article | May 7, 2013
How to Plan Your Sales Year
I am being asked this question a lot. I work with CEOs, and their sales and marketing leaders. They are an impatient group. “It” refers to the deliverables associated with the sales effectiveness project. Things like head count plans, compensation and quotas, methodologies, etc.
I typically get asked this when a customer buys our Sales Productivity Benchmark. There is something about this offering. When a customer sees it they say, “I want one.”
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My response is often “at what point are you in your sales year?”
I usually hear something like “Q2”, or a month, such as “October.” This is a response from a leader who treats sales improvement programs as an event. This is also an incorrect response. Sales effectiveness is not a one-time event. It is an ongoing, cyclical business improvement process.
I recommend turning one-time sales effectiveness programs into cyclical business processes. There are two ways to do so:
Proactive programs are initiated by a leader to get ahead. They tend to focus on a small number of well choreographed improvement initiatives.
Reactive programs are initiated by external events. For example, a chronic underperformance from the sales team. Or, an attack by a competitor. They are often very large with many improvement initiatives, performed in chaos.
The best sales organizations institutionalize proactive sales effectiveness programs. This gets accomplished by turning sales effectiveness programs into a cyclical business process.
Here is an example of a Proactive Cyclical SFE Program Calendar:
This approach allows for sales improvements year after year. It is standard operating procedure.
In contrast, here is an example of a Reactive Cyclical SFE Program Calendar:
You can see many sales improvements happening at once, in a somewhat chaotic way. External events have a way of forcing us to do things we don’t want to do. Sales effectiveness, done this way, is not fun. This can be avoided.
In this example, “Top of Funnel” initiatives include items such as Buying Process Maps. Change in any top of funnel item will necessitate change to many of the mid-to-bottom funnel items. And so on down the line it goes.
Three things to note from both approaches to the sales calendar:
The primary difference between the two is focus. A proactive cyclical SFE sales calendar works on a small number of things each year. A reactive cyclical SFE sales calendar works on multiple things in parallel.
The goal is to get to a proactive calendar. This way the question of “when do I get it” can be put into proper context. For example, working on comp plans in May might not make sense. But, if you are on a calendar fiscal, it does make sense in October. Companies who institutionalize SFE into a cyclical business process force their competitors to be reactive. By forcing your competitors into chaos, you will beat them.
A reactive sales calendar cannot be avoided at times. For example, there are many trigger events that dictate it. A global recession can force you to be reactive. A loss of a major customer might cause a reaction as well. When this happens, it is perfectly acceptable to switch from proactive to reactive.
3 key take aways: