19 Sep, 2018

Sales Strategy and Planning – What’s Your Vision? How Are You Getting There?

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Napoleon, one of the most successful leaders of all time, built his empire on meticulous strategy and planning.

We recently answered the question “What is Sales Operations?” and defined the roles and responsibilities of the Sales Operations job.  TLDR: It’s all about the policies, processes, and analyses that support sales teams to sell better, grow faster, and be more strategic.  The Sales Ops Job Cycle is made up of 6 points:

  1. Strategy & Planning
  2. Policy Creation
  3. Process Optimization
  4. Sales Enablement
  5. Data & Technology Management
  6. Performance Analysis

In this and subsequent posts, we want to dive deeper into each of these points, and today we start from the top: Sales Strategy & Planning.  We’ll focus on the “What,” “Who,” “When,” and “How,” and finish with a plug for our Strategy & Planning tool ????.

What is Strategy & Planning?

Sales Strategy & Planning is about how a business will hit its sales targets.  Trying to grow your revenue by 30%+?  Maintain sales while lowering expenses?  Have a sales target from your investors/management and need to figure out how you are going to get there (or want to set your stake in the ground for your next investor/management meeting?)?  This is where Strategy & Planning comes in.

Strategy & Planning encompasses, but is not limited to:

  1. Market Analysis – Who are our customers? How many are there, and where are they?  How much will they pay?
  2. Territory/Team Alignment – Where do we put our sales people? How do we organize and then support them?
  3. Capacity & Role Decisions – How many sales people do we need? What are their different roles?
  4. Target Setting – How much is each sales person expected to bring in? How does this add up across the company to hit our overall goal?
  5. Compensation/Incentive Plans – How do we structure comp plans to maximize motivation? How much are we expecting to pay?
  6. Crossfunctional Communication – Do we have numbers from Finance? Does Marketing know our alignment, so we can match?  Is our Customer definition the same as Product’s?

The task list is long, but all components are critical.  Miss one step, and your sales team is unorganized, inefficient, and potentially unsuccessful.  We plan to cover each point in further detail in later posts.

Who Does Strategy & Planning?

It depends.  Strategy & Planning for a small sales organization is the responsibility of the sales managers.  Small sales organizations don’t have the budget to task specific people to think exclusively about Sales Strategy & Planning, so it is part of the job of the Sales Leader(s), the CRO, CEO, or the Head of Sales Ops.  Strategy & Planning at this level is often quick and dirty, due to the many other responsibilities on these teams’ plates.

On the flip side, an enterprise could have hundreds if not thousands of employees dedicated to Strategy & Planning.  At Microsoft, for instance, there are over 2,000 employees with  “Sales Strategy” in their role, and Salesforce has over 1,000!  What these people do is undoubtedly different and spans the gamut of our Sales Operations Job Cycle. However, when you consider the number of markets, products, channels, and sales people these companies address, it is easy to see how the need for Strategy & Planning would expand.

When Does Strategy & Planning Happen?

This also depends.  It is important to find the right balance, but our view at fullcast.io is that Strategy & Planning is and should be a constant concern for a business. There are cases both for and against it happening constantly:

The case for constant Strategy & Planning

  • To Stay Ahead of the Market – you want to prepare your business for any industry changes
  • To Get Closer to Customers – you want to get your people closer to evolving customers
  • To Take Advantage of New Information – you get new information daily, and want to respond

The case against constant Strategy & Planning

  • To Minimize Account Disruption – you want to let reps have enough time to break into an account before moving it
  • To Focus on Execution – you want to focus on executing, because that’s how you sell deals
  • To Empower your sales force – you want your sales people to own their own destiny

Make changes too often?  You lose productivity, trust, and headcount on your sales team.  You miss your targets.  Don’t make changes enough?  The market and your competitors adapt faster and you lose out on opportunities.  Your business falls short.

Typically, we find that focused Strategy & Planning between one and four times a year, with most companies having a one-time, multi-week or multi-month process set aside to analyze for the next year.  This number depends hinges on the size, growth, targets, and many other factors.

How Do You Strategize & Plan?

The Strategy & Planning process follows a regular, intuitive flow:

  1. Review Past Performance* – How have you been doing?
  2. Evaluate the Market and Set Goals – Where do you want to go? Is this feasible?
  3. Determine Resourcing – What do you need to get there? Can you afford it?
  4. Align Resources (Sales, Marketing) towards Goals – How are you organizing everything?
  5. Monitor Performance and Make Changes as Necessary* – How is it working?

*Note Steps 1 and 5 blend into other parts of the “Sales Operations Job Cycle,” inevitable in this closely-linked job cycle.

Each step happens differently and depends on the company (different metrics in Step 1, different resource needs in Step 3 and allocation in Step 4), but generally follows this progression.  Sometimes consultants come in to do the additional work so that the Sales Operations team can focus on execution, sometimes the team steps away from execution so it can focus on Strategy & Planning, but generally it follows the above process.

How Does fullcast.io Come In?

Great question!

fullcast.io’s Planning App integrates Strategy & Planning activities into one collaborative tool, allowing sales organizations to make real-time decisions on their sales strategy and push those decisions seamlessly into action.  We bring the “what” and “how” of Strategy & Operations into one place so that you (and your team!) can stop worrying about the effort of planning and focus on reaping the rewards.

Interested in learning more?  Reach out to us at info@fullcast.io to schedule a demo.