A solid sales plan strategy is vital to the success of any business. But to remain vital and executable, day after day, prospect after prospect, the sales plan strategy must be focused and forward-looking. So, before heading into a new sales reporting period (especially before closing out Q4 and heading into Q1), it is essential to plan, even as you continue to execute your existing sales strategies to finish the current period strong. Here’s why timely updating of your sales plan strategy is so essential:
Finish Strong, Start Stronger
It’s natural to focus energy on finishing the current period on a high note. Closing deals and advancing prospects through the pipeline can be a measure of performance, as well as a motivator for future success. It’s also natural to delay planning for the new period until the current period ends. But giving in to this tendency can also keep your sales team in limbo as they wait on an updated sales plan strategy.
Take Notes Constantly, Have Faith in What You Know
Many Sales Managers procrastinate updating their sales plan strategy because all data for the reporting period is not known until after the new period begins. Frankly, this is a flimsy excuse. You should know, by looking at data available in your CRM, 95% of what you need for updating your plan. And what about that missing 5%? That is where your experience, wisdom and intuition come in. Because you’ve kept records all along (you HAVE kept records, haven’t you?) of how previous forecasts have compared to actual results, then you already know where your current plan is lacking. You know where your sales team falls short and you know where they are too optimistic. You know how your pipeline looks and how your target markets stack up. So, even without 100% of the sales performance data at hand, you already know where you are going to finish.
Gather, Analyze and PLAN
However, that doesn’t mean your sales plan strategy updates will magically materialize for your sales team to understand and execute. To be able to explain the changes and answer the inevitable questions, you still need to gather information, analyze the best way to present the updates, and plan for their implementation. Everything from your overall mission and vision to individual market strategies and sales tactics are ripe for updating – if they need it. If your company is doing well, but should be doing better, your sales plan strategy revisions should probably be evolutionary, rather than revolutionary. Nonetheless, you should almost certainly make updates to reflect recent or expected changes in your marketplace, your sales team, the technology you use, your product or service mix, and your goals for the coming period. And don’t forget to involve your sales team in the planning by constantly listening and considering their input for how to improve current sales processes.
Plan from the Big Picture Down
Your team’s individual sales tactics and processes should always be aligned with your company’s big picture goals and objectives. This is where much of your analysis lies – figuring out the best ways to create these alignments and eliminate obstacles to success. Objectives for your individual salespeople should support your own sales management goals; and those goals, in turn, should support the company’s bottom line objectives. If your front-line tactics don’t feed the expected top-end results, make necessary changes. These changes might affect your sales team makeup, your target markets, your territories, or even the ways you implement your sales plan strategy day-to-day.
Don’t Change the Rules in the Middle of the Game
Regardless of the nature of the changes to your plan, don’t take them lightly or throw them together at the last minute. Ideally, they should be announced and discussed before the end of the current period, so they can be fully implemented throughout the next period. Of course, if you are making sweeping changes, the lead time for announcement and implementation will need to be longer.
For most small- to medium-sized businesses, planning and communication will take about a month. Therefore, it is important to set aside the time necessary to meet that schedule. Delays mean that you will be changing the rules in the middle of the game; and that is always counterproductive to sales success.
The Bottom Line:
It’s tempting to focus so much energy on the current sales reporting period that your planning for the next period gets delayed and poorly done. When that happens, however, sales team cohesion, motivation, and overall future sales success can suffer. At Sales Xceleration, our licensed Advisors know that in smaller organizations, the emphasis on planning often takes a backseat to challenges of day-to-day sales. But because they also know the importance of constant analysis and timely sales planning, they’ve been able to help smaller companies bridge that gap and plan for greater future sales success. To learn more, connect with an Advisor in your area, or contact us today at 1.844.874.7253.