Sales Planning 2011 – Blackjack Style

Entrepreneurs are gamblers whether or not they ever step into a casino. My namesake grandfather, Tom Searcy, was a professional gambler up until my grandmother made an honest man out of him. Like most entrepreneurs, he bet on himself- golf, bowling, cards, darts… but never the ponies or sports. You see, he didn’t have any control in those bets, so he didn’t like to make them.

I don’t do any gambling, not even a slot-machine with a lucky dollar. No need too- I’m an entrepreneur and that takes care of all my gambler’s itch.

If being an entrepreneur is like gambling, let’s talk through your 2011 strategies. Someone explained to me that if you didn’t have a strategy when playing blackjack and just played every hand without either splitting, doubling down or knowing when your hand was cold and walking away, you would lose. What are your 2011 strategies? Here are a few:

Double Down – What strategies from 2010 worked to the degree you should be doubling your bets? This may have been marketing investments in social media or advertising. Possibly you hired a professional prospecting firm for lead generation. Maybe your website paid off for you this year. Whatever it was, I want you to seriously consider doubling your spend in this area for 2011. Too often we spread our chips around on the table and bet on too many things. Bet heavy on what is working and pull your chips from only marginal producers.

Surrender – What did you do in 2010 that didn’t work and you need to stop now? In blackjack, “surrender” means turning your cards in so that you can get half of your bet back. In business this may mean canceling an advertising contract, stopping an unsuccessful marketing campaign or pulling a product. Recently I advised an entrepreneur to cancel a 24-month advertising commitment. She said, “we have a contract, there’s nothing I can do.” Wrong. She went back and negotiated an early out with a one-time penalty payment that was a lot less than the total amount of the advertising commitment. Get back whatever chips you can when you know you have a losing hand.

Split Your Aces – Who are your real producers? Give them more. More of your bigger accounts, your better territories and more internal support. There is no “fair” in this entrepreneurial game. Your job as CEO is to make the most out of each hand. If you have a producer, then put your chips with that producer so that you get more out of it. Recently, I had a conversation with a CEO who had a good account with great potential in an average sales person’s territory. The sales person was not really making much progress. The CEO said, “It’s in his territory, so its his. I just wish it was in this other person’s territory.” Simple. Make it so. Figure out a commission split that works, or pay the commission on the past revenue to the one rep and the growth goes to the producer who grows the account. This is just one example. The point is, when you have a set of circumstances that gives you a chance to win, take advantage of it.

Chips off the Table – What should you close down for 2011? There are things that you just need to stop doing- pull your chips off the table. Maybe it is an advertising agency, a product line, a territory or a sales person. Bad gamblers live with the false hope that if they keep increasing their bets when they are losing they can make back all of their losses and turn their luck around. The palatial hotels and casinos of Las Vegas were built on these gamblers’ mistakes. Don’t make the same choice- determine what chips to take off the table and make the clean break for 2011.

As a side note- a great book just came out on a remarkable gambler-

“Titanic Thompson: The Man Who Bet on Everything” by Kevin Cook,

-put it on your Christmas list.

Another side note: If you’d like to read my thoughts on sales forecasting for the upcoming year, I just tackled that over on my BNet blog.