Planning and action – enjoy action!

In starting a new quarter – month – week I always like to plan ahead. Who am I going to meet, what meetings are upcoming, how will I get closer to my and my company’s goals?

The best bit though – the most enjoyable bit for me – is actually speaking to clients, understanding their needs and helping them achieve their goals.

There are a couple of traps to be aware of when it comes to planning and action:

Firstly: Action at work is only enjoyable or even fruitful if there is a coherent plan and strategy behind it. There are enough proponents of the “action for action’s sake” school of selling – we don’t need to join that group.

I contend that we’ve all been guilty of this at one time or another. Think back to the time you booked a whole bunch of meetings with prospects and sent them invitations with no agenda or aim. Maybe they weren’t even prospects. Maybe you met them “for a coffee”. Maybe you felt really busy that day, but what actually came out of it?

Secondly – don’t get bogged down planning: The opposite of the “action for action’s sake” salesperson is the “planning and planning and never getting anything done” salesperson. You know the type. Excel spreadsheets from here to eternity, mapping out targets, constantly trying to understand the client better in preparation for meetings without actually meeting them.

I once knew a salesperson who did this. Every week the target list and plans grew, but very little happened. No matter how many plans and target lists were made it didn’t help. The number of interactions stayed low. It turned out that this particular person didn’t actually like speaking to people but kept applying for sales jobs because the money was potentially good. Thankfully I didn’t have to break it to them but a more analytical job was lined up.

So, how to enjoy planned, worthwhile action?

In sales there are numerous situations where you have to do something that’s a little uncomfortable or counterintuitive. Most of us have barrier to some or all of the following:

  • Being “the pushy sales guy”
  • Being told “no”
  • Failing

The problem is that in order to get anywhere with helping clients, we have to engage with them somehow and make suggestions for improvement. To do that we have to expose ourselves to failure and perceived dislike.

How on earth am I supposed to enjoy that?

It’s all a matter of perception.

  • Being the pushy sales guy: It’s not pushy to ask for the business if you’ve planned properly and the sales process has been well managed. It is pushy if what you’re doing isn’t confirmed with the client and you haven’t managed the sales process. Asking for the business comes as an afterthought to a good sales process.
  • Being told “no”: There are a few types of no. The flat refusal is never pleasant, but thankfully very rare. The flat refusal tends to appear right at the start of a sales cycle, and as such you haven’t invested much time in the client anyway so who cares? “Can we find time to meet? – No”. Fine – move on and spend your energy somewhere else.

    The better type of no, as brilliantly explained in Chris Voss’s book “Never split the difference” is the prelude to a negotiation. And we love negotiations. That’s where we shine. So prepare properly and enjoy it.
  • Failure. I wish I could have known when I was 20 how little impact failures actually had on my life. Or at least, I wish I’d known that life turns out ok. After all, what’s the alternative? Lie down and cry? While it’s difficult to enjoy failure per se it’s essential to enjoy the learning process.

When it comes to enjoying action there are really only a couple of rules:

  • Plan properly so it’s not a waste of time.
  • Rip that band-aid off and get it over with.
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