2012 sales planning is well under way and many sales leaders are struggling with the quota increases being demanded by BOD’s and executive teams. They look at their 2011 results and realize that significant process changes must be made to sell more effectively into their markets. It seems like a daunting challenge but with the right sales plan and investment you can start to transform your sales team from laggard to best-in-class over the next 12 months.
By focusing on five key areas you can build a sales plan that is reasonable, measurable and most importantly, achievable.
To take a very simple approach, building a sales plan is just like building a house. You would never build a house without very clear building plans. The plans designate the size and square footage of the house, which determines the amount of materials needed. The location of the house has a direct impact on the cost of the land under the house. Based on your desired move in date you can determine the labor force needed to finish the house in the desired timeframe. And during the construction process you would measure the labor and material costs to ensure that the house comes in on (or under) budget.
Building an effective sale plan follows the same course as building a house. Establishing a realistic sales goal is the first step. The goal should be very specific in terms of revenue dollars or new account acquisition numbers. During this phase it’s necessary to understand the challenges and ways to overcome them. This is also the right time to determine investments required.
Calculating a formula for success is key to revenue planning. Taking the time to understand important variables such as win rate, no decision rate, and sales cycle time will ensure you understand the size of your required pipeline by month and quarter. This exercise will also show you the gaps and holes in areas such as pricing and proposal support. Filling these gaps can assist in sales team sizing and will further optimize team structure.
Filling your sales funnel with highly qualified leads will keep your sales team focused on the highest probability targets. The initial step in filling the funnel is defining your “perfect” prospect. This exercise should be conducted jointly between the sales and marketing teams to ensure you have a good lead definition. Once the prospect targets have been identified you can then determine what causes a prospect to turn into a qualified lead. With this agreed to, the organization responsible for lead creation, (usually marketing) can begin a targeted campaign of lead interaction and can begin passing those leads to sales for further qualification and engagement.
The sales process has changed forever due to the Internet. Buyers are better informed than ever before and don’t need sales people until they are fairly far along in the buying process. Constantly validate the size and structure of your sales team to align as closely as possible to the buying process. Well-defined roles and responsibilities will help eliminate any job function overlap and will keep individuals focused on core tasks. Territories and prospect assignments need to be clear and target account plans should be the norm not the exception! As Dwight David Eisenhower said, “Plans are nothing; planning is everything.”
It’s easy to fall into the “let’s just go sell trap”. For your sales planning to be most effective you should establish a set of metrics that allow you to measure sales activity and performance. KPI’s should be established based on the type of selling you do. A KPI dashboard will give you and the executive team a window into current sales performance and can allow for course correction early if issues are detected.
Sales planning is not a task that should be taken lightly or rushed. If you are struggling with increasing the effectiveness of your sale team 3FORWARD and the Outsourcing Institute are conducting a webcast entitled “Don’t Make These Sales Planning Mistakes” on Thursday October 13, 2011. This webcast will explore the 5 steps of successful sales planning and we will be taking questions during the event.