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How To Create The Ultimate Sales Plan

Written by on June 27, 2019

Work Smarter, Not Harder

Today’s creatives and agency owners are usually only tactically focused. It’s an advantage when we must have a sale close “today”. However, it’s a disadvantage when we need to determine an annual plan of attack for “tomorrow”.

We must work smarter, not harder if we want to make more than just sales goals “this quarter”. We need to set aside some time to develop a plan, measure its impact on an ongoing basis, and make necessary adjustments.

If we create the Ultimate Sales Plan, it’s not a document that sits on your shelf gathering dust. It’s a usable, helpful, scalable document that you and/or your sales team will use daily.

KISS (keep it simple, stupid)

The real value of your ultimate sales plan is the thought you put into it. It should initially be in bullet-form on a couple of pages; you are the only target reader at this stage.

  • Identify what we plan to do differently versus last quarter
  • Why we think it will work
  • How we will measure progress

We cannot afford to wait a few quarters to determine if it worked or not! We need to identify key indicators that will help us understand if it’s on track or needs to be adjusted.

WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DE-FOCUS ON? (and why)

There are only 24 hours in a day. If you’re going to focus more on one thing, and not focus less on something else, you’re not being realistic. Our plates don’t get bigger, something has to come off. Once our sales plan is semi-complete, then we can add words and paragraphs to clarify our plan for others. But until then, we’re going to stick to a bulleted list.

  • Our plan is only useful if we actually use it!
  • Once a month we should remind ourselves of the plan and evaluate whether we are on track.
  • Once a quarter we should evaluate our plan and make any necessary adjustments to future quarters.
  • We should maintain a plan for a rolling 4 quarter period of time.

Every Q4 when you need to quickly create a plan for the next fiscal year, you will be thankful to have this 4 quarter view in hand!

 


Ultimate Sales Plan Checklist

Our goal is to uncover a few adjustments to our prior Sales Plan that will result in a meaningful impact on sales and on production.

3 Top Sales Objectives:

  1. capture new accounts
  2. increase sales effectiveness
  3. optimize lead generation

If we have not been growing at a strong double-digit rate, and faster than our competitors, here are some key issues to consider in our new sales plan…

Key Sales Planning Issues:
(The Basics)  

  • Sales Strategy: Have we sufficiently adapted our sales strategy to align with our target buyer’s current online/offline/online purchasing process?
  • Sales Process: Have we sufficiently adapted our sales process to support our sales strategy?
  • Sales Enablement: Do our reps (or yourself) have the content they need throughout the buyer purchasing process to shorten the sales cycle and improve closure rates
  • Sales Incentive Compensation: Are we actively managing our sales incentive compensation plan throughout the year by effectively motivating the right behaviors of our sales team to achieve our sales targets every quarter?
  • Pipeline Management Software: Are we evolving our CRM implementation to quickly manage/update our sales process to reflect the best practices of our top performers?

Sales Engine Tune-up

Making our sales goals will continue to become “increasingly challenging” until we become better aligned with the buyer and receive consistently high-quality leads from Marketing. Let’s not repeat the mistakes of our industry colleagues, or our predecessors, in achieving consistent sales success.

 


Let’s Begin Creating Your Ultimate Sales Plan

1. Sales Strategy:

Q: Have we sufficiently adapted our sales strategy to our target buyer’s current purchasing process?

  • Helps: (Tools we use)
  • Buyer Purchasing Journey

At a minimum, the buyer will be self-educating online throughout their purchasing journey, whether we’re involved or not. When the buyer is self-educating for their business, their employer or their department, it is part of their job. However, the reality is it’s an add-on to their existing, overwhelming workload.

The B2B Buyer is looking for information about industry risks, business solution options, best solutions option that fits their unique business situation, relevant solution provider comparisons, etc.

The buyer does not want to talk to a product salesperson. If we contact them before they are ready, it will waste their time, it will waste the Sales rep’s time, and it will reduce the buyer’s trust in us.

Key takeaway:
We no longer control the narrative about our company and services. The buying team will continually be self-educating throughout their online/offline/online purchasing journey, whether we are actively engaged with them or not. They will be reading blogs and articles from various sources, checking vendor online reputation and reviews, seeking recommendations and referrals from their trusted advisors on social media, checking out the reputation of the sales representatives on social media, etc.

Suggested actions:
Ensure our sales process is aligned with the buyer purchasing process and that everyone in the Sales Role uses the same process for pipeline management and forecasting.

  • Ask yourself: Are we executing the best strategy to deploy, train, and manage the resources needed to deliver the number? 

 


2. Sales Process

Q: Have we sufficiently adapted our sales process to support our sales strategy and mirror the prevailing target market buying process?

The most cost-effective leads are high quality leads that someone else is paying for out of their budget, not ours.

With the buyer self-educating online, there’s a lot of hype about social selling. Social Selling is simply a new skill that’s used as part of a complete strategic selling framework. Organizations who have effectively incorporated and properly leveraged social selling within their sales process (e.g. for prospect research, prospect referrals, etc.) are 79% more likely to attain their quota!

At a minimum, effective social selling techniques improve upon our proven prospecting techniques, prospect research, and turning cold calls into “warm calls”.

For example:

  1. The social profile becomes a “social business card” to describe what value the salesperson can offer a prospect (although most reps still use it primarily as a place to put their resume);
  2. The social connections become a dynamic Rolodex of prospects and their connections, facilitating introductions and referrals into targeted accounts (although many reps just use it as a way to send pitches to potential product prospects, who usually consider it irrelevant content/spam);
  3. The social platform becomes a network where sales reps can quickly conduct prospecting research about the company and the contact (although many reps just use it to find out something quick about the company before calling a prospect, who quickly sees that the sales rep had access to company information but chose not to learn anything meaningful about their company before calling).

Key takeaway:

The buyer is self-educating online/offline/online throughout their purchasing process. We must engage online and offline throughout their process.

The self-educating buyer has online access to lots of product information. What they need now is a trusted sales advisor who can help guide them to the “right” solution that meets their business needs, not a product specialist.

 


3. New Business Leads

Are we using the most cost-effective methods to develop sufficient new logo business to meet increasing sales goals?

New Sales Strategy & Process

Sales organizations that have figured out how to successfully leverage their marketing-generated leads enjoy the following success:

  • 99% of companies achieved sales budget (versus the industry average of 61%)
  • 47% of the Sales forecasted pipeline was generated from marketing leads
  • 75% of sales reps achieved quota (versus the industry average of 50%)
  • 13.1% annual growth of corporate revenue (versus an industry average of 4.3%).

Key takeaway:

The most cost-effective method for new business leads are the ones that the Sales function does not have to directly fund (i.e. Marketing-generated leads).

Business owners must have a solid lead qualification process in place whether we are transferring a lead from the Marketing function to the Sales function. Sales productivity would be significantly improved by focusing on higher quality leads rather than chasing poor leads.

 


4. Sales Enablement

Are we delivering the right content, to the right seller, at the right time, to shorten the sales cycle and increase closure rates?

New Sales Strategy and Enablement

There’s just not enough content that meets the needs of the existing sales process or the buyer. Even though Marketing has increased content for blogs and social media, for example, the majority of Sales representatives have difficulty finding tailored selling content when they need it!

Key takeaway:

Most of the existing content does not address the buyer’s business issues, questions, and concerns that ultimately come up throughout a buyer journey. The right content from Marketing could help shorten the sales cycle and increase closure rates. The right content and messaging from Marketing could enable effective social selling techniques.

 


5. Sales Incentive Compensation

Do we have a motivated, focused and confident sales force, every day of the week, which are demonstrating the right behaviors that will result in increased sales?

New Sales Strategy and Commission

Are we actively managing the sales incentive compensation plan throughout the year to effectively motivate the right behaviors that will lead to increased sales outcomes?

Key takeaway:

If we are only rewarding quota attainment, and not focusing enough on motivating the right behaviors and skills that will result in increased quotas, we are not effectively managing for superior sales performance.

 


6. Opportunity Management

Does our Sales Force Automation/CRM help us all effectively manage sales performance?

New Sales Strategy and Systems

The extra time it takes Sales reps to enter data and manage their activities doesn’t seem to be substantially improving company revenue growth. Only 37% of a sales representative’s time is actually available for selling and only 50% of Sales reps actually make quota.

Sales Force Automation (SFA) software is supposed to enable sales performance, unfortunately, most of them come with more complexity for the sales rep. In contrast, solutions are emerging for small and medium businesses (SMB) that focus more on the user experience.

Update your existing CRM (e.g. Salesforce) with add-in software (e.g. Pipeline Manager) that is specifically designed to empower the sales rep to be more productive and effective, plus, empower the sales manager to quickly and easily update the sales process to reflect prevailing field best practices.

Migrate your outdated CRM to a fully integrated sales and marketing system (e.g. integrated sales and marketing automation with CRM from Hubspot or InfusionSoft)

Key takeaway:

The right software tools are available today but they must be properly implemented to support our Sales objectives and processes: facilitate the right behaviors, effectively manage the pipeline, increase available selling time, improve sales closure rates, and deliver accurate forecasts.

~ Thanks for reading!

 


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