Why Every Sales Leader Needs to Adopt a Continuous Planning Approach

January 30, 2018 Jennifer Wyne

Happy New Year!

The start of a new year means a lot of different things to people, for some it’s the time to exercise more, eat healthier, read more, text less, and be happier. For sales teams, it’s both a time of endings as well as beginnings. Closing out the year in sales means getting those last minute deals in and determining which reps will come out on top and make it to club. The turnover to a new year means sales teams get to reflect and celebrate the successes of the last year as well as analyze the misses.

For many companies, if sales leadership and sales operations have been somewhat on schedule, the new year also means the start of the new AOP (annual operating plan). Likely countless weeks have been spent developing the sales operating plan. New targets, new headcount, productivity assumptions, and many more components should have been factored into the plan.

The problem is, once the new year starts 9 out of 10 companies put their Sales AOP away until it is time to plan for the next year, meaning that they are not validating their assumptions, measuring their success against the plan, or adjusting or replanning for the current year as conditions change, or simply put, as “life changes.”

Progressive companies have seen the need and have moved to the continuous planning. Continuous planning accounts for real time updates to the business – what sold, who got hired, who quit etc. which all affect your ability to achieve this year’s targets. The sooner you can adjust your plan to accommodate for deviations, the better your chance of mitigating the risk of missing those targets.

Continuous planning delivers many benefits, but here are the top 3 reasons why sales leaders need to consider a continuous planning approach today:

Real-time Visibility into Your Sales Team’s Performance

Although pipeline and quota achievement rates are some of the best indicators of future success, sales leaders seldom look at how well their team is performing against how they expected them to perform at the beginning of the year, and how their performance will impact the rest of the year. You may not think it was a big deal that your best rep didn’t make his/her quota this month, but what if he/she doesn’t make it up next month? And what are the implications if two reps missed their quotas by a long shot? By comparing your actuals to plan on a monthly or weekly basis, you can see any deviations to your plan including ramp time, hiring time and quota achievement, which are all factors that impact your ability to achieve your goals. Continuous planning allows you to take a step back from your CRM and really see the impact that your team’s current and future performance have on your ability to hit your targets.

Strategy Adjustments

Let’s face it, things rarely ever go according to plan, so when you hit those bumps in the road, you need to know how they affect your ability to make your sales goals, and what you can do about it at any given moment in time. Monitoring and adjusting your plan frequently will allow you to do so, plus it provides you insights so you can course-correct, make adjustments, and stay on track to hit your targets. Just to be clear, adjusting your plan doesn’t mean moving your targets, but rather its meant to uncover ways in which you can modify your plan to hit those targets. For example, if you unexpectedly lose your best Inside Rep, you may have to pause on hiring an Account Executive to back fill the role, or depending on your ramp rates, and actual quota achievement rates it might be more beneficial to hire two inside reps instead. Continuous planning provides you with a way to change direction when wrenches are thrown in your original plan.

Business Growth

Once you’ve gotten used to monitoring and adjusting your plan on a consistent basis, you’ll be able to not only mitigate risks, but also be able to identify opportunities for growth and improvement. The data you’ll uncover by continuous planning will not only help to show you ways to hit your targets for the next month/ quarter/ year, but also provide you trends and more accurate assumptions for the future.

The best sales and sales operations leaders know that their business is fluid and to be successful they need to be able to make course-corrections adjustments at any time. By adopting a continuous planning methodology it allows their tools and plans to be as dynamic as their business.

This week’s post is by guest author Jon Kondo, CEO and Co-founder of OpsPanda. OpsPanda’s Sales Resource and Capacity Planning application helps sales leaders build detailed hiring and capacity plans, analyze sales performance, and set achievable sales quotas to reach their booking targets.

Follow him on Twitter.

And Connect with him on LinkedIn.

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