Hitting sales targets and goals, increasing revenue, enhancing the brand — it’s all part of sales planning. When you use best practices in sales planning, everyone involved benefits — marketing teams, sales managers, sales teams, and your customers. Most importantly, good sales planning positively impacts your bottom line.
Best practices for sales planning begins with an overall comprehensive plan that serves as your roadmap for sales call planning. How do you leverage your sales plan for success? Once you’ve established a comprehensive sales plan, you need to take a look at every part of it and break it down further into specific strategies and activities to set the wheels in motion. These activities will form the best practices that will carry your sales plan from concept through to execution.
Leveraging Sales Planning for Success
With the evolution of technology and changes in the marketplace, sales leaders have shifted their thinking about the best ways to leverage sales planning for success. Thought leadership and the notion of client advocacy when making inbound calls and outbound calls are now generally accepted as the best sales call planning practices. Trust and brand loyalty are natural outgrowths from sales planning and good customer service. Customers that view your company as a thought leader in your industry, as opposed to a run-of-the-mill contact center, won’t hesitate to reach out to you when they need guidance or expertise.
Your sales plan serves as a reference that will help your sales reps stay on track, whether they’re making inbound calls or outbound calls. Effective sales planning supports your sales team by giving them consistent tools and processes to follow. Consistent processes will lead to consistency in sales throughout the month and prevent problems with rushing to meet sales goals before the end of the quarter.
In a perfect world, everything will go as planned, but that’s not always the case. There may be times you need to make changes. Whether those changes are due to a change in your tech stack, or in one of your processes, it’s a good idea to set up a formal process for feedback and review of your sales plan.
Sales and marketing alignment are also an important part of leveraging your sales plan. Where there are changes in marketing, there should be changes in your sales plan, and vice-versa. Successful sales planning requires your company to develop a culture of clear communication and strong collaboration between your marketing and sales departments.
How do you get alignment? It takes a shared vision, clearly defined goals, and a technical infrastructure that supports the marketing and sales teams working together.
Developing Your Sales Strategy Planning
Aligning your marketing and sales departments is a good first step to developing your sales strategy planning and ensuring good customer service. There are many other moving parts to your sales planning process, as well.
Have you taken stock of your resources and evaluated their cost-effectiveness? There are many things your company can do on its own to improve efficiency in this area, but they may be limited by your team’s technical skills. Your IT department may be able to build some applications, but sometimes it’s easier and more cost-effective to buy programs or partner with other companies on some initiatives.
With sales and marketing alignment in place, you can focus on the following activities for developing your sales strategy planning.
Sales Planning Activities
- Put your initial sales plan in place, but keep testing and tweaking it.
- Tap into the expertise of your sales agents by asking them to share customer success stories that detail how they provided great customer service in specific situations.
- Promote and share success stories to help prospects relate and envision themselves as one of your valued customers.
- Connect happy customers with a marketer to set up interviews with the aim of producing more customer success stories. Then, share these stories with your sales reps, so they can use them in their sales pitches.
- Develop workflows that make it easy for customers to engage with your teams consistently, such as an email newsletter with clickable links.
- Invest in sales rep training to help members learn how to qualify prospects and get familiar with how long they should be spending on each part of the sales process.
- Use your cloud-based phone system dashboard to look for key insights and consolidate the data into a high-quality report.
- Set your goals, and create sales targets that coincide with your goals. Use trends and historical data for forecasting so you can foresee and adapt to changes in demand.
- Develop questions around your goals, and set metrics to give you the data you need to answer those questions.
- Identify strengths and weaknesses in your people and processes. Then, leverage this information to make any necessary adjustments in your training programs and standard operating procedures (SOPs).
- Define actions and activities for your sales plan, based on sales capacity and quotas.
How to Identify Gaps in Your Sales Strategy Plan
When there’s a gap in your sales plan, it usually has a ripple effect on subsequent parts of the sales plan.
Unfortunately, gaps in your sales strategy plan aren’t always visible during the planning process. What’s more, these issues can develop at any time during your company’s growth and development, so you need to constantly be on the lookout for ways to improve. Of course, it can eat up a lot of your time to figure out where the problems are and what to do to address them and ensure better customer service, but it’s an essential part of ensuring sales efficiency.
It’s therefore best to build time into your sales strategy plan to do an overall gap analysis that will catch problems before they get bigger. A gap analysis will also help you to identify where you are now in terms of growth and development, and how to get where you want to be.
By doing a gap analysis, you also get the following benefits:
- Identify opportunities to mitigate potential risks
- Identify the need for additional resources
- Uncover new market opportunities
- Gain insight as to why KPIs aren’t being met
Next, we’ll look at 4 specific strategies to identify gaps in your sales strategy plan.
Sales Data Analysis
If you’ve already collected data, you probably already have an understanding of how your salespersons’ perform. Call center software is an important tool for helping you sift through the data to spot patterns and trends that give you insight into why your processes are leading to losses or no-decisions.
Assess Your Sales Processes
Do you know how closely your sales process aligns with the buyer’s purchasing process? Are salespersons taking enough time to identify customers’ problems and pain points before setting up a presentation? Are reps going in for the close too soon, or too late? Create a visual of your sales and buying cycles and see how well they align.
Conduct Win/Loss Interviews
Whether your sales reps won, lost, or got a no-decision, most customers will easily be able to identify the top 3 things they didn’t like during the sales process. To find out what they are, it’s a simple matter of asking them how they viewed customer service from your contact center.
You may discover that there were too many delays, or that the sales process was too rushed or put too much pressure on the prospect. Other common reasons for losing sales are not meeting the customer’s needs, being too disorganized or inflexible, or the salesperson just made a bad impression. It’s not always enjoyable to hear what customers have to say about what went wrong in the sales process. However, it gives you actionable data to work with to improve next time.
Send Out Automated Surveys
Not every customer will agree to a post-sales interview, but they may be willing to complete a short, automated survey about their experience, whether they placed an order with a salesperson or not.
A survey gives you a chance to learn whether a customer was 100% happy with the whole process. You’ll glean information about the customer’s preferred communication channel, whether the process was timely, and whether they got their questions answered before finalizing the sale.
It’s not uncommon for call center agents to be so focused on the sales process that they get in their own way. These gap analysis strategies will allow you to step into the customer’s shoes to get a better understanding of how things look from their perspective. Data analyses and genuine customer feedback are good ways to communicate to your salesperson what the problems are and get them involved in making improvements, so they know how to provide better customer service in the future.
Best Practices to Improve Sales Planning
Use these best practices to help you improve your sales planning processes:
Factor in training time and turnover when setting sales goals.
As you meet your goals, you may need to hire new people. Even if you have a great contact center operation going, there’s a chance that you’ll lose a few reps. Either way, build training time into your sales strategy for new members. You’ll want your sales forecasts to be as accurate as possible.
Identify obstacles that affect your sales goals and factor them into your overall plan.
There’s always a reason you aren’t hitting your targets. Have you scaled your contact center appropriately? Are reps spending too little time on qualified leads and losing too many good leads early on? These are easy fixes, when you can identify where bottlenecks and other obstacles are during your sales planning.
Assess sales-related risks and devise a plan to mitigate them.
Sales risks can surface in the form of incorrect product knowledge, inventory problems, poor training, poor strategy, changes in market conditions, deceptive sales practices, and more.
Set realistic sales quotas
Use your contact center software to evaluate historical and current data, which will help you set realistic sales quotas. Quotas that are too high will cause frustration amongst your sales reps. This can lead to increased churn in your team. On the other hand, quotas that are too easy to meet won’t motivate your sales agents to aim higher.
Set performance measures according to sales roles.
Your metrics will indicate how to set challenging, yet reasonable, goals for each sales role. Sales activities vary by role, so it’s a mistake to develop one-size-fits-all performance measures for all team members.
Scale your contact center according to call volume.
Without a doubt, your call volume will vary during peak and off-peak times. Schedule an adequate number of sales reps per shift according to the average number of calls that occur.
Set up a reasonable and attractive incentive or reward system.
Your reward system should be challenging to reach, but not impossible. Set up a reward system that allows reps to follow processes in a reasonable amount of time. This should help them hit their targets.
Use a data-driven approach for planning, goal-setting, and reward systems.
Your cloud-based phone system’s dashboard provides you with all the data you need for effective sales planning and goal-setting. The right metrics will help you design a motivating reward system, and your KPIs will help you assess your progress.
Continually analyze your plan and adapt quickly to market changes.
Use contact center software to monitor your data. Analyze the data often, pay attention to signals that you need to make changes, and act quickly to implement them.
Leverage a cloud-based phone system and contact center software to improve efficiency and productivity.
By using your CRM software along with a cloud-based phone system, you get a robust set of voice calling features that includes call routing, call queueing, IVR, call forwarding, and much more. Call tags, after-call work, click-to-dial, and power dialing will enhance your call center productivity, as well.
Cloud-based technology also gives you the capability to set up a virtual contact center to leverage remote or distributed teams. When you choose a cloud-based phone system that has an open API integration capability, you gain the advantage of being able to integrate all the best digital sales tools to help your sales reps deliver the best possible customer experience.
Checklist for Sales Planning Success
- Use a sales plan template to streamline the sales call planning process.
- Break your sales planning down into specific tasks and activities.
- Place a heavier focus on client advocacy, rather than strong sales growth.
- Align your sales and marketing departments, and set up regular times for collaboration.
- Communicate your objectives and goals to your sales representatives.
- Make the best use of your resources, whether that entails building programs in-house or partnering with other companies.
- Take steps to identify gaps in your sales strategy plan.
- Implement a cloud-based phone system, like Aircall, that offers a robust set of voice calling features, works seamlessly with other digital sales tools, and unifies communications.
- Gamify your sales reward programs using sales software.
- Establish clear workflows for each part of the sales funnel. Train agents in specific areas and set reasonable goals for each sales role.
- Leverage best practices for sales planning strategies.
- Review your sales strategy planning regularly and make adjustments as needed.
Effective sales strategy planning is well within your reach. All you need to do is choose a sales strategy planning template. Next develop your plan, perform a gap analysis, and follow best practices for sales planning.
With the right cloud-based phone system, you’ll get a 360° view of your customers to aid you in this process. This sales planning checklist will help you not miss a beat when it comes to constantly improving your sales performance.