January is an energizing time of year for sales leaders. Sure the new revenue target may transcend previous levels of believability, but with twelve full months to ‘make the number’ everything is possible! Some leaders see it that way, while others may be paralyzed by the task now facing them.
Where to start? First, CEOs and Presidents expect and deserve a plan on how sales (and marketing) will meet their targets. Fortunately, for those unsure where to start, there are many great resources available with proven approaches to sales and marketing planning and execution. Most importantly, even if the boss does not ask for the plan, do it anyway and keep it open for all to see. There is something about the written plan that makes the process real and demystifies the art of sales.
Want Some Help?
Strategy comes before execution. Planning before action. For those with revenue responsibility, that starting point is the strategic marketing plan. A personal favorite resource is Marketing Plans That Work by Malcolm McDonald and Warren Keegan. I have been using my copy since its first publishing in 1997, (it’s now in second edition). These authors establish an excellent framework for strategic planning and stress the importance of Goal Setting and research-based Situation Review before diving into tactical plans. Having spent time with the branding and marketing teams at Dell, I have seen firsthand examples of research based strategic planning in action. Data is the cornerstone of all their marketing discussions and underlies everything they do in the market place. (Talking tactics before research and planning in that company gets you thrown out of the meeting room!)
Time to embrace new media in the marketing plan? Hell yes it is and David Meerman Scott’s The New Rules of Marketing and PR is the indispensable guide to getting it! Have your highlighter and notepad handy when reading this one. Better yet, have the laptop open because every page is loaded with websites, on-line resources, tools, blogs, examples and research. He is on 3forward’s blogroll under New Rules of Marketing (http://www.webinknow.com/) also at http://www.davidmeermanscott.com/. For my money, this guy is the true guru of Web 2.0. (Want a laugh, read his Gobbledygook Manifesto – and prepare to feel ashamed of your latest mission statement!)
With marketing strategy underway it’s time for sales planning. Reference resources I rely on include The Complete Guide to Accelerating Sales Performance by Zoltners, Sinha and Zoltners. This book provides practical, detailed approaches to sales force management for both sales leaders and front line managers. An excellent new book is Making The Number, How To Use Sales Benchmarking To Drive Performance, by Alexander, Bartels and Drapeau. This one is a must read for presidents or CEOs tired of the “Selling is an art” response from their sales leader when asked for their plan. I also continue to recommend Miller and Heiman’s Successful Large Account Management. Sure these guys have been around a while but there is no substitute for fundamental account planning and their approach is rock-solid. With economic conditions driving more companies to look for organic growth from existing relationships, systematic account planning is more important than ever. Start now and review, update often!
Tie It Together
Sales and marketing are about as interdependent as two business functions can be. The plans must be integrated, co-dependent and fully connected. To work well these functions should report into one leader with strategic vision who is also fanatical about details and execution. If you are that leader, please share your perspective on what it takes to Make The Number!
We’d love to hear from you!