And, in the language of selling: Revenue Production = Strategy x Execution.
Just as very few companies succeed without a strategy, very few scalable sales efforts will survive without one. When asked what a Sales Strategy or Sales Planning Methodology is, we often reply with:
‘Sales Planning is a continuum of knowing your customer, understanding the activities that support the customer’s buying process, your company’s repeatable sales process (do you have one?), and consultative selling best practices that, when executed properly, significantly increase your odds for sales success – however you define it. Usually led by the sales team, the process fosters collaboration, alignment and support across the seller’s entire organization.’
A simplified breakdown of an effective sales planning methodology would involve four major components: Target Plan, Account Plan, Opportunity Plan, and Call Plan. Each component should be leveraged where the benefit will outweigh the effort to build, deliver and manage it.
The Target Plan
The Target Plan is a moving target that should be completed each year where a seller systematically looks across their broader marketplace, however defined, to ensure they will focus on the most attractive clients and opportunities. It also ensures that the seller’s approach aligns with the direction and resources from their own company to enable their success. Consider this the “10,000-foot view.” It is especially important in the startup stage since time and resources are limited, and replication of success and scale is a leading investor metric. At Altus Alliance, we go through a Market Driven Baseline assessment to ensure it is the market that is truly telling you what is viable and scalable.
The Account Plan
With a market segment tightly defined, the Account Plan includes all the potential account(s) which best match the criteria of the Target. This plan takes a strategic view into the target customer’s business, and strives to align the seller’s company with the target account’s business challenges and key people. The Account Plan usually contains a list of major opportunities inside each of the accounts. Like the Target Plan, it also drives productive research, collaborative strategies, and a chosen set of prioritized execution activities that will profitably grow an account over the medium to long term. Think of this as the “1000-foot view.”
The Opportunity Plan
As you dive into specific accounts (now coming in at “100-foot view”), the best sales plans have a typical opportunity target, or beachhead, that is believed or proven to be the best way in. For startups, everything starts with landing a specific opportunity, which later becomes an account to be expanded via the Account Plan. An opportunity that gets profiled should be attractive either financially, strategically, or both. The Opportunity Plan focuses a selling team, aligns a specific solution with a specific client challenge, qualifies the opportunity to ensure its viability, and prioritizes go-forward selling activities and company resources to win / grow the specific opportunity. Once a sales team is ‘in’ a company, future opportunities and account growth can be achieved from within and with the help and support of the opportunity’s champion.
The Call Plan
This is a daily activity for sellers and its intent is to enable highly productive interactions between seller and buyer. It contains elements of client research, key questions, and executive conversational skills. The Call Plan supports Account and Opportunity Plans and helps advance and accelerate the sales cycle. This is the block-and-tackle of repeated attempts and connections but now all aligned with the core sales plan and messaging. At this point you see things from the “Ground View” which can ultimately iterate back into Account Plan to ensure the strategy is sound for each customer.
Below is a table of each type of Sales Plan and some key elements:
If you are saying, “Wow, there is a lot here!” – you are right, there is. But consider this a framework and realize that it can be approached from many starting points – even one piece at a time if necessary. At Altus Alliance, we have seen sales improvement in the 10x and 100x range by implementing just one piece of Sales Planning, inside one company.
Please feel free to reach out to Altus Alliance if you’d like to speak with one of our experts on this topic.
Author: Don Gracy, Partner