When interviewing for a new sales position it is often suggested that the candidate present a “1st 100 Days” plan of action. I recently presented such a plan before being hired as a new Territory Sales Manager in 2012. By the end of my “1st 100 Days” I was the Sales-to-Forecast leader in my (5 states & 7 Territories) Region. This article looks back at the successful execution of my plan. Here, I review the importance of my preparation and sales data collection. I demonstrate the process for prioritizing initial sales calls and the designing of a sales territory coverage plan. And, I share my creative and successful strategies for finding high quality sales leads, while coming-to-speed quickly in a new sales position.
In late 2011 I had committed to developing a “New Expansion Territory” beginning “Day-1″of 2012. My new Employer specifically hired me to create a “remote” Sales Territory in Southern Oregon. It was considered “remote” because the Territory’s largest city was 200 miles from the Service Facility. The more conventional sales prospecting resources, like customer websites and social media participation would be of little help to me. My remote and mostly rural clientele could be best described as “Old School” in matters of networking, self promotion and, communication. As an additional challenge, I would have to drive over 2 hours from my home just to enter my new sales territory. My new client/employer was a well established Industrial Heavy Equipment Services Provider. Knowing nothing about the Industrial Heavy Equipment business environment in Southern Oregon and, even less about the equipment itself, I still accepted the opportunity.
By applying many of the “… 1st 100 Days… ” strategies I was credited (by the end of the self imposed 100 day challenge) with closing 90 signed B2B service contracts worth over $1,900,000 in gross revenue. These sales/contracts averaged over $21,000 each. As an added bonus for my employer, 80% of these 90 service contracts were with 1st-Time-Customers or businesses labeled by my employer as “Lost-Customers”.
Before Signing On
I needed to make sure there was a clear path to success for my selling efforts, should I join the company and accept the challenge. During the hiring interviews I made sure that I had an understanding of the following: Proposed territory boundaries, previous territory performance, my 2012 sales forecast or quota, company sales support network, company training, detailed job description, my new Boss’ style and expectations, all sales tools and CRM data, comp plan, expense budget and guidelines, to name several.
It was also very important to include my wife in the decision process. The anticipated 1st 100 day and 1st year “push” would be a hardship on the family. Accepting the job would mean constant travel for me. This would result in a significant increase in pressures at home for her. After discussing the pros and cons of the opportunity she was gung-ho and on board.
Sales success was not solely dependent on my efforts. Working for a good company with valued products is essential. I briefly interviewed several prospective customers by phone in what was to be my new sales territory. I selected 10 established companies who owned/managed fleets of Industrial equipment. Few were presently using the services of my, soon to be, new employer. But, all did speak very well of the company’s reputation, as best they could. Calling on randomly selected references was another method for me to gage the strength of my new company’s reputation. How high up the executive ladder could I go in my calling efforts using only my company’s good name and a professional phoning approach? The results were impressive!
The Unexpected Curve Ball
As an additional challenge, shortly after accepting the position I discovered that the previous Territory Manager (current Northern Oregon Territory Manager) would be keeping 20% of my originally proposed geographic Territory. He would also retain several of the largest customers throughout my Southern Oregon territory of responsibility. This was disappointing news but, it was an opportunity to show my ability to accept and adapt to inevitable change.
Preparation for “The Big January Push”
On January 1st all sales in the territory would begin to be credited to me, going toward my 2012 assigned quota. Starting in December gave me a few weeks to prepare for the beginning of my 1st 100 Days of selling. Regarding training, some in the Regional offices had company titles like Certified Sales Trainers. This was quickly proven to be a misnomer as I soon learned that there was little training structure or curriculum. Training was a “do your own thing” and, “we’re here if you need us” proposition.
Being a Student
My most important “Selling Resource” to assure my success must be “me”. Becoming an expert in all areas of field sales and customer service was my priority. I needed to learn a lot quickly using the fabled “drink from the fire hose” analogy.
My Selling Resources
Being new to the company, sales territory, product, and industry meant that there would be a learning curve that would significantly hinder my early sales efforts. My plan was to offset this ramp-up time by immediately establishing and developing my company selling resources. Establishing and developing these resources would be critical to my early success. By this I mean developing quality relationships with those I would consider members of my “Personal Sales Support Team”; my covert title for those I would lean on most in my 1st 100 Days.
My Personal Sales Support Team
By design, I set out in December to quietly develop my personal sales support team. Using the old adage, “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care”, I began to foster relationships within the company who I could count on to assist me. I would need help in my early days with matters such as, product knowledge, CRM software proficiency; sales procedures, Customer problem solving, administrative protocols and sales documentation.
My December Reconnaissance
December reconnaissance meant that I needed to get a lay of the land. I needed to start developing customer relationships in my territory. Where would my early sales come from and who would help me find them quickly? Industrial Heavy Equipment Services (my product) – covered a very broad subcategory of industry call points. I needed to “recon” my territory’s Timber & Forestry, Mining & Rock Crushing, Excavation & Construction of all kinds, Freight & Transport, Heavy Manufacturing, Marine, Concrete & Asphalt, Farming & Ranching, etc.
My December Recon Customers, Champions, and Coaches
Recon began by learning as much as I could about the history of sales in my new territory, specifically identifying the biggest and best customers. My goal was to identify, meet and recruit them to be my future coaches and Champions. These customers would be the easiest to develop relationships with, as well as relying on them for coaching and sales leads. They were to become some of my first sales of 2012.
December Recon of Movers and Shakers
December was a good time for me to contact the Business Editors of all the primary News Papers in my territory. I began by announcing my company’s expansion and new investment in Southern Oregon. These relationships with local Business-News Journalists became immediately valuable. They knew the local Captains of Industry that served on Regional Land-Use Action Committees or, who had recently earned contracts for large Federal, State, and Commercial construction projects. Meeting with the editors provided me with lists of major players, many not in my company’s data base, who owned heavy equipment fleets. It would have taken me months to uncover this information on my own.
My December Recon and Collaborations
One of my old college buddies was the lead Lobbyist in Oregon’s Capital for Commercial and Industrial Realtors. He set-up December introductions for me with the most Senior Commercial Realtors® throughout my predominately rural territory. It was surprising how strong my company’s name was and how happy the Realtors® were to collaborate with me. One of the many benefits of the collaboration was their willingness to take me around and introduce me. A few quickly planned driving tours through the back woods of their Regions. I paid for gas and food and provided a list of people I wanted to see. The Realtors® added many key names to my list (many seemingly “off-the-grid). Much of December had me co-traveling with these long standing Real Estate professionals. I was introduced to many major business leaders and land owners (who also owned heavy equipment fleets). The Realtor’s® win was that our travels gave them a reason to press-the-flesh and drop-off their Christmas gifts and New Years Calendars. In short, it was a wildly successful way for a new guy to find and visit with a lot of valuable potential customers fast.
Prioritize My Initial Sales Calls
To close sales in the 1st 100 days it was critical that I prioritized my Initial prospects. I began by answering the question, “Who should I call on 1st in my new territory?” My prioritized list was as follows.
Go where there is “money on the table”
Any existing “intel” or previous sales activity that suggested a sale was taking place in my territory were the first sales calls. It may be a potential customer with a “need” that is budgeted and funded and ready to buy from my competitor. I could and did save a few sales.
Go where I have a “Sales Lead”
A sales lead is one with any intel or previous sales funnel information suggesting a potential customer may have a need. Every lead needed to be immediately qualified.
Go where they are “On Fire”
New Territory Managers often avoid disgruntled customers as they are often challenging at best in the sales call. They became the source for my greatest accomplishments.
Go where “I am loved”
Calling on long-standing customers proved to be another of my greatest sources for sales leads and early sales successes!
Go to your “A-List”
I made a list of the biggest and best prospects in my new territory. My A-lister’s were a mix of past customers and those who had never done business with us. The Key, they just needed to be big. During a first call with an A-list prospect in January, I was surprised to learn that no one had from my company had ever contacted them! Once they understood our value proposition, they became very open to the idea of my company earning their business. With their buy-in, we began a process of investigating the value of a new business partnership that resulted in…
Designing a Territory Coverage Plan
It was important for me to design a smart territory coverage plan in order to accomplish my first 100 day’s objectives. I took the time to divide my territory into 6 well-thought-out Zones. Doing so accomplished the following: Added more opportunities in my sales funnel; closed more sales; increased my commission income; reduced my travel expenses; improved the quality and quantity my customer relationships; earned more time with my family and; achieved top sales-to-forecast ranking in my region in my 1st 100 days. For this project I followed 3 basic steps.
I defined and created lists for the following in my territory: My Ideal Prospects, My Ideal Customers, and My Biggest Potential Customers.
I used step 1’s definitions and lists to create my “A-Calls”, my “B-Calls”, and my “C-Calls”. My “A” list would be my biggest and best prospects and customers or, those I will try to see 2 or 3 times a quarter. Obviously, I would increase the number of visits if they were a current “opportunity” in my sales funnel.
For my particular Sales-Cycle and geography I broke my territory in to 6 “Zones”. Each Zone had an intelligent mix of A, B, and C, customers and prospects.
At the onset I took the time to set goals and write a plan for their achievement. My immediate and primary objective was to exceed management expectations in all aspects of my job. Using many of the principles learned during 25 years of Territory Management gave me an inside track to success. I hope you find one or two helpful ideas in this example of “The 1st 100 Days in Your New Sales Territory”.