Don’t Get Taken Down by the UnexpectedArticle by Colleen Francis, July 25, 2019
In every sales territory and in every organization, there’s a hidden danger: one that has the potential to be lethal if left unchecked. It emerges only when “the unexpected” occurs. That’s usually something big and potentially destabilizing. It could take the form of a sudden severe weather event, a change in management, a shift in organizational priorities in your client’s company, or even a downturn in one or more sectors of the economy.
The hidden danger isn’t that these unexpected events happen—they just do, and you have no control over that.
Rather, the real danger and ensuing damage comes from not anticipating these events in the first place, and then reacting poorly because you didn’t have a realistic plan in place.
In other words, we allow external things that we have no control over to harm us—sometimes even terminally—in ways that are entirely preventable. To be clear: I’m not talking here about protecting yourself against competitors—that’s a discussion for another time. I’m talking solely about positioning yourself to think differently about unexpected events and how we react to them.
Let’s look at three strategies you must embrace so you don’t get taken down by the unexpected.
Get to know negative planning.
Smart organizations are resilient ones: they mitigate against risk and loss by planning for the unforeseen. They don’t make the mistake of assuming—as many are prone to do—that the best possible conditions will greet them in executing a strategy. Instead, they plan for loss and for things to not go according to plan. I see this practiced regularly with clients of mine in the resource sector. By anticipating slowdowns and unplanned product reductions early in the year, they give their teams a chance to recoup potential losses. They do so by selling to new clients or by trying new methods or approaches in their market. In the best-case scenario, their losses don’t happen as planned and the sellers are ahead of their targets. In the worst case, their advanced planning ensures everyone hits the target as a baseline.
Have a replacement strategy.
If your success hinges on a small number of clients or conditions all working in your favor, you are far more fragile than you realize. It’s not an accident that “how the mighty fall” is a timeless aphorism. That’s why I recommend to all my clients (and I do this too) that they run an exercise that starts by asking: “if this client disappeared tomorrow, what will I do to find a complete replacement?” Note the absence of the word “would.” What will you do? Don’t treat the unexpected as some hypothetical thing. Make it real.
Change your mindset.
One day while travelling on business, I found myself snowed-in at the hotel I was staying at, and couldn’t make it to a planned face-to-face meeting with an important new client that day. Instead, we did the meeting by Skype and closed the deal. While I was getting set up for that call, however, there was a couple in the hotel lobby complaining loudly about how the snow had ruined their carefully planned event. As though we are owed good weather…especially in winter! Change your mindset. Focus on what’s in your control. And that begins with how you choose to react to events. Be flexible in how you are going to execute your plans and have a range of solid options at your disposal.
While sales success and growth are interconnected, it’s a mistake to assume that you earn that growth just by planning for it. Be more flexible, more resilient and less fragile! Doing so, you create better pathways—and more of them—to long-term profitability and better performance.