The Two Critical Questions your Territory Plan Must Answer

Earlier in my career, I worked for a large National Retailer. It was my responsibility to manage inventories, forecasts and ensure that the right products were in the right place (the store) exactly when the customer wanted to make a purchase. In order to do this, I balanced data such as: costs of inventories, what I knew about the forecasts, sales trend data, supply chain lead times and promotions. Sometimes I’d even look into things like weather data or sales of complementary goods (i.e. a ‘market basket’) to ensure I was managing my inventories and assortments effectively. The best thing about that job was at 8:00am Monday morning – I always knew exactly how I was doing! Sales and Inventory reports were delivered to my desk and with a highlighter pen in hand, I devoured the report. What was selling on plan? Where did I run out of inventory over the weekend? What tweeks needed to happen in my inventory balances to execute properly for the week ahead? This constant clarity of feedback helped fuel continuous improvement. Enterprise Software sales is different. Sales cycles can be measured in months (or years!) and interim feedback can often be spurious (ever hear the term, ‘all buyers are liars’? Maybe it’s unfair to say ‘all’ – but human nature dictates that your customer may not want to deliver bad news). So without a “Monday Morning” scorecard, how do you know if you’re moving in the right direction for success? The answer of course is your Territory Plan.

The Fundamentals of your Territory Plan

I’m not going to review the details of how to construct a territory plan, because there are already some fine discussions of that on the web (Look here, or here if you’re interested for two examples). At a high level the process involves reviewing your target prospects, refining that list to the ‘most likely to purchase from you’, understanding exactly why these customers need the product you’re selling and finally creating an action plan to communicate with and educate the prospect, leading them towards a purchase. Of course all plans are ‘made to be broken’ and a talented Sales person will be able to adapt the plan on the fly as necessary to take advantage of opportunities as they arise, but the idea is to reduce variability or the need for ‘luck’ as much as possible. A Territory Plan will answer the following two questions:

1.Where is the money coming from?

This is the first and most important question. You can’t answer this question unless you KNOW your territory, you understand your prospective customers and you are clear on what you have a realistic chance of selling. New products are harder to forecast than established products and new territories are harder than mature, established ones. Answering the question of “Who is Likely to Buy?” – is very different from “Who could benefit?” and you can’t confuse them. Also, don’t ignore any part of your business. Some revenues will come from new customers, some from existing customers (one company I was with encouraged us to review all old contracts to identify ‘incremental license’ opportunities where the customer might have expanded use over time). This becomes your ‘opportunity pipeline’. The exact plan for what deals need to happen to hit your targets.

There’s much debate about how much the pipeline needs to have in order to ensure sales targets are met. Some ‘traditionalists’ like the 3:1 ratio… but your company will know better that your specific pipeline needs to be to ensure quotas. The practical reality is, there are many variables including: How well qualified are opportunities? (No point having millions of poorly qualified opportunities wasting time) What unique circumstances improve your competitiveness in the market? How is the landscape changing and how can you benefit from those changes?

The list of qualified opportunities is your list of exactly where the sales are anticipated to happen. This list is updated constantly, in real time and therefore your Territory Plan needs to be constantly updated and reviewed.

2.How should I be spending my time?

Time is the one constant for each of us on this planet. We all have exactly the same amount of time in a day. The only difference, is how we choose to spend that time. At a high level, there are four basic activities you should be involved in: (1) Building Pipe, (2) Developing Opportunities, (3) Closing, and (4) Personal Development. The trick is that not every activity should get the same amount of time – in fact, different situations require different time allocations. The end goal is to have a Sales Funnel that moves prospects through from New Lead, to Happy Customer in a predictable pattern – so none of those activities can be ignored.

With ‘time’ as your resource, you are spending it to move prospects along the sales funnel. This progress along the milestones toward closing is how you can measure your progress incrementally – like that weekly report I mentioned earlier. Identify the bottlenecks, and you will identify opportunities for personal development and opportunities to creatively solve problems.

It’s no surprise that when you boil down the answer to the question posed above – it comes right down to PLANNING (Where is the money coming from?”) and EXECUTION (“How will I spend my time?”).

Everything comes down to those two things. You can’t control your buyers’ decisions and you can’t control the market – but you can have a plan and execute against it flawlessly.

-Lorne Campbell 2018.

Sales Secret Weapon: The Essential Close Plan

OK, I confess the headline grabber I wrote isn’t correct.  A Close Plan should NEVER be a secret, it should be the opportunity roadmap.   I bet if you were driving someplace you’d never been to before – you’d use a map – A LOT. Here are some thoughts on why I ALWAYS use a Close Plan for important deals.

A Close Plan is a jointly agreed upon set of steps that buyer and seller jointly agree need to happen to finalize a contract.  It’s a way of ensuring that the opportunity is progressing and avoids surprises along the way. Since most prospects aren’t as familiar with your process as you are, it’s important to be clear and set expectations of exactly what will happen and how long each step will take.  Other authors have made the point not to call it a “Close Plan” in front of your prospect (since it may be seen as ‘dehumanizing’) and prefer Engagement Plan – that’s great too.  I simply state : “Here’s a list of things that need to happen in order for us to begin the project on time”.

Don’t show up with a timeline and announce to the prospect – “Here’s the plan”.  Instead, mention that you need a planning session to jointly understand what needs to happen between now and the project start date.  Setting up the discussion to create the list of steps that need to happen for “XYZ Project” (the prospect usually has a name for the project they are acquiring software for) is important for several reasons:

(A) It allows the prospect to feel ownership for action items – it’s their project.

(B) Allows them to openly discuss what needs to happen on their side to check each item off the list.  (How often is a key person on vacation at a critical moment? Or last minute someone realizes the Board needs to review the decision – and they won’t meet till next month?)

(C) Allows you to share what happens in your organization for a contract to be executed.  Prospects may assume you can make everything happen immediately. Until you explain the reality, don’t expect any empathy when you don’t deliver on their optimistic expectations.

Timing is Critical

For software/technology businesses, each quarter close is essential.  Management and Sales teams are measured on performance to quarterly targets.  Revenue predictability is critical for every function of a Software Company, from Management, to R&D, and especially to Consulting Services.  All those teams need to know when the revenue is happening in order to have appropriate resources lined up and ready to go. Therefore, timing the close is critical to a technology sales person.

Customers may be trained to expect a discount at the end of a fiscal year (or quarter) – so that may be worth acknowledging, “We both know my company end-of-year is coming up, so you might be expecting an extra discount…”,  If you are really taking care of your customer – you will clearly signal when you’re giving them that final price. I had an SVP of sales once say directly to my customer, “Two things are critical here…Price and Time. If you can commit to the timing of our agreement, I can commit to our best price.”

In order to effectively write and maintain commitment to the CP, the customer needs to understand the benefits to THEM for having the close plan.

Benefits to the Customer of Having a Close Plan
  • It manages their project Start Time – without an agreement, the project gets delayed.
  • Helps them ask the right questions internally of what needs to happen – and plan contingencies as things change.
  • Allows for resources to be properly assigned and slotted (both during the close…i.e. CFO signature, Contracts Review…and Project Mgr assigned to begin project)
  • Clearly signals when final contracts will be negotiated, terms and conditions approved and pricing finalized.  (Avoids last second demands that can stall in legal review).
Benefit to the Seller of Having a Close Plan
  • It clearly shows what needs to happen to reach agreement.

The seller only needs one reason – to understand what needs to happen to close the deal.  It should be constantly reviewed and validated. Ask questions such as, “Are we on track to completing these open-items?”… or “If I complete steps X,Y,Z…are you still confident we will be signing by that date?”

Thinking of the Close Plan as a checklist of items that need to happen also identifies some items need to happen in sequence, and others that can happen anytime.  Identify the real bottlenecks early and stay focused on them.

Using the Close Plan During the Negotiation

If done properly, a jointly-agreed to CP is a commitment from both parties to work on a schedule.  Identify areas where negotiation will happen, and what stage final pricing and proposal will be reached.  Customers understand that proposals and pricing can’t be finalized until the contract terms are reached (since things in the contract can impact costs, liability etc..) and therefore you should identify the time to negotiate.  After that time – any further changes to the agreement may add cost and delay. Cost and delay equal RISK, and everyone should work to minimize risk as much as possible. The parties should feel a sense of urgency to get the tasks done on the checklist and if handled well, is a good sign for how the companies will work together once they become partners in the actual project.

The level of detail you go into while creating the Plan will depend upon the value of the deal and the complexity of its moving parts.  How many parties need to be aligned?  How much risk (to the project or even  the sale) is there?   Good sales people make good habits of using a Close Plan, and constantly re-visiting it during a sales cycle.

May all your sales cycles be progressing!


5 Ways to Make Yourself Memorable to Prospects

Many years ago, before I was in sales,  I worked in Pre-Sales Consulting. It was great because it gave me the opportunity to see the different styles of many sales people.  One person I worked with was a real character. He insisted that every presentation must be memorable.  He would use all kinds of tricks to ensure he was memorable – one involved smashing a mug  (don’t ask me what the point of that was – I don’t remember). His theory was that if you were memorable as a sales person, you would stay top-of-mind for the prospect.  I try to learn something from everyone I work with, from this person I learned the difference between ‘good memorable’ and ‘bad memorable’. In other words, he was half right.  It’s important to be memorable, but it’s also important to be memorable for the right reasons.

Since then, I have often thought about the ways to be memorable to prospects- telling a funny joke in a presentation or using some ‘trick’ doesn’t work (for a laugh, check out this list), because those things won’t make you memorable for the right reasons.

It’s important to understand how memory works to understand what actions are effective in positively influencing it.  The following quote sums up my thesis: “They may forget what you said — but they will never forget how you made them feel.” —Carl W. Buehner 1971

The following list are actions you can perform, that will create positive feelings in your prospect.  It’s those positive feelings that will make you unforgettable.

1. Listen to them

Have you ever been ignored?   Maybe spoken to a teenager holding a cell phone?  If you have, you know that doesn’t create positive feelings.  Too often sales people want the prospect to hurry up and be quiet so we can tell them about our fantastic solution!  Or we listen for just a couple of key words, before jumping in and assuming we know exactly what they’re trying to say.  We forget that letting the prospect communicate is far more important than anything we are going to say. They should be doing most of the talking in our meetings and we should be actively listening.  Active listening is a skill we need to develop, fully concentrating on what is being communicated and why.  Only after we fully understand their specific and unique needs (and the prospect KNOWS they have been heard) will they feel they can trust us to solve their problem.

2. Be Responsive

This is the skill of showing ‘active listening’ even when you’re not directly speaking to your prospect.  With today’s technology you might be emailing or texting with a prospect, and when they reach out with a question or concern, they’re looking for a quick response.  The best sales reps respond as quickly as possible. Even if that response is simply to acknowledge the message was received and they are working on an answer. A quick response might include: A restatement of the question, a proposed action plan and an anticipated deadline – to clearly set expectations.  This will make the prospect feel confident you are working on their question and it will be answered shortly. If they wait a long period of time before hearing from you – they won’t know if their email even got through your spam filter!

3. Be Prepared

You need to have have everything ready for meetings, you understand your own product and their business, and specifically how they will get value from your product.  Being prepared means that you respect your prospect’s time. It also makes you reliable and predictable- these are very important qualities when building a relationship based on trust.  Often salespeople talk about the importance of making every interaction with their prospect valuable, it’s rare that kind of value happens by accident. Valuable interactions happen because you are prepared with the thing that you know will be valuable.  Like Stephen Covey says, “Begin with the end in mind” – if you know where the meeting needs to go, you will know what the key takeaways will be. If you happen to give more value than you were planning, hey take the added bonus!

4. Be Yourself

People can spot a phony a mile away.   If fact, it’s the fake smile and cheesy demeanor of the ‘used-car-salesman’ that gave this profession it’s bad name.   You can’t fake a genuine interest in people or a comfort with meeting new people- those are skills you can develop. Emotionally, there will be good days and days you don’t feel great.  Your prospects don’t need to be exposed to the worst aspects of your personal life, but they do need to see you as a real person. As a fellow human, you can connect with your prospects by interests you share, and stand out in their mind for the things that are unique to you.  I’m Australian by birth, so my accent instantly makes me stand out, and today I’m American- so in the USA, that’s a point of commonality.

5. Have Integrity

It’s important for a salesperson to have integrity for so many reasons.  Prospects may expect you to lie to them – so honesty will set you apart from others.  Yet integrity is more than honestly, it’s the quality of reliability and predictability.   Having a strong moral compass will foster feelings of trust because your prospect knows that you won’t compromise your principles.  If you have bad news to deliver to your prospect, deliver it. People deal best with bad news when it’s clearly presented – not when it’s hidden behind euphemisms or lies.  Sometimes, delivering bad news is the best time to show your personal integrity and it will foster greater trust. Don’t miss the opportunity to stand out as someone your prospect can trust.

The above items will make your prospects feel important and build trust with you.  Those are powerful feelings they will remember.


Are there any ways that you make yourself memorable to prospects?  Feel free to comment or shoot me and email – I look forward to hearing from you. –

Proper Prior Preparation…

“Proper Prior Preparation Prevents Poor Performance” is a motto I heard once when I was 19 years old, and it’s made a huge impact on me.  Apparently it’s a paraphrase of a saying in the British Army (kudos guys…the American military gave us FUBAR and SNAFU), but really at its core it’s simply a fun way of saying, “Be Prepared” (the Scouts).  Try saying it 3 times quickly (…then try saying it quickly with an Aussie accent!).

In sales it has a special meaning.  Nothing has the power to set you apart from the gaggle of sales people more than being prepared.  If you are prepared your customers will listen to you and your management will love you. Here are some specific stages of a sales cycle where bering properly prepared are critical for success.

  1. First Contact

No matter how you make first contact, referred meeting, cold-call,  LinkedIn Message…or even reaching out via email, you need to prepare for that contact.  Who are you reaching out to and what do you know that would benefit them? Put yourself in their shoes (most of our prospects get hit up multiple times per day, in addition to doing the job they are paid to do) and understand how to present your message so they get value from every interaction with you – starting with the very first contact.  Be brief, interesting and valuable.

  1. The First Meeting

When you meet with a prospect for the first time, it’s often to provide an overview of your solutions.  Perhaps your initial contact made an impression or was well timed with an internal project they’re facing…but don’t make the mistake thinking that meeting is about you.  It’s not. It’s about THEM. Too many sales people think that meeting is about the software company, when this is the perfect opportunity to showcase how well you understand your prospect’s business and needs.  Nothing will put a prospect to sleep faster than spending 10 mins (or longer!) in a powerpoint presentation filled with, “Here’s a slide about our company”. Every presentation needs to be focused on, “Here is information about YOU…”.  Sure, your company is great – but all those benefits, accomplishments, references need to be presented in the context of why it matters to your prospect.

  1. The Proposal

If your opportunity is progressing well, you will need to prepare a final proposal.  This proposal will include all the research and discovery you have done up to this point and should demonstrate your ability to deliver a solution and solve a problem.  It’s essential that your proposal includes a complete solution to the problem you were given to solve. That includes the software, the Services (the Implementation effort), enough information to demonstrate you are fully capable and can be trusted, essential reference customers (that have been prepared themselves with information your prospect needs to hear!), and of course the Return on Investment (ROI).  Every business makes decisions based on return, so make it clear this investment will be profitable for them. A customer who fully understands their ROI (including cost to do nothing) will be committed to following through at contracting.

  1. The Close Plan / Negotiation

Early on in the negotiation, you need to understand what it will take to get a deal signed with your prospect and conversely you need them to understand what it takes on your side.  Some prospects need to have a VP or higher sign it, some need the CFO or CEO and some even need to wait for a Financial Committee of the Board in order for it to be signed (that might happen only quarterly!).  Often prospects themselves might not understand the process, so it’s important to re-confirm this information frequently – and that’s why it’s important to have a written close plan. A typical plan might back up from the planned signature date.  It will include all the critical events that lead up to signature on both sides (especially if you work in a bureaucratic company). Now you can manage the final days of contracting like landing a jumbo jet – with a checklist. Additionally it gives you the power to use every step as a negotiation and keeps everyone focused on the deadline.  How do you use every step as a negotiation? “If I deliver the license contract and Services plan by this date, will you get redlines back to me by X date?” or, even more effective, “If I can get you that discount, can you assure me that we can sign tomorrow?”

  1. The Contract / Closing

Each iteration of the proposal and contract will include important changes that need to be documented and communicated to your prospect.  Read all your contracts carefully (if someone else is preparing your contracts, you need to know they included the correct updates) and never send something to your prospect you haven’t studied first.  Be clear what you can give and what you can’t. Present all customers recommended changes as an added value to your prospect. If you need to ask for something in return – the way you have documented your ‘gives’ in the contract will support your need to ‘ask’.

  1. The Transition

This step is about preparing your customer.  What do they need to know to be successful with your company (or the Implementer)? Perhaps you already have a “Welcome Packet” prepared with information on Help and Support, Customer User Groups, Company Conferences, downloading or accessing their acquired solutions…etc.   Equally important is the transition to new people. Up to this point, your customer has built a strong relationship with you, they need to be assured you won’t abandon them, that you will continue to work for their success and that there are now other people they can call, eg. Service Leads, Project Managers even Customer Success support representatives.

Each of these particular stages of a sales cycle could certainly merit their own blog post to discuss techniques and sources for preparation – there’s so much to do.  Preparation is a talent you develop and need to exercise regularly to stay on top of things It can suffer if you’re snowed under doing much too much – but you need to ensure you stay focused on it.  Block out time on your calendar dedicated to research, build tools or templates to help remind you of critical steps or questions to ask and how you can prepare for the risk of something going sideways.

Like your morning workout, proper preparation is a habit you develop over time and if neglected, you and your prospects will suffer.

How do you prepare?  Feel free to comment or shoot me and email – I look forward to hearing from you. –

Why Choose a Career in Sales?

Let’s face it – no kid ever says, “When I grow up – I want to be in Sales”.  There are far more exciting careers like Pilot, Astronaut, or my son (4 years old) actually talks often of his dream to be a Race Car Driver.  You look at even the very best salespeople – and they will acknowledge the difficult customers, the challenge of getting all the teams (Services, Solutions etc.) aligned with the Customer, the late nights, the anxiety felt every quarter closing…and the worst feeling ever: the feeling of losing a deal that you should have won.

When I was young, I dreamed of a career in “helping people solve problems”.  Perhaps that’s a naive thought (I was 12)…and it sounds generic since on some level, everyone is working in a business that solves some kind of problem.  My love of technology and the Retail industry brought me to a career in Retail Technology Sales, and when you think about it, Retail technology is in the business of making Retail more effective, more efficient, and getting people more of what they want.

Here are 6 thoughts on why I choose a career in Enterprise Software Sales, and why you might also.

  1. Sales are Essential

Every business needs sales in order to survive.  They’re the critical lifeblood to the organization, and since they are so critical companies will invest well in their sales-force.  Every business needs someone focused on Sales, and that means there is always a call for effective sales people.

  1. Freedom to Define your Workday

There are few occupations that give you the freedom to ‘manage your own business’ like Sales.  You have the ability to structure your day as you need to. Perhaps essential follow-up phone calls in the morning, creative time to develop sales strategy or a new campaign. Leave time for emailing in the less productive afternoon hours.  Yes, you are free to manage your time – but you are always at the whim of your customer. When they need your attention, you need to give it.

  1. Career Prospects

Sales as an individual contributor can be rewarding enough alone, but it becomes even more rewarding as you work with larger teams.  Now you can leverage the power of the broader team to get things accomplished. Being successful there, means understanding those groups, their goals and motivations – and that is the primary qualification for leadership.  Bringing teams together to accomplish the company goal often gets Sales leaders promoted to the head of the company.

  1. Sales is about Understanding People

Unlike Classical Economics, people don’t always act rationally, nor do they always act in their own best interests.  Your job as a Salesperson is to understand why people do what they do. What motivates them? How can you generate interest, deliver value for each moment of their time, and develop trust.  Your customer needs to believe in your product and it’s your job to help them understand how it provides them value – and will satisfy their needs. Perhaps you have an intrinsic understanding of people or empathy, or a desire to know people better? That will serve you well in Sales.

  1. Sales people understand Industry Trends.

I LOVE technology.  I’m passionate about understanding what successful companies are doing that is new or different.  Often, technology is at the forefront of improvements (excellent execution is also critical) or even huge changes in business.  In Sales, you can be the ambassador for new industry trends, educating and evangelizing innovation to make business better.

  1. Compensation

The old joke about Salespeople is that we are “coin operated”. Sure, In many ways this is true – but there are many other ways Salespeople are compensated. Consider the sheer joy of winning!  The happiness of working towards an objective of making the sale, and when the moment arrives you have a signed contract, …there’s nothing like that feeling. Also, working closely with many different people with shared goals, often shared late nights together or travel to remote locations – you get pretty close to those people.  I have enormous respect for other team members I’ve worked with (and won with) and I hope I maintain those friendships for many years into the future.

Do you think there’s anything I left out? A motivating factor that might be unique to you? Feel free to comment or shoot me and email – I look forward to hearing from you. –