It?s that time of year again when many businesses throughout the land will be winding down for the festive break before coming back with an effective sales plan for a well-earned recharge of the batteries. Of course, this is understandable and just as in our own personal lives, business owners will no doubt take stock and review what they achieved in 2016 and what they can be do better in 2017. At the core of every business strategy for 2017 will no doubt be increasing sales, and this always starts with an effective sales plan. It may sound obvious, and may also come as a surprise to some that some firms don?t even seem to know where their sales plan is and as the old saying goes, ?failing to plan is planning to fail?. So, at the very start of an effective sales plan is committing to making one in the first place. After this, you have to commit to looking at it regularly and using it to steer you through the next 12 months. It doesn?t have to be hugely complicated ? firstly, look at your business plan to give you the foundation and focus for what you want to achieve in 2017. This may seem somewhat simplistic, and of course every company has its own culture and approach towards sales, just as it does towards everything else, but firstly agreeing to look at your business plan will help you see if you are heading in the right direction. After all, industries can change practically overnight in this day and age, so what you thought was right for 2016 may not now be right for 2017 ? always keep reviewing everything you do! Also, one point we at SalesRadar are passionate about is making our business plan easy on the eye, so we ask you not to overanalyse or overcomplicate things ? don?t get bogged down in the detail ? well, at least initially. Try to make sure the plan is concise and that every word counts. We then ask that your plan is realistic. If you?ve got ?20,000 of sales in the last year and now are hoping for the next year to turn that into ?2m, then think again. Goals are good, but crazy goals in a short time frame can be demoralising unless you and your team believe it?s possible. Whilst paralysis by analysis isn?t something we advocate, focus is imperative in all sales plans.? arget 100 companies that you?d like to work with, who you think could benefit from what you do, or finding a niche group who want to buy your product or service is invaluable. It?s far better than any scattergun approach. However, this really means you have to make sure all your sales people, whether there?s one or 100 buy in. They need to be singing from the same hymn sheet for an effective sales plan, hence the reason we stress the importance of simple sales plans. Having targets and the customers you want to go after is a great start, but the next big question is how do you get them to sign up with you rather than your competitors? Well it may take time, but the best things in life are worth waiting for, so start looking at those dream clients now and how you want to target them in 2017. Too many people have unrealistic expectations, and impatience is part of life, but you have to ensure those you want to work with at least know who you are. This won?t work with one email. It is here where the detail starts of how you get on their radar. And at the heart of this is a proper selling process. A report I read recently in the Harvard Business Review by the Sales Management Association of the US showed an 18 per cent difference in revenue growth between companies with a detailed formal sales process and companies without. All of us would do more if realising the difference action in this area would make to sales. Investing time in developing an individual process for your team, and making sure they know what has to be done is time well spent. And at a time of the year when there is a bit of a lull, thinking and acting on this is vital ?After all this research has revealed the importance of time and resources to carrying it out well. Finally, one point we would urge all businesses to do for an effective is make sure they allot a little time each week to review the business strategy and see if you are on track or if the plan needs tweaking. Sitting down and spending a huge amount of time on your 2017 business plan now is only good if you agree to make those tiny alterations as you go through the next 12 months. Business plans are not carved in tablets of stone and those little tweaks over time could ensure your sales plan could evolve into something quite different even by the middle of 2017, but so what so long as you?re heading the right way. So there you have it. Sales plans are there to help us with the vision of our businesses and there?s a lot of good advice easily found these days. We hope this has helped and most of all that at least you commit to an effective sales plan for 2017. Good luck. Steven Timberlake is the co-founder of cloud-based sales management software business SalesRadarImage: Shutterstock
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