Your Sales Plan Isn’t What You Think

“Why aren’t we just doing what our biggest competitor is doing?”

That’s what the Sales VP of a product manufacturing company kept hearing from the firm’s owner, who was frustrated by the lackluster sales numbers being reported.

The owner insisted the solution to their sales problem was tactical. But it wasn’t. They hadn’t even begun to define WHY they had a sales problem in the first place!

This story illustrates an all-too-common mistake I see in businesses today: people try to solve a problem without understanding why that problem exists in the first place.

Here’s why that happens. They’re lured by the tantalizing promise of a quick-fix solution: a belief that by simply copying what someone else in the marketplace is doing, it will work for them, too. It seems appealing because doing the opposite—identifying the cause of the problem and creating and executing a plan to fix it—seems hard. But that’s what works for sales leaders.

They define a sales problem that needs solving and come up with tactics to fix it, but only after that first step has been carried out. And that order of activities tends to turn off people like the owner I’ve cited in this story.

Once you’ve identified the root cause of your sales problem, developing a plan to solve it can often seem difficult, but it’s not.

Don’t isolate tactics from strategy.

Tactics are an outcome of planning: not a substitute. Take the time to ask difficult questions and do your market research first so you have a clear picture of what the sales landscape looks like around you right now. Then—and only then—you can talk about the activities you can undertake to manage your sales problems skillfully. Do it backwards and you’ll get backwards outcomes.

Understand what changes and what doesn’t. 

The formula for creating your sales plan never changes. The process is repeatable no matter when or where you engage it. What does change is the what and the how of the equation. What is the state of your market currently? What do your customers look like? What do they want? How do you meet what they want? What are the obstacles to growth? How do you propose to tackle those obstacles?

Don’t overcomplicate things.

The mistake business leaders make when developing a sales plan is that they are lured into believing that a complicated plan is a better plan. The opposite is true.

A good plan defines simple, achievable goals. It lays out the basics of what you need to meet those goals. That includes identifying how many sales reps do you need, who is going to lead the team, how the marketing is going to work. And then it tells you what you are going do next when all those elements are in place, as well as the measurements you’re going to use, so you know whether your efforts have been successful.

Everything has to align with growth, including compensation.

Your sales tactics must align with your growth strategy. Always. That includes the way you look at how you compensate your sales team. Remember: your salespeople do what you pay them to do. If you don’t reward them for what you need them to do, you will fall short. If your compensation package is built around a reward that isn’t meaningful to them, they will get frustrated and leave. That means your compensation plan has to be consistent with the tactics you consider in service to the growth you are looking to achieve.

Take time to draw a distinction between tactics and strategy in your business. Be ready to ask a lot more questions you might be accustomed to about why you’re doing what you’re doing. Talk about the results you are achieving, and what you seek to achieve from all efforts.

The more deliberate you are, the more you will learn and the more effective your tactics will be in support of the growth you want.

15 responses to “Your Sales Plan Isn’t What You Think

  1. Excellent read, thanks for sharing amazing information. If the strategy fails it affects the sales revenue.
    So,What immediate action can be taken to remedy the shortfall in sales revenue?

  2. Nice read! Got great insights and information from your blog. Thanks.Does sales plan strategies really set out-
    your plan to increase existing customer sales and
    your plan for achieving new targets and increasing your profit margin?

  3. is sales presentation/sales pitch a part of the sales plan?
    (since it gives a greater insight of customers pain points and a way to communicate to the prospect which also helps in closing the deal)
    if yes, how much importance does it carry while designing a good sales plan?

  4. I absolutely concur with the above article. Finding the root cause and solving is pathway to great success.
    Researching all aspects of the problem and finding the solutions to each of them gradually and distributing works to the team will effectively increase the companies profit.

  5. Hello great content. Here you have said “Tactics are an outcome of planning: not a substitute” but I think people have a tactics in their mind and they plan things according to it, so that at the end the tactics work out. So here tactics is the primary thing they have, don’t you think so?

  6. It was really a good writing to get an insight about a common mistake of sales plan. But madam I have a question about how can we effectively prepare a sales plan and what are the measures we should follow to get a good sales plan prepared ?

  7. It was a really good write up explaining about the sales plan. But madam I have a question regarding identification of the root cause for the business problem and what steps I can take to find out this problem very easily and conveniently ?

  8. How can the sale tactics align with growth tactics to achieve the organisations goals

  9. Hello, great share. But i think that tactics as a primary thing. More often the sales managers will be having a tactics in there mind and they start making plans according to it so that the tactics at the end works out. Are you suggesting that the planning should be the primary key?

  10. “people try to solve a problem without understanding why that problem exists in the first place”.
    .I agree with this statement totally.If the sales team smartly tries an attempt to discover the other party’s problems or difficulties and help them to overcome that, it can lead to sales. An attempt to expose the masked issues of the buyer’s side would help you make a strategic plan to carry out your sales.

  11. Planning is the start as you can’t execute well if you don’t have a good plan. Ultimately, execution is they key.

  12. Once you understand the organizational goals, create tactics that support you achieving those goals.

  13. Ask questions. “What do you thinking is causing this?” is a simple and effective questions to start.

  14. A sales pitch is not part of a sales plan. It’s the final activity that results from a well executed plan.

  15. […] What’s one thing you’re committed to trying or changing in your sales process? […]

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