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An effective sales plan is integral to successful and productive sales contacts.  How many sales managers focus their coaching time and attention on getting sales reps to plan and prepare for a sales call?  Think about it, we typically spend our time on the sales call with our reps.  We listen to calls, complete ride-alongs, or attend events with our sales reps and clients.  Sales managers spend the majority of their coaching time in the Sales Activities portion of the sales rep job and spend little to no coaching time in the Pre-Sales Activities, as described in the Sales Execution Model, planning and preparation for the sale. 

Examining Each Component of an Effective Sales Plan

The first component of an effective sales plan is identifying your target account based on profiled data.  Whether you are prospecting or determining were to spend time with signed customers in your territory, you need data.  Things you might think about are whether you are looking to increase the breadth or depth in your market, what are your clients/prospects goals, or what is the clients/prospects mix of business.  Additional things to consider are their processes (how are they doing business), what are their future plans, prospect's selling environment to determine how you can help competitively advantage them in their market place, who are your competitors and what do they offer. List criteria that must be set with each decision maker to rule out competition and identify potential objections.  The sales manager can help direct the sales reps to resources for this data.   Free sources are through social connections or competitors or you can purchase market intelligence from many different paid sources. Sales managers will benefit from focusing their coaching time on this component of an effective sales plan by having sales reps that are knowledgeable in their markets and can begin to leverage this information to overcome objections.

Identifying key decision makers by role is the next step or component of an effective sales plan.  Knowing who the decision makers are and understanding how your value proposition aligns with their goals and objectives is integral in the process.  After you know the goals of the key decision makers, you can list the benefits of the service or product you are selling so they easily identify the benefits for them.  Add to this step identification of entry level employees in the business; understand their goals and objectives which are typically more granular and align benefits or your service or product at this level.  As a sales manager, it's good to spend your coaching time on this component of an effective sales plan as you need your sales reps to ensure that the decision makers know that they understand their business and can identify benefits of your product or service at all levels of the organization.

The next component of an effective sales plan to spend your coaching time on is determining the best method of contact.  This may seem very low level but think about it, what’s the fastest way to annoy someone?  Try to sell them something when they aren't mentally prepared or in the mood.  Because as sales managers we have likely made this mistake once or twice we should spend some of our coaching time without sales reps focused on methods for determining the best approach.  There are many tactics for contacting prospects or clients.  Most of us default to calling; seems easy and straight-forward but it is not always that effective.  Other ways to make contact are to join organizations the prospect is a member of, make a contact, and ask for time.  Set-up a meeting or two to meet and greet or spend time delivering your pitch.  Be as creative as possible in making the contact; it will be worth the time. 

As a sales manager, the next component of the effective sales plan to spend your coaching time on is near and dear to my heart: set call or meeting objectives.  Never make a contact without having a specific purpose in mind. When contacting a prospect or client without an established purpose for the contact, the sales rep sets themselves up to be blind sided by topics they are ill prepared to discuss.  It also sends a message to the prospect or client that they do not value their time. Plan for the contact using the information gathered in the first component of an effective sales plan, data collection.  Even if your sales rep is only requesting a meeting you want to wet the prospect's appetite and have them prepared for the next contact.  Remember your sales rep sets the tone from contact one, what do you want your first impression to be?

Sales managers bring a significant amount of value to the table by spending their coaching time teaching sales reps to flawlessly execute the basics.  As we discussed in What Sales Managers Should Coach, there is much productivity to be gained by coaching the right behaviors.  Planning for the contact is integral in the sales process and ensuring reps integrate all components of an effective sales plan that we've discussed above will ensure they are fully prepared to close the sale.