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Building a Sales Plan? Don’t Forget These 5 Elements

December 13, 2016
Building a Sales Plan? Don’t Forget These 5 Elements

As a sales leader, one of your key responsibilities as the year winds down is likely building a sales plan for the coming year. In working with sales teams over the years, we’ve seen a lot of sales plans, and we’ve identified the following five things that sales leaders often forget to include in their sales plan.

When you’re building your sales plan for 2017 (or any other time!), ask yourself these five questions.

1. What’s your sales plan to evolve client relationships?

When we look at sales plans, we often see detailed processes for forecasting individual customer accounts. Salespeople are asked to project growth for each of their major customers and may also be asked to develop individual account plans for their key accounts. Often, though, forecasts are just updated without a plan for how the business will grow.

Instead of building a complex forecast and account planning process, we recommend using a simple client evolution model. Have your salespeople rank each of their accounts on a quarterly basis and work with them to develop plans for how they will work at each level of the model.

Ask your sales team the following questions for each level of the client evolution model.

  1. What sales activities will you do at this level?
  2. How can marketing help?
  3. What do you need from me/your manager?
  4. Which accounts at this level are you targeting to move up to the next level? What’s your plan for doing that? (This is where your team members may need to write individual account plans.)

2. How will you balance inbound and outbound lead generation?

In the past few years, inbound lead generation has grown substantially in many industries where it wasn’t previously a factor. With consumers looking for information online and the ability of SEO to drive targeted traffic, companies no longer need a huge advertising budget to generate inbound leads.

What many companies struggle with, though, is how to process these inbound leads. Some companies hand them off immediately to sales reps, who are frustrated by the quality and may end up ignoring them to focus on warmer leads. Other companies develop fully automated lead nurturing workflows, only handing off leads who have “raised their hands” to indicate interest.

Most companies can benefit from a process somewhere in the middle. Develop a plan for qualifying inbound leads into simple categories, with a process for how to follow up on each and who is responsible for each.

In the same vein, sales planning is a good opportunity to review your outbound lead generation process. Are your salespeople responsible for generating their own leads? How are they doing? What’s working, and what’s not?

If you’re struggling with lead generation, check out these posts for help with:

  1. Targeting the right leads
  2. Identifying the best lead sources
  3. Effectively growing and leveraging your network
  4. Looking for leads in creative places

3. How will you motivate your team to succeed?

Your sales plan likely includes growth – but does it include a plan for motivating your team to achieve that growth?

While some opportunities for sales motivation will crop up naturally, it can be helpful to plan for proactive sales motivation throughout the year. How will you get the team started? What will you do to keep them aligned and focused on the goal? How will you celebrate big wins and milestones? What will you do if individuals or groups fall into a slump?

Here are some ideas to consider:

  1. Use these three tips for diagnosing motivation problems.
  2. Proactively schedule team building activities.
  3. Share sales success stories to motivate your team.
  4. Motivate your sales team during sales meetings.
  5. Adjust your coaching approach to your team members’ operating states.
  6. Consider your team members’ individual motivation styles.
  7. Use creative approaches to motivate your team if they’re in a rut.

4. How have you integrated training into your sales plan?

Sales training is a critical part of sales improvement, yet we’re surprised at how often sales leaders forget to include it in their sales plans. We recommend including two types of training in your sales plans – incremental internal sales training and external sales training.

When they think of sales training, most people probably think of working with an external partner and producing big events. That’s important! It provides fresh content and a different perspective, and professional trainers can motivate and inspire the team to experience breakthroughs in their selling approach. If you’re looking for a sales training partner, check out our resource on how to select that partner.

Choosing the Right Sales Training Partner

Equally important, though, is consistent internal training. If the only sales training a team is receiving is happening once or twice a year, their skills will stagnate. Consider ways to integrate sales training into your schedule. One simple idea is to make sales training a part of your regular weekly or biweekly sales meetings. Whatever you decide to do, make sure you have training scheduled at least monthly.

5. What’s your plan for hiring and onboarding new sales team members?

Quite often, part of a sales plan is dedicated to growing the team. What we often see, though, is a bare minimum plan, stating how many sales reps will be hired each month or quarter and how much they are expected to sell. These plans can quickly go off track if new hires don’t work out or take longer than expected to start making money.

Have you done any analysis of how long it took previous hires to become successful? Do you know what early metrics were leading indicators of future success? If not, take some time to look back at previous hires and get that data. You’ll need it as you’re setting goals for your new hires and evaluating their progress.

This is also a good opportunity to evaluate your hiring process. How has it been working for you lately? Are you getting the right kinds of candidates, or do you end up spending a lot of time weeding out bad candidates? Are unqualified people making it through the process and washing out after a few months? Make sure as you are going into 2017 that you have an effective hiring plan in place. We have a number of resources for hiring and interviewing that you may find helpful.

free download: the CFS guide to hiring

So how did your sales plan measure up? Do you have a little more work to do? I’d love to hear your feedback in the comments!

2 Comments

  • Barry Hall - Reply

    Hi Elizabeth, many thanks for a great informative post. – Barry.

    • Elizabeth Frederick - Reply

      Thanks so much, Barry!

      Happy holidays!

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