8 Tips for Strategic Sales Planning

Sep 01, 2020
5 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. And as market pressures continue to reach new heights, growth strategy leaders are striving, but failing, to accelerate their planning processes fast enough. In order to be successful, sales organizations need a data-driven strategic sales plan that empowers teams to drive performance and achieve organizational goals that include the people, vision, and data of your business.

What are the components of sales planning? It’s your capacity planning, quota allocation and territory design all rolled up into a key component of your go-to-market strategy. Organizations need to have the ability to pivot quickly and strategically in the face of disruption. That requires having real-time data insights to help equip teams to adjust plans on the fly and make confident decisions in any situation. But, what are some of the things you should incorporate into your sales strategy plan and what does that look like on a tactical level?

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 team up to succeed.

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

The strongest sales plans start out with the right approach. Ideally, sales planning is a continuous, automated, collaborative and data-informed process. It's important to assess your assumptions throughout the year and make changes as needed to stay on track to hit goals. 

According to Forrester research, only 48% of decisions made within an organization are made based on quantitative information and analysis—that’s essentially leaving 52% of your potential success up to sheer luck. Leaders need to have a data-informed and continuous approach to sales planning to ensure every decision that is being made for your sales department is strategically putting you in the best position to succeed.

When using data as your planning driver, you can easily identify the biggest opportunities for growth and ensure you have the right resources and solutions you need to hit your numbers. Sales leaders must adapt and evolve to the point of being able to make near-real-time course-corrections based on current and trusted data if they want to really drive success in their organizations. Strategic companies are leveraging these insights to create a continuous and holistic sales planning process across your entire organization, from capacity and quota planning to territory and incentive design and beyond. 

2.  Consider Your Capacity Needs 

The 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 best case scenario, no dip 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 due to the lack of incentive pay. 

Having access to historical quota attainment patterns helps to better understand how your sales organization has performed in the past, so more accurate assumptions can be made. 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.

According to Forrester, 77% of companies find having access to data-driven sales

territory designs helpful in planning processes. Using third-party data, organizations can better align territories. 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 sales 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 strategic sales plan, it's vital to model and optimize.. Solutions like Xactly Sales Planning, make the modeling process easier by ensuring 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.

Strategic sales planning applies this insight to your incentive 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, in a recent study conducted by Forrester, 90% of companies say making real-time decisions based on real-time insights is important to be effective, yet only 27% of respondents said they were equipped to do so. 

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 about how Sales Performance Management (SPM) can help you harness real-time insights to inform smart decision-making? Check out the on-demand recording of our recent webinar, Forrester Research: The New Sales Imperative, where industry experts Mary Shea, Forrester’s Principal Analyst, and Jamie Anderson, Xactly’s Chief Sales Officer, discuss how to power ahead into the new future of sales and why continuous sales planning is key to that vision.

  • Sales Planning