Having accepted that a crucial sales skill is planning, the next stage is to identify exactly what planning is going to help achieve the strategic goal in the long term and the quality of the sales call outcomes in the short term.
The first step is to make sure you are clear about the difference between account planning and call planning. The first is often referred to as an Account Development Plan and represents the desired outcomes in the long term. Whilst these are most often related to increased sales, they could just as easily relate to the development of a joint venture or business partnership. These account plans can have variable timescales ranging from a few months to a few years. The call plan is very different – this is the planning done prior to every sales call to ensure that the objective of the meeting, or telephone call, is met. More about call plans in the next blog post, but for now back to the account plan.
The Account Plan is often made up of two distinct parts – the Account Profile (which contains detailed information about the account, their business, contact details and sales records to date) and the Account Development Plan (ADP) itself. The ADP is the road map for the account. It lays out the final goal (or destination) and the stops on the way. Without it you won’t know if you are on the right road and you certainly won’t know when you arrive!
Practically, the Account Development Plan consists of 4 elements:
1. A strategic goal which defines what you want the relationship between your companies to be like in the long term.
2. Account objectives are the mid-term destinations. Primarily these are rated to sales and revenue targets but they can just as easily include non-financial objectives e.g. Numbers of sign-ups to a loyalty programme or commitments to joint marketing activities.
3. The milestones represent the points on the way that will keep you on track. The revenue targets can be broken down into quarterly targets for example, remembering to take into account any market and seasonal variables that mean that the target is rarely a clean break into four!
4. Finally comes your list of activities. These are the things you are going to do to help achieve the milestones, and ultimately the objectives and goals. These can include the meetings you will plan to have, the contacts you will develop and the marketing you will undertake.
Planning in this way – and in this order – will help ensure that your day to day activities are closely linked to achievement of the account goals rather than a somewhat random list of activities that will hopefully achieve the goals …… if you keep your fingers crossed!
The final piece of advice is to make sure that the ADP is a living document. It’s not something to be created once and never looked at again for 12 months. It needs continual review and updating. By doing this you’ll stay closer to your track and will also get a far better sense of achievement as your hard work starts to pay off. This shouldn’t be an onerous piece of planning. It’s a basic common sense approach to being more productive and ultimately getting better results.
If you would like to talk to us about anything in this article then please leave us a comment, or contact us and we’d be delighted to help. In the meantime come back soon for part three of this series of blog posts which will focus on call planning.