Coming over the horizon, you see that highway traffic ahead is stopped due to construction. Do you settle into the line of motionless vehicles, or do you dive onto the exit that appears to your right, not knowing where it will lead? Neither choice sounds very promising, but is there a better alternative? Yes. It’s called strategic planning, and just as it can help you avoid unwanted delays and detours on the highway, it is essential if you want to stay on track in your organization.
Here’s how you can map out a winning strategy to reach your sales destinations as quickly as possible:
First, some definitions:
- Sales strategy is the planning of sales activities and methods designed to reach clients and close sales. This, of course, demands awareness of your target market, your competitive differentiators and advantages, and key resources available.
- Sales tactics are the day-to-day activities of selling, including all parts of the sales process from prospecting to closing to following up.
- A strategic plan is comprised of a set of measurable goals, coupled with a list of the most important, most effective things you or your sales team can do to reach those goals.
Perhaps the most important thing to remember about strategic sales planning is this: You will be much more likely to reach your goal if you have one. And without a clearly defined path to that goal, your sales team could risk wasting time with the wrong decision makers and chasing sales that will never close. The result: lost opportunities, lost time and lost revenue.
So, to stay on track, how can you create a strategic plan to maximize sales performance and success for your company?
- Once a year set aside significant time – at least a day or two – for strategic sales planning. Schedule this strategic planning session to fit the selling situation. For some, the end of the fiscal year works best; for others, it might be best to strategically plan right after the end of the busy season.
- Find a space where you can work virtually uninterrupted.
- Gather the materials you will need: account folders; account profiles; company goals for the year; information about key products, services, or categories; computer reports of prior years’ sales; territory maps, and so on.
- Immerse yourself in the process. Throughout the planning session, maintain focus on your agenda. Don’t do anything else that isn’t an emergency. Recognize that any interruption – any detour – will take you off course.
- Incorporate shorter-term planning: Include monthly planning that rolls up to a six month plan, and a daily plan that rolls into the monthly plan, to provide mile markers for short-term measurement of progress.
What should the ultimate strategic sales plan include?
- The destination. What is your sales team’s ultimate goal? More touches? More closes? More total sales revenue? Make sure your sales team knows not only the route, but also what success looks like. Too many salespeople get to “Yes” but keep going and end up sliding off the road and losing the sale.
- Preferred routes. The plan should dictate the path (which customers, and how much time with each, to yield the greatest overall return from the time invested). Consider all relevant factors to determine if the direct route might actually be less desirable in the long run. For example, is the prospect’s organization undergoing leadership changes that make the identity of the decision maker unclear? If so, you might want to reroute your efforts until the company is no longer “under construction.”
- Likely roadblocks or obstacles. Don’t let your team fall into the narrative of another “big one that got away” because key factors were unknown or discovered too late. Do your homework — proper strategic sales planning will reveal potential roadblocks and obstacles early enough so you can avoid distractions and stay on track.
- Deadlines and accountability. Without them, your plan isn’t really very strategic or meaningful, is it?
While it might have been true in the past that seeing as many prospects as possible led to an acceptable number of closes, those days are gone. Prospects today are smarter and more time-crunched, so salespeople must be smarter and more efficient in response. That’s why sales teams today must utilize strategic planning in their sales activities. With this approach, they can navigate their sales course with laser focus, confidence and optimism.
Need help charting your best strategic sales plan? Contact a Sales Xceleration Advisor today. They can help you avoid the roadblocks and detours on your road to success.
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