Hey, sales VPs, can your people answer these three basic questions?

“I never plan, that way failure comes as a complete surprise and I haven’t spent countless hours worrying.”  I’m not sure if anyone actually said those words, but I certainly have heard that sentiment before. Once on a “ride-along” with a prospective client’s sales rep and district sales manager and I heard this conversation:

  • Sales manager: “So, what are we going to do with these guys?”
  • Sales rep: “Well, they called me last week to ask about our new capabilities in xxx. So, that’s what we’re going to talk about.”

Sound familiar?

The purpose of this note is to help one of the most important things a first line sales manager can do. And that is to coach their reps and, help them plan.

Here are the three questions that should be asked and any rep should be able to answer:

  1. You have a meeting at ABC company next week. What’s your plan for the meeting?
  2. You have a major deal with ABC company in your funnel. What’s your plan to close the deal?
  3. Now that you’ve closed the deal with ABC, what’s your plan to manage the account relationships for the long term?

It’s simple concept and you obviously see a theme here; “What’s your plan?”

You see, planning is the most underused and underdeveloped skill in sales today. If a manager does nothing else, it should be to help their reps plan.

But, the real question is what does a plan look like for a sales call, an opportunity pursuit, or an account relationship?  That’s your job as a sales leader; you need to develop consistent ways to help your people plan. Then you need to promulgate that planning methodology throughout your organization so when you ask Harry for a plan it’s consistent with the one you asked Suzy for.  Developing common planning tools, common language and common reporting are three crucial keys to sales leadership.

So, I ask you: “What’s your plan to develop the plans?”