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By Chris Strandin November 29, 2017

5 Avoidable 2018 Sales Planning Mistakes

With under 5 weeks until EOY, it’s safe to say you’re insanely busy. Scrambling to close deals, worried about making the target by New Year’s Eve, and in the heat of it all, you need to make a sales plan. As you prepare your roadmap for 2018, make sure to avoid the following five blunders. 

1. Misalignment Between Stakeholders

Sales leaders have their own goals for 2018, and they also work with many stakeholders who have their own plans for the year ahead. While the revenue, booking, or other target may be given to the sales leader, alignment issues can arise as sales, marketing, operations, and leadership all go in different directions. 

Be sure to carve out time to understand each of these stakeholders’ priorities. While sales will be blamed for not meeting sales targets, these critical groups will impact your success and may inadvertently undercut your efforts if the right conversations are not taking place early on.

2. Lack of Lead Qualification 

How much time did your sales reps waste last year chasing prospects that didn’t fit the profile of a good customer? Sales people will hunt the leads they are given, so your plan needs to include clear definitions of the type of leads you need and how they will be delivered to the sales team, be it by Marketing, Business Development, or another outside party.

The below illustration shows two funnels filled with three types of opportunities colored by their level of qualification. 

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 Red  = unqualified opportunity
 Yellow  = somewhat qualified opportunity 
 Green  = qualified opportunity

What we see here is that even though the funnel on the left has more deals in it, they are bad deals that won’t close. Working fewer, higher-quality opportunities will result in better results because sales’ effort is not wasted, and the most time can be spent on high-probability deals. Your sales plan needs to include how highly-qualified leads will get into the hands of your sales reps, and the definition of what a green lead looks like, as well as a yellow and a red.

3. Weak Sales Process

Too often companies start growing with a weak sales process that doesn’t suit their goals or match the buyer journey. This hinders internal communications and forecasting because each rep is following a different process, and no reliable data can be analyzed. In 2018, you may want to consider implementing a new process or refining your existing one to tighten up how reps are working prospects through to a close.

Once the sales process is defined and followed, the sales organization will be empowered to find bottlenecks and areas for continued improvement to the process. Your plan should include what sales process developments and training are needed, and the metrics that should be used to effectively track the health of your sales organization.


4. Inadequate Training

Improving conversions across each stage of the sales funnel can be done as a function of practice and training. While great resources, handing a new rep a copy of your favorite sales book is not sufficient to train them how to sell your product. Equally inadequate, the attitude that “they’ll figure it out” or “they can just read the product guides” will not produce the caliber of sales reps needed in an acceptable time frame.

Without in-depth sales training that teaches reps how to talk to different types of buyers and influencers, position against competitors, handle objections confidently, convey a powerful value message, and confidently ask for the sale, any sales target is at risk. Make sure that training and certification are included your 2018 sales plan. 


5. Limited Tracking & Visibility

With great data, confidence in a sales plan can move from estimation to math. Known activity metrics, close ratios between funnel stages, and lead volume expectations allow sales leaders to define what activities need to be done to meet their goals, and in what time frames.

Any 2018 sales plan should leverage a CRM system to ensure visibility and transparency throughout the year. Used properly, CRM will identify where reps are struggling, what is working well in the department, and forecast future results. Effective implementation and utilization of a CRM is one of the best ways to manage today’s sales team.


As 2017 wraps up and the plan for 2018 becomes a focus, be sure to take a step back and take a holistic approach to your sales plan. Failure will find organizations that have made these solvable sales planning mistakes.

There are many online and in-person resources that can give guidance and perspective to ensure organizations establish the framework to win in 2018. Sales Result is one of them – if you need assistance in your sales planning efforts, get started with a free 30-minute consultation.

Topics: Sales Process, Sales Success, Sales Strategy, Sales Planning, Sales Funnel

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