Given how busy and strained many sales teams are today, it’s not unusual for them to fall into the trap of working reactively to build pipelines and never truly owning their time or their calendars. However, many of the best sales teams I’ve worked with took a more strategic sales planning approach to ensure they use their time wisely.
The best practice of these sales teams is this: They proactively plan how they are going to strategically spend their time in their accounts or territories by looking out 3 years (yes, 3 whole years!):
Knowing what you want to do 3 years in advance gives you an advantage since you have a proactive plan for where you will be spending your time – and aligning your time with your customer/prospect’s priorities.
Then what do you all this information? First, in order to ensure you successfully adhere to the plan, the best practice is to break the 3-year plan down to annual milestones. Then, break the annual milestones down to quarterly activities and tasks to ensure you reach those.
Most sales teams do a good job of this. However, because they get busy with current deals, meetings, travel, administration, and so many other things, much of the plan only gets looked at once in a blue moon. What do the best sales team do? They break down the quarterly tasks and activities into monthly actions, and then weekly activities totally ensure they lift themselves out of the reactive weeds and stick to their long-term plan.
For those sales teams who proactively plan at this level, they select 3 to 5 key weekly activities that assist them in adhering to their strategic plan. Unfortunately, many sales teams focus these weekly activities on reacting to their current deals.
Contrast this with the best sales teams, who are relentless in ensuring their weekly activities are specifically tied to their quarterly tasks, annual milestones, and 3-year plan. Why is this important? Because even if you don’t complete all 3 to 5 weekly activities, if you do some of them, then you have done more than most to ensure you’re aligned with your customer, on-target to achieve your proactive milestones, and use our time wisely.
Now, all of this cannot be done in a vacuum. Strategic sales planning, and the status of such, must be shared with management so they can provide insights. This management review also ensures the sales team continues to proactively plan towards reaching ultimate goals and eliminate any obstacles.
By getting management oversight, you and your sales team can discuss any risks, barriers or limitations, address them sooner than later, and maximize time. If this review of strategic sales planning is only done monthly or quarterly (or annually!), then the sales team will continue to miss big opportunities. And, most likely, much time will be wasted with all the reactive things that get thrown at you along the way.
So, what do you have to lose? Adopt a strategic sales planning approach by breaking down your proactive goals into more manageable chunks to ensure you use your time wisely. Stop saying you need more than 24 hours in a day, and instead, use that plan to maximize your time and continue to build/validate your pipeline with quality deals based on where your customers/prospects are spending their time, money and resources. That is an excellent use of any sales team’s time. How does YOUR team conduct strategic sales planning?