How To Rewrite Your Business Plan During A Crisis
The primary reason sales leaders don’t hit their target is because their “forecasts” are backed by hollow, generalized statements of hope and not rigorous nonnegotiable standards, plans, and measurable drivers.
Hope kills results. Planning equals power. Power is the ability to execute.
Here are some statements that indicate a forecast is based on hope:
I’ll know it when I see it.
Preferably we will…
I’m trusting that…
Get the support of…
Make progress on…
My intention is to…
We hope to achieve…
Get to the stage of…
Most of the team…
Get laser-focused on…
Building the structure for…
Our situation is complicated.
My goal is to get back to where we were.
Improve the performance of…
Doubling down on…
A statement backed by a plan should sound something like this:
Here are the specific measurable steps I’m taking with each sales rep (broken down by week) and the milestones, timelines, resources and personal calendar time I am committing to reach our $2M revenue target for 3Q20. These are the names of each account (new, inactive, prospective and strategic) in our funnel that we will contribute to our sales target. Here is the conversion percentages we expect to achieve, by funnel stage. This is the expected cost per transaction. Here are the exact things I plan to do and the specific results I will generate to make certain we achieve our $2m revenue target. I’ll be reporting on these specific measurable things each week, and you should hold me accountable for achieving these specific measurables.
See the difference?
Good intentions don’t achieve sales targets.
You must plan your work down to the account level. However, creating the plan doesn’t ensure the outcome. Making a detailed account plan doesn’t increase the likelihood that the plan is viable, nor does it give you a greater degree of control. In fact, the actual plan will likely be missed…but having a specific measurable plan for accounts (and for each rep) enables you to have the optics required to see the deviation in real time and course correct accordingly. Dwight D. Eisenhower said “In preparing for battle, I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”
It’s not really about the plan. The value is in planning.
Understanding all the elements of the sales plan and how the pieces are interconnected is key to knowing how and when to adjust when you get off course. The value of account planning is the clarity of being able to explain your strategy and tactics to increase your level of sales success under the current circumstances, which is different than explaining how the current circumstances have affected your sales performance.
Sales leaders and executives make these three common mistakes when planning:
- Confusing the goal for a plan. Wanting to hit your sales targets (and stating that you will) is very different than detailing how you plan to go from A to B to C within the account or assigned accounts.
- Focusing more on the target than the process. If you get paralyzed by how big your targets are or spend too much time thinking about what life looks like after you’ve succeeded (or failed), then you aren’t working the plan. Focus on the activity not the results.
- Creating plans that are too future focused. I’m seeing a lot of 3–5 year “sales plans.” I wonder if this is driven by the saturation of private equity, but I’m not sure. Planning for more than the next 12 months is a waste of time. Things change too quickly. Don’t believe me, go study Covid-19.
A plan is always executable. The key questions to ask in preparing your account plans always start with How, What or Who.
How will I achieve my sales targets?
What specific activities are required to be performed?
Who is going to perform them?
What are the standards of performance?
What are the critical drivers that must consistently be executed to achieve these results?
How frequently should activity be reported and measured in order to ensure success?
Who owns each outcome?
Remember, accountability should never be feared; it is the mother of excellence. A plan without specifics and accountability is just a dream.
Questions to consider:
- How do I need to rework our forecast and budget to make them granular and measurable?
- What are the specific steps I need to take to ensure each rep hits their sales target?
- What are the specific activities and milestones the team must hit in order to achieve the sales plan?
- Who, specifically, is accountable and responsible for achieving each outcome?
- What are the dashboards and reports I need to share with my sales team and management team to make sure we are measuring the critical drivers and making corrections based on performance?
- Am I executing an idea or a plan?
- Since a plan is always actionable, do I know what needs to be done this week, this month, etc?
- Where do my current results deviate from the plan? What are the performance metrics that must be monitored more closely in light of these variances?
- How does my budget vs. actual financial comparison stack up?
Nigel Green helps investors, executives, and sales leaders of quickly-growing companies create predictable sales growth. He serves on the Board of Advisors for Relode, Workit Health, CaredFor and Affirm Health. For B2B companies investing in sales growth, he’s your guide for strategic initiatives. As an executive, Nigel has more than 15 years of experience leading sales and marketing for Fortune 500 companies, mid-market companies, and start-ups. He is the author of Revenue Harvest: A Sales Leader’s Almanac for Planning the Perfect Year. His insights have been featured in Business Insider, Thrive Global and Inc. Magazine.