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4 Sales Planning Essentials

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The holiday season can be a busy time of year, or depending on your business, it can be one of the slower periods. Either way, as the page turns to a new year, it is critical to be prepared and have a strategy for success. For business leaders, there’s usually a planning meeting during the fourth quarter in preparation for the coming year. However, these activities represent only part of the planning process---and left to stand on its own, may not be enough to achieve the desired results for the next fiscal year. Therefore, it is important to create a sales plan that provides the clarity needed to give you the best chance for success.

Similarly, many salespeople fail to create a personal sales plan because their quota and other metrics are based on holistic organizational objectives versus the individual sales territory. These types of objectives focus on the “what” that needs to be achieved. But the top selling experts tend to develop their own sales plan that goes above and beyond the company’s metrics. Therefore, individual sales plans focus on the “how” of achieving results.

Here are 4 essential actions to help make next year a success.

Essential #1 - Write a Personal Sales Plan

Consider these critical elements as part of your plan:

  1. Sales Forecast (all projections are annual)

-          Break down your different product/services in priority order based on projected sales revenue

-          Average Price for each product

-          Projected number of units sold

-          Projected revenue from sold units

-          Projected GSM (gross sales margin) from sold units

-          Excel type spreadsheets ideal so you can easily manipulate projections

-          Example below…yellow columns require data entry, white columns auto calculate

Example for Small Business Owner:

    ownerchart                   

Example for Sales Representative:

saleschart

B) Segmentation and Activities - Activities that will drive the projected sales
• Include customer segments (who you will go after) for each product/service
• Emphasize activity and pipeline requirements such as number of prospects needed and conversion rates
• Articulate the sales strategy you will deploy to achieve the results

Essential # 2 – Start Fast
Let’s face it, after a long grueling year of selling, there’s an inclination to exhale in the first quarter. The problem is we get behind the eight ball and this creates the conditions for mental errors and unnecessary stress. Moreover, in some businesses, the historical revenue trends will indicate the level of sales in a given period. But one should not relax and mentally assume that “business will be slow” because with that mindset, the wrong behaviors could follow. Instead, base your plan on optimizing the conditions that you’re likely to face in the beginning of the year. For example, you might target prospects that operate on a non-calendar fiscal year or those who are more likely to buy during this time of the year.

Essential #3 - Adjust and Tweak Your Plan
There’s a saying in the military that when the bullets start flying, strategy goes out the window. In the business arena, we’re also more likely not to think about plans in the heat of doing what we do. However, this is the very reason why planning the right activities is so crucial—it increases the odds that you’re doing the things necessary to move you towards your goals. At a minimum, you should look at your sales plan every quarter and even more frequently should things get off track. This helps to ensure that your plan is working and allows for adjustments when needed. And trust me, most plans will change because business changes very quickly so built-in flexibility is critical.

Mid-year review
Whether on track or not, we must remember, that there are no trophies given out at halftime. The mid year review is like halftime in a sporting event. It’s a time to evaluate what is happening in the field and make the necessary adjustments accordingly. But it’s not just looking at the past, you also want to think about potential headwinds you might face and develop a responsive plan of action. Maybe your largest customer is going through a management change and their buy patterns are trending lower than usual. This might be a good time to figure out how you’ll replace the lost revenue perhaps by targeting a different account or new customer segment in your portfolio.

Essential #4 - Grow Your Knowledge and Skills
Today, more than ever, it seems that we live and work in the environment where almost everything is labeled "important." But many times, we confuse important with urgent time-pressing matters, which often leaves little or no time for what is truly important to success. Learning is obviously one of those critical things that we often put on the back-burner, but it must be prioritized and scheduled in order to get done consistently.

With that said, consider the following three strategies to ensure continuous learning in a busy environment.

First, technology is making it easier to improve skills without giving up large amounts of time from work. One way is to use mobile learning tools, apps and knowledge accessed anytime using smartphones, tablets or any internet device “anytime learning.” Learning can occur in between sales calls, meetings or even at home during down time. Secondly, science has revealed that businesspeople can learn implicitly through their routine work. Consider Performance-Based Learning (PBL) activities which enable you to do just that. The idea is so simple that it’s brilliant. We typically “do” various tasks every day and through experience, we learn what works and what doesn’t work over time. PBL accelerates this learning curve which helps you reach the next skill level, more quickly. Thirdly, what seems like an all but forgotten activity...practice is still the most influential tool that we have to improve performance. Although we know this intuitively, few of us find the time to actually practice the skills we need the most.

The first obstacle to overcome with practice is the stigma that only amateurs need it. In business this myth was previously accepted even though other professions including physicians, athletes, musicians and others have proven otherwise. But more and more business leaders and sales professionals are rediscovering the benefits of practice through the use of technology and other innovative methods. In sum, try rehearsing that upcoming sales presentation or dialoguing how you’ll introduce a new product to a buyer, using your smartphone video camera…and do it, not just once or a few times, but do it regularly

After applying these 4 essentials, by this time next year, you’ll be having an even happier holiday season, hopefully enjoying your best year ever!

 
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