It’s difficult to figure out where we are going until we first understand where we’ve been.
Happy New Year. I hope you all had a happy and relaxing holiday season. Ok. Good. Now, let’s get back to work.
Last week’s post asked two simple questions:
- Have you written a formal sales plan for 2015?
- What information do you include in your annual sales plan?
I received two replies. The first said “No.” The second contained a pretty good sales plan. I am not sure what to conclude from this, but it seems many of you either don’t write a formal sales plan or you don’t feel like sharing it. I’m ok either way. After all, it’s up to you how you run your business. I am just trying to prod you to think about it.
If you are like most successful sales people, you navigate your year by gut instinct. I am not saying that is necessarily a bad thing. Apparently, it’s been working just fine for you so far. You may even find the idea of writing a sales plan to boring, intimidating, or even useless since things rarely go according to plan.
I am sure there is some truth to all of those feelings. However, I think the main problem is that most people don’t understand why to plan and how to do it painlessly. I’d like us to think about this and develop a method of planning that is so informative and painless, we not only do one each year, we do one each month or even each week.
Well, that’s not entirely accurate. I’m not sure about you, but I sure don’t want to rewrite an entirely new plan each week (or month for that matter). Instead, what I suggest is that you simply review your plan on a regular basis and update it when necessary.
This sales plan is not a homework assignment you hand in to make your boss happy. Instead, I hope you will think of your sales plan as a treasure map. However, the landscape in this map is forever shifting. Most of the time, it shifts slightly, but other times it shifts massively. If you are not comparing where you actually are to where you thought you would be, you may find yourself way off course in a relatively short period of time. Worse still, the old paths you used to take will require too much work or may even no longer get you to your goal. If you want to quickly find your way back to the treasure, you need to actively think about what you are observing and update your map (i.e. your plan) based on your experience.
Another good reason to create and regularly review a sales plan is to make sure you do not overlook new tactics, lead sources, and revenue opportunities that you can use to expand your business.
So let’s get down to business. Before we start, I just want to make a few suggestions about the structure of your plan. Ideally, your plan should fit on one page, so it will be easy to review. Keep it somewhere you can see it, and if possible store it digitally (e.g. Google Docs, Evernote, Office 360, etc.) so you can access it from your phone, tablet, or computer. We don’t want there to be any excuse for why you cannot do your regular review.
Look at the deals you signed in the past month, quarter, and year. If you don’t have many signed deals, look instead at the most promising prospects in your pipeline. We are looking for patterns and potential emerging trends.
- Why did they decide to buy from / engage with you? If you are not 100% sure, you should ask them. Don’t accept a superficial answer. Try to really figure all the factors that led them to buy from you. It may have been a combination of factors such as time pressure, price, track record, and good chemistry.
- Think about the deals you lost. Why did they decide to buy from / engage with your competitor? If you are not 100% sure, you should ask them.
- Did you find the prospect or did they find you? It is important to know if you can close business that you find or whether you are only succeeding with people who are seeking out your service.
- How did you find them or they find you? For example, did they find you on the web, respond to an ad, come through a referral, or did you read about them in an article an cold called them?
- How many prospects did you engage?
- How many deals did you sign?
- How big were those deals? Largest? Smallest? Average?
- What if anything do your deals (or best prospects) have in common?
Think about where do you want to be at the end of the year, and what you need to do to get there. Often, just asking a question will prompt your mind to find answers that had not previously occurred to you.
- How much do you want to earn this year?
- How much revenue must you generate in order to earn that amount?
- How many deals and of what size?
- How many qualified prospects do you need to engage to close that many deals?
- How many leads do you need to engage to find that many qualified prospects?
- How many inbound leads must come to you?
- How will you generate those inbound leads? Be specific, which activities will you do? How often will you do them? Do you require outside resources? When do you need them? How will you ensure they will assist?
- How many outbound leads must you generate?
- How will you generate those outbound leads? Again, be specific, which activities will you do? How often will you do them? Do you require outside resources? When do you need them? How will you ensure they will assist?
- How can you convert more qualified prospects into customers?
- What can you do to address / fix the reasons people are not buying from you?
- Can you grow the total number of deals? If so, how?
- Can you grow the average size of your deals? If so, how?
Again, this is not a homework assignment. It is a constantly shifting treasure map. We need to get leverage on ourselves to make sure we are staying on track.
- How often will you revisit this plan to make sure you are on track?
- How can you hold yourself accountable to this plan?
This looks like a lot of work, but it should take less than an hour to fill it out the first time. If you find yourself resisting this work, then ask yourself why. Finding out why you are unwilling to invest hour in thinking about how to improve your business may tell you more about what you need to succeed than a sales plan ever could…
Are you onboard with this? If so, take the first step. Answer these questions and let’s discuss them at this week’s meeting. This is just the start of a process that will evolve and improve as we put it into practice.
I’d also like to discuss whether you all would find some benefit to checking in with each other regarding our individual progress.