By Patrick McClure, Sr. Consultant
It’s common in the fall time to hear company executives complain about the holiday season. I can just hear them now:
“OMG, we only have two weeks in December, and the rest of the month is a waste of time. No one will be at their desks, and we won’t be able to sell anything!”
“I wish Thanksgiving and Christmas never existed! Arggghhhhh!”
Granted, for most companies December is a short month. Except for retailers, December is severely impacted by the holiday season and by vacations. However, December is an ideal time to put the finishing touches on your sales plan for the new year, so take advantage of this month to create a stellar plan for success in the new year.
Creating Your Sales Plan
The first step in creating your sales plan for the new year is to review your performance in the past year. For some tips on how to do this, you can read the 7 Step Sales Diagnosis Plan from our blog. If you’ve completed that review, you’ll have a solid grasp of the following essential elements:
- Sales Objectives and your performance results for the last year
- Highlights & Lowlights for the year
- SWOT Analysis updated
- Top 3 Problem areas to Fix
- Top 3 Opportunities for Growth
If your review of the last year is complete, you’re already ahead of the game. Now your attention can shift to goals and objectives for the new year, and how to make them a reality. Here’s a recommended process to get this done:
1. Write down your Objectives for the new year.
Casey Stengel said it best when he told his teams:
“If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll end up someplace else.”
Without a defined specific and written objective, you are flying blind. You can’t hit a target if it is not defined, so get your targets written down.
Your key sales objectives will support the overall business plan for the new year, and will define the “big picture” objectives for your team. Some examples might be:
“To grow our market share from 10% to 20%”
“To increase total revenue by 30% by the end of the new year.”
“To launch our new system into the marketplace and to generate $1 MM in revenue”
“To reduce selling expenses by ________________”
2. Strategic Positioning
Given the defined sales objectives for the next year, you will now consider the best positioning your company needs to give yourself the best possibility of success. Think about questions like these:
♦ Identifying where the best market opportunity resides (which of the market segments offer the most potential given your differentiators).
♦ Which sales method to use?
♦ How should your sales organization be structured for maximum effectiveness?
♦ Who are your top competitors and how can they be eclipsed, neutralized or controlled?
♦ Who are the key partners and alliances?
3. Territory/Market Analysis
♦ Size of territory, Industry specialization, key locations
♦ Installed Base Customers & Location
♦ # of Prospects, their industry, and their location
4. Unique Value Proposition
This will be a quick review for most companies because it will simply validate the selling propositions that have been effectively used in the past year. However, if results from the last year were dismal, now is the time to really re-examine your unique selling propositions. You need to absolutely define with clarity and precision the following:
♦ Features, Benefits, and Value of your products/services.
♦ What exactly is unique about your company and what you deliver to the marketplace?
♦ Why should people do business with you, versus everyone else?
♦ What’s so special about our company?
5. Sales Forecast
This will be a detailed analysis, generally broken into quarters or monthly, of the following:
♦ Total Sales Revenue
♦ Total # of New Accounts
♦ Total Revenue for New Accounts
♦ Revenue for existing accounts
♦ Any other targets?
Your CRM system or Sales Forecast system will be loaded on a month-to-month basis with these factors. Depending on your industry, and any seasonality, you can simply target equally month-to-month or vary the targets based upon time of year.
It’s always a good idea to get the salespeople to actively contribute to this forecast, and to make sure they are absolutely in agreement with the targets. They must be committed to achieving these targets and there must be a realistic expectation that the targets can be achieved and exceeded.
6. Detailed Sales Pipeline Analysis
This is the most important element of your Sales Plan for the new year. This is the detail on exactly how you intend to achieve your goals. Take the sales objectives, analyze your pipeline and ratios, and come up with specific sales activities that are needed to accomplish your annual selling goals. These may include (but are not limited to) the following:
♦ What is your Lead Tracking System (Excel, Paper-based, automated SFA?)
♦ Total Named Prospects to Develop
♦ Total # of Opportunities in your Territory
♦ Total # of Qualified Opportunities in your assigned Industry
♦ # of Referrals from Installed Base Customers
♦ # or Leads required to feed the Sales Pipeline
♦ Where are the leads coming from? (Lead Sources report)
♦ Estimated # of Prospecting Phone Calls by rep by month
♦ Estimated # of F2F Calls needed by rep by month
♦ # of Sales Presentations needed by rep and by month
Your pipeline analysis should include Lead Sources. You should know precisely the origination point for every sale you’ve made in the past year. This will be critical information in planning where you would most productively spend your time in the remainder of the year.
When this analysis is complete, you will now know exactly the selling activities that are needed in order to achieve your targets. For instance, if your sales reps typically enjoy a 20 % close ratio for every sales presentation delivered, they will need to deliver 5 presentations to achieve one sale. All the standard selling ratios should be captured in an Excel spreadsheet and handed out to the reps. You will almost always discover that the sales team is NOT doing enough prospecting for new business!
7. Sales Process
This is a fast review of your normal sales process, fine tuning for the coming year. If it was successful in the previous year, don’t change much! If it was NOT successful, you will need to change it! Along the way, you need to identify “Best Practice” sales methodologies and identify weaknesses in the process (where are sales lost?)
In addition, you might want to review your initial business development process, particularly how opportunities are qualified to begin with.
♦ Where are sales being lost? At what point in your sales process do you fail?
♦ What’s the plan to eliminate the losses?
♦ How can the process be made more efficient and effective?
8. Key Success Factors (KSFs)
This is the most important sections of the sales plan for the manager and executive because it lists the top three KSFs that, if achieved, will guarantee achievement of the plan. One of my managers used to refer to these as the “critical few” which makes allowance for the absolute importance of them.
The KSFs are developed after considering all the foregoing sections for the sales plan. Based on an analysis of the preceding sections, ask the following:
♦ What must we do to ensure success?
♦ What does top management need to do to support us?
♦ What does our company need to help us with?
9. Resource Needs
Now that your plan is complete, it’s time to spell out the resources you need to achieve success. This may include people, support, materials, logistics, management, coaching, training and so on. If you are missing a key skill or resource, this is where you would list it.
Since you’ve developed a careful and concise analysis, you will be prepared to review with management and to request critical resources and support from other departments, such as Marketing, Human Resources, IT and Customer Support. Everyone in the company should be “in the loop” with your sales plan and they should fully support it. After all, everyone sells!
10. Sales Operations Assessment
Patrick is offering complimentary 30 minutes over the phone to identify likely root causes of sales productivity issues with at least three actionable ideas. You will discover critical problem areas, recognize underlying causes of these issues, learn at least three new ideas to implement and begin a plan of action. To learn more, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Patrick McClure is Sr. Consultant and Practice Head for Sales & Customer Service. Over the past 30 years, Patrick has trained salespeople and managers to drive breakthrough sales results using innovative and practical techniques. He has a knack for reducing the most complex problems to utter simplicity and showing his audience exactly how start winning new clients. During his corporate career, Mr. McClure sold over $250 MM worth of products and services at corporate giants such as IBM, Hitachi Data Systems, EDS and Digital Equipment. He is a black-belt master at selling complex business solutions to C-Level executives, and today he will share his secrets with small companies hoping to crack into the Fortune 1000. As the author of 3 books on selling, Patrick passionately and patiently serves up his wisdom to readers, clients, and audiences. He caters to both small and large firms seeking to close more business. You can contact Patrick at email@example.com.
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