The role of a sales manager is not only extremely interesting but also highly challenging. A sales manager must chalk out a well-rounded strategy based on several, most often unknown, factors.
This is where the importance of sales planning comes to the fore, as it comprises well-defined strategies designed to guide the sales team members to reach their individual and collective targets.
A comprehensive sales plan is based on present market conditions, past sales figures, company objectives, and target personas.
Let's look at the crucial aspects of sales planning and why it is essential to have a precise process in place.
What is Sales Planning?
Sales Planning is a comprehensive process in which an organization defines its periodic sales targets and details the corresponding sales strategies to achieve them.
Sales planning has been identified as the essential link between the management level goals and executive level vision for completing those goals.
A well-defined sales plan is created in synchronization with the marketing plan and business plan:
- The business plan defines the long-term goals pursued by the company
- The marketing plan lays out the strategies to achieve those goals
- The sales plan details the execution of the marketing strategies on the ground
Sales planning is often done quarterly and/or annually. During this process, periodical reviews are conducted to incorporate the necessary changes.
Sales planning helps optimize crucial aspects like territory planning, sales capacity planning, sales quota planning, and account segmentation. As a result, the company enjoys valuable benefits like enhanced employee morale, lower attrition, and improvement in the bottom line.
Who uses sales planning?
Sales planning is an integral part of every business enterprise as it helps align the functioning of the sales and marketing departments.
Different departments in a company use sales planning for varied purposes:
- Upper management uses a sales plan as a forecasting tool for determining the key financial parameters of the entire organization
- The marketing department uses a sales plan to determine its long-term and short-term strategies
- The sales department uses a sales plan to determine the approach to bring the selling strategies in sync with the defined periodic goals of the enterprise
A sales manager can use the sales planning process as an opportunity to create a guiding document for different sales team members. Individual sales team members can refer to this document while chalking out micro-level strategies to meet their defined sales targets within the specified time period.
What are the benefits of sales planning?
Sales planning has gradually become one of the most important activities for every sales-led organization because of its numerous benefits. Here are some of the fascinating benefits that sales planning bestows on a business:
Well defined strategy
Sales planning helps management determine individual responsibilities and roles for sales team members based on their strengths and abilities. For example, a sales team member with excellent digital marketing skills could own social media outreach for the department. Having well-defined strategies will help achieve targets through better sales forecasting.
Improvement in sales
The key objective of sales planning is to register sales improvement, which can be ensured through improved lead conversion. Almost 75% of the companies have defined their lead conversion ratio improvement as a top priority. Sales planning covers essential aspects like sales prospecting, sales closing, lead qualification, and lead nurturing to help register better sales figures every quarter.
Better internal communication
Seamless internal communication is pivotal to the success of a sales team. Members of the sales team need to have a clear understanding of their roles and responsibilities. Sales planning involves important stakeholders from relevant departments and factors in their insights at multiple levels. Thus, a sales plan acts as a guiding document for different departments, resulting in a seamless communication of company goals and objectives between the concerned individuals. This helps reduce instances of wastage of resources due to duplication of efforts.
As discussed earlier, the sales planning process helps remove any chances of ambiguity from operations with well-defined roles for different sales team members. Hence, it is easier for management to fix employee responsibilities in certain circumstances. For example, per research, almost 50% of sales go to vendors that respond first. So, if you lose out on a sale due to delayed response time, the responsible team member can work with the team to prevent such delays in the future.
The sales planning process is ever-evolving and dynamic as the market conditions themselves change regularly. Sales planning facilitates quarterly and annual reviews of the performance through the presence of control and measurement factors.
The integrated controls help define the metrics to be used for measuring success, and regular monitoring ensures adherence to the defined strategy to enable strategic improvement.
For example, if your sales team is taking more than the average lead closing time of 102 days, it calls for an immediate re-evaluation of the sales process.
What does the sales planning process look like?
The sales planning process can vary across companies based on the domain of operations, size of the entity, the volume of sales required, working style of the sales team, and various other factors. However, there are certain essential steps that every sales manager must follow to complete the sales planning process:
Define the target market
First and foremost, you need to determine your target market. This could include the division of the target market for different products based on different demographic and income factors like age, cultural group, income level, and several others. This first step will set the tone for the sales planning process for the specified period.
Describe sales goals
After you have determined your target market, it is essential to define your sales goals. Some enterprises might aim to expand their sales in specified categories, while others might be looking to boost their distribution network. Once you have defined your target market and identified your sales goals, it is time to determine sales strategies.
Determine best-fit sales strategies
It is crucial to determine best-fit sales strategies for specific sales channels. For example, sales strategies for social media channels will vary starkly from those for traditional retail channels. You will have to collaborate with the marketing department to ensure seamless integration of respective strategies.
When implementing the sales plan, an important decision to make is allocating appropriate resources to achieve the desired targets. This includes training employees with necessary skills, as research indicates that almost 55% of salespersons lack basic training. Here, you must prepare a comprehensive budget for different sales activities to ensure adequate resources are available to the sales team.
Last but not least is evaluating your performance. Most sales teams like to evaluate their quarterly performance, leading to an annual performance review. If the results are not as expected, then key stakeholders and decision-makers determine the changes required in the sales plan.
How is modern sales planning changing?
Sales planning has been undergoing continuous evolution. Here are some key aspects in which sales planning has evolved over the years:
- Data-driven planning: Instead of being driven by personal insights or the intuitions of sales team members, the sales planning process is now entirely based on the data collected from different sources.
- Real-time sales planning: With huge volumes of sales data being generated daily, sales teams are becoming extremely agile with sales planning. Sales plans can be altered quicker than ever before based on market inputs.
- Focus on digital sales channels: As ideal customer profiles grow younger and show an increased online presence, companies invest huge amounts of resources dedicated to digital mediums.
- Technology: Companies use the latest software packages or online platforms to manage and execute their sales strategies. These tools make the planning process highly actionable based on prevailing circumstances.
Components of Sales Planning
There are four essential components of sales planning that help create a comprehensive sales plan:
- Forecasting: Helps determine milestones and guidelines for creating an accurate sales plan.
- KPIs: Clearly defined KPIs are essential to analyze the performance of the sales plan.
- Backup: Having contingency plans to counter any unforeseen developments in the market is extremely important. Scenario planning often is a good place to identify different events that the teams must be ready for.
- Technology: At the right stage, investing in technology can further improve the sales planning process. For example, when datasets scale and become too large for manual processing, flow, and analysis, this is a key sign that your team would benefit from sales planning software.
Best in class sales planning software
Precise forecasts hold the key to sales planning.
Pigment is the best-in-class sales planning software that facilitates the creation of agile sales plans to unlock your revenue growth potential.
The functionality of Pigment goes beyond conventional sales planning and leverages the latest technology to run models in hours instead of days. With fewer and unbreakable formulas, you can allocate most of your time to data analysis to draw useful insights instead of data preparation.
Pigment allows you to ensure seamless collaboration between the decision makers to get answers to all problems in minutes.
Book a demo with us to discover how Pigment can help you attain sales targets faster through streamlined sales planning processes.