Developing Sales Plans
The old adage ‘the person who fails to plan, plans to fail’ is never truer than when applied to a business and yet surprisingly many businesses fail to prepare a detailed, structured sales plan.
A sales plan basically is the strategic and tactical ‘how’ for achieving a company’s marketing objectives. Very simply it provides a ‘route map’ from which to drive the commercial activity of the company. A key feature of all successful sales plans is the use of volume numbers and their associated cash values. In essence, sales plans are all about researched and planned targets and numbers.
Developing a sales plan involves a number of key steps:
1) Define your Market (Sectors and Segments) – This first step is about clearly defining your target market – those you can and want to sell to and those who are most likely to buy your product or service. The more defined the target market the better.
2) Value the Market – Building your knowledge, usually through extensive research, is a key part of valuing your market. Developing a greater understanding of not only the total market size but also of the different segments and sectors (particularly those to which the company’s products or services are most relevant), is very important.
3) Establish Market Knowledge (Create a Knowledge Bank) – This includes understanding all the dynamics of the market concerned, including market growth projections, relevant legislation, seasonality, purchasing mechanisms such as tenders, strategic business drivers, competition, etc.
4) Evaluation of Current Status – This requires an objective analysis and breakdown of the current business (or potential business) according to product type, sector volume and values, with analysis of the current customer base and in particular major customers.
5) Understanding and Evaluating Potential Business – This involves ascertaining the key parts of the market and key customers that the company can realistically target, as well as understand the key USP’s (unique selling points) of the company and its products. Understanding these USPs will enable a company to effectively compete and gain new business. The results will define ‘the size of the prize’ and help build a good understanding of the key competitors and what they have to offer. Comparing the company to each of its key competitors through the use of SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis and other techniques will also be involved.
6) Deciding Sales Strategies – This will include assessing what options are available to gain new customers, retain and increase business from existing customers, as well as how to raise the awareness of the company and its products in the marketplace.
7) Measure and Improve – The most important part of the plan is to ensure its use. It is not a task to be completed and then buried in the filing cabinet, it should be used to drive the business. All the planning in the world is of zero value if it is not, or cannot be implemented. Variations in performance versus the plan, both positive and negative, will occur but they need to be under review constantly so that their effect can be assessed and performance improved.
ibd advisers are expert at assisting clients in the preparation and implementation of a realistic sales plan geared to an individual business, which identifies and delivers the sales requirement of the company. Advisers can also be of great value in an objective review process to ensure ongoing sales effectiveness and improvement.