'Circular' sales

Match your sales plan against this page, and let your imagination soar!

One of the reasons developing a business is so difficult is because it's based on closing sales. But often, because of the way you view the process, you make things both difficult and painful for yourself unnecessarily so.'

The good news is that you can take the pain out of selling through good planning and management skills. Just as you painstakingly design a kitchen plan in detail, to take the pain out of the installation and customer acceptance, you can take the pain (and fear) out of growing your business (through increased sales) by using detailed planning.

I've been doing a lot of research on this subject. Recently, I was appointed to be a faculty member of the Independent Manufacturer's Representative Institute, to research and teach sales. A determining reason for this was my working theory that selling is "circular" rather than "lineal." I believe this same theory can help you to grow your business by learning to use the idea of circular selling in your own business.

'Circular' sales'
The current principle of selling treats "a sale" as if it were a lineal process. You have the introduction to the customer at one end and either a closed or lost sale at the other, with four selling steps in between. It's a very clear cut win or lose situation (see Figure 1).

If you hit sales right, you develop a new client. If you don't close, you lose and feel awful.'
I attend a lot of sales meetings where I regularly see a few dealers and reps getting the "top salesperson" plaques, while a lot more don't get anything. It's an interesting situation creating a room full of people who feel disenfranchised at a sales reward banquet! I must have missed this session at sales motivation school.

The attention and reward is based on the current model (see Figure 1), which is designed to only recognize those who close sales, immediately.'

But upon micro inspection, that's not the way a sale is made at all. In actuality, the sales process is circular in its application. Once managers understand this, they can create, train and conduct as much business as they desire. That is business development at its best!

Consider this: The sales process is not made up of six steps (or activities). Rather, it is made up of an unlimited number of steps and activities. There is a beginning and an end, but both are irrelevant. In a sense, once you go after a prospect, there is no firm beginning or end. Thus, the term "circular."'
The process is seamless, and, like a wheel, you can run it forwards and backwards. You can start it rolling from any point on the circle. Once you have the basic construction, you can continue to add and subtract components without damaging the process.

When you find out what works, you can add it in. When something ceases to work, you take it out. All the while, you have a system that supports what you're doing.

If this all sounds like so much business school psycho-sales babble, let me show it to you, designer to designer, on a floor plan of sorts (see Figure 2).

To understand the circular selling method, you need to review the following:

  • The Mission: Developing a sales plan whether for a walk-in client, a sales campaign or territory begins with the mission. You must create a vision or understanding of where you are now.'
  • The Strategies: Once you know the end result, you break it down into workable units. These are called strategies. What will you need to do that? Just as a kitchen plan needs predictable components to work (such as cabinets, counters, appliances, etc.), so does the sales plan need workable components. This is the time to determine what you need to make the mission come true, and how you will do it.'
  • The Tactics: These are simply plans, detailed plans, of how you are going to make the strategies happen. In kitchen design, a well made floor plan is the basis for generating specifications, an estimate sheet, a contract, work orders, product orders, dates on a calendar, commissions and return on investment. It makes the kitchen sales and installation process simple and manageable.
  • Written tactics, like the floor plan, are the bases of the sales process. They lay out how you will attract the customer to you and away from the competition. They give you a process and details of how to go through the six steps of the sale. Good sales tactics create good sales. No sales tactics guarantee nonproductive sales efforts.'
  • Before you step onto the showroom sales floor, or send a rep into his or her territory, make sure you have written tactics. They are the action steps, the processes, the systems and methods, the marching orders that keep the mission and vision out in front of you and/or your people.'
  • Implementation: This is how your roll out what you want to do (the mission, strategies and tactics), in person. Your plans are on stage, in public, alive and measurable. This is what you manage. It is the primary reason for a business plan's and sales report's very existence. Is the process your created working?
  • Evaluation: This is the visible part of sales management. What did we plan to do? What did we actually do? And, what was the outcome? Sales is, first and foremost, a numbers game did we increase our sale ratio or market share? Why/how did we do it? What worked and didn't work? How do we train out personnel? What can we learn from them that we can add into future plans to improve our success rates?
    If you do this, you'll build a business beyond your wildest dreams. In fact, I think this is the reason some companies rebound so well from disasters, like bankruptcy or the unforeseen death of a senior member they are forced to study what they were doing and what the results were. Then, they're forced to focused on the day-to-day operations of their businesses, in detail. Maybe some pain is good for us.
  • Permanent Action: This is where you have done it all, and then make permanent what you will do in the future. Write your book, so to speak. Study everything. Take input from the rest of the circle and adjust, modify, change and/or quit.'