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The Green Sheet Online Edition

October 28, 2013 • Issue 13:10:02

Time to plan for 2014

By Jeff Fortney
Clearent LLC

The crisp fall air brings with it a time of planning, something I like to refer to as decision time. This is when companies big and small hold meetings, gather information and make decisions about the coming year. They set goals, establish timelines and develop plans that they believe will help them reach the growth targets they have set for the year ahead.

Although it may seem too soon to focus on 2014, the logic of making decisions now about the approaching new year is sound. Setting goals is only the first step. Establishing the action plans that will help companies reach their goals is also critical – and time consuming. Putting off this task to the start of the next calendar year will likely result in lost sales.

Although planning sessions vary greatly, they all entail a similar process: examine what is going well within the company; then examine what isn't working, or what is not reaching its full potential. These are obvious steps in goal planning, mirrored by myriad companies no matter their size. The purpose is to set a destination for the coming year.

Like a road trip

In my early days in the business world, a mentor once likened these goals to the end of a road trip. For illustration, he would say, "Over the next year, I want to drive from San Francisco to Maine."

He noted that just as there are many routes from San Francisco to Maine, there are many potential action steps to lead a company to its goals. He told us our job was to develop the road map that would help our company reach its destination.

Smaller ISOs and merchant level salespeople don't have others available to design such road maps for them. They must set their own goals and then determine the steps toward achieving them. Not only that, they are also driving the car. However, though they begin each trip with good intentions, they often end up taking unnecessary side trips.

What if?

One exercise that can help avoid detours is called "What if?" The process is straightforward. After setting a goal – such as growing production by a certain percentage in the coming year – and then brainstorming about possible ways to attain the goal, participants take a step back and ask, "What if?"

For example, let's say you decide the only way to grow your business is to focus your outreach in a specific market segment. The common action at this point would be to just jump in and test the waters. Instead, ask, "What if I concentrate on this particular segment?"

This isn't a simple question. The answer is not, "I've had some success in that segment, so I can easily expand on my success by concentrating my efforts even further." Although that may be part of the answer, it's critical to dig deeper.

In-depth answers

Drill down into the impact of the action by answering these specific questions:

  • Is the change sufficient to support my long-term goals? This seems obvious, but it is the most commonly missed question. For example, the answer isn't solely about whether a given vertical has enough business locations. The response must also address the ongoing viability of the industry as a whole.
  • What should I expect in return for the commitment? Before you make any changes to your sales process, decide upon a reasonable return for your commitment. It must be greater than what you are getting now in order to justify your decision.
  • How long will it take to see results? You are not only making a monetary commitment, you are also making a time commitment. This question is critical because you must be realistic in your expectations. If your expectations are too aggressive, you will become frustrated with what others would consider to be an acceptable time frame. Conversely, if you give yourself more time than what is truly needed, you might miss other opportunities.
  • How will this impact my efforts in other markets, and can I afford it? Since your time will be spent concentrating on one market segment, it will likely have a financial impact on the rest of your business. Depending on how successful you are, this may not matter because the new segment could be what drives your growth.
  • What happens if this effort fails? No one wants to think about failure, and a great salesperson rarely considers this when selling. However, it's impossible to truly think through "what if" without considering the negative. Nothing is ever guaranteed to be successful. You must decide if the commitment's potential for success outweighs its possibility for failure.

Simply put, it truly is decision time. Even though you are focused on making the current year successful, taking extra time now to plan for the following year will help you hit the ground running in January and get out ahead of your competition. end of article

Jeff Fortney is Vice President, ISO Channel Management with Clearent LLC. He has more than 17 years' experience in the payments industry. Contact him at jeff@clearent.com or 972-618-7340. To learn about how Clearent can help you grow faster and go further, visit www.clearent.com.

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