With the 4th Quarter upon us, it’s time to start the Strategic Planning process which should mean Sales Planning. This post gives you a simple tool to make prioritizing sales targets both easy and effective.
Sales Planning for Small Business
I’ve led or contributed to a few decades worth of Sales Planning cycles. Large companies, mid-size companies and small companies. Some years were great, some ok and some, well, meh. My experience is that the strong sales performance is definitely correlated to good planning. You can follow this link for more detailed guidance on the sales planning process or keep reading to learn about this sales planning tool.
So what exactly makes for good sales planning in a small business?
Well, the same things that make for good sales planning in a larger, more complex organization only streamlined for administrative ease. Being a small business has many advantages and we should use those features to our favor through the planning process.
- Small Business Can Keep It Simple
While large corporations require a lot of muscle and energy to power through their own organization in building a good sales plan, a small business should be light on its’ feet, moving swiftly without a heavy administrative burden or using a ton of man hours to develop sales targets.
- Small Business Is Closer To The Customer
Getting good customer feedback and hearing the voice of the customer is difficult for bigger organizations. The touch points are diluted amongst so many people that leaders can have a hard time interpreting a clear message from the field. The small business owner has the benefit of being right there; talking to the customers, hearing of opportunities and obstacles first hand.
- Small Business Is Nimble
A big company is likely to have heavy investment in any given sales strategy which makes directional adjustments more difficult. A small business, being more nimble, should enjoy the flexibility of shifting direction as opportunities emerge. The ability to adjust quickly leverages being close to the customer into effective sales planning and execution.
Prioritizing Sales Targets
Through the sales planning process we develop a list of potential sales targets. Often the list has a few slam dunks but a longer list of questionable targets that require us to prioritize and choose what to go after. We want to exploit our benefits listed above as a small business but being a small business we don’t have the resources to pursue every potential opportunity.
Leading and coaching small businesses forced me to develop tools for a lean approach to the sales planning process which allows us to exploit emerging opportunities while honoring our missional objectives as we go and assign priorities. We posted about the value of having a Niche to your strategy here.
The purpose of this tool is to give you a simple approach to prioritizing sales opportunities identified during your sales planning process. The team may be just you or a larger group but all that’s needed to use this tool is a list of potential sales opportunities needing to be prioritized. I like to use this tool as group brainstorming where I lead the sales team to populate the criteria for each potential sales target.
So here it is.
Using the tool is simple and here is the key for populating each section.
Sales Target Description = List each sales target in this column. Sales targets can be a customer, market, product/service, etc.
1/2/3 Yr Sales Potential $ = Project the potential sales $ in each of yr 1 / yr 2 / yr 3. Only the $ for each year, not cumulative.
Missional (1-5) = Rate how closely aligned each sales target is to your strategic mission on a 1 – 5 scale with 5 being a perfect match to your mission and 1 being way off mission.
Capability (1-5) = Rate how capable you are as an organization to supporting each sales target on a 1 – 5 scale with 5 being fully capable right now and 1 being not capable at all anytime soon.
Note: You can and should include any viable target your planning process serves up on the priority tool to be evaluated against our key criteria of $ potential, missional and organizational capability.
This simple but effective prioritization tool will help you brainstorm and organize key criteria for valuing sales target opportunities. It serves to reinforce the criteria with the team and as a record of how and why you gave priority to targets for future reference.
Using the tool in practice is as easy and flexible as you need it to be for your small business.
- List all viable sales targets and $ projections from your planning process into the tool. You should have the sales targets with yr 1, yr 2 and yr 3 $ sales potential sent you prior to a meeting to brainstorm priority of the targets.
- Lead a meeting with the sales team where you post or hand out the pre-populated tool. It works great on a simple flip chart allowing the team to rate the targets while holding interactive discussion about each one.
- Lead the sales team through rating each target for being Missional and Organizational Capability on the 1 – 5 scale.
- Circle all targets having 4 or 5 in both the Missional and Capability boxes.
- Rank those targets with 5 – 5 at the top, 5 – 4 next, then 4 – 4 after that, in descending order of Projected Sales $ with the highest potential number in the highest spot.
Sales Planning and Leadership
There is one major key to using this tool and leading a group to a target plan. The group may drift on effectively rating the Sales Potential, Missional and Capability criteria. A group leader must guide the process to choose the “best” targets from those we have available. If the leader feels the starting list inadequate to develop good targets, request more or better targets.
In the same vein, if the brainstorming meeting drifts toward our inability to perform or way off mission, the leader must guide the discussion to stay constructive and moving toward prioritizing prospects we can use for the coming year.
Working through this exercise with your sales team and using the priority tool creates a collaborative approach to choosing your sales targets without a tremendous time or administrative burden. Using this tool integrates training your sales team to identify high value sales targets with the process of building the coming period sales plan.
I hope you find some value in using this tool with your sales team and of course leave a comment if you have any questions or suggestions.