“Planning is bringing the future into the present so that you can do something about it now.” — Alan Lakein
“In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.” — Dwight David Eisenhower
“He who fails to plan, plans to fail.” — Proverb
“Good fortune is what happens when opportunity meets with planning.” — Thomas Alva Edison
With the end of the year fast approaching, many sales leaders are turning their attention to planning for the coming year. The quotes above all refer to the importance of planning and can easily be applied to sales plans. The problem for many of us, however, is where to begin.
To help our clients manage what can be a daunting task, Sales Productivity Architects put together the sales plan outline shown below. It’s very much a living document that changes over time and is typically used by clients in whole or in part; not all elements are essential to all sales organizations. What is essential is to invest the appropriate amount of time to prepare a sales plan that will provide you with a roadmap to sales success, anticipate challenges to be overcome, and help you gain consensus among key stakeholders and your sales team on priorities for the coming year.
When providing this to clients, we suggest they first review the plan elements listed below and determine which ones will help their sales organization succeed. Then, we counsel them to schedule time, preferably offsite, with the appropriate people to write the details of their sales plan. Attendees should include the sales management team, plus the head of marketing and the head of sales operations. Additional personnel to invite for discussions that touch upon their roles include the departmental liaisons for IT, human resources, and finance.
If you’re starting from scratch, set reasonable goals. A fully fleshed out sales plan may take considerable time to develop and best be tackled in phases. The very act of planning will bring to awareness those critical success factors around which you will want to build your strategy. As your strategy evolves, the annual planning process will involve incrementally refining your existing plan based on what worked in the past year, what didn’t, and what new challenges need to be addressed. Herein lies one of the most valuable aspects of conducting regular sales planning — it gives you the opportunity to fine-tune your sales engine over time.
We’d love to hear from readers what additional elements they find valuable to include in a sales plan. Please let us know your thoughts in the comments section.
Sales Plan Elements
Top Tier Prospect Definition
- What are the defining characteristics of prospects that are mostly likely to buy?
- What are the decision maker’s profiles (buyer personas)?
- How are non-prospects defined (those we should not pursue)?
Buy Cycle and Sales Cycle
- What are the key elements of the Buy Cycle (physical actions a prospect must take in order to buy)?
- How will we lead prospects through the Buy Cycle?
- What are the key elements of the Sales Cycle (physical actions a sales professional must take in order to sell)?
- What quantity of each of these actions are required to achieve sales goals (lead to close ratio)?
Go To Market Strategy
- How will we reach our target audience of prospects?
- How will we engage our target prospect in conversation?
- What are the reasons (catalysts) a prospect will have interest/motivation to buy?
Barriers to be Overcome
- What are the barriers to success (competition from other companies, decision to do nothing, internal solution, no time, etc.)?
- What are common objections?
- How will we remove objections in the marketing and sales process?
- What is the definition of “competition?”
- Competing priorities?
- How will we win?
Value Proposition and Sales Presentation
- How do we present our value proposition?
- What is unique?
- What is compelling? Why should a prospect buy now?
- How is an ROI achieved? Reduced expense, increased revenue, or both?
- What endorsements from trusted/respected authorities can be used?
- Do we need to educate before we can sell?
- What is the marketing message?
- What are the key touch-points at which the sales team will deliver this message (email signatures, inbound and outbound voicemail messages, automated attendant scripts, website visitor experience, key phone talking points, written correspondence, recruitment ads, font selection, and logo design)?
- How are leads nurtured and scored?
- How and when are leads handed off from marketing to sales?
- What shared metrics can be established to ensure alignment between sales and marketing?
- What initiatives do we pursue in: Public relations? Business Development? Marketing? Advertising?
Goal Setting and Quota Assignment
- What is the team revenue or booking goal?
- What are the individual revenue or booking goals?
- What is the new customer acquisition goal?
- What is the existing customer sales goal?
- What other goals should be established? (Examples: multi-year deals, market share, opportunities unseated from competitors, strategic accounts)
Pipeline Management and Forecasting
- What will be tracked in the CRM system?
- How will we forecast bookings?
- What management reports are needed? How will they be used to drive accountability?
- How can we use CRM to assist the sales effort on a daily basis?
- How are the sales stages defined and what are the related forecast percentages?
Talent Recruitment and Hiring
- What is the marketing message to attract top candidates?
- What is the candidate sourcing strategy?
- What is the candidate interview and selection plan?
Sales Position Profile
- What sales skills, behavioral characteristics, and qualifications / track record are required to succeed?
- How can we make the corporate culture into one that optimizes sales success?
- What are the primary responsibilities? All responsibilities?
- Candidate qualifications?
- First 90-day goals?
- Position specifics: what is the quota, base salary, total comp at goal, benefits, territory, reporting relationship, and travel requirements?
- What is the compensation strategy of similar positions?
- What is the base salary?
- What is the variable compensation strategy?
- Incentives? Non-monetary rewards?
- Commission payment eligibility?
- What is the agenda and frequency of sales team meetings?
- What is the agenda and frequency for Sales Manager / Sales Team Member individual meetings?
- What is the new-hire training plan? Key learning objectives?
- How will we know participants have learned what they have been taught? What are our knowledge checkpoints?
- What ongoing training do we need to provide?
Sales Automation and Technology Support
- What sales productivity solutions do we need beyond CRM?
- How will they integrate with our CRM system?
- What is our mobile strategy?
- How can automation be used to improve per rep productivity?
- How does the Marketing organization’s automation strategy dovetail with Sales?
- How can we improve the management, delivery, and access of information and resources critical to the sales process (i.e., Sales Enablement)?