12 Questions Critical to Achieving Sales Plans
As we sat down with CEOs at the beginning of the year it became obvious that most organizations have "dreams" instead of "goals." The difference between a "dream" and a "goal" is an action plan. To develop plans of action to achieve your goals, you have to ask the right questions. If you do not ask the right questions and/or do not have the right plans, then achieving your sales plan becomes less predictable and much less likely. With the right questions you can formulate a strategy to achieve your sales plan and possibly make sales more predictable and easier to achieve, and at the same time shed light on your company's real challenges. It is important to design solutions to your challenges early to ensure that you achieve your goals, particularly if you are planning rapid growth. A rapid-growth situation is like running a timing pattern in football. If the ball and the player are not exactly where they are supposed to be at the precise moment, you have a dead play and maybe an interception.
We have several clients that have hired us recently to help with rapid growth. While they are in very different industries, we are seeing some similar issues. If you cannot answer all of the following questions satisfactorily you will not maximize your growth this year, and you can consider your sales plan a "dream" rather than a "goal."
Here are 12 questions that every CEO must answer:
1. Who are the ideal customers that you want a lot more of?
This is not to suggest that one turn away other profitable customers, but if you target a lot more of the "ideal" clients, you can maximize your happiness and profits.
2. What is it that you can do for these special clients better than anyone else that would make them choose you over the competition?
You'd better have a compelling reason to explain to a potential customer why they should choose you over the competition. If you don't, you are setting your salespeople up for failure. Saying silly things like we give good service, we care about our clients, we keep our clients, etc. is not going to cut it.
3. How many clients/transactions do you need next year to achieve your plan?
Of that number, how many do you already have that you believe signed up for 2010, how many do you expect to lose in 2010, and how many new ones do you have to get to achieve your plan? You need to assign this by person, by month, by products, etc. The more detail the better. If you do not have detailed targets and drive people to them, you will not have any gauge with which to determine whether you are on track, and if you miss you will have no idea why.
4. What is your tactical plan to achieve your goal?
For example, what is the number of phone calls to be made, number of customer visits, number of advertisements to be placed, number of tradeshows you must participate in, how many meetings must be attended, proposals presented, referrals given, free products given away, etc. to generate the number of clients/transactions you want.
5. How many salespeople and other employees do you need to generate the volume you want?
Are they already employed by you? If not, how long will it take you to hire the "right" employees, and how much growth will it cost you in the interim?
6. Do your current employees produce at the right level of productivity based on the last 90 days?
If not, what makes you think they are going to do it in the next 90 days? What are you going to do to help them change the trajectory, and what will you do if they don't?
7. Do you have enough of the right products and services to support the demand you are looking to serve?
If not, how will that be solved?
8. How are your competitors going to respond to your moves in the marketplace?
What changes are they making? Will their changes affect your growth?
9. What is your marketing strategy to generate leads for your sales force?
How many leads has it created in the past? Have you given it enough time to know if it works or not? If it does not work, what is your new plan, and how long are you going to give it to work?
10. Do you have the right compensation programs to motivate your sales force properly?
How do you know?
11. Does your organizational atmosphere cause or allow too many distractions for salespeople?
How do you know?
12. Do you adequately hold people accountable, and is line of sight to goals clear enough?
What are you looking at that is a leading rather than a lagging indicator? Do you know before the end of the month whether they will achieve their numbers? Do your indicators make you aware that your individual salespeople need coaching, and where and in what part of the sales process do they need that coaching?
Activate Group, Inc. has found that high performing organizations, large or small, usually have good answers to the above questions. Companies that are underperforming relative to peers usually are missing answers to many or all of the above questions. Companies that are growing fast and missing answers to some of those questions are leaving a lot of money on the table without realizing it.