8 Tips for Strategic Sales Planning

Apr 24, 2019
4 min read
Strategic sales planning is essential to gain a competitive advantage and achieve high sales performance. Here are 8 tips to improve your sales planning.

Sales performance starts with strategic sales planning. In order to be successful, sales organizations need a data-driven strategic sales plan that empowers your sales team to drive performance and achieve your organizational goals.

As the foundation of your sales organization, your sales plan is made up of your capacity planning, quota allocation, and territory design. Together, these are the base that, along with your sale compensation plan, set sales reps up to meet (and ideally exceed) their quota. 

8 Strategic Sales Planning Tips & Best Practices

Below are eight strategic sales planning tips and best practices to ensure your sales plan is data-driven, well-designed, and sets your sales team up to succeed.

1. Start with the Right Planning Approach: Data-driven

The strongest sales plans start out with the right approach. Ideally, your sales planning is ongoing, data-based, and cross-functional. It's important to assess your assumptions throughout the year and make changes as needed to stay on track to hit goals. 

By using data as your planning driver, you can easily identify the biggest opportunities for growth and ensure you have the right resources. Ultimately, data also allows you to easily track performance against your sales planning models. 

Finally, strategic sales planning should involve leaders from several teams in your organization. Ideally, you should include leadership from product, marketing, and finance teams to ensure you keep the total addressable market (TAM), market demand, and budget in mind. 

2.  Consider Your Capacity Needs 

According to Xactly Chief Sales Officer, Marc Gemassmer, they way you handle sales ramp time and attrition can make or break your sales success. Sales capacity planning ensures you have the right amount of resources to hit your organizational goals, but it's more than just having the right number of sales reps to cover each territory.

It's extremely important to consider ramp time and rep turnover when capacity planning. Strategic sales planning ensures you have enough sales reps ramped and up to speed in the event a top rep leaves. That way, there is a small or no dips in performance. 

3. Allocate Accurate Quota Planning

Misallocated quotas can severely hurt sales performance. A quota that is too low might result in overpayment of sales reps—even if organizational goals aren't hit. A quota that is too high might result in demotivated reps and lower performance because of the lack of incentive pay. 

Having access to historical quota attainment patterns helps better understand how your sales organization has performed in the past, so you can make more accurate assumptions. With data-driven capacity planning, organizations ensure they have the right resources and allocate quota properly.

4. Aim for Fair, Balanced Sales Territories

Like quota planning, poor territory design can result in low performance and morale. Balanced, fair territories are designed so that each territory offers reps equal sales opportunities and resources to hit quota. Ideally, this eliminates the idea that some reps get good territories and others get bad ones.

Using third-party data, organizations can better align territories. Automation tools, like Xactly AlignStar, can use this data to effectively map territories, show side-by-side comparisons, and provide prescriptive improvement recommendations. 

5.  Consider How Incentives Play a Role

The right capacity, quota, and territory design sets the stage for strategic incentive planning. With the knowledge your sales plan provides, you have a deeper understanding of what you can afford to pay reps while still achieving goals. 

Again, using historical data, you can look at what types of incentives drive the strongest performance and implement similar sales commission structures into your plan. It also helps you determine if your sales incentives are driving the right sales behaviors. (You can get more sales compensation planning tips in our Ultimate Guide to Sales Compensation Planning). 

6. Model and Test Out Your Sales Plans Before Rollout

Before you roll out any part of your sales plan, it's vital to model and optimize. Automation tools, like Xactly Sales Planning, make the modeling process easier. Ultimately, the goal is to ensure you've planned for every possible outcome—good and bad. 

By creating and running multiple sales planning models, you can: 

  • Quickly identify any factors impacting sales coverage
  • Access accurate, up-to-date performance data to increase coverage modeling effectiveness
  • Ensure the right timing of resource hiring to account for potential turnover

7. Set Performance Measures by Role

You know that not all of your sales reps have the same performance measures because they have different responsibilities. Therefore, different roles on your sales team should have different quotas and metrics they are measured on.

The same applies to your sales compensation plans. This ensures that each sales role has a sales plan tailored to their responsibilities, and each sales team member has the strongest opportunity to hit their goals. 

8. Continuously Analyze & Make Plan Adjustments

The most important part of strategic sales planning is continuous analysis. To be successful and gain an advantage over competitors in today's highly-competitive business environment, organizations must be able to respond to market changes and adapt their sales plans quickly. In fact, over 90% of CFOs say the ability to dynamically plan "in the moment" is vital to react in a fast-changing business landscape (CFO.com). 

By implementing strategic sales planning, organizations ensure they use their data effectively and have the strongest plan for the year ahead. Access to data creates a more informed sales organization, resulting in higher performance, productivity, and better decision making. 

Want to learn more ways you can improve sales planning and performance? Download our in-depth Q&A guide with Ventana Research CEO and Chief Research Officer, Mark Smith, "The Imperative for Sales Planning." 

  • Sales Planning
Karrie Lucero
Karrie Lucero
Content Marketing Manager

Karrie Lucero is a Content Marketing Manager at Xactly. She earned marketing and journalism degrees from New Mexico State University and has experience in SEO, social media and inbound marketing.