This year is almost over, and there’s little you can do to save this year’s numbers. And maybe you shouldn’t, either. The winter holidays are the time of rest and relax after a demanding business year, but they are also a time of contemplation and planning for the year to come. Take it easy, and get ready to get better.
The sales industry is not a simple area to cover and navigate, plus it’s heavily influenced by outside factors such as the world economy, customer behavior, competitive forces etc… That being said, not all of it is out of our control. And one of the best ways to get a grip on the way your business will do next year is to come up with an easy and to-the-point sales plan that will outline the main directions. It will serve as a signpost for you and your sales team, that will help you prioritize and set up daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly goals.
The ultimate goal is: defining your goals and tactics for meeting — and preferably exceeding — your department’s or company’s targets. So let’s get to it.
Always start with sober budgeting. It’s the most boring part of the job, but the most important one as well. You can’t start dreaming big without knowing how bottomless your company’s pockets are, first.
Revising the old and composing a new budget consists of:
- Mapping the available resources (including improvements or deteriorations overtime)
- Prioritizing items based on performance and acquisition
- Resource allocation for inbound marketing development
Always make sure that you have sufficient money and people to reach the goals you’ll be ultimately aiming for. That way you’ll avoid putting your team under an insane amount of pressure, coming from the frustration of chasing impossible goals.
Next step: review who you’re selling to, go through the collected data from last year and create, adjust or refresh the customer personas you’ve been working with until now. Whom have you sold to the most? What’s the demographic information of the customer groups? What did they come for, and what did they get? What was their path through the sales process like?
It could happen that the target demographics of your customer groups have changed from your plans and expectations last year, or when you initially made your first business plan. That’s okay — the market is a flexible entity, but so are you. Keep track and adjust to the development, and you’ll be fine.
Look at the way your company has been doing marketing and advertising until now, review the data and think of ways to improve the performance (or keep it up, if it’s that good). Then proceed to define your new approach – the channels you’ll be using, the content you’ll be offering and the product range you’ll be selling.
It’s very important to a) make sure all your marketing materials (including your website, the way your sales reps communicate with customers, or flyers at the front desk) are up to date with your newly updated plans, and that they’re in absolute alignment throughout the whole company, at every moment of the business year.
You think you know your industry well? Think again. Just like business is an ever-changing and developing entity, the same goes for your industry, no matter which you’re in.
Research all the new developments, new players in the field, and see whether your position in the market in the specific industry has any significant changes since last year. See what your competitors have been up to, and what you can do to either catch up with them, or distinguish yourself from them.
You can make this a part of your customer-base research or a separate step, but for every sales manager it’s important to always be up to date with how the sales process looks. There are specific customers who’ll get specific treatment, based on where they’re coming from and what they’re after. Take your sales team through every step of the process separately to eliminate hold-ups and errors that may cost you.
You’ll have to take off the salesman shoes and put on the customer shoes, identifying all the questions and important milestones. That way, you’ll be able to create the perfect journey that will guide the customer towards the final sale.
Ultimately it doesn’t matter whether you’re planning ahead or putting something together when the year has already begun. Of course, the sooner you get to it, the more time you have to collect results. But even if you start making a business plan halfway through the new year, it’ll still be worth it. Like I always say, a plan is better than no plan.