Much of the work we’ve done as sales productivity consultants assisting clients with their sales plans has been done primarily with sales management. While this may have been appropriate in the past, the rise of sales operations as a critical driver of sales productivity means that we now strongly encourage clients to include sales operations in the planning process.
Referring to a previous post on how to build a successful sales plan, many of the elements that we recommend incorporating into a sales plan would clearly benefit by including input from sales operations. Obvious examples include “Pipeline Management and Forecasting,” “Compensation Strategy,” and “Sales Automation and Technology Support.” Other elements, however, may not be as obvious.
Here are five sales plan elements that sales operations is not commonly involved in, but should be:
- Top Tier Prospect Definition. Clearly defining the characteristics of a top tier prospect allows sales to better understand which opportunities they should be giving their time to. As the company’s CRM expert, you can provide sales leaders with hard customer data that will make the preparation of buyer personas easier and more precise. Information on customer demographics, firmographics (information about companies), and market verticals can all be used to better define target prospects that will bear the most fruit.
- Buy Cycle and Sales Cycle. A major source of forecast inaccuracy is ambiguous sales-stage definitions in the CRM system. An undeveloped opportunity assigned to a more advanced sales-stage will inflate the forecast while a well-developed opportunity assigned to an early stage will deflate it. Understanding how the typical customer’s buy cycle maps to key milestones in your sales process can help you more clearly define sales-stages, communicate the requirements for advancing from one stage to another, and produce forecasts that are more accurate. (See our post on improving forecast accuracy for more on this topic.)
- Sales/Marketing Alignment. Much of the work aligning today’s sales and marketing organizations deals with lead management and handoff. Marketing automation systems that do lead scoring can often benefit by using sales performance data from the CRM system to fine-tune scoring algorithms. Lead handoff should include data integration that gives sales professionals visibility into what marketing campaigns a prospect has been a part of, webinars they’ve attended, and so on. The more customer intelligence that can be transferred from marketing to sales, the better prepared for prospect conversations your sales professionals will be.
- Goal Setting and Quota Assignment. While you may already be involved in supplying sales management with some of the information they need to set goals and assign quotas, you can often provide valuable details they may not have asked for. Data on sales trends by product, geographic purchasing patterns, and individual performance can help this part of the planning process but getting that data out of the CRM system may be beyond the typical sales manager’s ability. Your expertise building reports can make a real difference. Additionally, being involved in this part of the planning process can give you valuable insights that will help you evaluate compensation management systems, should that be a purchase you’re considering.
- Training. Getting a good return on investments you’ve made in sales productivity solutions requires that your company’s sales professionals know how to use them well. Making sure training, especially CRM training, is a part of your new-hire onboarding program is key to their productivity and your sanity. As you add new sales productivity solutions to your arsenal, you’ll also want to make sure that time for training has been factored into the rollout plans.
Sales leaders who truly understand the value of sales operations consider their sales operations lead an important partner in achieving their sales objectives. Being an active part of the sales planning process will not only result in a better sales plan for your company, it will also empower you with a thorough understanding of how your sales organization operates, what challenges it faces, and what it needs to be successful.
The bottom line is that if you’re not currently part of the sales planning process, you should be.
Let us know about your level of involvement by taking our poll below.