How Sales Management Planning Can Make or Break Your Success
In the fast-paced world of sales management, it’s sometimes easy to get wrapped up in the ‘doing’ instead of the ‘planning’.
There are so many aspects to your high-pressure sales manager role – hiring, planning, strategizing, reporting and of course, coaching and mentoring.
While some of these aspects may seem less important than others, you’ll quickly find that succeeding in sales management requires equal attention to each and every aspect. Take planning, for instance.
What is planning in sales management?
Sales planning is the bridge between your corporate-level business strategy and how you’ll execute it on the ground. As a sales manager, it’s your job to write and then oversee the execution of this plan.
Your sales plan guides your business growth and enables you to hit your sales targets. It also provides your sales team with the best chance of success.
To build a sales plan you need to ask yourself the following questions:
- What are my business objectives?
- Who are my current customers?
- Who would I like to attract as customers?
- How have we performed in the past?
- How is my team structured?
- What obstacles might I encounter on the way to meeting my goals?
- What factors can impact my sales?
- What resources do I have available?
Let’s explore the act of planning in general, by stepping out of the sales arena and into what we’ll call ‘the real world’.
What does sales planning look like in the real world?
Sales planning in the real world relies on a set of goals and how you’ll attain them.
Your aim will determine the details of said plan, but the process will remain the same.
Say you’re a sales manager who likes unwinding on weekends by camping in nature. If the purpose of your trip is to relax, then you’ll aim to make your trip as stress-free as possible (after all, science will tell you that relaxation and stress cannot coexist).
So, what will you do to circumvent potential camping stress?
Why? Because you want to enjoy yourself, and because, in the words of Krauthammer consultant Szymon Rompczyk,
“Planning helps you enjoy what you do.”
You’ve already determined your goal: to have a stress-free camping trip that helps you unwind.
The things you factor into your plan might include:
- Do you plan to stay at a regional campsite?
- Does it cost money?
- Are you required to book in advance?
- How will you get there?
If the weather forecast calls for high temperatures you’ll pack sunscreen and plenty of water. If rain is predicted, you’ll plan differently.
If you’re wise, you’ll plan for sun and rain.
JUST IN CASE.
Who’s joining you? Do you all have the same camping style? If Jessica is used to glamping but Dylan expects to rough it, then you’ll need to manage expectations among the group.
We know about Jessica and Dylan’s sleeping preferences, but what about dietary requirements? Will you have access to a shop or canteen or should you stock up before you leave?
You need to account for unexpected illness and potential injury, so you’ll pack a first aid kit with essentials like:
- Alcohol wipes
- A tick kit
Different locations come with different obstacles.
What if you’re camping in bear country?
You’ll need to research the safest ways to store food overnight and be prepared to make yourself heard while hiking by packing pots and pans to bang together.
You might encounter nothing more than bear tracks, but the point is, you want to be prepared.
JUST IN CASE.
Why is planning so important?
Planning is a crucial tool – whether you’re going on a camping trip or managing a sales team.
Simply put, it’s the perfect setup for success.
You’ve probably heard the old adage: Success is 90% preparation and 10% perspiration.
One of our favorite phrases at Krauthammer is Abraham Lincoln’s:
“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”
Both quotes are a good reminder of just how critical the planning stage is.
With the average manager spending three hours per day handling unforeseen interruptions and problems, we can only imagine how many more hours would be unnecessarily wasted without proper planning.
Planning in sales management:
- Sets a benchmark of where you want to go
- Helps you predict potential obstacles and allows you to problem-solve ahead of time
- Maps out an efficient route for how to get there (with backup routes in case of unexpected problems)
- Helps you take care of the nitty-gritty in the initial stages so you can focus on the big picture
Without proper planning, whatever it is you’re doing can quickly become a disaster.
Failing to plan adequately for your camping trip could result in:
- a fully booked campsite
- a trip that gets rained out
- running out of food before your trip is over and needing to drive an hour to the nearest town to go shopping,
- and in the very worst case, getting eaten by a bear!
You won’t encounter any bears in your job as a sales manager, but we suspect the thought of low revenue and unmet goals is an equally frightening outcome.
Failure to plan is failure to excel.
And if you’re like most sales managers out there, striving for excellence is what drives you in your job.
What’s the difference between strategic planning and operational planning?
There are two types of planning required in sales management: strategic planning and operational planning.
These are technically two separate plans, but it’s better to look at them as two branches of the same tree. Because while they’re different, they’re closely connected – and both necessary.
In a nutshell, strategy is long-term, and operational is short-term.
To execute a plan, you need a strategy. You may know where you want to go, but it’s your strategy that will determine if you get there or not.
Strategic planning is:
- The big picture plan you make in the weeks leading up to the camping trip
- For example: how you’ll deal with bears if you happen to encounter them
Operational planning is:
- how you deal with obstacles in the moment
- For example: what you do when you run into a bear
While strategic planning is more steadfast, operational planning must be flexible. Because how to act and what you do can change from moment to moment depending on what you’re facing.
Maybe the strategic plan was to bang pots and pans together.
But if you encounter a bear on your way to the outhouse, pot-less and unprepared, you’re going to have to clap your hands, wave your arms in the air, and make yourself as big as possible.
Never underestimate the power of adaptability!
But what if it’s not you who encounters the bear? What if it’s Dylan?
This brings us to the most crucial element of sales planning – and the three key ingredients to your success as a sales manager.
What are the three key ingredients to sales management planning success?
So, there’s Dylan. Groggy, unaware, and finding himself face to face with a hungry bear. We hope, for Dylan’s sake, he’s privy to the plan.
Let’s assume that you communicated the plan to Dylan beforehand by saying something like:
“So, the area we’re camping in is known for its wildlife. I’ve got a plan for how to store our food safely in case any bears start sniffing around. I’m also bringing pots and pans to bash together, but it might be a good idea to brainstorm other ways to scare them off, just in case.”
JUST. IN. CASE.
It’s crucial to communicate both your strategic and operational plans to your sales team. When they know the long-term, big picture strategy, it makes it easier for them to understand the how and why of the operational plan – and to then, put it into action.
But let’s take one step back.
First, you must communicate the goal: To have a stress-free camping trip that helps you unwind.
Do Dylan and Jessica understand what stress-free means to you? Are they okay with a low-key trip and not one filled with action and adrenalin?
When your team understands and is fully on board with the plan, they become fully aligned.
Or, if you’re Dylan, fully alive!
We’ve established that it’s your job as a sales manager to set and then communicate the goal.
But how you get there is something you need to delegate.
Sure, you could plan the whole camping excursion yourself. But how do you think your friends will feel? After all, it’s their trip too.
You know where you’re all going to end up. Let them have a say in which route to take. You may have ideas for how to improve their plan and be required to challenge it from time to time, but for the camping trip to be a success, you need buy-in from Jessica and Dylan.
So make them feel a part of the process.
Operational planning may require more flexibility, but don’t be fooled into thinking that strategic planning is a ‘one and done’ kind of deal.
Think of your sales plan as an ongoing entity that lives on from year to year, and like other living things, grows and changes.
Would the same plan for camping work year after year? Of course not.
- The weather might be different from one summer to the next
- You may go with different friends who have different needs and expectations
- The rules of the campsite might change
- Your interests may evolve – maybe you’ve taken up fishing and now prefer it to hiking
- As climate change increases the chance of forest fires and makes camping less sustainable, you may need to explore different ways to relax altogether
The point is, you need to be ready for changes. Big changes.
That’s why Krauthammer training programs focus on changing your behavior. Because no matter what skills you have in your toolbelt, the best way to equip yourself for a constantly evolving industry is to have the ability to change yourself.