Last year’s data isn’t enough to build your 2020 revenue plan. That is an approach taken by market laggards. Overcome the challenges and cardinal sins of revenue planning. Learn how to plan like a market leader by leveraging SBI’s annual research report.

It’s September. You and the rest of the executive team are beginning to think about next year’s revenue plan. If you are like most companies, you are probably looking at 2019 performance as your baseline. This sounds good in theory. But what often happens in practice is each functional leader goes off, doing their own operational planning in isolation. No interlocks. No specific callouts for input and output. No performance KPIs. No tie to the overall Go-to-Market Strategy. Just doing the planning for its own sake because that’s what everyone did last year. The antidote to this is purposeful coordination and leveraging the 2020 best practices uncovered by SBI’s annual research report.


Here Is What to Do Differently This Year to Plan like a Market Leader


First, you must acknowledge the inherent challenges with annual planning: stress, too many options, and limited time. The process of assembling the annual operating plan has become increasingly difficult over the years because of the following factors:


  1. Stress: There has never been a more difficult time to be a revenue leader. Organic growth is hard to get and easy to measure.
  2. Options: Executives believe they have more opportunities to generate growth than in years past but determining which one to choose is hard.
  3. Time: Executives are time-starved. They want to work on the business, but they can’t find the time because they are busy working in the business. As a result, the planning process is not zero-based. Instead, it usually ends up following the previous year’s effort with a few modifications.


Before jumping headfirst into the planning process, schedule time with the executive team to address each of these inherent challenges. Develop a risk mitigation matrix to proactively address each problem. You can use the SBI Risk Assessment Template as a starting place for this process, then customize to include the unique risks for your team/business.  This will ensure your team enters annual planning with the best chance of success.


After you address the inherent challenges of annual planning, you are ready to begin the planning process itself. Based on SBI’s annual research, planning by market leaders requires four critical steps:



  1. Set Numbers Correctly. Establish a data-driven fact base and set of KPIs. The entire executive team must agree on a fact base that is market and data-driven, with a shared set of aligned KPIs. There must be a central group (Revenue Operations) to hold the teams accountable.


  2. Inventory Potential Bets. Market leaders have design principles that govern their options to deliver the annual number. These design principles govern how the annual plan is built. Inventorying bets forces your company to tackle stage-appropriate challenges. It ensures the effort to make the annual number is part of a bigger program.


  3. Place Your Bets. Market leaders make bets. Big bets. But they select only a few each year. SBI’s research suggests these market leaders place no more than 3 big bets. Market leader’s rally the entire organization around these bets. The bets are published, and goals are architected against each bet. Each week progress is reported against the quarterly or annual goals outlined in the revenue plan.


  4. Create a Revenue Growth Program. Market leaders have an execution methodology mindset. While there is a proliferation of planning tools available, market leaders proved that annual planning was just the first step. The planning effort must be supported by an annual program connected to the broader 3-year plan. It builds momentum in your company versus starting over every year. An integral component of a revenue growth program is the measurement. Revenue growth can sometimes we a long process. Establishing behavioral, leading, and lagging metrics to track program success will ensure the team stays aligned.


The steps above help avoid the cardinal sin of annual planning- incrementalism. True transformation comes when growth bets are clearly articulated, and the entire organization moves in lockstep, with an extreme focus to advance those bets.


Want to learn more about annual planning best practices and what market leaders are doing to increase their likelihood of making the number in 2020?  Visit our website to access the full 2020 annual research report. When you are ready to start planning, schedule a time at The Studio for the SBI team to advise you during the process.


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Ellen Wade

Provides clients strategic and tactical support in uncovering new revenue opportunities allowing them to make their number.

Ellen is an experienced consultant with a demonstrated history working directly with executive-level clients to deliver implementable solutions for high priority business issues. Ellen uses a data-driven approach in developing solutions, often blending strategy, analytics, technology and creativity to ensure project success.  Most recently, she helped a Fortune-500 retailer integrate after the acquisition of a major competitor. Ellen aided the client in sustaining revenue growth while rationalizing operational costs, driving higher net profits for the business. The project also realized historic pre-merger customer service level metrics. Her client portfolio spans Retail, Government, Finance and Technology sectors.


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