No Plan Is Perfect But No Plan Is Disastrous

A Sales plan or a Territorial plan is simple to create, should be the tool we use for communicating our efforts and should be kept updated constantly. It’s amazing that when we plan our business, we tend to have business. Sir William Osler said, “When plans are laid in advance, it is surprising how often circumstances fit to them.” This article tracks a young man’s effort to build his business without the use of a sales plan and the advice given to him by a seasoned veteran. This is an advice that all of us should take dearly to heart.

Jack was young.

He was just starting his career after an intensive training through one of the popular artist teacher certification courses. He’d set out to conquer the world. Jack and I had built a strong relationship during the teacher training courses. We both lived in the same, small New England state and he was afire to make his fortune.

Five or six months passed after “certification” before we were able to get together. Instead of the fire-ball of energy, I’d last seen, in front of me stood the perfect portrait of exasperation. I listened to his story. He’d only been able to secure one host store, and it wasn’t going well. More of a social club than a money maker. As a veteran sales trainer, I’d heard his story countless time. So we began…..“

Jack, what was your plan? My what? Just go out. Get stores signed up. Teach. Enjoy.

Your plan, you know, just what was your territorial plan? What area had you mapped out for yourself and said that within this geographical area is where I wish to do business. Within this territory I wish to have xx number of stores hosting me that produces xx amount of annual income by xx date?”Jack’s silence was answer enough. How many of us stand equally silent? Having a territorial plan is an excellent tool to help us focus on doing the right things at the right time to be successful. With a Territorial Plan, I have the basis of making decisions and understanding what adjustments are needed. No plan is perfect, but no plan is disastrous. Ben Franklin said it best, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” A Territorial plan is simple to create, should be the tool we use for communicating our efforts and should be kept updated constantly. It’s amazing that when we plan our business, we tend to have business. Sir William Osler said, “When plans are laid in advance, it is surprising how often circumstances fit to them.” As stated, a good Territorial Plan does not require a multi-year college degree or years of sales experience to write. You can write it on the back of a napkin and just as you are today. Let me take you through the steps. We’ll kind of peek over Jack’s shoulders and see how he put together his plan.

Jack wanted to make a living teaching art. So the first question, how much income do you require from the business? He needed $36,000 a year plus expenses. Expenses averaged around $100 a class.

Thus Jack’s first napkin stated: “The primary financial goal of this business is to generate a minimum of $36,000 cash after normal business expenses.” Jack figured an ideal class would consist of 12-15 students earning approximately $360 to $450 each. Teaching a two day class at each location meant a potential of $10,800 annually from each store. Since Jack was virtually unknown in this area, he figured the best he could achieve overall would be about 60% capacity. Therefore each store he signed up would be worth approximately $6,500 annually. Thus Jack’s target was to find and develop 6 locations that could…

  1. Host two classes monthly.
  2. Classroom facilities sufficient for 16 students,
  3. Host must have a method, resources and willingness to promote Jack’s classes to their customers and advising the local community of upcoming classes. Jack’s second napkin listed the profile of stores he needed to contract with (customer profile) Jack needed a “team” of people to work with him.
  4. He needed a bookkeeper to keep his finances straight, taxes paid, bills paid so forth.
  5. He also needed an art supply vendor. One in whom would give him good discounts, but more importantly, one who would make sure he had the supplies he needed, when he needed them.
  6. Jack also felt he needed an insurance rep
  7. A lawyer he could turn to whenever the need arose.
  8. Jack also needed a printer or inexpensive paper copy source.
  9. Jack had a computer for his business, so he identified an individual who would be able to help him with the application programs he would be using. All total, Jack’s business team included six professionals. Jack’s third napkin listed each of their names, contact information and how Jack would use them.

Jack was willing to travel two hours each way to teach classes. He wasn’t prepared for overnight stays, or to fly cross country. So, we defined a 100 mile radius around Jack’s home that marked his geographical boundaries. Within this boundary, we identified the major metropolitan areas that should have sufficient students to support store hosted classes. Jack did not want to incur the expense of renting space in order to teach classes and didn’t have many contacts in these cities that could promote him. Therefore his conclusion was to search for existing establishments that could promote his classes to their regular clientele. Jack also identified geographical clusters that would make sense. In other words, he didn’t want to be traveling 100 miles East one day, then back that same 100 miles plus another 100 miles West on the second day. He put some thought into how he would ideally organize his classes geographically. Jack’s fourth napkin listed logical geographical metropolitan areas he would target for identifying existing retail establishments.

The next step Jack undertook was to look in all the phone books of each of the metropolitan areas for art supply stores, craft stores, ceramic stores, etc. for names of potential customers. He went down to a local office supply store and purchased the CD ROM Yellow Pages listing of all businesses within the United States. City by city, town by town, Jack identified all potential retail businesses that could become candidates for hosting his classes. Jack’s fifth napkin was a list of names and telephone numbers. Jack had over 200 hundred names on this napkin. Jack had to go through a pruning process to reduce the 200 names to 6 or 7 customers. He felt the best approach was to visit each of these stores, see how they treated their customers, were they already offering oil painting classes, how were they promoting classes, how did their employees encourage classes, etc. So Jack’s next napkin had the title “Prospecting” and he listed the steps he would take.

  1. Visit store.
  2. View the classroom facilities3. Observe how customers were treated.
  3. Observe how other arts & craft classes were promoted5. Observe the knowledge and enthusiasm of the store staff.
  4. See if his type of classes were already being given by someone else.
  5. Understand how classes were promoted to customers and the local community.
  6. Ask customers how they liked the store.
  7. See what the traffic volume looked like.

Armed with information, Jack felt he could easily identify potential customers. He would be ready to present himself and his services to the prospect. Jack would need a presentation, samples of his work and a letter of agreement. He also felt better having a brochure that would discuss his abilities and the value he would bring each of his customer stores. Jack felt that for every three stores that he presented himself to, he could walk away with one customer. Therefore on his seventh napkin, he listed these sales steps and that he would need to identify 18 prospects from the Fifth Napkin’s list of 200 names.

Jack’s final napkin simply stated, “Do the plan.”

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