According to a 2018 survey by Salesforce, 57% of sales professionals miss their annual sales quotas. That’s a significant failure rate. Why do so many salespeople fail to meet their sales goals, and what can companies do to address this? One effective way to address lackluster sales is to make sales planning a focus in your organization. Success begins with a plan.
What Is Sales Planning?
Sales planning is the process of creating strategies to help a sales team achieve its targets and goals. That’s a very general definition. This process includes compiling data on past sales, market concerns, targeted sales niches, and your intended customers, as well as a specific plan for how to locate those customers, engage with them, and complete your sales goals.
It may seem like a great deal of work, but, when done correctly, a good sales plan will save both time and money because it allows your team to identify problems, challenges, and opportunities, and address them directly. Sales planning lets your sales team act rather than react all of the time. They will be able to make decisions based on goals, rather than negative emotions like frustration or panic.
The first thing that you must have when creating a sales plan is a specific goal. You need a number that your company is aiming for, whether that’s sales or customers. You decide on what you think that your sales team can accomplish realistically in specific numbers over a set period of time with the resources they have in the market you’re in. That benchmark number will allow you to evaluate your success over time and adjust your strategy to achieve more success.
The planning process includes smaller goals, monthly or quarterly goals, as well as the greater annual goal. If your sales team finds it difficult to achieve these smaller goals, the sales plan will have to be adjusted as well, allowing more resources in terms of staff or money or changing strategies to allow for market conditions or other challenges.
Let’s break down the different aspects of the sales planning process by answering specific questions.
Q&A of Sales Planning
Who? This first question is two-fold: Who’s on your team, and who are your customers? First, you need to know your sales team in terms of their resources and their abilities. Involve them in your goal creation. They very likely have the best knowledge about your customer base, so ask their opinions and give them the opportunity to share what they know about themselves and your ideal customer.
Every sales representative has their own style and their own strengths and weaknesses. A good sales team is like a good toolbox. Not every job requires a hammer. If you’ve got a full set of tools, you will be able to do a job correctly, efficiently, and with a minimum of frustration.
What? The “what” is your goals. They need to be clear and specific, and you should have deadlines for meeting them. You may want to increase sales of a product line 50% this year, or you might want to see your customer base expanded by 10% by the end of the second quarter. It’s up to you – but everyone on the team should understand what the goals are – for the team and for themselves individually – and when they should meet them. If this isn’t clear, there will be excuses, and a very real point of a sales plan is to eliminate the runaround of excuses. That’s energy expended for no benefit.
Where? Where are your target markets? Sales planning can help you achieve success in different areas by fine tuning your approach based on different needs. Your team can create a vision for each market. Comparing approaches and success in different markets will help you determine what works best in each and what, if any, overlap exists.
When? It’s best to develop a sales plan well in advance of implementation. Then you can break it down into annual, quarterly, and monthly goals. If you have previous years’ sales data, that will help you track your annual revenues. You can then compare them with your competitors.’ Short-term planning allows you to pivot faster if you run into barriers or roadblocks or fix small problems before they become big failures.
Why? This is simple. Preparation is key to success in everything you do. If you have a goal and a strategy, you are much more likely to achieve it than if you just try really hard.
Top sales performance isn’t accidental. Yes, many people are “natural salesmen,” but setting goals and creating strategies benefit the naturals too. Many people will make the excuse that they don’t have time to do sales planning, but a solid sales plan that is well-executed will save time and money, increase the efficiency and effectiveness of your sales team, and create an environment of success and positive energy in your company.
If you’ve tried sales planning before and fumbled or need help creating a plan for the first time, Prometis Partners can help. The strength of the planning process is that it’s self-correcting. You will make mistakes, and then you will correct them sooner, adjust your plan, and move forward faster towards success. If you have questions, we would be happy to talk with you and help make the planning process easier for you to implement.