Each fourth quarter as the New Year approaches, it’s prudent to prepare a profitability plan for the coming year, especially with respect to your sales and marketing endeavours. Doing so can give you a notable competitive edge, particularly given the extraordinary number of professionals that don’t bother producing this strategic tool. But, whether developed before or after the start of the New Year, the importance of creating a tactical plan for sales and marketing success cannot be overstated. Here’s how to set yourself up for annual planning success.
Successful annual planning requires one key ingredient: your mindset. Indeed, the first step towards successful financial planning is setting an intent to successfully complete your plan. What doesn’t get scheduled doesn’t get done. Make a commitment now to complete an annual financial plan by midnight of 31 December. If for some reason you don’t end up reading this until after New Year's Eve, make a commitment to create an annual plan over the next month so that you have it ready by the start of the next quarter.
Asking yourself the right questions
Creating your plan is largely a matter of asking and answering a series of questions that help you identify your sales and marketing goals and other financial goals and then verbalize steps to achieve those goals. You should ask yourself questions about key annual sales goals such as how many leads you want to generate, how many appointments you want to set, and how many sales you want to make. After defining some annual goals, you can break these down into smaller time frames by quarter, month, and week to make it easier to define concrete steps for achieving your goals. I’d encourage you to create a Word document or get a notebook where you can ask yourself some annual planning questions.
Examples of the types of sales and marketing goals that can go into creating your annual plan include:
- Ultimate outcomes for the year
- Annual revenue projections (sales results)
- Annual marketing strategy (marketing tactics)
- Ultimate outcomes for each month
- Monthly revenue projections
- Monthly marketing strategy
- Monthly projects (if any)
You can also break each category down by quarter and by month. You can break it down even farther by week or by day if you so choose.
Supplementary goals in other areas
In order to achieve your marketing and sales goals, you may find it helpful to set goals in other areas of your business or personal life. For example, in your business, you may set a goal of hiring more staff, adopting new automation tools, or developing and releasing new product and service lines.
Achieving personal goals can also help you achieve your business goals. For instance, if you haven’t been sleeping on a regular schedule, setting a goal of getting on a more consistent sleep cycle next year may help make you more productive. Similarly, you can set goals in areas such as your personal finances, health, relationships, and spiritual development.
The strategy of creating a space for success
A fundamental strategy for annual planning is creating a space for success. You can only have so many things. When something is occupying space, something else cannot occupy the same space. This is true both literally and in the metaphoric sense of occupying mental space or space in your business. If you no longer need something, getting rid of it can free up some space. This creates a space for you to attract something new to your business or other areas of your life.
To help you review the “space” surrounding your business, here are some questions to ask yourself:
- What was great about the past year?
- What are you most proud of?
- What were you most surprised by?
- In what ways did you grow?
- What was your biggest success?
- What adversity did you overcome?
- What skills did you develop?
- What goals did you accomplish?
- What was your most challenging sale?
- What were you consistent at?
Once you’ve oriented yourself in your business space, it’s time to review your past year’s performance in order to identify some areas where you can improve. Here are some examples of questions to help you perform this evaluation:
- Based on your annual goals where should your results be right now?
- Did you hit your gross sales number, total units number, or total recruits for the year?
- How was your consistency during the past year?
- How did you do in the area of appointment setting?
- How did you do in the area of follow-up?
- How did you do in the area of consistency?
- How did you do in the area of marketing?
- How did you do in the area of social media?
- How did you do in the area of web marketing?
- How did you do in the area of recruiting?
- How did you do in the area of training?
- How did you do in the area of motivating your team?
- How did you do in the area of making your calls?
- How did you do in the area of time management?
- How did you do in the area of objection handling?
Expand on the above list of questions to help you identify areas for strategic improvement. In order for you to achieve your potential in the next year, uncover what areas of your business and other parts of your life that need improvement.
Being Prepared Pays
The fact you’re reading this article gives you an advantage over most people. Think about how many people wait until December 31 to make their New Year’s resolutions. Most people handle their annual financial planning the same way. Gallup’s annual Economy and Personal Finance survey for 2013 revealed that 70 percent of Americans do not prepare a detailed personal budget. Entrepreneurs who handle their personal finances this way are prone to carry the same habits over into their business planning. When you consider that poor financial planning is one of the top causes of small business failure, you can see why creating an annual financial plan early gives you an advantage over the competition.
By Eric Lofholm, Master Sales Trainer