As we head into the fall months, it’s time to start thinking about next year’s business plan. Since your ability to provide valuable services depends on your ability to bring in profitable business, it stands to reason that the marketing and sales section of your business plan is critical.
The best sales plans begin with the end in mind. This simply means that you start your sales journey by establishing where you want to be at the end of the year and setting milestones to be reached along the way. Your marketing and sales activities will provide the foundation you need to move from the planning to the realization stage.
Writing down your plan—as opposed to just kicking it around in your head—makes it more real and actionable. Moreover, it allows everyone on your team to see the big picture, embrace the same goals and row in the same direction. Most sales plans will identify the following:
- Specific revenue and performance goals for a given period
- Strategies and tactics to achieve your goals
- Resources and activities required to carry out those strategies and tactics
Once you’ve identified these overarching goals, you can begin mapping out how you’ll reach them. Work through these 10 steps to develop your sales plan:
- Set realistic sales goals. Set your sales goals based on your organization’s financial plan and budget. While everyone admires ambitious goals, it’s important to also keep them realistic and, therefore, attainable. Setting incremental sales goals will help keep you on track. You may want to break down your sales goals in the following way:
- Type of revenue (e.g., one time or monthly recurring)
- Revenue by month
- Revenue by quarter
- Develop sales strategy. Your plan should identify where your sales growth should come from and the tactics and strategies you’ll use to get there. For instance, how many new clients do you want to bring in? Do you want to sell more products and services to existing clients; if so, how will you do this? For instance, you might try converting more project-based or “time and materials” (T&M) clients to managed services.
- Analyze your revenue sources. Are there current revenue sources that can send you more business? Most likely there are. Identify and target those customers with whom you can expand or upsell your services—what’s sometimes referred to as “who else and what else” can you sell. Especially if you’ve done periodic business reviews with your client base, you should have some idea about which clients need more services and which are receptive to doing more business with you. Some specific considerations for getting more business from existing clients include:
- Have you converted block hour or T&M clients to monthly recurring revenue?
- Have you upsold cybersecurity services?
- Are there opportunities with out-of-warranty equipment?
- Are there opportunities with clients adding employees?
- Build an opportunity pipeline 3x-5x your revenue goal. As every good salesperson knows, deals don’t always happen on your timeline; they happen on the client’s timeline. And good prospects may suddenly go cold through no fault of your own. Knowing that not all will come to fruition, it’s essential to have many more prospects in the pipeline than you need to meet your revenue goal. Make sure you aren’t counting on one or two large deals! Having an active and qualified prospect list and dedicating time to prospecting is the only way to ensure long-term growth. As you build your pipeline, stay focused on your ideal new client criteria. Define what a good client looks like for your business and continue to prioritize those prospects.
- Focus on activities that drive desired results. Identify the activities you need to do to meet your sales goals. This may include opportunities to upsell existing clients in addition to bringing in new ones. Consider these questions:
- How many meetings do I need?
- How many business reviews or assessments should I perform?
- How many proposals do I need to make?
- How many opportunities do I need to land?
- Commit to a consistent sales cadence. Prospecting should be an ongoing activity, not something you randomly turn on and off. Be sure to consider not only what activities you’ll do to build your pipeline but with what frequency (e.g., daily, weekly, monthly). Then, build these activities into your schedule. Embrace the mindset that prospecting is a must-do activity, not an optional one.
- Manage your time effectively. Managing your time effectively is key to prospecting effectively and bringing in sales. Integrate your marketing and sales activities into your weekly and monthly calendar. Block out dedicated time on your calendar for different activities and even color code them. This allows you to see at a glance how much time you’re dedicating to lead generation, meeting with prospects, presenting proposals and so on. And don’t just plan to do these things, work your plan.
- Share your sales plan across your organization. Sharing your plan increases accountability, helping to ensure that you and your team members focus on the activities that will enable you to achieve your sales goals. In the words of Stephen Covey, “Accountability breeds response-ability.” Sharing your plan and the roadmap to get there also gives employees a better sense of how their work fits into the larger picture.
- Execute the plan. Planning alone is a worthy pursuit but planning without executing amounts to running in place. Now that you have a roadmap to achieve your goals, continually consult it to guide your activities and help you stay on track.
- Adjust accordingly. Although execution is everything, you’ll inevitably need to make adjustments as you go along. Situations will change, your prospects might change, and their businesses might change. Review your plan on a monthly and quarterly basis to recalibrate for these things—always keeping your sales goals in view. Consider these questions as you reflect on your plan:
- What’s going well?
- Where is improvement needed?
- Is my pipeline adequate to achieve my goals?
- Do I need more training or skills refinement?
- Am I doing enough of the right things?
Once you’ve established your sales goals and how you plan to achieve them, your likelihood of success increases. Everyone understands what you’re trying to do and what their role is in implementing the plan. And the plan itself becomes a tool for guiding your business to profitable growth. Keep in mind that although the planning process is valuable on its own, implementation is essential to translate the plan to the balance sheet.
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