Article originally appeared in The Merchant Services Times, January 2021
January is the time we reflect on the past year, which has been a tough one, and we celebrate a new year with new resolutions and goals. However, the enthusiasm for a new year of opportunity and sticking to resolutions starts to subside in February as people get back into their normal routine. This is when those that will be successful start to push on the gas even more, while everyone around them starts to coast.
As we move into 2021, we are optimistic that COVID will be tamed with the vaccines that have been released, paving the way for an uptick in business. Will this be the year that you double your business, grow your income and come into your own stride as a sales leader and payments expert? If so, you can’t do what you have always done. You have to commit to new goals, push yourself outside of your comfort zone or you will end the year the same way you have done before.
Working with sales teams for many years now, I impress upon them to write their yearly plan and goals down, check them daily/weekly and course correct regularly. You don’t want to find out in November that you went off course in March.
It all starts with a solid plan that will deliver success. Ensure you have your plan documented and mapped out by month so you can achieve the BIG goals you have set for 2021. Here are 5 tips I give independent sales agents as they think about their yearly plan.
1. Expand – I often find that sales agents pigeonhole themselves in one type of sale because they are most comfortable with a specific business type or model. Closing yourself off to other business types limits your ability to grow your portfolio. If you typically sell to restaurants, retail and B2C companies, try selling your payment solutions into B2B companies. The key to selling into B2B is having the right solution set and speaking their language. For example, if they are an accounting/CPA firm, you’ll want to ensure you know the terms associated with their business such as assurance services & auditing. Try setting a goal to sell to 5 different business types a month to augment your existing portfolio and get more selling experience & referrals.
2. Differentiate – Similar to expansion, why not differentiate your portfolio with businesses from different industries. This will provide a safeguard in case an industry takes a nosedive – like many did last year due to the global pandemic. Start researching other business types that are up and coming such as nutraceutical companies, CBD retailers, delivery services, subscription businesses, etc. Take a look at your local Business Journal and newspaper to get some ideas for new lead opportunities. This strategy will differentiate your portfolio and reinforce your business plan for the year, while allow you incremental income opportunities.
3. Market – it’s been hard to actively get out in front of prospects, business groups and associations due to stay-at-home mandates. However, at a point when you feel it is safe in your community, it’s key to market yourself in person even more than before and to understand how you can help business owners as they recover from the negative impacts of COVID on their business. Go to networking events, bring lunch or breakfast to your prospect & customers, speak at chamber meetings, go to association events and keep active. One of my favorite quotes from Mark Cuban is “Work like there is someone working 24 hours a day to take it all away from you.” This means hustle, get out there and work more than anyone around you to market yourself and your solutions.
4. Partner – are you completely aligned and satisfied with the solutions that you sell. When is the last time you looked at other platforms or technology packages to represent? Are you bringing the best solution for the best cost to your customers? This might be the year to really look at who you have partnered with and re-evaluate what you are selling or add on additional products/solutions to your toolbox. If you are missing ecommerce, partner with a provider to sell their offering. Fill your gaps with the best products and expand your provider partnerships – this will keep your customers happy and bring on new revenue opportunities.
5. MEASURE – No plan will ever work if you don’t measure it regularly. Write your plan down, check it weekly and complete monthly/quarterly reviews to determine if you are on or off track. If you are off track, reflect, analyze and determine why so you can correct it quickly. It’s normal to take a misstep or have a setback but what will set you apart is how quickly you correct it. Ever wonder how people are successful time and time again? They have a plan and the measure themselves against it, brutally & honestly, all of the time. It’s not by accident that they are successful.
With these tips in mind, it’s time to put pen to paper and map out your plan for the year. Be sure to include your personal goals as well – you want to end the year with a strong career and a successful personal life. Review your plan with your spouse, a mentor, your personal board of directors or peers to get feedback and input. This will make your plan even stronger.
Once you have your plan in place – execute it! You’ll look back at the end of 2021 and be amazed at what you can accomplish when you focus on your growth, goals and the satisfaction of your customers.
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