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.

18 thoughts on “Mark Zokle, Sales Expert on Planning Ahead”

  1. It would drive me insane to not manage every detail down to the smallest. I need to take a cue from Mark Zokle and learn to let go a little bit so that the details don’t overwhelm the goal.

    1. I think you will find that things get much easier and finished faster if you take things step by step. You don’t always have to know every detail in the beginning, but you may find that you get to where you are going in fewer steps when you allow yourself to see the path as it opens.

  2. I would like to ask Mark Zokle what kinds of small changes have the most impact on a sales team? I am trying to motivate my group but nothing really seems to work.

    1. If you are trying to encourage your team to work more efficiently, chances are, you are going to need to tailor your incentives to each individual. People are not motivated by the same things. You could start by offering your top salespeople a small cash reward. If that doesn’t work, some may respond better to praise, an afternoon off, or a free lunch.

  3. I like Mark Zokle. He makes it easy to know how to get things done. I come from Mexico and trying to get my sales job here in California. Things are not the same where I am from, much harder to earn a living selling.

    1. I don’t see any reason to over-complicate things. I wish you the best of luck as you carve out your own path of success.

  4. Mark Zokle makes a great point that plans should begin as a broad concept then have details added as time goes on. That’s how builders operate – they know first they want to build a house, for instance, and then decide how many bedrooms, square footage, etc. But it all starts with the idea!

    1. Great point! I’ve actually never thought about architecture as a way to relate that idea but you can bet I will use it now! Thanks for the tip!

  5. SMART is something I teach students in my economics class. It’s not part of the standard curriculum but the theory relates well to money management as well as sales. I first heard about the strategy from my daughter, who attended an event where Mark Zokle spoke. I have followed him ever since.

    1. You are right that SMART can be applied to many different situations. I have used it with my own kids relating to their school work.

  6. I love that Mark Zokle used a farmer as an analogy for running a business. I have been to several events where he spoke and he always finds a way to explain difficult concepts in a way that everyone can understand. Kudos to you, Mr. Zokle.

    1. Thank you for those kind words. I learned a long time ago that sometimes it’s best to forgo the technical talk and get down to a level that really makes sense on a large scale. Sometimes over-simplifying is the best way to tackle tough topics.

  7. I would like to read more on what Mark Zokle has to say about taking things to the next level. I am up for a management position in February and I would love to be the first manager to break the $1 million per year sales mark with the three people I’ll have on my team.

    1. Please find and follow me on Twitter. I’ve got links there to some of my most recent articles and interviews on sales and management. Thank you for taking the time to comment. I hope I can be of some help!

  8. My very first sales job, the managers did not forecast accurately and decided it was our fault – it was me and one other guy and they wanted us to sell $10,000 per day (our average was $1,500). It wasn’t possible. They planned wrong. I wish they’d taken a few classes with Mark Zokle.

    1. It can be frustrating for a salesperson, especially a novice, to be told you have to live up to outlandish expectations. I hope that you stuck with it though. Sales is a highly rewarding career if you have the right support from your corporate office.

  9. I agree wholeheartedly with Mark Zokle that NOW is the time to plan for the future, no matter how far out. As a small business owner, I have to have an idea of where I am going all the time. I have to plan for staff, inventory, and even time off (which I don’t take enough of).

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