Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Sales Plan

"Selling must be understood and supported by the entire organization for you to be successful."

The sales plan
As a salesperson, you will find that many companies are operating without a well-defined plan. So write your own. Basically, the sales plan is to execute the marketing plan. The sales plan should begin with the revenue and strategic objectives of the marketing plan. It should identify cash cows, rising stars, and question marks. The cash cow is generally the single most effective way to maximize your short-term cash flow potential and by definition will drive most of your sales goals.

Prioritize around your sales budget
First make some assumptions as to your territory potential. The old 80/20 rule can be used to establish your accounts potential. Define your accounts as A, B, or C to prioritize your time and assign probabilities of closure and the dollar amount to each account. An example would be 20% A,30% B, and 50% C. This will help you to forecast more accurately.

Next, outline the types of activities required to gain the business necessary to meet your targeted sales.

For example, the A account may only require a monthly field call to maintain the relationship. A major account may require twice the contact because of the competitive nature of the market location. The key is to utilize all three forms of contact:in-person sales calls, telephone calls, and letters. You must schedule time for all three and forecast the probability of closure.

Measure your plan against your actual results
Define a method of measuring your sales plan goals with your actual sales on a regular basis. If your plan does not produce the desired results, or the results change drastically, you will need to react quickly and identify the proper corrective action.

Get approval and hold the management team accountable
Include in your plan items that are required or you need from the management team. Outline required resources and how they will translate into sales objectives. Once you have defined your sales plan -- with all of your assumptions written and approved by management -- you are ready to define a timetable and roll into the sales process.

The sales process
Selling is a process, and to be effective you must understand the process.
Listen to your prospect's needs and help the prospect move along the sales
process to obtain a business commitment.

"goal is to simply get the prospector to move from one step to the other"

The initial meeting
The most important part of the sales process is the initial meeting. This is where you can determine their true needs and how you can help them. Unfortunately, however, this is where most salespeople
sabotage sales, because they assume that all prospects are the same and automatically go into a canned sales presentation about the product and the company without a clear understanding of what the potential customer needs. Instead, introduce yourself and then ask how you can help them based on the following questions:

1. What they do?
2. How they do it?
3. Where they do it?
4. Who they do it with?
5. Why have they chosen to do it that way?

Your job is to figure out how to help them do it better.

Close the interview by saying that you appreciate their time and that you will need a few days to review the information and get back to them. Set up the next meeting before you leave and ask if you can bring a technical person to the next meeting. This determines whether they are still interested in doing business with you. The key to selling is to slowly build a deeper relationship, and introducing a third person into the process ensures higher quality, more accurate information for you.

Review the preliminary proposal and get a buy-in
After the interview process, go back to your office, review all the notes from the interview, and develop a proposal that addresses their needs. The key here is customization. In other words, make sure to include all the technical terms that you gathered from the presentation. Call the prospect on the phone, fax the proposal and go over it, or present it in person. Clearly state that this is a preliminary draft and that you want their input to before you deliver the final. Make any necessary changes to the final proposal.

Deliver the final proposal
The final proposal should include all the changes/input from the preliminary meeting, include final pricing, start date, and end dates. Present the information and make sure that they are following along with you. Close your presentation with, "I have to tell you, this makes sense to me. We will get you started by next Wednesday. What do you think?"

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