Pivotal Advisors has hosted numerous sessions focused on the importance of sales plans. Many sales reps would laugh off the idea. To a great many, sales plans are a mere formality used by organizations at the start of the year to provide forecast data to C-level executives. Once those forecasts are adjusted to acceptable levels, what happens? Typically, the plans are filed away only to be glanced at quarterly, biannually or never again.
But the most effective sales managers and reps know that a well-devised and well-used sales plan can be an extremely valuable tool to better plan, operate, communicate and perform – no matter what size the organization. And we are not talking about sales planning that requires high-tech solutions or complex sales formulas. Basic, simple sales plans that track both sales activities (meetings, proposals, closed deals, etc.) and sales numbers (monthly and annual revenue goals) are as effective as any sophisticated planning tool or application on the market. In fact, the real key to sales plan success is not the format of the sales plan or the size of it, it’s the quality of the content.
To give you insight into the many sales planning tips offered in the Webinar, we are happy to share with you the Top Four Advantages of Practical Sales Plans below. If you would like to learn even more advantages and get specific input on what makes a sales plan effective, you can listen to the Webinar online here. And before we list the “Top Four,” we would like to thank The Sales Association for co-hosting the Webinar and all attendees for sharing their time and input.
Top Four Advantages of Practical Sales Plans
Advantage 1: Gives Reps a Well-planned Sales Activity Schedule
The fact is most sales representatives are creating sales plans each year. They fill in the names of accounts they are working on, those they hope to win and even some long shots just to be sure the plan leads to a strong bottom-line number for their managers and their managers’ managers. But if you ask those same reps how confident they are that their actual sales year will mirror their sales plan, most will have the same reply: “Not very.”
The true value of a sales plan is not the bottom line number it points to but the activities it maps out to get to that number. How many meetings do I need to average per week? How many proposals per month? How many deals should I be closing per month? All of these details can be worked into a simple sales plan, starting with the revenue goal and using prior performance to determine the amount of weekly and monthly activity required to achieve the revenue.
In addition, sales plans should focus on activities as much as on revenue to account for the natural differences in sales reps. Some sales reps succeed at selling bigger accounts and don’t need to close as many new deals per year. Other reps may be excellent at selling lots of small deals. Some reps may be adept at converting meetings into proposals. Others might need more meetings to get enough proposals into the pipeline. Well implemented sales plans allow sales reps individualized road maps for putting in the work needed to achieve revenue goals.
Advantage 2: A Means for Seeing Where Activity Adjustments Are Needed
Sales reps can use their sales plans to see how they are meeting their activity benchmarks in terms of getting meetings, securing proposals, making cold calls, etc. Where performance is lacking they can adjust or ask for help. Where performance is strong, they can see what activities are working best and replicate them for continued positive results.
Advantage 3: Provides a Roadmap for Achieving Organizational Goals
Sales plans should go beyond the numbers to map out the actual sales work—calling, visiting, presenting, demonstrating, etc.—that goes into successful selling. For managers that means, they know exactly what each individual should be doing to meet those goals. Rather than making general inquiries to their reps, “Have you increased your pipeline, Steve?” managers can get very specific, “Steve, will you be able to meet your three meeting per week goal this month?”
It’s important to mention that sales plans don’t track every moment or contact in the sales process. It’s too time-consuming and such information doesn’t yield valuable insight. Instead, sales managers need to determine the best indicators of sales success for their organization and build them into the sales plans. For some companies, meetings and proposals may be the best indicators. For others, it’s cold calls and demos. Whatever those early indicators of strong sales performance are, managers should make sure they are limited to only two or three so they can be well monitored by sales reps and managers alike.
Advantage 4: Clearly Identifies Coaching Needs
Activities-based sales plans make it easy for sales managers to identify coaching needs among sales reps. If sales plans reveal that a rep is good at securing lots of meetings but only occasionally gets to the pricing/proposal phase, the coaching need is clear: It’s time to review the sales person’s presentation skills and sales pitch to find out where prospects might be losing interest. Another rep may be good at securing meetings and generating proposal opportunities but the average deal size might be too small. Here’s an opening for a manager to help coach a sales rep to try for bigger opportunities or learn to generate more from each account.
The sales plan not only helps managers identify opportunities to assist and coach their staff, it also can measure improvement to show whether or not the coaching is working and if sales reps are making the needed adjustments in order to achieve business goals.
Again, these are just a few of the advantages of strong sales plans. We hope you have time to listen to the Webinar to hear more and see examples of how sales plans can be used to better perform and better manage. To get an example of a winning sales plan, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will be glad to forward one to you and your team.