Reps who practice staying organized leave very little up to chance, and therefore experience few surprises that will throw them off-track. Because of their organization, they always have quick and easy access to the resources they need at the time they need them, which significantly raises the likelihood of success.
What are the fundamentals of organization?
Being and staying organized relies heavily on planning:
- Identifying the resources that you’ll need
- Anticipating potential issues that you may run into,
- Co-ordinating with other people in and outside of your team that will be responsible for different aspects of your success
…and then on execution:
- Making sure that those resources will be available to you at the right time
- Developing contingency plans for any potential issues
- Ensuring that anyone else that is responsible for participating in your success is informed, available and capable of doing their part.
How can reps start the process of getting organized?
The best way to start becoming organized is to find the way that works best for you to take and refer back to notes. This can be carrying a notebook or journal, using a task manager app on your phone, or keeping an online folder of documents that you can access at any time. The important thing is to find the method that works for you. If you have a simple and easy to use method for recording and referring to information, then you can build a system for staying organized.
Here is a simple framework to help you get started:
- Plan ahead, and visualize. Think about what tasks you have coming up, and visualize yourself doing them. Take inventory of the environment where the task will be done, all of the tools or equipment you’ll need to be successful, and any people that will influence your ability to be successful.
- Make Checklists! These can be mental checklists, but you’re better off to write them down on paper or using an app. It can be as simple as a notepad on your phone, or task list in your calendar. Start with the big picture: the basic facts of who, what, when and where, then add the resources that you’ll need. Finally, add details to your list about what needs to be done to make sure those resources will be ready and available for you.
- Take control of things that might be out of your direct control. Confirm with people that control the resources that you need that those resources will be available for you, and make sure that any other people that need to take actions know exactly what is expected of them. This should be a checklist item!
- Have contingency plans. If there is a risk that some resource (including people resources) may not be available, have a back-up ready to go.
What does this look like in practice?
Let’s say that you have to do a demo of a new product at a supermarket that you’ve never been to. How can you get organized around this event to make sure you will be successful?
First, plan ahead and visualize. Imagine what the set up looks like, and where it is in the store. If you don’t have any idea what to expect, ask someone who does. Either someone who has done it before, or someone who assigned the job to you. Think of similar environments that you have been in; if you have notes from a prior demo at a store in the same chain, review those. Make sure you can visualize what the environment and process will be like. Think about who will influence your success: the store or department manager where you’ll be conducting the demo, the person who will send the product samples to the store, the person who gives you the table, branding materials, and any equipment.
Make your checklists. Confirm the exact location and time of the demo. Find out how long it will take to get there, and plan for setup time. Make a list of all of the things that you’ll need: Table, Branding Materials, Product, plates/cups or napkins, Equipment like a hotplate or a cooler. Include environmental things like an electric outlet and extension cord, water or ice. Make sure you know how each of these things will be made available to you if you don’t already have them in your control.
Take control! If you have never been to the store before, call the department manager and make sure that there is an outlet, or ice available. Confirm that they know you’ll be there for the demo! Reach out to anyone responsible for delivering other resources to you and confirm that they will be available.
Think about what could go wrong, and what resources could be missing and make a plan B. For example, you may want to know how to quickly get a replacement hotplate in case yours malfunctions.
Before the event, go through your checklist to make sure that everything is accounted for and taken care of.
As important, after the event take note of anything that didn’t go according to plan and determine what you could have done to prepare for it. Keep your notes from the event in some easy to access place, like your calendar, a notebook or an on-line document of some kind. Include names, email addresses and phone numbers of anyone you’ve dealt with, as well as any special circumstances about that particular event, like the availability of an electric outlet or particularly busy consumer traffic. All of these things will make the next demo much easier to plan for.
Do you have any last words of advice for reps trying to organize the way they work in the field?
Just remember that organization is a skill that you have to practice. Find the tools that work best for you to store and retrieve information, and create a system of planning, checklists and control. Learn from your process and keep improving it. Before long, being highly organized will be second nature and take very little time to maintain.