by Jen Tadin
Republished from Forbes, October 15, 2018
The fourth quarter: It’s the time of year that sets the course of business for the next year. Before you spend weeks or months budgeting and building strategic initiatives for next year, have you taken the time to reflect on how your current year plan has worked for you? In this article, I’m going to specifically hone in on the front-line sales planning process because I believe that, in many companies, this process is a “check the box” task that sales reps don’t allocate enough time, thought or effort to. In most of our companies, we rely heavily (if not exclusively) on sales teams to hit the company’s growth targets, yet sales reps and sales leaders aren’t investing enough in the process. Here are six tips to follow to build robust sales plans that will get you to your sales objectives.
1. What’s working? What’s not?
Before you begin building a plan for the next year, you must reflect on what activities and initiatives led to the greatest success in the current year. Sometimes in sales, the big wins aren’t planned, but they can absolutely be learned from so you can increase the likelihood that you find more of them and act strategically in the next year versus betting on hope. On the contrary, you also must look at the behaviors, activities and sometimes clients that aren’t working for you. If it isn’t working, tweak it. Stop doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome.
2. Mind the gap.
In sales, being assigned a financial objective that is less than the previous year would be comparable to seeing a unicorn. You should always expect that your financial plan is going to increase, as almost every company wants or needs to grow. Knowing the gap between where you are forecasted to end the current year and what your financial goal for next year will be is critical; this represents the gap between repeating the sales activities and behaviors that led to success this year and the additional revenue you are responsible for figuring out how to generate next year.
3. Where is your headroom?
Now that you have figured out the additional revenue needed to achieve your plan next year, it’s time to take a deep dive and figure out where your financial opportunities lie, i.e., your headroom. If you work with a set group of clients, sit down and analyze every account. What are you currently selling to them? Do you know what their goals are for next year? How can your products or services fit into those goals? If you are on the business development side and you don’t have a set group of clients you manage, your headroom is calculated by working through your prospect pipeline. While you may not have direct access to prospects to understand firsthand what their goals are, the internet, your network and maybe even your CRM will likely have much of that information. Do the research and create a list of high-impact targets and align realistic revenue goals to those targets.
Tie initiatives directly to revenue.
Your initiatives are the “gold” of your sales plan and the most important piece because they outline the “how.” Your initiatives are your specific roadmap to hitting your sales goals. There is not a limit to the number you need, but you don’t want to build so many that you couldn’t realistically execute on them, and you don’t want so few that they won’t get you to your goal. This is why I mentioned in step one that it’s important to reflect on what behaviors are leading to the most/least success. Focus on the high-impact behaviors and eliminate the small.