each other” to business partners, and they are now friends. These are the “clients” with whom you now play golf, exchange birthday cards, attend parties, and meet each other’s spouses and children. Basically you have taken a lead and a business lead and made this person a friend.
Now you are scratching your head and wondering why sales calls are so difficult and tedious. What made you unique years ago is now commonplace. VAR superstars or others who sell for price have infiltrated your territory and taken over your business. Online shopping makes it easy to order spare parts or accessories via the web. While your customer may value your relationship, it’s easy to save time using the web. Deep down, you know that you can no longer act like “just a sales rep” and you need to think like a business person. You need a process and plan to overcome changes and a way to anticipate these changes and reinforce your business value. Consultant and business planning books / templates can be overwhelming. Where do you start
You are already working many hours a day; creating a time-consuming plan might not be a good choice. Instead, create an enterprise temperature check, a basic plan that helps you chart your course and determine what obstacles and benefits lie in your way.
1. Create a basic plan. Let’s take a step back and think about your core beliefs and values. What vision do you have for your business? What type of company are you trying to be or become? How do you want your current and future customers to view your business? Your answers to these questions will focus your vision.
2. Determine why your current clients are working with you (or looking elsewhere) and create a plan to retain them. You have invested time and experience with these people. It’s good that they have become your friends. Now you need to grow and nurture that special relationship into something fruitful for everyone.
Your manufacturer will most likely never ask you to share their business plan or marketing strategies. If asked, do you have them in place? If not, why should your client want to invest time and money with you? If you applied for a loan with a bank, the bank will ask you for a copy of your business plan as part of its investment strategy. Why are your manufacturers or customers different from a bank? They are also investing in a partnership with you. They want to know what your plan is to determine whether or not they want to work with you.
3. Take a holistic approach to discovering who you are. Take a look at yourself and your business and find the gaps in your approach. It’s challenging and sometimes a little disconcerting to admit your weaknesses, but this is a fundamental business requirement. You must conduct a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis on yourself and your business to maintain and then grow your customer base and bottom line. What are your strengths? Play with those. What are your weaknesses? Find partners and build relationships to bridge those gaps. Where are the opportunities to grow your business? Often these consist of correcting weaknesses. Who or what are your main threats? Do not be fooled. Doing a SWOT analysis of yourself is difficult, but the results will open your eyes and help you focus on advancing your business.
4. Spend time writing down your goals. With the accelerating change in the world today, it is worth re-evaluating the path you are following. Will it lead you to success or a dead end? Write down some realistic goals. Try to identify the key traits that are unique to your business, things that only you can provide, and determine how you can leverage them to increase your uniqueness in the marketplace. What makes you unique in today’s market? Write it. On paper, you may surprisingly realize that you are not that special or maybe it is, tell your story in the best possible way. Write down all the key opportunities you may have. What kinds of promotions and ideas do you have that your customers would be eager to invest in? Manufacturers will consider you the chart maker, to be in tune with the market, and they will want you to help them see the trends that come before their competitors. They will look for VARs that have good channels and thriving networks, and weed out those that suck up time and energy (like long personal sales calls) that don’t pay off. It’s no longer just about the sales call and the status quo sale. You are a smart business person. You need to focus on profits and not get carried away by the emotional side of the business.
Bottom line. Step back. Reevaluate and make a plan. Determine what your manufacturers need and what services you have that will help them. Take advantage of your strengths and improve your weaknesses. Then use your newfound sales tools to dazzle your existing customers again like you did years ago. Deepen your customer relationships and new leads will follow.