While the sales planning process varies between companies and individual sales professionals, certain basic elements should be included in any marketing plan or direct sales strategy. Professional sales consultants at ITSMA, a technology services marketing organization, have identified six steps that are necessary to a successful sales campaign. Their extensive marketing research shows that many companies have been missing a major piece in the sales planning process--inclusion of the customer. Customers can provide sales organizations with clearer direction, pointing to what they want, how they want it delivered, what they're willing to pay for it and when they will be ready to buy.
Since most sales organizations rely on a few customers to purchase the bulk of their products or services, the first step in the planning process should be to identify those highly valued clients. Sales planning should focus on these customers and their desires. Since they provide the bulk of the revenue, their preferences count most. The second step is to map a strategy to reach these clients and then check their validity with the accounting department. Once their value is verified, various people in the sales organization can be given responsibilities to contact and coordinate the entire planning process. Through surveys, conversations and direct responses, sales agents can create the offerings, which should be priced and packaged based on the feedback. Custom-tailored marketing strategies will be recognized and received well by clients who believe that the sales company is listening to them.
Software programs such as those developed by Plan Write Sales Planner and Kinaxis can assist sales organizations in the planning process by guiding the collection of information and helping to organize it usefully. Pieces of the program allow a company to enter its mission and goals and measure results. Sales costs, timelines and forecasts can be evaluated in one platform from a desktop. Various departments such as marketing, IT, sales, operations, supply chain management and human resources can work on the planning process through the software network; in addition, these departments can view progress and print reports.
Follow-up is another area in which sales professionals often fall short. Built in to the planning process, follow-up can be one of the best sources of future business and referrals. Companies should build in automatic follow-up techniques. Follow-up processes, which include customer service, can be triggered by the software that’s been implemented to create the plan.