Messages from the Masters
How to Focus for Maximum Profitability by Nido Qubein

Description:  Focus is the key to turning energy into power.  Your sales efforts can be as futile as water over a waterfall or steam from a boiling pot if they're unfocused.  Unless you achieve focus, you'll expend plenty of energy, but very little of it will be converted into the power to sell.

Focus is the key to turning energy into power. Water tumbling over a waterfall is energy.  But it's only when you direct it through a specific channel that it can turn a dynamo and generate electricity.

Steam rising from a boiling pot is energy.  But it's only when you focus it that it can drive locomotives and turn the wheels of industry.

Your sales efforts can be as futile as water over a waterfall or steam from a boiling pot if they're unfocused.  Unless you achieve focus, you'll expend plenty of energy, but very little of it will be converted into the power to sell.

To focus steam or falling water so as to harness its power, you have to prepare a channel and direct it through that channel.  It works that way with sales efforts too.

Preparation Marks the Professional

In sales, as in any calling, the mark of a professional is preparation. Competent doctors study their patients' charts carefully before prescribing medication, and they spend considerable time keeping abreast of the latest treatments for diseases.

Lawyers have to be thoroughly grounded in the law, but they also have to prepare carefully for each individual case.  You wouldn't want to be represented in court by a lawyer who makes a habit of winging it.

Even professional athletes have to be prepared.  They have to know what to expect from the opposing team, and they have to go into each contest with a thoroughly worked-out game plan.  

In the boxing ring, it's not the fighter who throws the most hard punches who wins.  The victor is the fighter who knows how to direct his punches for maximum impact.  Unfocused punches get you nowhere but against the ropes. 

Sales pros, too, must be prepared and focused.

One successful salesperson claims that it's ten times harder to build a powerful sales presentation -- one that really sells -- than it is to prepare a brief to be presented before a supreme court.

Professional salespeople know that selling savvy is not simply a matter of instinctively knowing what to say and do when they get in front of prospects.  It's being prepared. through research, planning and practice, to say and do precisely the right things. 

The Strategic and Tactical Dimensions

Let's look at preparation in two dimensions -- the strategic and the tactical.

The strategic dimension takes in the big picture.  The tactical dimension focuses in on the details. The difference between strategy and tactics can be appreciated by looking at the way they're applied in military campaigns. Military strategy is determined with the big picture in mind.  During World War II, for instance, the Allied leaders had to determine whether to concentrate their greater efforts on defeating Japan or Germany; whether to strike the Germans first from the South, through Italy, or the west, through France.  

In Desert Storm, the United States had to decide whether to launch an immediate ground attack or destroy as much of the enemy as possible from the air. These were strategic decisions.  They determined the overall direction of the battles.

But to implement these strategies, specific plans had to be made.  Someone had to decide which beaches to hit in Normandy, which targets were to be bombed, which areas were to be strafed and where the paratroopers were to be landed.  Well in advance of the landings, somebody had to provide for the ships, the aircraft, the landing craft, the guns and the ammunition.  These are tactics. 

There's a military axiom that once the troops have hit the beaches, the generals can throw all the books away.  The success of the battle now depends upon the tactics on the scene, not the grand strategy crafted from afar.

Sales Strategy and Tactics

Your sales efforts follow the same pattern.  You must devise a grand strategy to establish the general framework of your efforts.  If you're targeting the wrong businesses with the wrong products, your most brilliant on-the-scene tactics won't work.  But if you fumble and stumble over the specifics when it's time for a presentation, your most brilliant strategy will come to naught.

Strategic Decisions

The experienced salesperson likewise devises specific tactics with the overall strategy in mind. You must decide first who your customers will be.  If you're selling in-ground swimming pools, you won't waste your time calling on people in rental housing.  You know that they're not going to make a major investment in property they're only renting.

When you've identified the most likely prospects and have devised the most effective avenue for reaching them, you have a focused strategy.  But, to return to the military analogy, you've just put the troops ashore.  Now everything depends on your tactics.

Tactical Decisions

After you've identified your individual customers, you'll need to decide what approaches you will use to obtain appointments, and what you'll do and say when it's time for the individual presentation.  These are tactical decisions.

Your individual presentation is the key element in your sales tactics.  It should get a large share of your attention.  In fact, focusing your presentation requires that you do some strategic and some tactical planning. 

To examine the strategic dimension, you need to stand back and take an overall look at your whole presentation.  What is its purpose?  What conditions will be working for and against your success?  What must you do to make a sale?  That's the overall, strategic dimension.

Studying this dimension will enable you to plan the major points of the presentation.  You can decide whom the presentation is for, what the prospect's main areas of interest are, where and when you will meet, and other broad matters.

These decisions will give you a general framework within which to work out the details.  The experienced professional leaves none of the little details to chance.

A dynamic presentation is just as ineffective as a mediocre presentation if the end result is the same -- no sale. Your tactics must have a direct connection with your strategy.

For example, your strategy may call for the use of testimonial letters during your presentation to build the prospect's confidence in the product.  But if you have to fumble and search through a jumble of unorganized papers to pull out the testimonial letter, you may find yourself facing a yawning prospect.  And if the testimonials are dog-eared and tattered, what kind of confidence are you building? 

The use of testimonial letters is a strategy.  Their organization and appearance is a tactic.  Your strategy can be a good one, but if your tactics fail, you're like troops landing on a hostile beach with wet ammo.  Don't get caught in that disastrous situation. By thinking about both strategy and tactics -- the general and the specific, the big items and the small ones, the macro and the micro -- the professional salesperson makes sure that all selling activities are working together to move the prospect toward a buying decision.  Not a single detail is overlooked.  

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Provided courtesy of  Jim Rohn International