"The difference between a goal and a dream, is a plan."
Many have said it, but its a fact that creating sales plans alone will not miraculously turn into overachievement.
As most would agree the ability to create the right structured plan followed by the appropriate and consistent discipline, is the only way to truly exceed expectation.
The process we leverage is simple but whats often missed by most is that a proper sales plan is not an annual task, its the start to regular accountability. Your goal is to tell a story and end it with a scorecard or metrics that you and your management team review on a regular basis.
A sales plan is a directional tool and it is difficult to adapt your efforts if necessary (it's often necessary) based on the assumptions you went into the fiscal year with. Business, customers, market knowledge all change, so the frequency of your reviews will allow your plan to be dynamic and evolve as your business grows.
Our 7 Step Sales Planning Process
1. Pre Work: Gather all of the information you have on your prior year performance and any goals that may have been set. Look at all of the business you generated and even more importantly the business you didn't.
We look for anomalies or patterns in the data that may tell you something about the sales process, product or customer in relation to each. Looking at monthly breakdowns will give you the best view of opportunities and strengths you should address.
Look at your customers either new or existing and how they have performed over the year. Is your product or service all net new or do you have a core business with existing customers that can grow?
Segmentation is often the most missed aspect of data analysis as the largest difference between small businesses and large enterprises are their understanding of the customer and why they buy.
Decide upon your segmentation in any form. B2B is often the easiest as the information available in the market is fairly easy to find to correlate your trends. B2C businesses need to often dig a bit deeper to understand not only age, location, income, etc. but also what drove their behavior.
2. Reflection: Breath... "The more reflective you are the more effective you are".
The essence of a growth mindset is your aspiration for self-improvement. Take a look back at the year and find the strengths you want to carry forward, as well opportunities for growth. This can be a self-reflection about your performance, your team or your company. The goal is to narrow these down to a few areas you want to focus on, which will make a the largest impact on next year's performance. This should focus on everything from activity, performance, process, customer perception, to self-improvement goals. Determine your list of top priorities to include into your sales plan.
3. Strategic Goals: Strategic goals are about thinking at a higher level than simple sales objectives. It's a focus on growing market share, improving the sales process, changing customer perception, elevation of your products against competitors; its the "what" you want to achieve through all of the activity you will commit to.
Set the strategic direction for your business (company or territory) and pursue the greater good through your efforts. It's your chance to elevate the conversation and create initiatives that you feel are pillars of your success.
4. Prior Year Performance: As a part of your pre-work and reflection, you should now have a good idea around the best way to structure the data you collected to represent the story you want to tell. Looking at the numbers to find anomalies and opportunities that will design your scorecard for accountability in the following year.
Provide context around areas like new vs. existing customer growth, products or business units that you are tracking or segments of customers that are aligned with helping you achieve your goals next year.
Find a few key points and don't drag yourself or your audience into paralysis by analysis. A simple model that slices your prior year or two performance into a few win's and areas of focus, too obvious gaps in performance you plan to fill. This story should align with your strategic goals and advance the company through customer alignment.
5. SOAR or SWAT: Be sure you are clear about your strengths and opportunities. Think about why people do business with you and why some do not. List those out and ensure you and your audience understand the depths of your reflection exercise.
There could be gaps in other areas of the business not related to sales that need to be addressed, this is the opportunity to present those to the broader team and ensure there is a plan for resolution. Take full accountability for all actions and don't use this as an opportunity to "throw others under the bus". Provide solutions and ideas for resolution in this section as everyone has a common goal in creating growth for your company.
6. Growth Strategy: This is the introduction to your "How", an opportunity to define the position you are going to take to grow your territory/company. Define your growth objectives leveraging the many existing models that are in the market or create a list of initiatives you control.
Call campaigns, product positioning, customer verticals, marketing efforts, are all opportunities to elevate your efforts into a growth strategy that fits your business.
One of the easiest opportunities that we see most often with small and mid sized businesses is the simplification of creating customer sets. Through a segmentation effort, you can turn your AFM (Anything For Money) sales efforts into a strategic plan. Look at your customers and find similarity between them, determine buying behaviors, market anomalies or any opportunity to aggregate efforts into a sales initiative. Market expansion through segmentation is the easiest and most effective opportunity most businesses and sellers miss.
7. Goal Setting Don't over complicate the culmination of setting goals. Use KPI's, metrics, targets, etc. as a gauge to the progression of your annual revenue objective. Try to predict or set targets around the granularity of the business in areas like customer segments vs the aggregate.
These numbers and metrics should be easily trackable and managed on a very regular basis. Highlight areas of overachievement and course corrections throughout the year. Sales reps should manage them weekly and managers monthly/quarterly.
The discipline of accountability both by the individual and the executive team is the only way to see consistent growth in your business. This is often a culture shift as well sometimes a technology gap. With tools like SalesForce and other CRM's, there really is no excuse anymore to not manage activity from cold call to customer.
Pipeline management is likely a deeper discussion, but for the terms of sales planning the framework should fit into the annual or quarterly goal setting scorecard, along with the key attributes you chose that guide you to overachievement.
This is the framework for your sales planning and strategy process. Once you have gone through each of the 7 steps you are now ready to put "pen to paper" and create the plan to exceed plan.
In conclusion, there are many in the industry that will consult you on how best to create your sales planning process. All efforts are good efforts as the more you can plan for success, the higher your probability will be to achieve it.
Here are a few sales planning presentations from our marketplace: