4 Rules for Effective Sales Plans

By Trevor Coltham

In the sales game, it’s common for a Sales Director to run an annual sales conference to rally the team and set the focus for the coming year. After the conference, the Sales Director will share their vision, outline the strategic plan and then encourage the teams to come up with a draft tactical sales plans to deliver.

Fast forward six months..

The sales results of the sales team are often varied. Some of the team are blowing the roof off their numbers and others are way behind.

Consider how a sales team member responds when the environment they find themselves in provides challenges that are difficult to overcome.

Do they know how to proceed? If they have been following their plan, and it’s not working, then what?

In many companies, under-performers get stuck and lack the flexibility to create positive sales results. Is it possible for them to recover? Do they ask for help, try something new or just give up?

It’s all about the “Commanders Intent”..

There is a term in the military called ‘Commanders Intent’ used for focused field operations. The CI is the overall purpose of the mission, including its key objectives and tasks. It helps articulate what the commander wants to achieve and why. It is therefore clear to subordinates what the overall goal and intentions are so if and when uncertainty occurs during dynamic events; those deployed can make decisions that can still lead to successful outcomes even if it means the original plan doesn’t ensue. – (Source Australian Army)

On reading the above definition for the first time, I wondered if there was something to model and learn from this practice in the armed forces.

Leaning on ideas from ‘Commanders Intent’, what else could sales leaders implement or add to sales plans to assist potential A players to meet and exceed their sales objectives?

Here are my 4 rules for effective sales plans:

1.       Plans must be simple

A simple plan is easier to develop, understand and implement. This assists in reducing potential uncertainty or confusion. Our brains are wired to respond in a survival mode when in stressful situations (example: failing to hit a budget, a big deal falls through etc.). A simple plan can assist by:

  •  Providing a clear, concise and actionable understanding of the strategic objective. When challenges arise, salespeople can get back in play faster.

  • Reducing the number and complexity of activities to focus on for the plan to succeed.

  • Providing and detailing the complementary support activities required by others for the plan to meet expectations.

2.       Integration of plans

Sales plans must align with the purpose of the overall sales strategy. A sales plan is more effective when it takes into consideration the sales leader’s plan and service and delivery teams.

The activities that each role/team must perform requires to support both the sales plan and the overall company objectives.

3.       Coordination of activity

Plans that activities need to compliment. It’s all about simplicity. Too much coordination can make a sales plan more complex. It useful to agree where coordination is essential and map out clear processes.

4.       Flexibility

Sales plans must be flexible enough to deal with change and uncertainty. The key is having well trained, confident and engaged sales team members. Each sales person must understand their plan and have the autonomy  to adjust to ensure the ‘Commander’s Intent’ is accomplished.

It is also important to have effective positive and corrective feedback from sales leadership.

Well delivered feedback allows for more choice and flexibility.

More choice is always preferable to less choice.

You can learn more about SG Partners sales plans and leadership tools here.