The Green Sheet Online Edition
September 26, 2011 • Issue 11:09:02
How to plan your dream life
Whether you're managing a team or working independently, crafting strategy is a process, not a one-time event. Plans that look good on paper will need to be changed in response to real-world situations. The best strategists use this to their advantage by studying results and making adjustments.
In today's mature and slow-growing payments market, merchants have become more sophisticated and demand more for less. Products and services have become commoditized. Economies of scale among major acquirers make it harder for small businesses to stay in the game.
Merchant level salespeople (MLSs) who compete for the same installed base of accounts may soon find that sacrificing margins is no longer a sustainable strategy. Competing in this climate requires the right mix of operational efficiencies, competitive advantage, managed growth, and fresh new ways to attract and retain customers.
Picturing tomorrow and beyond
How will you compete in this tough environment, made even tougher by economic uncertainties and regulatory oversight? Before you answer, take a step back from your career and consider where you want to be next year and the year after that. What does your dream life look like? Knowing where you want to be and deciding how to get there is what planning is all about.
Planning is a continuous process that involves problem-solving, listening, asking questions and assessing needs. Working is the tactical part where the plan itself gets implemented. Both are needed to create a process flow that will support growth and change and keep you ahead of your competition. Following are four proven ways to plan your work.
- Write it down: "It's not a goal unless it's written down with a date attached," is a basic tenet of selling. So you write a number in a notebook or on a white board. This number is burned into your brain; you live, breathe, eat and sleep this number. You don't just try to make the goal within the allotted time frame; you try to double and triple it, maybe for an additional bonus or for the sheer joy of achieving a new personal best.
What else gets written into your action plan? Some MLSs break the goal into more manageable daily, weekly and monthly increments that combine to make a quarterly or annual goal. Some use a formula based on their average closing ratio to determine how many sales calls they'll need to make per day, per week and per month to make their number. Others write strategic account plans for each customer, detailing how they will research requirements, develop rapport, solve a problem and close a sale.
You can find several ways to record your goals and make them real. Choose a method that's meaningful to you, even if it means creating something other than what you show your sales manager. It could be as complex as a 10-page business plan or as simple as a picture of a new car with "my next commission" written on it.
- Organize your office: Time management and organization are the twin engines of selling. Both are essential for takeoff when you're just getting started and just as important when you've achieved cruising altitude by building a profitable portfolio of accounts.
Whether you belong to the Clean Desk Club or prefer to build a nest of papers, it's crucial to create the kind of system that helps you:
- Manage your calendar
- Arrive 15 minutes early to appointments
- Follow up impeccably
- Prioritize tasks
Organization also means staying committed to work/life balance, according to Julie Morgenstern, author and time management consultant to major corporations, including American Express Co., Microsoft Corp., IKEA and the National Basketball Association's Miami Heat.
"I've noticed that the top-tier performers are deeply committed to their work/life balance," Morgenstern wrote in Making Work Work. "[Top performers] are very thoughtful about their leisure, so that they make excellent use of time away from the office. This is a critical skill - especially if you're working long hours, because you have fewer hours to play with in the first place.
"The most successful workers create a balance that ensures they are energized, refreshed and renewed every day. They are vigilant about maintaining that balance because they appreciate the continuity between home and rest, work and productivity."
- Research your market: When you have a strategic vision and write down the goals and timetables for how to get there, you will have a plan that lays out your future direction, performance targets and strategy. Before you begin to execute that strategy, it's best to understand the playing field. Advances in technology are transforming a mature payments indu try into a fast-moving market. To survive in these dynamic conditions, stay current with industry trends and understand how they affect you and your customers.
Merchants gravitate to experts who can help them navigate the changing payments ecosystem. Changing your competitive advantage in response to market conditions will help you keep existing customers and attract new ones. Continually updating your product mix will help you differentiate yourself from the competition, demonstrate leadership and build your personal brand.
- Keep going: In a recent Reuters interview, Citigroup Inc. executive Paul Galant recognized the need for his company to grow its business in a way that aligned with the rules of the Durbin Amendment to the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. "The cards businesses are incredibly vibrant and power virtually all of us today," Galant said. "These businesses are not going to disappear because of a single law."
Times may be tough. But Galant and other payments industry leaders believe that our best days are still ahead of us. If we stay in tune with the market and continue to adjust our strategies, we can turn challenges into opportunities.
A sales manager once said, "If this job were easy, we'd ask anyone to do it. But it's not easy. That's why we're counting on you." Selling merchant services in this market takes vision, guts and stamina. If you persist in planning your work and working your plan, success will inevitably follow.
Dale S. Laszig is Senior Vice President of Sales in the United States for Castles Technology Co. Ltd., a manufacturer and global provider of smart card, contactless and POS solutions. She can be reached at 973-930-0331 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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