Sales Plan: Why Is It Important?
What do you think makes a person successful in sales? Most people I speak to will say, it is the person’s ability to engage with customers and bring them on the journey of exploring their needs and then delivering to those needs. Admittedly, this is a very important factor. No argument there. What many of us forget, is the step before all of this. We forget that planning, once the goal is established, is the most crucial step. No matter which sales sector you are in, having a clear sales plan for execution is vital.
If you fail to plan, then you plan to fail, as the old adage would say. I recently was listening to an incredible presentation that likened the lack of planning to that of a ship in the harbor with no clear destination. A ship with no clear destination will continue to circle around the harbor in a figure 8. And that’s what most sales people do without the right strategy plan as well as call/territory plan.
A sales plan allows you to draw out the future and all activities. It will keep you focused on exactly what you want and eliminate distractions and noise. It will also stop you from focusing on nonproductive time-wasting activities. The sales plan will keep you on track while you’re hitting your targets along the way. Without a sales plan, you are essentially adlibbing your business on a day-to-day basis. Not having a clear sales plan means you are leading your territory or organisation on mere hope or wish and allowing circumstances to control your activities, rather than you controlling and shaping your environment. Not having a plan is like running your business on a wing and a prayer and hoping that the dart you threw blindfolded will hit the bullseye.
When you put a plan, you will be giving yourself clarity; the ability to truly see your business beyond what you’re hoping. And I love the old saying, hope is not a strategy. Sales plans should encompass several business elements, including pinpointing exactly who your business’ audience is, and how you appeal to them as a business. You should be able to lay out what factors impact your sales from a business perspective; for example, any competition you are aware of, as well as the type of business environment you are in.
Here are three steps to consider when you first commence your planning:
1st step – Build a Sales Planning Process to Analyse Where You Are At?
To determine where you are going, you first have to see where you have been.
Some questions to ask yourself are:
- What business are we in?
- Who are our customers?
- Where did most of our sales come from?
- Where do we want our sales to come from?
- How much revenue do we want generate in the 1st year, 2nd and 3rd year etc.?
- What are some external/Internal factors that can impact my sales? E.g. Industry trends, Technology, Competition, Business Environment etc.
2nd Step – Set your Goals
Your goals should be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time bound), but no too logical or small.
Some examples of goals could include:
- Achieve $10 million in new sales by December 31st, 2019
- Sell 2 corporate wide licenses by December 31st, 2019
- Grow distribution network by 30% by December 31st, 2020
- Improve margin by 10% by the June 30th, 2020
3rd Step – Develop the Sales Plan
This is the meat of your sales plan and is also critical in helping you achieve your goals. It should outline all the strategies and tactics that you are going to use to achieve your goals. This is the inspired “how” and where you focus on everything that is in your control to make it happen.
A strategy is a plan or action designed to achieve a particular goal. While as an organisation you should have a mitigation plan to overcome possible obstacles, and risks, we highly recommend to start with the blue-sky strategy first. You can then develop a risk mitigation sales strategy by highlighting the potential risks/obstacles that you see in achieving your goals, that would include internal and external factors. Once listed, you should move on with a solution focused workshop to generate all the ideas on how to overcome these risks/obstacles.
In summary, always focus on what you want and don’t give yourself a reason why it cannot happen but rather, find the solution that will effectively eliminate or side step the barrier.
Finally, it’s time to Execute on Your Strategy
Actions speak far louder than words. Now that you have taken the time to plan out your attack, it’s time to act on it. The sales profession is one of the few professions where you can control how much you make or don’t make by the actions we do or do not take. Sales is a pure numbers game. While honing in on our skills through sales training and practicing, calling on customers in the most effective manner for your industry and setting the right KPI’s for yourself and team becomes the priority. You want to ensure you are seeing the right customer, at the right time, with the right message in a consistent and visible manner. When you adopt a uniform approach across your organisation, with the optimal operating rhythm, that is visible and understood by all, you will ensure you are continuously ahead of the pack.