HARDISON’S TIPS – SEPTEMBER 29, 2021 – Your Strategic Sales Plan is Perfect. Now, Change It.
It’s been said that the only constant in life is change. Certainly this is true in business and sales, too. It follows, then, that the conditions that led you to develop the perfect sales strategy and business plan last year, last month, last week, have since changed. Because change is constant, your plan is almost instantly less effective than it could be. Does that mean that having a strategic sales plan is futile? Not at all. In fact, a well-crafted sales and business plan is essential. The mistake many sales managers make is in seeing the plan as static and semi-permanent. Rather, the Sales Manager should view it as a foundation for the evolutionary changes necessary to keep sales strategy, sales processes, and the sales team on top of their game and ahead of the competition.
Let’s take a closer look at how to keep your strategic sales plan both current and competitive with ever-changing market forces:
Failing to Plan…
Winston Churchill is credited with saying, “He who fails to plan is planning to fail.” More than a century earlier, Benjamin Franklin said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” Modern-day motivational speakers, business leaders and coaches have since adopted or adapted this theme as well. So it is not uncommon for sales leaders to know they need a sales plan, to draft one, and breathe a sigh of relief when it is done. But as we noted, change is constant, so perhaps we need to add a new idiom to the modern sales lexicon: “Failing to update your plan is planning to fail.”
Perhaps the most important reason to have a solid – but easily adaptable – sales plan in place is this: you won’t know how to properly adjust your sales process due to new market conditions if your sales strategy is not clearly defined and understood as a baseline. How would you adjust your sales process if your sales process is never defined and changes with every sales opportunity? In other words, if you want to change the rules, you have to have rules in the first place.
Monitor, Measure and Manage
Consider the football coach: he stands on the sideline not as a casual observer watching the plan he developed prior to the game simply play out. No, he is constantly monitoring the changes that are happening in real time. A key player gets injured; so the coach sends in a substitute. The opposing team changes their defense; so the coach switches up his offensive scheme. The team is behind and the clock is winding down; so the coach strategically uses time-outs, clock-stopping sideline passes and an on-side kick to try to shift factors – and the scoreboard – in his favor.
The football coach knows he must change strategy during the game, not after. It’s the same scenario for the wise Sales Manager, who must constantly keep tabs on what the competition is doing, analyze how the “playing” conditions in the market are evolving (or sometimes changing rapidly), and change plays and players to better position the company for continuing success. The longer your sales cycle, the more important it is to be nimble and make changes quickly. If you operate within a 9 to 12 month sales cycle, your changes won’t be fully realized until next year . . . and next year is too late for this year’s quota.
So, when establishing your strategic sales plan, make sure it is specific and measurable. Using a detailed and comprehensive sales plan as a baseline, you can make targeted adjustments to quickly respond to changing conditions.
These conditions and corresponding measures might show up as tracked metrics in your CRM system. They might become known by monitoring industry news or competitive intelligence. Or they might be reported by the salesperson from firsthand observation or direct client contact. (As we noted in a previous article, sales leaders should periodically talk with their customers directly and not always rely on secondhand reporting from the salesperson.)
Once you know the current marketing conditions (and again, this knowledge gathering should be a dynamic, never-finished state in your organization), you can manage the changes necessary. Knowing the prevalent conditions is not enough. Successful sales management and market leadership happens when the sales strategy and related sales processes are effectively adapted and deployed in the field. To test certain changes to make sure they would be effective for your company, you could choose to beta test them with one salesperson in one territory. If successful there, you can roll them out companywide.