Peyton Manning announced his retirement from football last week. Whether you are a fan of the Denver Broncos, Indianapolis Colts or any of the other 30 NFL teams, you’ve got to admit that Manning is one of the all-time greats to play quarterback in the league.
Manning’s career is remarkable not only because of the records he set, but also because of his consistency. In 17 years of continuous play (except for the 2011 season when he was recovering from a neck injury), he amassed a 70% winning percentage during the regular season, posting only one losing record — in his rookie season. In 11 seasons, Manning won 12 or more games including a streak of seven 12+ win seasons in a row.
While Manning certainly had the physical skills to play quarterback at a high level, he did not have the strongest arm or the fastest legs. By his own admission, “There were other players who were more talented, but there was no one who could out-prepare me.”
Preparation is the key to success.
Like Peyton Manning, your sales representatives can raise their game through preparation and planning. The following six steps and associated questions can guide you to greater sales success.
At the start of every season, Manning set goals for himself. Aggressive goals. He wrote his goals down and held himself accountable. Manning then worked hard throughout the season to achieve all the goals he set for himself and his team.
All sales representatives need to set goals for themselves. As a sales manager, you must make sure your sales reps’ goals also contribute to your achieving the company’s goals.
- How much revenue will we generate?
- Which products will drive that revenue?
- Which customers will buy our products and services?
- How much will each customer buy?
- How many new customers will I land? Who are they?
- What intermediate goals must I achieve to ensure accomplishment of the larger goals?
Before every game, Manning’s coaches set a game plan. Manning tweaked it, knew it and implemented it. Sometimes, he adjusted it on the fly, but that was not very often since Manning already knew what his opponents were likely to throw at him.
Once goals are set, your sales representatives need to create their own game plans. For each territory, customer and opportunity, your reps must create a plan to win.
- What customers do I need to sell to?
- What traditional views will I need to challenge?
- What customer needs am I addressing?
- What obstacles will I need to overcome?
- Which tools will I apply and in what situations – sales calls, product demonstrations, pilot programs, presentations, proposals?
- When should I run my plays/apply my sales tools?
Scout the Competition
Preparation goes beyond goals and game plans though. Manning was legendary for remembering blitzes and defensive plays opponents ran against him years earlier. He reviewed films of his opponents, learning and remembering every nuance.
Like Manning, your sales reps need to scout their competition, know their competition and anticipate their every move.
- What are my competitors likely to do in various situations?
- What are my competitors’ strengths and weaknesses?
- What can I do to thwart the competition?
- How can I avoid competition altogether?
Practice, Play, Practice, Play
Manning was constantly on the field, working with his teammates and improving their game. Manning spent hours with new receivers to ensure they knew what to do without thinking about what to do. Manning was always the last player to leave the training facility at the end of the day. And, it wasn’t just practice. Manning got in the game. Manning holds the number two position for consecutive starts by an NFL quarterback with 227 games over 14 years.
To be the best at their game, your sales representatives need both practice time and game time. Between sales calls, reps need to hone their skills. They need to research customers and opportunities, practice presentations and demonstrations, and conduct mock sales calls. Practice improves and reinforces the skills your reps need to become the best.
Further, give your reps playing time. Get them in front of customers to put their skills to use. Practice makes perfect, but only playing time will teach them to win.
- Which products or solutions do I need to learn more about?
- How should I handle common objections? Uncommon objections?
- What are some non-selling situations where I can practice my selling skills?
- Have I practiced my final presentation/demonstration aloud and standing up at least three times?
- What training programs can improve my sales skills?
Review Every Game
Peyton Manning reviewed every play and every pass looking for weaknesses and areas he could improve. He installed video equipment in his home so he could review plays both in season and off season. He carried a tablet computer to review video while on the road. Manning spent more time reviewing game film than anyone who ever came before him.
Customer reviews, plan reviews, opportunity reviews, loss reviews. Like Manning, your reps must make the time to understand what works and what doesn’t. Adjust plans, learn from mistakes, adapt to counter your competitors’ tactics.
Reviews serve two purposes. First, they show you where and when you need to correct course to reach your goal. Second, they teach you to be better at what you do and more efficient by uncovering weaknesses in your skills, plans or offering.
- Am I on track to meet my goals?
- What am I doing well? Where do I need to improve?
- Is my customer plan/opportunity plan working as well as possible?
- What did we do that enabled us to win that deal?
- What could I have done to avoid losing that deal? Why did we lose?
Formalize your Planning and Review Process
Peyton Manning went to extraordinary lengths to prepare for his seasons and games. He also had a coaching staff to rely on for support. You can too.
Wallace Management Group leads and facilitates one-day and multi-day planning sessions for companies serious about meeting their sales goals. We help our clients prepare for the sessions so that they are as productive as possible. Then, we facilitate the meetings to ensure that each of your reps — and you — know exactly what is supposed to happen this year and how it will get done.
- Do each of my sales reps have a territory/customer/opportunity plan? Are they written down?
- Have I conducted a sales planning session this year? Did I document the results?
- Have I conducted formal plan reviews for each territory and rep yet this year?
- Do I have bi-monthly or quarterly reviews scheduled for the rest of the year?
Contact Wallace Management Group at (203) 856-9400 to schedule planning sessions for your team.