Mark Zokle, Sales Expert on Planning Ahead

Mark Zokle

The New Year has come and gone and we’re heading into the second quarter of 2016, but there’s no better time to look ahead at 2017, says Mark Zokle. Today, we pick the brain of the nationally-lauded sales trainer to find out what steps should be taken now to get the ball rolling for next year.

ZRYLW: Good day, Mr. Zokle, and thank you for talking with us today. Let’s get started with the big question of the day: why should a business start planning now for next year?

Mark Zokle: From a sales standpoint, businesses should always have a plan in place. Otherwise, come December 31st, management will have no idea where to look for January’s revenue.

ZRYLW: That makes sense. But, do you think all businesses need to plan or is this advice primarily for startups?

Mark Zokle: Definitely not just startups. Even established businesses can fail without looking forward.

ZRYLW: How important is strategic planning?

Mark Zokle: Here’s the funny thing about that: it’s vital to success and nearly every business agrees; however, only about a quarter of them actually do so before moving forward with major business decisions.

ZRYLW: That’s scary…

Mark Zokle: It can be for people in sales who rely on the company to know where they are headed.

ZRYLW: Do you have any tips for helping a sales manager get in the right frame of mind to plan correctly?

Mark Zokle: I would say that he or she needs to have a good idea of what the company’s goals are, then figure out how to motivate sales staff to reach them.

ZRYLW: But how is the groundwork for a plan laid?

Mark Zokle: This is done by taking a look at the past. Figure out what worked and what didn’t and adjust accordingly.

ZRYLW: What does “next level” mean for a business?

Mark Zokle: This is a time when a company is transitioning from one playing field to another, so to speak. For instance, when new alliances are formed or a greater market share is achieved.

ZRYLW: Can you explain “SMART” planning?

Mark Zokle: SMART criteria is an easy way to determine if goals are worth the hassle.

ZRYLW: Is it a checklist?

Mark Zokle: Yes! Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-related.

ZRYLW: Aren’t all goals attainable?

Mark Zokle: Not necessarily. It’s one thing to be ambitious, but some objectives just aren’t realistic.

ZRYLW: Can you give us an example?

Mark Zokle: Let’s say you are a farmer with 10 apple trees. You know your trees produce a total of 1,000 apples per week during picking season. You cannot reasonably accept a new contract with an apple pie baker who needs 1,500 apples per week.

ZRYLW: No, that would require more trees.

Mark Zokle: Well, it’s the same in sales. It’s bad business to shoot for those big contracts before the right equipment, manpower, and capabilities to provide the service are in place.

ZRYLW: Thinking about a company’s bottom line. Do small changes have a positive impact?

Mark Zokle: If they are planned well. The farmer wouldn’t want to change to pick his apples a week early if there was a chance they wouldn’t be ripe.

ZRYLW: Do you believe that plans should be micro-detailed?

Mark Zokle: Not at first. It’s a much better idea to create a basic action plan and elaborate on it point-by-point.

ZRYLW: How do you feel is the best way to mark milestones?

Mark Zokle: Start with each key player’s role. Ensure they have specific targets to achieve. If the right people are meeting their goals then chances are, everything else will fall into place.

ZRYLW: Like a domino effect?

Mark Zokle: Right, because it all starts with the good leaders!

ZRYLW: Well stated! We are out of time for today but again appreciate you being with us.

Mark Zokle: My pleasure.