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A Modern Approach to Effective Sales Planning

Feb 08, 2024
4 min read

Sales planning is a vital component of the strategy for any effective sales team. Without providing clear, actionable goals and a structure designed to reach them, your teams aren't likely to achieve the results you're hoping for. Read on to discover the key elements of sales planning that help your organization drive results and achieve your sales goals. 

The Importance of Sales Planning

Sales planning is foundational to the success of your Sales teams. With a solid sales plan in place, your team understands its goals, including revenue targets and key performance indicators (KPIs), and the path needed to reach those goals. An effective sales plan also helps establish the big picture, which encourages creative thinking. It then breaks down that larger goal into actionable steps and helps the team assess and plan for potential risks and obstacles ahead of time.

Because the team shares the plan collaboratively, team members are better able to coordinate their efforts and communicate effectively with all stakeholders. Each team member knows their role in the overall strategy, so they can focus on making sales and closing deals. Productivity and performance improve because each team member knows their individual goals.

A good sales plan also helps you allocate resources and budget effectively. It facilitates course correction, so you can tweak those allocations midstream as needed, and it helps you manage your inventory levels accurately. Salespeople are better able to devote themselves to excellent customer service because they have the information and resources needed to meet customer needs and retain clients.

When you bring your sales and operations planning processes together, you enable your teams to integrate financial planning, production plans, staffing, scheduling, and vendor management to serve your master business strategy. Bringing your Sales teams into the loop with this high-level planning can help you look to the future while tweaking current projects for maximum efficiency and results.

4 Elements of Effective Sales Planning

To create an effective sales plan, you should focus on four key elements. Forecasting crunches your data to help you look to the future accurately, while KPIs help establish clear goals. Smart contingency plans can keep you on track when things don't happen as expected, and sales planning software keeps your teams on the same page and provides the tools they need. Let's dig a bit deeper into each of these key elements.

1. Forecasting 

Forecasting provides the milestones and guidelines needed to build an accurate sales plan. Forecasts establish sales quotas and make better estimates of future sales. But a forecast is only as good as the data used to create it. This means the numbers need to be comprehensive and most importantly, accurate. Miscalculations in actual performance can lead teams astray and negatively affect future planning.

2. Clear KPIs

Your sales teams likely have more data available to them than ever before, and that data is invaluable in helping set clear KPIs. Well-chosen KPIs can help fuel your sales strategies, as they provide the information you need to see your successes clearly, as well as areas for improvement. When your Sales teams interpret what they learn from your KPIs, they're able to take appropriate actions to reach their goals. Choosing the right KPIs is key to making the best possible use of this valuable tool.

Before creating your forecasting, it is important to express your forecast in various “what-if” scenarios that describe the worst, best, and likely cases. KPIs and some sort of quantifiable metric should be assigned to each hypothetical. It’s from this base that it’ll become clear what processes need to be implemented in order to achieve and avoid each outcome.

3. Contingency plans

During the course of any sales year, forecast variations are to be expected. Goals do, and should, change. For this reason, it’s important to develop contingency plans to handle unforeseen circumstances throughout the year. Look to the what-ifs in your KPIs to give you a baseline idea of the plan you should roll out if worst comes to worse. It might feel like you’re preparing to fail, but unless you can predict the future it’s reckless to not prepare for every outcome.

4. Sales planning software

Sales planning software is one of the most valuable tools your Sales team has available. With this software, you can make accurate predictions regarding your sales. These forecasts help you order inventory in a timely fashion, and they provide the information you need for the most effective and efficient allocation of resources, including your staff. With the real-time insight provided by sales planning software, you can make smart decisions and course corrections as needed. In addition, your sales planning software facilitates collaboration across teams and helps you compare your Sales teams' results.

Xactly’s sales performance management solutions have been developed with this purpose in mind, making the planning and forecasting process effective and actionable. Xactly goes well beyond sales planning, providing solutions for variable compensation plans, quota  and territory plans, and optimization through profitability analysis and what-if scenario creation.

Optimizing Your Sales Planning Process

Without sales, your company can't flourish. That's why optimizing your sales planning process is so important. It helps you reduce costs and maximize profits through improving your sales strategies. 

When you optimize your sales planning process, you learn from past successes and mistakes. The result? Increased sales, conversions, and profits. Optimization can also focus on reduction of expenses through more efficient allocation of resources and staff, improving your overall ROI. You also streamline the day-to-day activities of your Sales teams so they make the best possible use of their time—focusing on customers.

One added bonus of optimizing your strategic sales plan is the boost to your Sales teams' motivation. As their sales results improve, they're likely to feel more enthusiastic, bringing their best to the job every day to fuel an ever-upward cycle of success.

Optimization of your sales process becomes easier when you choose innovative sales planning tools. Xactly's sales planning software can design, monitor, and optimize your own sales planning and hit your targets every time.

  • Sales Performance Management
  • Sales Planning
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Xactly News Team

The Xactly News Team reports on the latest product, events and market trends taking place within Xactly and throughout the revenue intelligence industry.