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  • John Lee, Sales Xceleration

Sales Team Planning: Top 10 Action Items to Help You Hit the Ground Running

Whether it’s a new calendar year, a new fiscal year, a new sales cycle, or simply time for a fresh look at how your sales team functions, a sales team plan is essential. After all, as Benjamin Franklin said, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!”

Common sense, right? But what are the most important planning activities for your sales team? Which ones can help you make the greatest gains in productivity and put your team on the path for greater success? Consider these top 10 sales team planning action items:

1. Adjust Your Plans Based on Recent History

History is often the best predictor of future success (or failure). And the most reliable historical indicators are recent ones. Therefore, analyze your activities and results from the prior year. It will be easier to keep successes, failures and challenges in perspective since you are not far removed from them. What’s more, making incremental adjustments in your sales team planning is easier from one cycle to the next.

2. Complete a Detailed Business Plan

Again, remember what Franklin said, and act accordingly. Set your goals for the forthcoming sales period (making sure they are SMART goals – Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, and Timely). And don’t forget the importance of communicating these goals and gaining sales team member buy-in.

3. Refine Your Buyer’s Process

Always look for ways to make it easier for your customers to buy from you. While this isn’t only a year-end/year-beginning activity, this is a good time for renewed focus on the importance of understanding and aligning your sales processes with your buyers’ processes.

4. Be Strategic About Trade Shows and Conferences

Don’t just continue attending industry trade shows and conferences because you always have. Don’t keep attending them because you believe you’ll be conspicuous by your absence. And don’t just continue participating based on dim hopes that what hasn’t worked in recent years will suddenly startworking.

Instead, analyze your ROI. Make sure you are spending your trade show dollars wisely. And if you do make the investment to attend, don’t merely show up and collect business cards at your booth. Instead, be proactive. Make appointments in advance with key attendees. Take advantage of the fact that important industry movers and shakers will be there in one venue. That will save you time and travel expense later, as well as guarantee a positive ROI before you have even arrived!

5. Refine Your Sales Compensation Plan

Determine what new behaviors and results you want to encourage and incent in your upcoming sales compensation plan. Every new sales cycle typically brings new areas of focus; this means that goals important in the last sales year don’t necessarily carry the same weight in the new cycle.

6. Fill Knowledge Gaps

As you prepare for and begin your new sales period, identify gaps and training needs in your sales team’s knowledge. Provide training early so your team can benefit throughout the coming year.

7. Upgrade Your Team

If key skills and knowledge are lacking to the point that additional training can’t reasonably fill the voids, consider if you need to add specialists to your team. The new sales year is typically a good time to compare your team’s capabilities against what will be required of them to meet your sales goals. If your current team isn’t the right team overall, consider making necessary personnel changes.

8. Clean Up Your CRM

A new sales year with new goals and initiatives invariably means your CRM needs tweaking. Be sure to update key account information so you are using accurate and actionable data in the new sales cycle. If you find your CRM is cluttered with unused and unnecessary data fields, consider deleting what will only get in the way of meaningful data.

9. Focus on Leading Indicators

As we note in this article, it is better to focus on leading indicators rather than lagging ones. Shift your focus to leading indicators so you can make the necessary changes before it is too late. Focusing on activity that indicates future results is always much better than looking at results that can’t be changed.

10. Improve Your Pipeline Control

Simply put, strive to recognize and spend less time on people or deals that show little promise of going anywhere. As I note in my book, Beyond the Mountaintop: Observations on Selling, Living and Achieving, “no” is the second-best answer; getting to “yes” is important but getting to “no” more efficiently frees your sales team to win sales with fewer obstacles and in less time.

Bottom Line:

Even if certain sales team planning initiatives seem like common sense, they still require drive and commitment. You must prioritize sales team plan actions and follow through. It also helps to begin your planning cycle well in advance of the end of the current cycle; even if you strive to finish the sales year strong, planning can help you start well and carry forward that momentum.

Effective sales team planning, of course, begins with having skilled sales management resources in place. Oftentimes, however, your internal sales leadership team is too close to the sales processes to have the necessary perspective to implement wise changes from one cycle to the next. At Sales Xceleration, our nationwide team of licensed outsourced sales consultants can help your business identify and implement sales team planning initiatives designed to yield superior sales results. To find your nearest Sales Xceleration Advisor, click here, or contact us at 844.874.7253.

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