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You wouldn’t go into a meeting that you were leading unprepared; the same goes for next year. Building an annual sales plan is critical to reaching your sales goals. Take the following 10 steps to begin building a sales plan with acheivable sales goals and a strategy to reach them that you can be celebrating this time next year.
- Start now: As a sales manager or leader, you should always be thinking about sales goals and what's coming up, but the beginning of Q4 is the ideal time to start developing a comprehensive plan. This is a process that is often put off until the last minute, but once the ball is rolling it doesn't have to take forever. Start taking steps today to have a plan completed that you can roll out by end-of-year or early January.
- Set your big picture goal: Instead of pulling a number out of thin air or using this year’s number, it’s time to evaluate a number of things. Review this year so far to evaluate how close you’ve come to reaching this year’s goal. Look at new business, average sales sizes and cycles, goals versus actuals, customer satisfaction, proposals submitted versus accepted, marketing metrics like conversion rates and campaigns. It also helps to take a look at the past couple of years and how they compare. All of these resources will help you pick a sales goal that’s realistic and attainable. .
- Face forward: No one year is like the next – sales is always changing and that's the beauty of it. Look at your last year to determine what worked and what didn’t, but don’t just try to imitate it. Look ahead at new products entering the market, occurances in your industry, up-and-coming competitors, and changing customer pains and needs, then develop a plan that combines a mix of time-tested tactics with a fresh approach.
- Look beyond the number: Outline what needs to be done to reach the number. Ask: What types of activities should sales be doing? What is needed from marketing and other departments? What internal promotions should we be running? Are we attending tradeshows or industry events? Assign metrics to these, such as how many calls need to be made to get the meeting, number of leads needed from a tradeshow, etc. If extra budget is needed to support your strategy, make note of it and get approval.
- Break it down: Break down your sales goals into smaller chunks, like quarters and/or months. Implement a regular tracking schedule to review goals monthly or quarterly with management, and have more regular meetings, weekly or bi-weekly, with sales staff to continually evaluate progress, uncover any areas of weakness, celebrate wins, and keep sales on the right track.
- Involve the sales team: 95% of a typical workforce doesn’t understand its organization’s strategy, therefore 90% of organizations fail to execute successfully on their strategies. Don’t let this be you. Get your sales team involved, solicit their opinions, and share the plan with them including clear goals and expectations of them. Make the goals consumable and easy-to-understand, align compensation plans with sales goals to motivate, and conduct regular measurement and review of team and individual progress.
- Look at a calendar: In order to reach your goals, you need to take into account all roadblocks. Don’t assume that every month will yield the same results. There may be some events during the year that will lead to an influx or decline in business. Break down the goals with your company/industry calendar in mind, and plan ahead for how to handle busy and slow periods.
- See beyond the number: Don’t forget to include non-sales goals, such as marketing initiatives, tradeshows and events, promotions, product launches, customer experience, etc. in your plan. While they aren’t sales-specific, they involve sales and may also drive a larger theme (see next point).
- Develop a theme: Get your sales team to rally behind sales goals by supporting them with a theme. A theme is an overarching focus or message for a specific time period, often a year. Themes can be internally or externally-facing, such as an internal strategic initiative or outwardly promoting a new product or service. Tie your annual theme into sales initiatives, news, sales meetings, and more.
- Include others: Sales leadership isn’t the only group that should be involved in the annual sales plan. To ensure your plan is robust and achievable, get other groups involved. Marketing and the sales team should be involved; marketing to ensure their plan is in line with sales’ needs, and the sales team to ensure adoption and execution of the plan. Depending on your company, other departments may be helpful to include.
Do you need help building your annual sales plan? Contact Sales Result for a complimentary consultation with one of our experts, to discuss your goals and get tips for how to get started planning your most productive year ever.