At this time of year everyone is planning for the New Year. It’s a very important process, but can be difficult to get right.
Often, planning cycles coincide with the pressure of meeting end of year targets which can also cloud judgment. What makes it so hard is that the process is mired in contradiction. Every person in the sales team will have a different perspective, as experiences and results in the last year will impact on their point of view.
Get the plan wrong and it will silently fade into the background, with tactics overtaking the long term strategy. Without strategy you rely on individual execution and that increases risk massively. The reason we plan is to plot the future and reduce risk.
The Following 5 Steps will help you focus to create the desired future state in your Sales Organization.
Step 1: Define your Vision.
Powerfully communicate your broad Strategic goals and provide purpose for the team. Does it pass the ‘So What’ test? Will this Vision connect with the core sales rep that probably did not hit target and provide the required motivation and confidence that things will be better next year?
Confidence is a huge factor for the Sales team to enable them to decline unreasonable requests and instead focus on the right opportunities, not just the easy ones.
Step 2: Define the Key Metrics.
The Sales Profession is the only role where often people are judged, ranked and paid based on few Key Metrics such as New Revenue and Retained revenue (particularly in the subscription economy). Make sure Sales Leadership define and communicate the numbers that matter to the whole company and why. Leading indicators are important to follow in the early months of the new year and help build momentum for the year to come. For example, is the pipeline increasing with the right deals with the high margin products in the target Accounts?
With a handful of clear goals, focus is achievable and sends a message to the whole Team what areas of performance will be measured and valued
Step 3: Business Rules
A business rule is a rule that defines or constrains some aspect of business. Business rules are intended to assert business structure or to control or influence the behavior of the business.
Salespeople have to be creative, find the unknown and help the customer push through the “do nothing” barrier. Quite often this means breaking the rules and making new ones up. Therefore, the need to define what you want your sales organization to do is vital.
Clear direction of how and why you want be people to work will ensure effort is applied to the the tasks that the sales leadership believe ( based on the analysis of previous years) will result in success.
Step 4: Behaviors
Sales Transformation is not easy. In order to change behaviors, the attitude of the individual must be moved. Very often this is refereed to as winning both hearts and minds. The most powerful force for changing attitudes is the observed behaviors of others around you.
Therefore, a critical component to improving the way of working in your ‘Plan for the New Year’ is role modelling. For the various roles in your sales structure you need to have a clear set of guiding principles that you want your team to STOP, START and CONTINUE. These “good” behaviors then become habits and demonstrate how your sales team should work.
A strong team identity provides direction, confidence and a moral compass for what is right and wrong and will move the whole team forward in the right direction, toward the stated goals.
Step 5: Governance
In order to know if you are on target to hit the hard and soft goals you have defined, you need to plan and publish a schedule of checkpoints. The act of writing a clear governance plan will flush out inconsistency in your plan, highlight any people who will not be held accountable or business rules that will not be practical or measurable. Managers can then measure and manage to the plan and provide feedback to improve the plan throughout the year.
When followed these 5 steps will help you build a plan that is realistic, achievable and operational to help you and your team raise the sales bar when the New Year arrives.