In which we discuss the merits of pacing oneself through the sales year.
(We offered this column for the first time in 2002. We repeat it annually to mark the passing year.)
Last Thursday, my family and I, complete with children and grand mothers, celebrated Thanksgiving. I married into a family that believes Thanksgiving dinner was successful only if the dining table legs threatened to buckle under the weight of the food on the table. This year was no exception.
The game is, “who can last until dessert?” While vegetables are served in quantity and variety (three different styles of potatoes plus at least four other vegetables), dessert is the treasure. In sales terms, this would be the plum account (although we serve plum pudding at the end of Christmas dinner). However, there are certain rules of the game. For example, one must eat during each of the five courses served (afternoon munchies, appetizers, soup, dinner, and dessert). If you don’t, then Gramma thinks you’re either being shy or rude, in which case she asks you “would you like some more?” every three minutes.
The trick is to be selective, to concentrate on the foods you like most and that are least filling, in order to maximize one’s impact when dessert is served. How satisfying to blast past one’s bloated family members whose appetites fail just at the crucial moment in the meal.
To make the long story short, the same can be said for sales. If the plum accounts (dessert) are one’s prize, then one must focus on reaching the prize rather than filling up on accounts that are marginally satisfying but stuffing. (Thus, for the inexperienced players at the table, we serve a thick, bready fat bomb we call “stuffing” that we encourage them to eat. “Stuffing” also serves as a handicap for Uncle Ron, whose prodigious appetite can literally wipe out dessert unless we slow him down early).
In other words, focus and concentrate on the accounts and clients that are most important and eat only very small portions of less satisfying accounts to fill in the edges or maybe enjoy a little pop of flavor at a slow point in the meal. One of my colleagues, for example, has proclaimed that he’s going to dedicate himself to one account (a significant one, mind you), eschewing all others. (OK, that was a really lame pun attempt, I’ll admit it.) Another focuses on three accounts in which he’s very well known and effective.
So, as you begin to prepare your sales plans for next year (HINT, HINT, HINT), think about the plum accounts. What will you do to make sure you have enough energy and ideas to grow and sustain those accounts that represent the largest part of your income? Plan to save room for dessert.