Developing a Strategic Action Plan

Strategic Action Plans Guide the Process

The number of sales organizations that do not use strategic action plans as part of their sales strategy is alarming. The absence of a plan severely restricts a sales rep's ability to track the success of their sales process and negotiations with buyers and make necessary adjustments to their approach as a deal develops. It is the glue that holds the sales process together from initial pre-call planning to the final stages of closing the sale. Top sales reps who use strategic action plans to guide their sales process understand:

  • Strategic Action Plans Create Focus
  • The Elements of a Strategic Action Plan
  • How to Determine the Number of Actions to Include
Strategic Action Plans Create Focus

A strategic action plan acts as a road map for each deal. It provides reps with a view of the entire process, how it has evolved, where adjustments have been made, and where improvement is required. It also outlines for reps a list of actions that must be completed before and during each phase in the sales process. These plans facilitate a smooth transition from strategic to tactical selling during the sales process.

Strategic action plans keep reps focused on actions that are specific to their sales objectives and the buyer's purchase process. They can use it as a tool to determine the validity of an action, how it fits with the overall objectives of the deal, and whether or not it aligns with the buyer's expectations of a solution.

Many sales leaders shy away from implementing action plans for fear of spending more time performing administrative tasks. Granted, action plans do require an adjustment period to get them implemented, but once they become part of the company's sales culture they will pay dividends and helps rep focus more on the process rather than the end result.

The Elements of a Strategic Action Plan

There are five main elements of a strategic action plan required for it to be effective:

1. Single sales objective

A well defined single sales objective is the key to creating a strategic action plan. The single sales objective is the specific focus of a sales call. It identifies what reps want to accomplish from their interaction with buyers. The objective has to bridge the gap between the current status of the buyer and what reps want to accomplish with that specific meeting.

An effective single sales objective needs to be measurable, specific, realistic, and timely. Setting the objective in these terms will help sales reps answer questions about the deal in terms of:

  • Who is involved
  • Where and when meetings are going to occur
  • What information will be collected
  • How the actions are carried out
  • The specific desired outcome
2. Buying influencers

Buying influencers are the key players from the organization that have a vested interest in, and influence over, the specific details of the deal. It is important to understand who the key influencers are in the account and where reps are positioned strategically with them. Once this understanding is reached, reps can customize their approach, the sales objective, and solution so that they may focus on the influences that require the most attention.

3. Response modes

Response modes are the way buying influences react to proposed solutions from sales reps. Therefore, understanding the buying influencer's view of the current state of the deal is important. It will help reps be conscious of how each influence reacts to instances of change within the account. They will react in one of two ways:

  • Positively - This opens the door for additional growth within the account
  • Negatively - This allows for negotiation about new options to move the deal forward
Sales reps have to understand that responses are temporary. Response modes change as the operating environment in the buying company changes. They should not be confused with the buyer's personal feeling about the deal.

4. Win/Win Environment

This is a must. Each action has to create a win/win situation for both the sales rep and buyer. A win/win environment exists when both the rep and buyer are satisfied with the existing business relationship and solution. To effectively develop momentum for a potential solution, both parties must be satisfied with the current state of the account, and be aligned in terms of the direction of the deal. Focusing on process (especially what the buyer is doing during each phase of the deal) over results ensures this environment is maintained and enhanced.

5. Competitive Analysis

Many sales reps make the mistake of improperly assessing their competition. They focus on other sales organizations and what they are offering. In doing this, they often fail to consider other competing factors that exist within the account (i.e. any available alternative to the tabled deal). Sales reps have to create actions that are focused on minimizing the importance of a competitor's offerings by focusing on the differentiated unique capabilities of their own solution.

How to Determine the Number of Actions to Include

Once sales leaders have convinced reps of the importance of creating and using action plans, they also have to convey that:

  • Every situation will be different
  • The number of steps in the action plan is dependent on the variables of the current state of the solution
The focus of the action plan is to improve the current situation, move opportunities through the funnel, and further engage buyers in the development of the solution.

Therefore, sales reps need to:

  • Assess the current situation
  • Create the sales objective of the meeting
  • Create as many necessary actions steps that will be required to achieve the objective
Once reps have improved the current state of the sales situation, the single sales objective

is complete. Sales reps must be cognizant that one complete action leads to another action. Strategic plans are comprised of multiple objectives. Each sales objective builds on previous objectives and, when completed, each one is another milestone for the deal. Within each action reps will need to complete a number of steps to ensure the objective is completed. When each single sales objective is completed, a new plan must be created to begin the process of completing the next action. Therefore, the sales process is the culmination of numerous completed action plans.

While there is no limit to the number of actions in a deal, each objective has to be:

  • Logical -There should be a natural progression from one step to the next.
  • Significant -The action must be necessary to closing the deal. It needs to be high on the priority list.
  • Realistic -All actions have to be realistic considering the current state of the deal and the reps positioning with the buying influences.
  • Valid -After developing the action plan, review it and think about how sales reps feel about each action. There has to be a firm belief that each action is working to nurture the deal and work toward closing.
Bottom Line & Business Impact

Failing to plan is planning to fail. Strategic action plans, whether large or small, complex or simple, should only be used with accounts where the juice is worth the squeeze. Strategic actions plans are the roadmap to success, especially in a competitive environment.

Author:.

With over 21 years of Business and IT experience, Greg has excelled in all facets of owning and managing a business along with Major Account Sales to Billion Dollar Plus Private Sector Organizations and to the Public Sector namely Federal, Provincial and Local Governments. Sales Leadership in Action Group Inc.                     ...

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