Updated: Apr 26, 2020
Whether it is simple or detailed, to ensure success you need a plan. Not having a plan is in fact having one to fail. On the flip side, insisting on the “perfect plan” with high-complexity and zero tolerance for adjustments or error is just as bad as not having one at all.
Let’s face it, things never go exactly as planned. The perfect plan doesn’t exist; not in Hollywood and definitely not in the real world of sales. Client programs will be delayed at month end. Signature authorities will be out-of-pocket when documents need to be signed. Rookie sales reps will sell past “the close” and re-open negotiations at the last minute, converting a much needed “close” into an unnecessary “push”.
The reality of sales is that even when performing at your best game, Murphy’s Law will vigorously apply itself to some of the deals in your pipeline, as well as to some of the strategies in your plan. You should be prepared to quickly adjust as needed to deliver results rather than excuses.
Here are seven tips to help you develop and execute a successful sales plan.
1. Have an external Subject Matter Expert (SME) review your plan.
An unbiased, third-party review will often give you a much needed fresh perspective on the realism and practicality of your plan. This is also a good way to get new ideas on how to implement the theory within your plan.
2. Ongoing collaboration with the stakeholders.
Don’t develop your sales plan in a vacuum. The more your organization knows about what the sales team is doing, the better prepared they are to support it. When all stakeholders partake in creating the plan, your opportunities to succeed increase significantly.
3. Keep your plan readily available for review and reference.
Whether in digital or paper format, your team should always have your sales plan at their fingertips. When they can see all the details of the plan – the discounts, product mixes, pricing structures, special offers, product launch dates, up-sell / cross-sell opportunities – so they can better leverage all the initiatives put in place to close more business.
4. Pull the right team together to execute the plan.
Work with executive leadership to make sure you have your “A-Team” ready to execute as you book the deals. Nothing will make a plan fall apart faster than when the rest of the team is unprepared, under-staffed and scrambling to deliver the quality products and reliable services that your sales team is busting-ass to sell.
5. Make it measurable to ensure accountability and results.
Don’t rely on “gut feelings”. Every tactic or goal in your plan should be objectively measurable and reportable for action. Integrated tools like Salesforce, Tableau and others, - when implemented properly and leveraged effectively – make this extremely practical and easy to track.
6. Have alternate strategies and tactics built in.
One thing is certain about the “best laid plans …”. Be prepared and fully expect that adjustments to the plan will need to be made. Be flexible, creative and adjust accordingly. Don’t just focus on what is working, identify what isn’t working and take immediate corrective action. Don’t be afraid to modify your strategy or tactics and take the alternate path to achieve your goal.
7. Remember, there is no such thing as a perfect plan.
See # 6. Don’t spend months on end and countless cycles to generate “the perfect sales plan”. It is a waste of valuable time and effort. No plan is perfect or works forever.
It is incumbent on executives and leaders to collaborate, develop and implement sales plans in a practical and efficient way, so they serve as useful tools to ensure success. So at the end of the month, the quarter and at the end of the year, like Col. John “Hannibal” Smith from The A-Team, you too can say, “I love it when a plan comes together”.