Nearly every sales organization will admit they could be better at planning.
According to a study by Cascade Insights, more than 75% of sales leaders agree their planning efforts are problematic — and 90% of sales ops leaders confessed on LinkedIn they need to do sales planning faster and more frequently.
Regardless of your revenue goals, if you can be faster and more effective at your sales planning practices, you will give your sellers a competitive advantage.
Here are my top 5 tips to be part of the 10% who do sales planning right.
5 tips to rethink your sales planning
1. Combine predictive scoring with historical insights to gain a better understanding of your customers
Every organization needs to choose the markets and buyers they want to focus on, and concentrate their efforts on those buyers. Often, we’ll prioritize using account segmentation and scoring rules.
But deciding which buyers to focus on is not always obvious.
Sales leaders often evaluate prospects and existing customers based on readily available information — order history, and firmographic data (company location, size, industry, etc).
This information can be helpful. But what if you could provide sellers with a more holistic picture of an account’s ability to buy?
By leveraging advanced analytics, you can now assess and score accounts with far greater accuracy than traditional assessments. Rather than solely drawing from what you already know, predictive analyses allow you to learn what you didn’t know you didn’t know via intent signals and behavioral patterns.
Rather than drawing from what you already know, predictive analyses allow you to learn what you didn’t know you didn’t know.
Common pitfalls when segmenting and scoring accounts
- Random account groupings (no systematic segmentation or scoring).
- Scoring accounts based on meaningless metrics.
- Not regularly revisiting and revising account measures.
Pro tips for segmenting and scoring accounts
- Start your sales planning efforts with account segmentation to fill your territories with fruitful opportunities and increase your sellers’ ability to hit quotas.
- Consider leveraging predictive analytics to further identify buying patterns and buyer propensity to further maximize your sellers’ efforts.
2. Consider new territory rules that reflect changes in the market (and your business)
There is an art and science to defining how you slice and dice the market. And the stakes are high.
Changing territories too frequently will frustrate salespeople trying to build relationships and can even frustrate customers who don’t want to constantly deal with new account managers.
Many organizations start with simple rules and definitions – geography-based territories (east, central, west) or account-based territories.
But as the organization scales and matures, these rules become quite complex.
Evaluating territory design and building territory structures that provide sellers with fruitful opportunities and maximize market coverage can make or break your sales teams’ ability to achieve revenue goals.
As you evaluate your territory rules and hierarchies, consider these three dimensions:
Don’t just evaluate market potential for territory definition. Consider the selling skills, roles, and tenures of the sellers you will deploy in the territory.
Ensure you’re filling your territories with accounts with the greatest potential, based on historical data and additional buying signals.
Do your current territory definitions still suit the needs of your business or do new structures or rules need to be considered? For example:
- If you have relied on a geo-based structure for years, does that still work?
- Has remote selling adjusted that need?
- Have the industries your buyers work in evolved?
- Would another layer of rules provide more balance or flexibility to your territories?
Be open to exploring these assessments to improve the performance of your territories.
Common pitfalls in building territories
- Defining territories based on historical definitions (“this is how I’ve always done it”) or sales forecasts.
- Minimal consideration of alternative rules or structures.
- Infrequent evaluation of territory performance.
Pro tips for defining more effective territories
- Be open to considering new territory definitions and build models to compare alternative approaches.
- Evaluate multiple ways to define territory hierarchies and structures, but be mindful that added complexity can confuse sellers and make managing territories more difficult.
- Recognize that change management will likely be necessary if you want to roll out major territory changes to a veteran sales team.
3. Keep targets simple
When you overcomplicate the goal-setting process for sellers, it leads to missed revenue targets, costly multi-credits, increased seller turnover, and frustrated customers.
There are endless ways to divide quotas across territories and teams. Approaches vary from top-down (leadership pushes goals all the way to sellers) and bottom-up (sellers and managers determine realistic goals and commitments and roll them up). Many recommend a hybrid approach.
The bottom line is, your quota methodology needs to align with your business objectives.
The bottom line is, your quota methodology needs to align with your business objectives. You also need to understand how many sellers you want to achieve quota.
Common pitfalls in target and quota-setting
- Uniformly spreading quotas across roles and teams
- Minimal visibility for sellers on how their quota was derived
- Quota relief without considering alternative approaches
Pro tips for more effective quotas and targets
- Evaluate multiple ways to allocate goals and targets across sellers (model and compare potential revenue outcomes with different allocation methods).
- Understand how many sellers you need to hit quota to achieve your revenue goals and consider compensation impacts.
- Effectively communicate target assignments to sellers and help them understand how they can succeed.
4. Track your sellers’ ability to deliver revenue
Separate from the sales forecast, seller capacity refers to the probability of achieving quota for a given seller.
For example, you give Bob a $10M quota.
What is the chance that Bob’s going to deliver (given close rates, average deal size, selling style, and time spent selling)?
Sales managers need to understand this to know where and how to focus their coaching efforts and potentially deploy additional resources. Sales leadership needs to understand capacity at the aggregate level to better assess revenue projections and headcount decisions.
Measuring capacity will also help you understand the efficacy of your quotas and territories.
Common pitfalls in measuring and tracking seller capacity
- Many organizations do not reliably measure or track seller capacity
- Relying on sales forecasts (forecasts are often biased and based on account history or propensity, not seller capacity)
Pro tips for measuring and tracking seller capacity
- Define the variables that help you measure seller capacity.
- Model options to improve capacity where needed (enablement, coaching, marketing promotions, headcount, etc.).
5. Connect your entire go-to-market strategy
Leading sales and operations teams are following a new path to better sales planning using innovative and strategic planning methods.
These dynamic planning processes and more connected approaches can be leveraged all year long. Real-time collaboration helps sales executives be more decisive in responding to market shifts and rapidly evolving buyer behaviors.
These leaders and their teams are reliably generating revenue for the business while minimizing expenses and costly mistakes. The more you can connect your entire go-to-market strategy, the more reliable and predictable your revenue outcomes will be.
And, just saying… companies that partner with Varicent to focus their resources on the right segments and customers to maximize the return on sales investments and, ultimately, drive revenue growth. Learn how by checking us out today.
Edited by Kendra Fortmeyer @ Sales Hacker 2022