Sales Planning: Best Practices for Long-Term Success

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    My ninety-four-year-old neighbor jokes that for her, thinking ahead means buying green bananas, assuming she’ll be around to eat them when they ripen.  Thankfully, most of us can plan a little further ahead than that. And for those of us in sales,  long-term planning increases our effectiveness.

    If long-term sales planning is something you haven’t done a lot, it’s time to start. Think about where you (as an individual and as part of a company) hope to be this time next year, or in three years, or in ten?  If you’re not sure, it’s time to figure out a few goals.

    Think Long-Term for Yourself

    If you enjoy sales and sales management, picture yourself in your ideal position three or five years from now.  What steps do you have to take to get there?  What opportunities can you leverage now to make that a reality?

    Write your goals down and start coming up with a plan to achieve them. Steps might include taking online courses to learn new software, or shadowing a more experienced colleague to develop your professional skills. Many salespeople report that articulating career goals is one of the fastest ways to get out of a sales slump and find a bit of additional motivation in the workplace.

    Think Long-Term for Your Employees

    If you’re in a management position, you need to do some sales planning for your team members as well as yourself.

    Think about this case: one call center we’re familiar with was located in a college town, and the company’s goal was to be the perfect college job.  The manager wanted college students to work there for three or four years, coming in part-time after their classes.  Because the goal was neither short-term work nor creating decade-long careers, the company was able to structure their recruitment practices, time-off policies, management strategies, and pay structures around the goal of the perfect college job.  Consequently, the goal was quickly within reach.

    Without a goal for the types of employees you want to attract and retain, it’s difficult to form a vision for the company.

    Think Long-Term for Your Clients

    Do your goals include having a handful of very loyal, long-term clients, or would you prefer higher volume with more turnover?  Perhaps somewhere in between?  If your goal is to keep clients for a very long time, this will influence your customer service as well as your advertising.  If your goal is to provide quality service, you’ll need to invest in great customer service resources early on.

    Of course, like most things in business, long-term plans are always subject to change.  The very act of making (and subsequently re-making) plans for you, your employees, and your clients is a productive sales enablement exercise because it enables you to adapt your short-term behaviors and priorities to meet your longer-term goals.  Think ahead and reap the rewards of your sales planning.

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