Time To Write Your Sales Plan

I believe that one of the number one reasons why sales organizations and sales individuals fail is lack of a plan.  Someone once said that not having a sales-plan is like bowling through a curtain.  You might hit some pins down, but you don’t really know how many you hit or what to aim at next.  With a plan, and very specific, measurable activity, and you can get exactly what you want.  

The first step it to determine what sales activities that need to be done, in what quantity and where.  Here are a few examples: 5 calls from leads generated per day that could generate between $10-30k.  This might be the first priority.  Next, 2 business related networking events every week where you’ll want to meet 10 people and seek 2 real potential clients from those meetings.  Next measurable: attend monthly industry events with the goal to get to know all of the influential people each month.   Or, ask 5 customers per week for a referral.  By determining the quantity of each activity necessary to get you to your sales goal, you will be able to determine whether you are doing enough of the activity or if you should be spending your time with a different activity.

Next, determine the sales volume you expect from each category.  Lets look at calls from leads.  Perhaps you feel they can generate $200,000 in yearly revenue, or roughly $16.5k/month.  Pay attention to how much potential business you can bring in, and understand your ratios.  If you quoted $100k this month, have a 30% close-rate and expect to do $50k this month in business, clearly you will need more opportunities to get there, or find a way to increase your close-rate.  Do the same with the other categories.  If you don’t know what the quantities should be, use your best guess, track it and re-evaluate as you go, in order to make it more realistic.

When done correctly, this part of your sales-plan may look something like this:

  • Per Month:5 leads called per week, generating 3 customers, bearing (3) orders, $15k average per sale
  • 5 referral “asks” per week, generating 1 new prospect, bearing potential $15k sale
  • 4 networking events per month, meeting an average of 10 people per event, generating 2 new prospects per event, bearing (2) potential $15k sales (average)
  • Total potential revenue from plan:  $90k for one month.  Adjust accordingly for the seasonal nature of your business.

Whether you are right or wrong with your estimates, if you continue to track your sales activities and monitor your call-to-close ratios, you will begin to determine exactly how many of each activities you or your people need to do in order to be successful.  If you achieve the activity goal, but do not realize your sales number, you may be not pursuing large enough opportunities or wasting too much time with the wrong type of activity.

You can’t manage what you don’t measure, so measure anything that you want to accomplish and do those activities consistently.  If you have salespeople, offer incentives for them to do those activities that you view as the most important.  If “new” business is the most important goal right now, offer extra commissions for new business.  If it is profit that is most important right now, offer commissions differently to drive profit.  Salespeople play the game they are given.  A weak game means uncertainty and certainly failure.  A strong one yields an easy path for them to follow in order to be successful.

Many salespeople that I’ve met through the years have complained that their company does not have a good sales-plan, or even one at all.  They have shared with me that the only piece of information that they were given towards a plan is a “number”.  That is, the sales for the quarter or the year.  Let’s be clear, telling a salesperson that you want them to sell $500k of landscaping is fine.  But, without a solid plan to get there, you’re asking them to “bowl through a curtain”.  They will not be motivated, lose faith when they are behind on the goal and will likely not reach the goal because they have no idea how to get there.

A solid sales-plan will also give you or your people an idea of what industries to concentrate on (say, 50% of your time on residential accounts and 50% commercial), and if commercial, how to break up your time (20% on apartment buildings, 40% on shopping plazas, 40% on office buildings).  It could be the titles of individuals you want them to call on.  For instance, only call on supervisor or above.  You may want to tell them that only 20% of their time should be spent in the office.  As example, only 8 hours per week allowed in the office.  Remainder of their time should be in the field.  Spell everything out for them, so they can better understand how to use their time.  Time and activity management is a critical skill for salespeople to have.  The more we can help them with this, the more successful they can be.

Lastly, many organizations in the green industry do multiple services, such as maintenance, landscaping and snow removal.  When you have a solid sales plan you will know when to start calling on new prospects for each of the services, as well as how to go about it and at what quantity.  If you know the right activity do be performing, at the right time, you will maximize your opportunities.

Make a detailed sales-plan and execute it.  It won’t be long before you learn from your mistakes, come up with the right formula for prospecting and well on your way to removing that curtain and seeing clearly, maybe for the first time, where to roll the ball next.