It’s that time of the year again…planning, thinking about what you’d like to achieve and feeling like it’s all possible as the whole year stretches out in front of you.  I love it! The infinite possibilities that beckon.

On New Year’s Day a friend of mine and I share via SMS what our two words for the year will be. They represent how we will face the coming year and what we’ll need to achieve successful outcomes. I’m a little greedy this year and have decided I need three; they are focus, persistence and delivery.

Focus gives you momentum.  It’s tempting to have lots of goals you’d like to achieve but they can also be overwhelming. Have you ever reached the end of the year and reviewed what you set out to achieve and realised that you’d started lots of things and half-finished them?

In most businesses there are probably 3-4 core drivers of growth. I’d suggest getting really clear on what they are in your business and focused on how you can implement measure and improve upon them. For example, if networking is a core driver in your business find the events worth attending book yourself in and put the dates in your calendar. You will then want to think about how you will measure the return on attending these events. Do you have a system in place that records how many people you spoke to and what about? Do you have a system that reminds you to follow up, measures your conversion rate, tracks where leads come from and what their value to the business was?

It might be a cliché but you can’t manage what you don’t measure.

Persistence pays off.  A National Sales Executive Association survey found that 48% of sales agents never follow up with leads a second time. This is significant since 10% of sales are closed on the fourth contact, and 80% are made on the fifth to 12th contact.  As a sales manager, you hope to look at every lead record that is being worked over time and see multiple meetings, emails and calls logged against it. I’ll stress again, it’s critical to have a system in place to track activity, bring accountability and transparency to your sales process.

How many wins do your sales reps get after moving prospects to the opportunity stage? This is a surprisingly important metric. You might have sales reps on your team that are excellent networkers and door-openers, but awful closers. If so, then you need to help them either get better, or move them into a different role so that they can open doors for your closers. Either way, tracking this metric is key.

Being persistent not only requires discipline it also requires pre-planning so you can be consistent in your actions. Effective follow up requires connecting in a meaningful way with your prospects and referral partners. Think about the people you enjoy buying from or working with – you like them, you trust them and they bring something to the relationship that keeps you interested and engaged.

What process do you have for engaging, educating and supporting your prospects, customers and referral network? Sharing content is one such example. This could be a link to a promotion, whitepaper, a video or TEDtalk, or in the B2B world, even a case study that validates your product and builds brand awareness.  Targeted relevant useful information that can be easily shared requires some planning and an in-depth knowledge of who your customer is and what’s important to them.

Great delivery = repeat customers and referrals. You’ve expended considerable resources winning a new customer, now’s the time to delight them. As with any relationship, communication is the key, do what you say you will do as a bare minimum and add value at any opportunity. Have you reviewed your delivery process and looked at how this can be improved to create a customer experience worth talking about? If you’re a service business, how do you orientate a new customer, what touch points are there along the way and do you have process of self-evaluation which also asks for client feedback?

Most customers change service providers not because something went terribly wrong but due to indifference; another sales rep caught their attention, asked for their business and while you weren’t paying attention they decided ‘yeah why not try someone new?’ Customers are spoilt for choice and can do their own research quickly and easily online both via the internet and social media. So, have a think about how you can incorporate touch points into your delivery process that leave your customers in no doubt that you are thinking about them, care about them and want their business more than anyone else. Get a system in place that allows you to automate some of this process and empowers you and your team to deliver above and beyond consistently.

To help me stay on track, I’ve written my three words on my bathroom mirror where I can see them first thing every morning and just before I go to bed each night. I’ve got events for the first six months of the year in my diary, a written plan on the office wall and my CRM system has monthly reminders to touch base with referral partners. My team and I have a brainstorming and process review day scheduled for next week and we’re all feeling rested and keen to get back to work…I reckon it’s going to be a great year!