How Sales Teams Create Certainty in an Uncertain World
Posted on 1st June 2020 at 19:42
Planning is Committing
There is something profoundly helpful about committing a plan to paper. Apart from the obvious benefits of capturing your thoughts and proposed actions in a more structured and ordered way, it goes directly to the level of commitment you have toward what you want to achieve, ensures business continuity, maximises time and resources and ensures your team knows what, how, when and why actions need to be taken.
But more than that, it co-ordinates the efforts of a business or business area, it increases the accuracy and speed of decision making and results in higher, focused productivity.
And ultimately, it stops salespeople from being just busy and transforms them into busy, productive and effective. One of my clients helpfully describes it as the rumble strip on the motorway, that alerts you if you are going off track
In these chaotic times, with the Coronavirus pandemic seeing cities in lockdown and global trade In disarray, a committed, documented plan isn’t a nice to have, it’s a must have, because having your sales team operating randomly, without direction and focus, having the right conversations with the right people at the right time will not work.
5 Sales Plan Tips
So here are 5 things you must know about a sales plan to ensure you are ahead of your competition when the situation is reset.
1) Anchor your sales plan with the business strategy - Your sales plan, in order to be grounded must cascade from the business strategy so that there is a logical and focused flow to all initiatives. A sales plan anchored in this way is clearer, easier to write and easier to follow and it provides a level of clarity which enables the right decisions to be made in critical areas e.g. creating the best sales structure, the right areas to focus and the optimal incentive scheme design.
Consider the power in aligning your sales performance to your company’s goals and objectives. In order to do this, you will need to look at how a number of factors are aligned, i.e.
- Sales Strategy
- Sales Proficiency
- Customer and Market Understanding
- Sales Systems
- Sales Processes
- Culture and Environment
2) Your sales plan must be flexible and adaptable - In a stable, consistent environment you can plan long-term, but in a chaotic, unpredictable environment like this one, short-term, adaptable and dynamic your sales plans are essential. The Coronavirus chaos means that your plan needs to be agile, highly attuned to what your customers are experiencing now and reviewed daily to ensure strong planning foundations and activities that are appropriate amid an ever changing environment.
3) Ensure your sales plan has a built-in feedback system - Your sales plan must have a built-in feedback system. If your sales plan is not giving you feedback about where you are in relation to your goals and objectives, it’s not doing anything. It is essential for you to have feedback about how your internal and external environment is responding to the plan. Customers should be at the heart of the sales plan. You should never write a sales plan fully understanding the buyers journey and the customer experience, and there is gold in those hills. The level and quality of customer feedback is one of many ways to build in a sales plan feedback system
4) Culture and Environment are key to sales planning - Your sales plan should consider your culture and environment. This is too often missed as the focus tends toward activity. But where there is a lack of integrity around the required activity, it tends to be a reflection of the culture and environment that has been created. There needs to be consequence if Key Performance Indicators and Critical Success Factors are not hit. The way this is managed has to align with your culture. Miss this at your peril. How the team is led, how behaviours are enabled and how performance management is understood and executed (to name a few cultural elements), are all major factors in whether the sales plan will be effective.
5) Breaking down your Sales Plan - The plan can be in 3 parts.
a) Where are you now? (and did you get there intentionally or unintentionally?)
b) Where do you want to get to? (and what will happen when you do?)
c) How do you get there? (and what resources , changes are required on the journey?)
In the third section, each initiative should include a vision of where the plan will get you and a number of logical actions that will get you there. Contained within each of the three sections is a varying level of detail that creates the context for optimising the sales activity and making sure your sales team aren’t just busy. However, the plan should contain a small handful of key themes so that you are creating focus in the process. In fact you should end the plan with a summary of the strategy and it should fit on one page.
A robust, documented sales plan increases individual accountability, accelerates sales development and puts more onus on the organisation to provide the right environment for the sales team. Many companies do not take enough responsibility for the sales environment and put undue pressure on the sales team. Once the right environment is in place, sellers naturally perform at an enhanced level.
The winners, post global pandemic, will be the companies who can maintain and regain momentum with their customers quickly and meaningfully. The sales plan is the vehicle that enables the right activity, the right messaging, underpinned by the right analysis, structure, incentives and culture.
The plan you had, if you had one at all, before the pandemic was for different circumstances. So you either need to modify it, or create one.
Having written and executed sales plans for companies for over 10years, and based on the plans I am involved in now to support organisations to emerge out of the pandemic powerfully, it is obvious that companies who plan generate and maintain sales momentum in a superior way to those who do not. But more than that, they establish deeper, trusted relationships with their customers, their actions are more meaningful, and they sell more, more often at more acceptable margins.
A sales team without a plan signs up for confusion and chaos amid random unstructured actions that lack power. That is not to say they don’t do a lot of good work because they do. They just spend too much time doing stuff that doesn’t really matter. That is the last thing you want in these times.
The real barriers to positive sales progress are often masked, hiding in plain sight, because there wasn’t a plan and a plan has another magical quality, if done well. It unmasks the truth of the opportunities and limitations of your current situation. It shows how vulnerable your business will be in a crisis and gives strong indicators of likelihood to die, survive or thrive.
If you would like to discuss how to create a powerful sales plan for your business that has sales work exactly how it should be working, lets connect. Or let’s just talk sales plans, they're game-changing.
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