Focus on the importance of sales plans. Many salespeople are quick to laugh off the idea. To a great many, sales plans are a mere formality used by organizations at the start of the year to provide forecast data to C-level executives. Once those forecasts are adjusted to acceptable levels, what happens to the sales plans? Typically, the plans are filed away only to be glanced at quarterly, biannually, or never again. Here are four advantages of having a practical sales plan.
The most effective sales leaders and salespeople know that a well-devised and well-used sales plan can be a precious tool to better plan, operate, communicate, and perform — no matter the organization's size.
This isn't about sales planning that requires high-tech solutions or complex sales formulas. Instead, simple sales plans that track sales activities (meetings, proposals, closed deals, etc.) and sales numbers (monthly and annual revenue goals) can be as effective as any sophisticated planning tool or application on the market.
In fact, the real key to practical sales plan success is not the format of the sales plan or the size of it — it’s the quality of the content.
There are four significant advantages to having a practical sales plan.
The fact is that most salespeople create sales plans each year. They fill in the names of accounts they are working on, those they hope to win, and even some long shots to be sure the plan leads to a solid bottom-line number for their sales leader and the executive team.
But if you ask those same salespeople how confident they are that their actual sales year will mirror their sales plan, most will say, "Not very."
The actual value of a sales plan is not the bottom-line number it points to but the activities it maps out to get to that number. An effective sales plan should answer questions like the following:
These details can be worked into a simple sales plan, starting with the revenue goal and using prior performance to determine the amount of weekly and monthly activity required to achieve the revenue.
In addition, sales plans should focus on activities as much as on revenue to account for the natural differences in salespeople. For example, some salespeople succeed at selling more significant accounts and don't need to close as many new deals per year.
Other salespeople may be excellent at selling lots of small deals. Some salespeople may be adept at converting meetings into proposals. Others might need more meetings to get enough proposals into the pipeline.
Well-implemented sales plans create individualized road maps to help salespeople put in the work needed to achieve revenue goals.
Salespeople can use their sales plans to see how they are meeting their activity benchmarks in terms of getting meetings, securing proposals, making cold calls, etc. Where performance is lacking, they can adjust or ask for help.
Where performance is strong, they can see what activities are working best and replicate them for continued positive results.
Sales plans should go beyond the numbers to map out how the actual sales work — calling, visiting, presenting, demonstrating, etc. — turns into successful selling.
For leaders, that means they know exactly what each individual should be doing to meet those goals. Rather than making general inquiries of their salespeople, such as, "Have you increased your pipeline, Steve?" leaders can get very specific, "Steve, will you be able to meet your three meeting per week goal this month?"
It's important to mention that sales plans don't track every moment or contact in the sales process. That's too time-consuming, and such information doesn't yield valuable insight. Instead, sales leaders need to determine their organization's best indicators of sales success and build them into sales plans.
For some companies, meetings and proposals may be the best indicators. For others, it's cold calls and demos. Whatever those early indicators of solid sales performance are, leaders should ensure they are limited to only two or three, so they can be well monitored by salespeople and managers alike.
Activities-based sales plans make it easy for sales managers to identify coaching needs among salespeople. For example, suppose sales plans reveal that a salesperson is good at securing lots of meetings but only occasionally gets to the pricing/proposal phase. In that case, the coaching need is clear: It's time to review the salesperson's presentation skills and sales pitch to find out where prospects might be losing interest.
Another salesperson may be good at securing meetings and generating proposal opportunities, but the average deal size might be too small. So here's an opening for a sales leader to help coach a salesperson to try for more extensive opportunities or learn how to generate more from each account.
The sales plan not only helps leaders identify opportunities to assist and coach their staff, but it also can measure improvement to show whether the coaching is working and if sales salespeople are making the needed adjustments to achieve business goals.
Your sales plan is very important. It serves as a guide for your team, helps you track progress, and provides a roadmap for achieving your organizational goals. If you need help creating or implementing your sales plan, our team of advisors is here to assist you. Reach out today for assistance in putting together or improving your sales strategy.