ABC’s of Sales Planning


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Why do I need a sales plan?

Sales planning is critical to sales success. Return on Time Invested (ROTI) should be key criteria that every salesperson should use when evaluating their account base. The biggest asset a salesperson has is their time. It is imperative that they manage this asset carefully. Time management is called the queen of the management sciences and the reason why they call it the queen of management sciences is that time management – needs to be “romanced” –salespeople need to go through a fundamental management course every 12- 24 months.

A 120 Day Sales Plan is a great first step. This plan is the company’s first attempt to build an integrated business plan. Start by evaluating your territory with respect to economic conditions, competitive pressures, opportunities, threats and key customer and vendor objectives. What is really needed is to step back from the trees so you can see the forest. Some quality thinking will give you your baseline and then you can set your own goals, as well as plan out the major actions to achieve them.

You will repeat this process later in the year. You should strive to be realistic and also stretch in setting your objectives. This means that your “gut feel” says there is an 80% chance that you will achieve 100% of your goal. The company is going to be making investments in resources and support so that a significant growth rate can be achieved. There will be some ramp up benefit during this planning window, so be open minded rather than optimistic or cynical.

Your actual performance should be tracked against your goal to help develop some planning and forecasting skills.

First you need to list your key objectives for the next 120 days. Next list the key action items that are required to achieve your plan. Each section item must have a brief task description, a tangible output (i. e. meeting held, quote submitted, credit approved, management visit made, return authorized etc. ), a person named who is responsible for the output and a due date. Then interview your top 10 customers and work out your best estimate of their predicted sales and gross profit volumes. Finally, do this again except from a supplier perspective. It is not important to tie supplier volumes to specific customers. This forecast will be used for two purposes; To make sure that your inventory is adequate to support your efforts, and to see if any of the combined volumes are large enough to help negotiate a better purchase price. Build a sales and gross margin forecast of your top five vendors in terms of year to date gross profit volume. For planning purposes assume that volumes of all other vendors add up to your total customer forecast.

  • What will a sales plan do for me?

    A sales plan systematically provides focus on specific territory objectives that are congruent with overall corporate objectives.

  • Determine the following territory characteristics:

    o Segmentation – forecast potential by product and by service

    o Identify potential within new and existing accounts. Check marketing resources for new account development.

    o Listen to your customers. Find the major pain that wakes them up at night. Take away the pain and become their distributor of choice.

    o Promote the team-selling concept with inside sales and management. Make it part of your master territory plan. Become a team player yourself.

    o Create these habits:

    • Habit of Prospecting
    • Habit of Planning
    • Habit of Professionalism, Presentations, Appearance
    • Habit of Goal Setting
    • Habit of Record Keeping
    • Habit of Time and Territory Management
    • Habit of Self Development

    o “A” players balance time

    • Prospecting
    • Account Development
    • Maintenance

    Before we continue, we need to list exactly what an “A” player is. An “A” player must have the following characteristics:

    1. Appearance – personal, vehicle and sales material

    2. Pride – in yourself, your company and your profession

    3. Confidence – in yourself, your company and your product/service

    4. Sincere and trustworthy

    5. Desire to achieve – wants to help others get what they want and, in turn, earn a higher income

    6. Excels in time and territory management

    7. Does not ignore prospecting

    8. Creates definitive, comprehensive, documented sales plans for all major accounts

    9. Never visits a customer without a call plan

    10. Seeks self development

    11. Enjoys selling

    12. Persistent

    o Sources of Resource

    • Eliminate small, highly unprofitable accounts
    • Reduce call frequency on your buddies
    • Reduce call frequency on accounts close to office
    • Create team concept
    • Don’t try to be all things to all customers
    o Create “To Do” lists
    o Plan each call
    o Create master plan on all key accounts
    o Set measurable objectives
    o Create weekly itineraries
    o Complete weekly call plans
    o Schedule account and territory reviews

  • Be professional, thorough, and document everything. For New Customers include all pertinent information like Company Name etc. and then briefly describe the scope of the project and what the customer wants.

  • You also must have a Customer Cost Savings Evaluation. The following is an example of this.

    Customer Name: _ Sales Representative: _

    Month Savings Achieved: _ Amount of Monthly Savings: _

    To our Valued Customers,

    Our sales representatives have a major part of their incentive plan linked to their ability to help you reduce your costs. This form is the means that Corporate Management will use to measure their effectiveness. Your best judgment of true cost savings is defined as the best measure of their success. In the space below please provide a brief, and specific description of the results of our mutual efforts. Each major success should be documented on a separate form.

    Many of our mutual cost savings opportunities go beyond the industry, “three bids and a buy”, mentality. Changes and innovations in your purchasing practices may offer significant opportunities. We are willing to consider any changes in our practices that may help in this endeavor.

    Your sales representative can provide additional details upon your request.









    Approved by: _ Date: _

    Customer Signature and Printed Name

    Key Processes in Distribution Field Sales

    The role of field sales in the past focused around selling products to customers. The role is shifting rapidly to developing solutions and programs for customers that, once sold, allow product to flow through the business-to-business relationship. When developing process management tools for use in the field sales management function, the list below should be addressed carefully.

    The professional field sales representative must. . .

    1. Plan allocation of their personal time and other available resources to optimize performance against the expectations (frequently conflicting) of their employer, their customers and their suppliers.

    2. Gather information from customers, suppliers and their own employer in areas of needs and requirements. Needs would include organization, job and personal needs within all three groups.

    3. Continually gather information on threats and opportunities as well as emerging trends within their industry from sources outside of their customers, suppliers and their own companies.

    4. Analyze information from their three constituencies and outside sources to formulate and develop solutions that increase economic value.

    5. Plan, present, persuade and implement identified solutions.

    6. Keep their employer informed with respect to activities, results, work in process, threats and opportunities.

    7. Support the ongoing transaction management activity including pre-sell activity, transaction activity and post-sell activity. As distribution companies evolve, the role of field sales in this activity shifts from primary to supportive.

    8. Ensure that they maintain an ongoing training and development activity to increase their knowledge and professional effectiveness.

    The Solution May Not Be What it Seems

    In times past, salespeople were trained to focus on their product. They knew everything about it - what features it had, the benefits, how long it could last and what the red button did when pressed. Salespeople talked about the product until they were blue in the face. Armed with brochures and warranties, they were ready to attack. But, in today's environment, customers want more, not just the latest technology and the best “widget" a person can buy. They want complete solutions to all their problems. Suddenly, the brochure and other marketing materials are simply support functions. Buyers are more educated, more professional and seek more than just products. They want efficiencies, market share and profit generation.

    Finding the Pain

    Be more knowledgeable and conscious of your customer's problem. You're no longer selling a product, you're selling a solution to make their life easier, happier, better, less complicated, or more fun. By understanding the customer's business and his customers, you help them make a profit through both cost reductions, improved efficiencies, increased value and increased sales. Those solutions come in many forms and may have nothing to do with your product. That's okay. Look for the pain regardless of what it is and focus on the solution.

    Customers don't want products, they want profits - or ways to make profits. They want satisfaction, feelings of comfort, pride, praise and self-esteem. They are people just like us. Well, maybe they don't have the same crazy genetics that we have as salespeople, but they are just as smart, just as caring and have similar personal needs and feelings. – Sign up to receive “The Howl” a free monthly newsletter that addresses real world industry issues. – Straight talk about today’s issues. Rick Johnson, expert speaker, wholesale distribution’s “Leadership Strategist”, founder of CEO Strategist, LLC a firm that helps clients create and maintain competitive advantage. Need a speaker for your next event, E-mail

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