Whether you’re setting your sales goals or in the thick of delivering on them, here are three steps you can take to ensure sales success this year.  

1. Plan to Succeed

Spend more time planning to succeed. We all have very long to-do lists and we tend to just ‘go do’. If we spent more time planning we would be more successful. In order to build a strong sales plan, you must start with a strong strategic plan. Many startups and growing businesses do not have a formal strategic plan but do have the basics captured in a way that they can be shared. Consider taking time out to develop a strategic plan if you don’t have one. I recommend business leaders update their strategic plan every year before building their sales plan.  

There are many great programs out there to help you build or update a strategic plan. A favorite of mine is OnStrategy—it’s easy to use and walks you through the process of online training. It’s a robust planning process and may be more than your company needs so I have two others I recommend for startups and fast growth companies, the strategic plan from Simple Success Plans and The One Page Business Plan 

With all three programs, you end up with a one-page format that makes it easy to review throughout the year and have easy access to updates.  

If you need an expert strategic planner who also understands sales strategy, my partner, Liz Heiman can help you.  

I update my plan every year and it is worth the time it takes. I do it with my team and it helps us all get focused on where we are going next. I urge you to do the same.  

My biggest tip is to agree on the sales goal with your team so you can build a solid plan that takes the company the direction you want to grow.

2. Create a Realistic Sales Plan

So many times, I see companies with unrealistic sales goals and no idea of how to hit them, only that they want to hit them.  

Some companies apply percentages to last year’s revenue number to come up with the expected growth. This is based on what investors and stakeholders want. Unfortunately, this method is like picking numbers out of thin air. Typically, there is little research behind this and no understanding about what is possible in the marketplace, with the people, resources, and dollars available. Further, revenue is not the only measure of sales, profitability should be considered. Sometimes a small growth in revenue with better margins that lead to higher profit is a better plan.  

Some companies are looking for a percentage of the market. I’ve heard things like this, “It’s a $6 billion market, we just want 1 percent of that.” Sounds reasonable, right? 

To get sales growth without imploding your company, you need a solid plan, and the plan needs to start with realistic goals. Instead of deciding that you need 15 percent growth because that’s what the company leaders or investors expect, go to the sales team and figure out their capacity. Then decide what people and resources are needed to go beyond that capacity and what will that cost. Increasing sales may mean increasing headcount. It also might mean decreasing headcount and redistributing large accounts to get better growth from existing customers. Sales growth needs to come from retention of existing customers, the growth of existing customers and new business. 

Four questions to ask: 

1. With the current sales team and process, how much of an increase is realistic? 

2. With improved processes what is possible? 

3. What resources will be needed to get the increase desired? 

4. Can we generate enough leads to fill the pipeline full enough to hit the number? 

Once you have a strategic plan in place, you can create a plan specifically for your sales growth that describes exactly how and what resources will be needed. Once you have a realistic goal and understand the resources needed you are on your way.  

A critical factor in hitting sales goals is lead generation. Most companies don’t generate enough leads between sales and marketing to hit their number. It is a serious problem that causes a tremendous amount of stress. Your sales plan needs to specifically address how you will generate enough qualified leads to hit the number you set.  

For a deeper dive on how to set realistic numbers, check out this blog post. 

3. Share Your Plan

Once you have a plan, you must share it with your team, so every person understands the vision and the role they play in the success of the company. I recommend sharing at least parts of the strategic plan with your employees, but there are key areas that need to be shared.  

The sales plan needs to be shared with sales, marketing, customer support, delivery and any other departments that have an impact on that number. It’s best if the entire company knows the sales goal and is onboard to make that number.  

When a sales team fails, everyone fails, so why not have a culture where everyone supports sales giving them a higher chance of success. Way too often, missing the number is blamed on the sales team. The entire company should be concerned about whether the sales team hits the number and they should know the role they play in that. Ultimately, you as the company leader are responsible for that plan being successful.  

It’s important to regularly revisit your strategic plan and sales plan. Once a month might be too often, quarterly is usually right for most companies — waiting six months is too long. The review allows you to celebrate success and determine what is working so you can do more of that. It also allows you to see where you are failing and make changes while there’s still time. 

We tend to measure sales with lagging indicators. We set a plan to hit a number and at the end of the quarter, we know whether we hit the number or not. Planning allows you to fill your pipeline with enough leads so that you have more than enough to hit your number. You know at the beginning of the quarter rather than waiting until the end.  

Start Planning Now! 

I know you don’t have time to plan. Too many things are piling up on your desk. Too many people are waiting. There are lots of fires to put out. You can stay focused on all of that and stress over hitting your number or you can make the time to plan and ensure success by scheduling a free 30-minute session with us! 

About the Author Alice Heiman

Alice Heiman has been helping companies increase sales for more than 20 years. Her innovative sales leadership programs, coupled with her top-down approach to creating long-term change, set up sales leaders and sales-managing business owners to get consistent and sustainable growth.

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