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The Sales Plans to Halt Eleventh Hour Panic

Prepared Sales Plan on chalkboard
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Does your company’s sales culture undermine sales plans and delivering results?

For many years the focus has been on cost-cutting and CEOs capable of making deep cuts and improving profitability were considered the leaders. Times have changed. Now the talent that defines CEOs in the current market is those that can deliver growth, with sustainable profit.

With the emphasis now resting clearly on the sales organisation, the tolerances of the past in this often tumultuous secretive area no longer sits well with those CEOs looking for growth. The impact on shareholder value, directors, and customer value is too great to put at risk. New demands on the CEO requires new demands in how the sales organisation is viewed and managed.

Over the last few months, client meetings have had a common theme that CEOs are wrestling with. It goes something like this.

Your company is just days away from the end of quarter figures or maybe the end of the financial year. Everyone in the sales department is urgently trying to get those final orders over the line to make quota or budget. Everyone is talking about which company will place their orders in time and how others can be coerced into purchasing sooner. Deals that have been sitting on the pipeline with no movement are starting to offers made to them to get some activity. The intention is there to deliver but does it really require all this pressure and anxiety?

As CEO you ask yourself “We have had all quarter or year to get this done, so why are we always chasing the eleventh-hour sales to make it over the line?” You contemplate “Is this what other businesses experience or is our industry or maybe our business just different?”

The answer is – no this should not be tolerated and it’s unacceptable. There will always be a little pressure, but it must certainly be toned down to a manageable situation with a low degree of risk in delivering end of period results. The business is caught in a business process or culture that is creating this sales conundrum and it needs to be removed.

The level of problem in the business is not identified by the degree of pressure at the end of the month, but more through the syndromes that appear in the business. You need to look at the root causes of this before you can establish a plan to change what is occurring.

Let’s look at some of the primary syndromes that may be happening.

Sales Hero Culture

For some sales managers, they see this eleventh-hour behaviour as a way to demonstrate their worth to the company. Without them, you will not get the figures over the line. They are the saviour of the quarter or year and can pull a rabbit out of the hat every time. The company is beholding to them due to their perceived incredible talent in a time of crisis. It cements their position in the company as everyone is fearful if they depart things will start to crash.

Outcome: This is a negative culture for companies. This style of management is redundant and demonstrates a person that flies by the seat of their pants and does not operate sales plans. The person is under skilled and reliant on survival skills rather than business skills to excel. They do not have an effective sales plan in place to execute the company strategy.

Autonomous Management Culture

The sales manager promotes autonomous management practices and is arm’s length from what is really happening with the team members and customers. He/she does not have sufficient detail to know how padded sales pipeline figures really are, and what additional effort is required to bring sales in or move them through the sales process. They may also not have an understanding of what is not being put on the sales pipeline by those more crafty and experienced sellers.

Outcome: You have to ask what their function in the business is if everyone is allowed to do as they see fit. A sales manager, or more importantly a sales leader, will guide their team in the right direction and ensure they are sufficiently skilled to perform the role. They will be coaching them and be focused on the sales pipeline noting it is a critical management tool that affects many departments in the business. The sales pipeline is intrinsically tied to the sales plans enabling each person to know what behaviours and effort is required to deliver the results.

Setting Targets Culture

The sales plan is an annual vision laid out to the team of what is being expected of them. They are presented with a target figure to deliver and the word ‘target’ says it all. Something they will attempt to hit but most often miss. They typically will not put in sufficient groundwork at the start of the month/quarter and as time travels past, they become more panicked. They start to offer more discounts and margins are diminished. They will focus on either one big deal to pull them over the line (saviour deals) or gather lots of small orders from everywhere from low hanging fruit.

As people have not been schooled in writing and delivering sales plans, they are literally gambling with your business. They typically will be lowering margins and customers learn to wait them out to get the best deals.

Ranking Culture

Many sales managers rely on the good efforts of one or two of their key players in the team to deliver and the others are considered only average performers. Sales managers spend their time on the top players as they can be more reliable in delivering results. Their average performers are left to work on the smaller deals that will add some revenue to the sales results but are not pushed (should be coached) to deliver more.

Outcome: Sales managers that do not actively coach their entire team are those that put the company at the most risk. The coaching needs to be about planning and execution, not just how to sell. With the key player focus, they are actively narrowing the base of which a company can deliver revenue and stop the company from being scalable and profitable. These sales managers usually feel confronted when required to directly coach team members as it creates transparency in their skills.

The Sales Culture that excels

Each of the aforementioned cultures comes from a lack of fact-based decision-making and having sufficient accountability and transparency throughout the sales organisation to be effective. With the lack of transparency the three fundamentals of “Plan – Implement – Review” are missing, and the company is pitching from one month to the next. The sales manager is not planning how the team will deliver the results and not coaching them to a well-planned roadmap. The salespeople are not planning how to deliver the results as there is no master sales plan. There is an insufficient measurement in place throughout the period to know they are working to plan and have conducted sufficient activity to establish the right sales output.

Delivering sales growth and results comes from making many well-informed decisions in a timely way throughout the week/months/year to a very well defined plan.

It is about having everything structured correctly in the twenty-four categories contributing to sales effectiveness (refer to the book “Building the Most Effective Sales Force in the World”). Making the right decisions based on facts and not subjective information. Knowing instantly when the company is off the sales plan or on-sales plan at any given time in the year. That is sales effectiveness that delivers growth.

Sales effectiveness comes from well laid out sales plans and measuring the contributing factors to growth,
and not just measuring the financial output of growth.

Once the twenty-four categories are installed and effectively managed you will reduce the eleventh-hour syndrome in your company and position it to drive growth. Contact Sales Focus Advisory today to discuss your specific business goals.

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About the Author: Adele Crane

A leader in Implementation Consulting.
CEOs and Managing Directors have relied on Adele Crane to solve challenges with the performance of their sales and marketing since 1990. Her consulting experience in delivering results in 90-120 days is unprecedented by any other known sales and marketing consulting professional in the world. As an author of 3 acclaimed books, appearances on major media, and publications in USA, NZ and Australia, Adele’s experience brings fresh thinking and contemporary practices to business.