Getting Organized (6,312 Free Words)

7

Organization is the secret to getting in – learn how to organize, integrate and leverage every marketing activity to its fullest.


Success in life comes not from holding a good hand, but from playing a poor hand well.

– Warren G. Lester


Earlier in this book, you learned ways to identify your strengths and weaknesses, so you could leverage your strengths and avoid situations where your weaknesses would damage your results. You also learned that, by identifying your weaknesses, you would be able to virtually eliminate their affect, by outsourcing that which you can, or by working to improve yourself through training, coaching, mentoring, and so forth.

I also described a number of common marketing activities you could use to hunt for customers and some you could use to attract customers to you. By this time, you should have selected at least three marketing activities you will implement, so now it’s time to organize each activity for maximum effectiveness. After you do that, you will then go through a process of integrating your marketing activities, so each individual activity draws from and feeds into the others.

Getting Help If Needed

As you’ve discovered, not everyone has the same strengths – you may not have great organizational abilities, for instance. If that’s the case, then this is the time to find someone who can help you get organized – preferably someone who is good at organizing both physical space and time. (Those are sometimes different skills, and not all organized people are good at both.)

Some sources of assistance might be your boss, other salespeople at your company, your company mentor, a spouse or family member, or perhaps even a salesperson at another company. If none of these resources are available, consider finding a coach or mentor through the International Coach Federation, or, perhaps, the Institute Of Management Consultants. Both are filled with consultants and coaches who may be able to help you for a reasonable fee. (If you hire a consultant or coach, be sure he or she teaches you techniques for organizing yourself, rather than just doing it for you. That way, you won’t need to spend money again in the future.)

A Marketing Plan Is Not …

It is critical that you create your personal marketing plan for the right reasons, so you should first know what a marketing plan is not.

A marketing plan is not a detailed script for your entire sales life, because sales situations change on a dime. Plotting specific responses to every detail is pointless, and you should never attempt to do that. Your planning should go no further in detail than is required to make the plan work – but that “line” is something you’ll have to determine for yourself. As a general rule, planning each activity should take no more than a few hours of “think time,” plus whatever research time you may need. What you absolutely must avoid is “analysis paralysis” – where you spend all your time planning and none of your time actually implementing the plan.

A marketing plan is not something on which you should work when you’re frustrated from a lack of success. It is best to work on your plan during a high note, because success breeds success, and, if you’re “up” when you prepare, your plan will be better as a result.

A marketing plan is not something on which you will work during active sales time – time when your prospects are most likely to respond to your phone calls or shake your hand if you pop in to say, “Hi.” In other words, don’t use working on your plan as an excuse to avoid actual marketing. (I work on my plan on weekends and in the evenings, because normal business hours are spent on actual selling and marketing efforts.)

A marketing plan is not to be adhered to brainlessly, or to be used to justify failure. Many times I’ve seen salespeople achieve zero results, only to point to the marketing plan and say, “I did exactly what I was supposed to do.” If any aspect of your plan isn’t working, then analyze the reasons and change it until it is working.

Now that you know what a personal marketing plan is not, let’s look at what it is.

A Marketing Plan Is …

A personal marketing plan is simply written documentation of the activities you intend to pursue to generate sales. Each activity will be broken into:

  • Objectives you hope to accomplish 
  • Events you intend to initiate
  • Outcomes you feel are likely to occur based on those events
  • Your planned reactions to the outcomes you can predict
  • An estimation of the results the activity will produce

Once each activity is documented, you will then go through the process of integrating activities, so that events in one area can positively impact the success of events in another.

After you have your personal marketing plan created, you can then integrate your plan into the efforts of other people at your company. If your Marketing department is sending out direct mail, for instance, you might time your phone calls to coincide with their mailing, and change your message to be consistent with the information sent.

Or, if you’re part of a sales team or referral club, you might integrate your plan with another team member’s. For instance, if you speak in public and another team member writes articles, perhaps you could get her to write an article on your presentation subject. She might, for instance, interview prospects for the article, and as a thank-you for the interview, send invitations to attend your presentation for free. In return, you might include her article in your handout material, and have copies of other articles she’s written on a table in the back of the room.

A marketing plan is a measurement tool – something against which you can measure your results and track success, or failure, over time. The first step to changing anything is to measure it, so use your plan to measure your activity levels.

And finally, a well-organized marketing plan is one that, most of all, leverages your time, because in sales, time is money.

With all that a marketing plan is, it’s really astounding that so few salespeople have one!

Planning Your Actions

As I’ve mentioned, cycling is one of my passions, because it keeps me healthy, relieves stress and provides a way I can challenge myself. 

In 2003, I took on the Mississippi Valley 24-Hour Challenge (MV24) – a non-drafting, ride-as-far-as-you-can-in-24-hours event held in the August heat of St. Louis. I signed up about four months before the event, so I would have time to train my body to cover the 300 miles I planned to ride from 6 a.m. Saturday to 6 a.m. Sunday on event weekend. (Considering my longest ride at the time was 126 miles, this was quite a lofty goal.)

Before event day, I put a lot of miles on my bike, as you can imagine. I trained about five times a week in the summer heat, riding rain or shine so I’d be prepared. I also kept myself super-hydrated by drinking 12 to 16 glasses of water per day, and kept my body filled with carbs, so my muscles would be used to storing more than normal and be adept at converting it to energy as I rode. And I had to calculate the number of calories I’d likely burn over the 24 hours, so I was sure to take along enough food.

According to “Bicycling” magazine, a 150-lb. man riding a bike for one hour at 15 mph will burn approximately 850 calories. To reach my goal of 300 miles, my plan was to average 15 mph during 22 hours of cycling, allowing for two hours of off-bike time. Since I weigh 180 lbs., that meant I’d need 22,440 burnable calories. With the carbo-loading I did the night before, my body had about 2,000 calories left to burn when I woke up on event morning. Add to that the 6,000-calorie breakfast I ate, and I still had to ingest 14,440 calories during the ride itself.

After a ride like this, my body is loaded with poisons – lactic acid, for instance – that I must eliminate as fast as I can, or I’ll suffer immensely over several days or weeks. So, I enjoyed a massage after the ride to help that process. In addition, I drank large volumes of water and sports drinks after the ride, and ate proteins instead of carbohydrates to help flush my system and replenish the muscle tissue I damaged.

What I did before, during and after my cycling event greatly impacted my performance on event day and my recovery after the event. No, I didn’t reach my goal of 300 miles (I made 202.25 in 14 hours before succumbing to an unexpected digestive bug and unfortunate saddle sore), but without a before, during and after plan, I wouldn’t have made half the distance I did. And by having my training plan in writing, I was able to look back over my activities and learn that the digestive bug and saddle sore are both things I can avoid next time – I had allowed the emotions of the day to cause me to change plans during the ride, and these changes caused both issues.

To achieve maximum marketing response, you must plan ahead and include actions you will take before the activity, during the activity and after the activity – regardless of how simple the activity may seem.

Before, During And After – An Example And Exercise

Throughout this book, we’ll cover before, during and after actions for a variety of common marketing activities, so in this example we’ll use an activity that is not as common to a business environment.

Salespeople never stop working. Even when I’m playing poker with my buddies, if one of them mentions a friend at a prospect company, I’m all ears. So it probably won’t surprise you to learn that I consider cycling to be a marketing activity – yes, Folks, even when I’m riding I’m selling, and I have a marketing plan to prove it.

Cycling Marketing Plan

While I’ve helped many salespeople create personal marketing plans, I rarely share my marketing plans with others. I suppose it’s my competitive nature coming through – not wanting to give people every idea in my bag of tricks. But I figured my first book was a good place to start, and cycling is as crazy an example as I had.

I actually created this plan after I realized I was meeting potential business associates on bike rides – it didn’t occur to me to treat cycling as a marketing activity until someone I met on a ride hired me.

Hint: A great tactic for generating success is to recognize when an accidental success happens – such as meeting someone on a bike ride and having him hire me – and then creating a before, during and after plan specifically to replicate the result. Many of my best plans came from analyzing accidental successes and replicating them.

Your basic plan, in a bullet-list format, should include objectives; before, during and after activities; likely outcomes; estimated results; time investments; and ideas for leveraging relationships. Using that format, here is my marketing plan for cycling:

Objectives

  • Create personal relationships with as many cyclists as possible. 
  • When personal relationships turn to business relationships naturally, leverage them.

Before Activities

  • Identify organizations – corporate, charity and nonprofit – that schedule or participate in group bicycling events. 
  • Join organizations, learn protocols and schedule participation at organized events. 
  • Two weeks before any cycling event, examine contact list and invite prospects who are interested in cycling but are not active cyclists at present. 
  • Any time I hear about a unique cycling event, tell clients and prospects who cycle about the event. 
  • At least once per year, schedule an event – even if it’s only an evening training ride – and invite clients and prospects. 
  • Pick up two dozen fresh doughnuts to take to the event. 
  • Take cooler of beer, soda and water to the event. 
  • Take large blanket (one I don’t mind getting dirty) to the event.

During Activities

  • Get to event early and park in a crowded area. Make sure doughnuts are visible to everyone. (I drive a pickup truck, so sitting on my tailgate works great.)
  • Invite anyone parked near me or passing by to have a doughnut. Strike up a conversation with all who stop. Learn about their riding styles. If the situation warrants, ask a group if I can start the ride with them.
  • If clients or prospects are attending, be sure they know where I am and get them involved in the new group.
  • If any doughnuts are left before I start the event, give them to the event organizers.
  • During the ride, chat with the new people while on the bike or at rest stops. Learn their names, ask what they do for a living – get to know them. 
  • If conversations aren’t progressing, figure out a way to politely part from the initial group, and try to find someone else with whom I can ride.

After Activities

  • Spread out blanket and spend a considerable time stretching after the ride. 
  • Put out cooler and offer drinks to people I know. 
  • Strike up conversations with anyone I can. 
  • When situation warrants it, trade business cards, even if the goal is to contact one another only for future rides. 
  • Follow up with clients and prospects to tell them how the event was – good or bad – so they will know whether to attend in the future.

Likely Outcomes

  • Social Interaction Only: Do nothing business-related with the people I meet who simply enjoy riding. Work at remembering names and unique things about the people and keep conversations social. 
  • Inbound Call From Prospect: Treat any initial inbound business call from a fellow rider just as I would a totally cold inbound call, but try to get prospect’s e-mail address, so I can notify prospect of future rides. Invite prospect to participate in some other area of the marketing plan. 
  • Conversation On Subsequent Ride: If acquaintance approaches me to discuss business issues on subsequent ride, interview to learn issues, and, if appropriate, set up lunch or at-office appointment.

Estimated Results

  • Will start two new relationships on each ride. 
  • Will move one prior relationship forward. 
  • Will strengthen existing client and prospect social relationships through before- and after-activity contact.

Time Investment

  • One hour every Monday to analyze plan and implement before and after activities. Since I ride anyway, additional time investments don’t count.

Ideas For Leveraging Relationships

  • Once relationship is strong enough, invite person to be placed on announcement list, so the drip process begins. 
  • When writing books or articles, ask prospects to introduce me to decision-makers who may want to be interviewed. (Continue writing marketing plan with those I interview.)

I look over my marketing plan every Monday, to see whether there is something I should do on the plan to start my week. On the cycling plan, I go through the after-activity list, because Monday is technically after my weekend cycling activity. Then I look over the before list, think ahead to my next event and implement any steps that fit.

While cycling isn’t my most effective marketing activity, by organizing it as I have, it has produced a few clients and allowed me to create strong relationships with people at a number of prospect companies in St. Louis. Some of those relationships resulted in interviews – with sales directors and sales managers at huge companies in the area – for this book.

Marketing activities of any kind, even something as crazy as riding a bike, can be successful if you document your objectives; the before, during and after activities; likely outcomes; estimated results; time investments; and ideas for leveraging the relationships you create over time. For me, adopting the philosophy that I will document every plan has produced more benefits than just about anything else I’ve done in sales – because I’m naturally an organizationally challenged guy.


Exercise: Marketing Plan

Remember, marketing plans do not have to be lengthy or detailed to be effective. In fact, I believe that creating an over-detailed plan will actually damage your results, because you’ll spend more time documenting the plan than you will implementing it, and much of what you document will be a waste of time, because of the fluid nature of sales. Marketing plans should, however, be written, or you will likely forget steps and fail to be creative in your thinking.

It takes most people no more than a few hours to create a simple, list-style plan for a single marketing activity. You may do this exercise any time, but I recommend you do it before you read on, because that will help lay the foundation for what you’re about to learn.

  1. Pick a marketing activity you currently use and create a simple list of objectives, and before, during and after steps. Start by listing the things you do now, then challenge yourself to add steps to make the activity better. (For instance, I didn’t start taking doughnuts to the bike rides until I sat down to create the plan, because it never occurred to me until I was brainstorming ways to make the activity better.) 
  2. Even if you have only one before, one during and one after step, write out one plan. Once your plan is done, show it to someone you trust, to see whether he or she can help you improve it. Adding even one step to any plan can make it more effective, so don’t quit until you come up with something better than what you do now. 
  3. Look over each of the events you will initiate and list the likely outcomes of each event – but only those outcomes that require an action on your part. (When I offer a doughnut to the cyclist parked next to me, that’s my initiating an event. But I really don’t need to think through what I’ll do if the response is “I’m on the Atkins diet,” because that outcome doesn’t really affect me one way or the other.) 
  4. Brainstorm to determine what important outcomes may occur based on the events you have listed, and to determine your options for reacting to those outcomes.  
  5. Once you have your outcome-reaction list created, continue with the remaining sections – results, time investment, leveraging results – and think through the rest of your plan. On the results section, list objective criteria – hard numbers against which you can measure success. That way you’ll be able to examine your plan later to see what your return on time investment is, and determine whether the plan should be abandoned or modified.

Tracking The Success Of Your Plan

When it comes to planning, I prefer simple bulleted lists, because they keep me organized but don’t take too much time to create. However, when it comes to tracking the results of my marketing activities, I’m as detailed as I can be, because if I can’t tell the results produced by each marketing activity, I won’t know where to spend my valuable marketing time. (Okay, I’ll never give up my bike, but if riding in a group stops producing business results, I’ll forget the cycling marketing plan and leave the chance business discussions to, well, chance.)

Bottom line, your tracking needs work, unless you can look at a prospect’s history and review the following:

  • The marketing activity that produced first contact with the prospect 
  • A list of every interaction you’ve had with the prospect: date, time, type of contact, outcome, detailed notes and “next step” action items 
  • If the prospect is already a client, a list of everything the client has purchased from you or your company 
  • A list of the people to whom the prospect has referred you, or to whom he or she has spoken when acting as a reference

Of course, if the tools you use to track results aren’t sophisticated, then much of this must be generalized. For instance, whenever someone signs up to receive my announcements, the database record I create, which isn’t very complex, is at least date-stamped, so I know the date he or she subscribed. Since I also record every announcement I send, I can run some queries to show that, for example, Joe Prospect subscribed in June 2003, received 12 announcements and two cold-letter mailings, and then called to inquire about training.

Once again, I know many top business-development people who don’t track any of this – yet they still outsell their peers by huge amounts every year. This is evidence that you don’t have to do this to achieve success at selling.

Integrating Your Activities To Increase Results

Once all marketing activities are detailed to at least the degree we’ve discussed, your next step is to invent ways to integrate them, so that two things occur:

  1. The time you invest in any one marketing effort is leveraged in every other area of your plan possible. 
  2. Your prospects are given the choice of participating in other marketing activities.

Saving Time

Almost from the day I started sales consulting and training, I’ve been answering questions about sales via e-mail. Including client questions, questions on list servers, questions sent through my website, questions from prospects and questions from my participation in other “experts” sites, I’ve answered more than 2,000 different questions in four years.

Luckily I knew that, to have a well-designed marketing plan, I’d need to figure out how to leverage the time I invested in one activity – answering questions – into my other marketing activities. So it will probably come as no surprise that almost every article or blog entry I’ve written has been the result of my having answered a question. It also may not surprise you that much of the content of this book started as an answer to a question.

If you document every marketing activity, you can carefully leverage the time you invest on one activity in multiple places. One question I answered early on has already appeared in four articles, one Weekly Tip and now, this book.

Opting In

Marketing messages always work better when people choose to receive them, right? So in any first-contact situation, be it on a bike, at a networking meeting, at a trade conference, even at your booth on the convention floor, you must have with you some way to invite new prospects to choose to participate in another area of your marketing plan. For instance:

  • At your booth, have a way for prospects to sign up to receive your monthly newsletter. 
  • As a follow-up to any first contact, consider sending a thank-you card that contains a free seat at an upcoming workshop.  
  • While you’re networking at association meetings, consider asking the appropriate people whether they would like to be interviewed for an article you’re writing. 
  • In the article you write, direct people to your website to get a question answered, to download a white paper that better explains one aspect of your topic, or, perhaps, to sign up for that same newsletter you used at the trade show.

Integrating your marketing activities is key to saving time and increasing results, but to be sure the individual plans are the best they can be, create them as stand-alone plans first. Otherwise, you may lose some of that creative flair that creating a single plan can bring.

Setting Your Calendar

Sales is roughly 10 percent strategy and 90 percent implementation, and it’s the implementation that is often the most difficult thing to plan. Far too often salespeople overextend themselves – they design so many activities that they never fully complete the plan for any single area, and all areas suffer immensely.

I strongly suggest you start your organizational efforts by choosing your three best activities – meaning those which you enjoy the most and with which you typically produce the greatest number of sales – and limiting your planning to only those activities. Only then should you expand the plan to the point where the steps become agenda items on your calendar. 

The thing to remember about any marketing activity is that it requires consistency to produce predictable results. So if you want to be able to plan ahead financially, be certain you implement each activity in a consistent manner.

I am by no means an expert at project planning, and I’ve never found a tool I truly liked for scheduling my marketing tasks. So I’ll leave the details about how you schedule tasks up to you, but I’ll leave you with this last thought about calendaring: If the majority of your next month’s activities aren’t planned and on a calendar, then you’ve positioned yourself for a feast-or-famine cycle that could frustrate you without end. What happens to most salespeople is they prioritize new sales appointments, presentations or the preparation of proposals and contracts over their need to implement the many marketing tasks they already planned. So, instead of completing both their marketing and sales tasks, they work on only the sales-related items. Of course, once sales are made or lost, their marketing machines have to be restarted, which is why the famine follows the feast.

Put your mundane marketing tasks on a calendar, and don’t give them up for anything. It’s okay to rearrange them a bit to accommodate a prospect or client, but never postpone them indefinitely or cancel them altogether.

Leveraging Your Marketing Department’s Activities

In my experience, most salespeople would rather complain about what their Marketing departments do or don’t do than become an active member of the team. I suggest you live up to your “Promise to Self” in Chapter 1, and become part of the solution.

If you want to achieve success at selling, you can and you must assume responsibility for helping your Marketing department create and implement its company-wide marketing plan, because doing so will allow you to both influence and leverage what that department does. So schedule some regular time with the powers that be in marketing, and treat them like you would any client – help them first, and they will reciprocate in kind.

Once you’ve positioned yourself as a valuable part of the team, go through your personal marketing plan to see where you can leverage what they’re doing, and where they can help you improve what you’re doing as well.

Is your Marketing department launching a new direct-mail campaign? Perhaps you can create a quick before, during and after plan to improve the results they produce for you.

Do you need some coupon postcards to hand out to people at networking functions? I’m sure you’d like them to be fancy and impressive, so why not ask the designers you’ve been helping to spend a couple of hours with you?

While your Marketing department is there to help, it is arrogant to treat those team members as though they were there to serve – which is what many salespeople do. So if you want them to become a resource for you, become one for them first.

Working As Part Of Your Sales Team

You’ve finished documenting each of your marketing activities, and you’ve incorporated ways to tie activities together, so each pulls from and feeds into the others. You’ve created a one-month calendar that spells out the events you will initiate, and the time you will spend working on your marketing plan.

You’ve also scheduled time to work with the Marketing department itself, so you can become a valuable part of that team. And you’ve planned ahead, so you can leverage the Marketing department’s plans to your fullest advantage.

In case you haven’t recognized this yet, what you’re doing is taking charge – whether you like it or not, you’re becoming a leader, first of yourself and second of others. Great leaders put the good of the company and the good of the team above their own personal goals, because they know it’s the best thing for them. The shortest path to achieving success at selling is to lead others along the same path, so becoming part of a team is a critical component of your success. (Of course, choosing good team members is also important, so make your choices carefully.)

Assembling And Leveraging A Team

You can assemble and leverage a team in many ways – limited by only your creativity, and, of course, the creativity and motivation of the team you create. To demonstrate the concept, I’m going to give you an example process. Following are seven steps that should get you going in the right direction:

  1. Choose one salesperson from your company or your peer group and ask her to help you evaluate and improve your marketing plan. Tell her you want to schedule time to go over each of your marketing activities and brainstorm ways to increase results. Also suggest that you schedule enough time to go over her plan as well, should she decide it’s a worthwhile idea. 
  2. In your planning session, interview your teammate to determine what she is doing to market your company’s products or services. Try to learn her strengths, and pay close attention to the strengths she has that you don’t have. (If you don’t speak well in public, but your teammate does, make a note of that for later.) 
  3. Once you’re done brainstorming ways to increase your success, suggest that you tackle one or more of her marketing activities – perhaps beginning with the activity that leverages a strength you don’t have. 
  4. As you design your teammate’s marketing plan, suggest ways to incorporate your activities into hers, just like you incorporated steps from one of your activities into other areas of your plan. 
  5. Be certain to set action items for incorporating your plans, so everything that must get done is accomplished as you move forward. 
  6. End the meeting by offering to help her with further planning any time she wants to refine what you and she just created. (Act as a mentor, of sorts, if the situation warrants that type of relationship.) 
  7. Follow up to ensure that action items are accomplished as planned.

In this simple seven-step process, you should be able to build a better relationship with your teammate, because you helped her improve, and to generate better results from your marketing plan by integrating yours with hers.

At this point, you and your teammate have both improved – probably equally, since you’re integrating activities equally. What would happen to your results, then, if you repeated this process with other team members? Suppose, for instance, that you integrated your marketing activities with at least three other members of your team. While each of them should achieve the same single increase as you, you benefit at a rate of 4-to-1 over each specific team member. And this will be especially true if you focus on collaborating with team members whose strengths mitigate your primary weaknesses.

Finally, you should assemble the entire group and attempt to find new ways to leverage your newly combined efforts. As the team leader, you will always derive more benefit from the group than you would from any individual, because effort reaps an equal reward, and you’re the one doing most of the work.

Working With External Resources

Once you’ve perfected your team-building skills internally, there is no reason you can’t go outside the company and build more teams. Consider assembling a group of salespeople from other companies who all sell different products or services to the same industry, and incorporating aspects of their plans into yours, and vice versa.

To build an external team, you can use very much the same process as you did for building the internal team, but you must be careful to invite only salespeople you trust, preferably those with whom you already have strong relationships. (It’s okay if you have such a relationship with only one external salesperson and start with just the two of you.)

After you invite the first salesperson to join your group, and after you get your plans and hers integrated, ask her to recommend one additional person who would be an asset to the group. This will both spread out the burden of finding good teammates, and generate a higher level of commitment to the group itself – because she’ll be assuming responsibility for growing the group, as well as participating in it.

Consider these additional points when forming an external sales team – incorporate whichever items you feel are a fit for your group:

  • Your group should have a written membership agreement that spells out the requirements of membership. Members should be required to sign a statement that says they will live up to the obligations in the agreement. It is a good idea to wait until you have four members to create this agreement, however, because that gives the key players a chance to “own” the rules and will positively impact their compliance and participation. 
  • In addition to plan integration, you should consider adding a lead-sharing component to your external group, so that each meeting results in new leads and new contacts for every member of the group. (Nothing keeps a group together better than a process for continuously growing a prospect base.) 
  • Consider splitting commissions for referrals. This can be difficult to track, but, when people of an intimate group such as this actually receive checks for having made introductions, they often make more and better-quality introductions as a result.

I know salespeople who have reached the highest levels of success by using team-building as their only means for identifying new business – they organize and lead as many as 10 groups of six to 10 participants each. It takes great leadership and organizational skills to achieve this, but the results are phenomenal when it’s done correctly.

Measuring Your Results

As I said earlier, I believe that tracking is a critical component to improving a marketing plan over time, because without it you will not be able to determine which activities produce the greatest number of sales in return for the time and energy invested. When I say “tracking,” however, I am not talking about your beliefs about your success; I’m talking about objectively measuring your sales outcomes against your marketing activities. Never trust your feelings when it comes to marketing success, because bad feelings tend to be forgotten, while good feelings remain. So your “best guess” is a poor measurement device when it comes to tracking success.

A client of mine sold a measurable marketing service to retail stores (restaurants, auto mechanics, you name it). With restaurants, for instance, it measured marketing efforts by analyzing point-of-sale data and determining exactly how many customers return to a restaurant, how often these customers return and how much they spend on each visit.

If you want proof that feelings are an inaccurate measurement of success, just ask any restaurant owner “What percentage of your customers are repeat customers?” Unless the owner is tracking point-of-sale data, the answer will probably be “I’m sure it’s 50 percent or more.”

Would it surprise you to learn that, according to an analysis of 16 million restaurant purchase transactions from 321 United States restaurants, the vast majority (272 restaurants) fell into the “20 percent or less” repeat-business category? In fact, of the 321 restaurateurs who had their data analyzed, the average was only 15 percent repeat customers. Only one restaurant ranked higher than 30 percent, and even that one didn’t hit the 50 percent mark.

The only way to improve your plan over time is to set up objective measurement criteria, and face the brutal realities that hard numbers often produce. Once you do that, you’ll know the truth and be in a better position to improve.

The [Your Name Here] Sales System: Getting Organized

To organize your marketing plan for maximum effectiveness, you must:

  1. Plan before, during and after steps for each marketing activity. 
  2. Track the activities over time, so you can determine your return on investment based on time and expense vs. sales produced. 
  3. Integrate your efforts so that each individual activity pulls from and feeds into the success of other activities. 
  4. Leverage your activities as part of a larger team effort.

At this point you should have organized your individual plans, integrated your activities, included the Marketing department’s efforts and established your teams. For at least one month, you should follow the plan as closely as you can, and track every action you take.

A key to improving your plans over time is to take baby steps – change only one thing and watch what happens over a long enough period to be certain the difference wasn’t an anomaly. Another idea is to try small, multiple activities at once, each targeted to a similarly sized number of prospects, and to track which change produced the best results.

For instance, if you’re implementing a cold-letter campaign, try drafting several versions of the letter, and sending an equal number of each to a small section of your prospect list (sending four different letters to 100 prospects each, for example). Doing this allows you to test-market your ideas, so that if one letter works more effectively than the others, you can send it to all your remaining prospects.

Great salespeople create their plans, then modify them over time based on empirical data – not feelings. The good news is that, by the time you reach number one, you’ll know this stuff so well you’ll instinctively know what to change, and you’ll no longer need to review your written plans every day, week, month, etc. (Ain’t success grand?)

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