The fourth quarter of the business year is about planning. Unfortunately, I consistently see too many businesses that fail to have any written Sales Plan at all. So if your company failed to meet its sales objectives in 2016, reviewing or creating a Sales Plan for 2017 is the right place to start.
I once worked for an international company where the Sales Plan was: “Go with God, and come back with money.” Yes, the global Sales Plan was 1,000 salespeople creating their own plans, in a very decentralized and highly opportunistic approach. The results definitely generated some success; however, the new business won was localized, expensive to implement and inefficient to model to other prospect clients. It took more than 5 years to change the autonomous culture created by the lack of a connected Sales Plan.
One of the most beautiful behaviors of a good salesperson is their innate initiative, propelled by their desire to find new opportunities – especially when there is money on the line! However, when given the chance, salespeople have a habit of creating their own strategies and seeking the easiest business wins – no matter the impact (positive or negative) to the company. Proper sales planning funnels that positive energy to generate better, more coordinated results.
A well-written Sales Plan defines, “what we do, how we do it, and why we do what we do” – in a short document, which can be five pages or less. This road map will create the highest impact to generate consistent new revenue and profit for the coming year.
A plan tells everyone where we are going and how we will get there. Equally important, a Sales Plan explains to the company what you “aren’t going to do!” Different strategic paths could include:
- Identifying opportunities with higher margins and avoiding lower margin business
- Covering different geographies or markets than you do today
- Hiring specialized salespeople to sell new or different products
- Deciding to avoid prospect clients who issue RFPs to you – and all of your competitors
These strategic initiatives will set the foundation for successful tactical sales planning, allowing resource and investment decisions that match your agreed path.
The consequences of failing to act to improve your sales results is almost always very significant.
- Losing one or more large customers could create serious financial troubles
- New revenue coming from clients you don’t really want
- No new revenue to offset declining business, or poor margins from existing customers
- Ownership remaining frustrated at poor sales results
It seems obvious that a better Sales Plan creates better sales results. But too often companies don’t take the time, or put the focus, to building a plan creating sales success, which is – strategically providing more services to companies that you covet.
The good news is that sales planning doesn’t have to be difficult; you just need a – well, a plan! You can’t execute strategies that aren’t detailed, you can’t hit goals if you don’t have them, and you can’t put tactics in motion if you don’t know which direction to go. Your business must have a Sales Plan, period. Start now.