Priority # 1 - Build Your Sales Plan

We, at In the Funnel, write this blog to provide simple, straightforward advice on selling that you can apply to your business TODAY.

The most important metric to gauge the success of your business is revenue. Chances are however, that your last years sales performance was BELOW Expectations. Here’s why we are confident making such a bold generalization:

  • 48%* of Sales people underperform or miss quota
  • 28%** of Sales people change jobs each year (i.e. start over)
  • And yet 39%*** of B2B purchasing decisions still favour the firm that sold better

So, while selling well is really important, most companies are not able to master their sales. This is likely because most business schools offer almost no sales-specific courses.

The root cause on why sales performance is so bad will be the topic on a future blog post. The important question for this post is what should a Canadian Small to Mid-sized business do to inoculate poor sales performance this year?

The answer is to develop and document a concrete sales plan (we call it a Sales Playbook) for the year. All key functions within a business operate off of a plan. You use business plans, marketing plans, financial plans and project plans to chart the evolution of your business and performance against key initiatives.

However, for some reason when we ask to see our clients’ sales plans, they give us a blank stare that says “The dog ate my homework”. There is a false belief that new sales are entirely dependent on good or bad sales people and “the fix” to poor sales results is to replace the current sales team.

This is not true. A good sales person will not succeed if the company’s sales strategy is flawed. Without question, the capabilities of the sales team are critical to sales success. However people are simply one component of the Sales Playbook. Sales success is also dependent on the sales strategy, team structure, sales process, and sales technology.

If you want to dramatically improve sales performance, work on your Sales Playbook right now.

What is a Sales Playbook?

It is a combination of your:

  1. Go to Market Plan
  2. Sales Strategy – What you sell, Who you sell  to, How you sell it
  3. Execution Plan – How you are going to do it
  4. Management Cadence – How you will track progress and adjust accordingly

What is involved in the Go to Market Plan?

  1. Positioning your Value Proposition
  2. Defining your Target Market
  3. Developing Awareness Campaigns for your business / brand
  4. Initiating Demand Generation
  5. Executing on your Sales Strategy

Why do it now?

  • The holidays provide some ideal downtime to reflect and plan
  • You want to hit the ground running with your Sales Playbook within the first 2 weeks of January and roll out to the sales team (however big or small) with a Q1 Sales Kick off

Are there other key elements of sales performance that are more important than developing a plan like hiring the right sales staff, training them, establishing a formal sales process, and enabling them with the right technology?

All of the items above are critical elements of sales enablement, but FIRST you need the plan. For example, your Sales Playbook will help determine what your go to market coverage model is and this will determine HOW MANY sales people you need (obviously this is a pre-requisite to hiring and onboarding sales staff).


*In 2013 – the Harvard Business Review Blogger Steve Martin (not the comedian) conducted a survey of the top 100 technology companies in the U.S. Amongst THAT group, 48% of software sales people did not achieve their quota (i.e. their minimum performance expectations).

** Centre for Sales Leadership at DePaul University – Best Practice Survey

*** “Teaching Sales” Harvard Business Review July / Aug 2012 – Suzanne Fogel, David Hoffmeister, Richard Rocco and Daniels P. Strunk.