December 17, 2018

Beverly James photo

It’s the time of year for annual planning.  Whether you’re a sales manager or a corporate support rep, having a plan is the most important thing you can do for yourself and your team. What seems clear in today’s media environment is that we can’t enter any year with a business-as-usual approach.

I’ve had many conversations lately with Greater Public members who have shared news of unexpected attrition of longstanding accounts deciding to cut back or leave public media for now. We can’t take anything or anyone for granted. An annual plan needs to take an honest look at possibilities for growth in the face of a possible 25-35% attrition.

As a sales manager, new initiatives are a good place to start. What are you going to pursue? I’m sure the list of options is long, but it’s important to focus on just one or two things that will bring the most value to the station and your team.  

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My first year as a sales manager I was so energized and excited. I was going to change the world! I had a list of six or seven major initiatives to tackle. When I put them into my annual plan, my boss – the now famous Kirk Nelson – warned me that I was taking on WAY TOO MUCH! He forced me to prioritize by making me write out all the steps and a timeline for each thing I wanted to take on. That was an eye-opening experience that I have never forgotten.  

I would have burned out in six months and exhausted my team in three! So, I ended up taking on one big initiative in the health care category, and a smaller one for small businesses. Those were two important areas of our revenue and the growth had potential to be sustainable.

If you are a sales rep, it’s up to you to decide how you want to be better. This brings me to the original question:

What are you going to get great at in 2019?

Top salespeople are not all the same, but they often exhibit one or more of the following traits.  

  • They become “experts” in certain fields or approaches.  

  • They know how to network and get referrals by integrating themselves into a certain industry or category sector.  

  • They build relationships based on bringing value to their clients, and going above and beyond. This often leads to account growth over time. Supplemental dollars can be found mid-year for a great idea. Imagine that! 

  • They take classes and share what they have learned with everyone around them. They are always looking to be better.

I just read a great article by Peter Bregman in the Harvard Business Review. Bregman tells the story of coaching his son at skiing and facing his son’s disappointment at always finishing in the middle of the pack. He asks his son these two questions:

  1. Do you want to do better?

  2. Are you willing to feel the discomfort of putting in more effort and trying new things that will feel weird and different and won’t work right away?”

In sales we are out there on that limb of vulnerability every day. Our livelihood depends on strangers agreeing to give us their marketing dollars to help them grow their business or organization. It’s hard and we are often called to do things that may “feel weird and different and won’t work right away.” But we have to keep sincerely trying to bring value in order to turn the stranger into someone who views us as a trusted partner.  

Do you have an annual plan? What is your one big and one smaller initiative you’re going to take on?  We all know that daily tasks can take over quickly, and the BIG IDEA gets pushed down the to-do list. Now is the time to make a plan, create a timeline that is both aggressive and realistic. Push yourself to be better, to get great at one new thing in 2019. We all know if you write it down, it can’t help but happen!

Manage digital buyers and agencies
Beverly James photo