Creating an overall sales plan– a road map to get you the sales you need to meet yourquota – is an important and very helpful activity for all salespeople. But your planning doesn’t necessarily need to stop with the master plan. Most salespeople can also benefit from more tactical plans that take them through an individual sales cycle.
Nearly every salesperson has a very general sales process plan, generally laid down from the sales manager or possibly from higher up in the organization. Such a plan might include steps like making a cold call, setting an appointment, making a presentation, and closing the sale. The sales process plan is a more specific version of this level of planning. It’s essentially a roadmap that guides both you and the prospect from the moment of first contact to the moment when you resolve the sale, either by closing it or by agreeing that your product isn’t a good fit for that prospect.
Like any map, a sales process plan helps get you from point A to point Z as simply and efficiently as possible. Such a plan keeps you from either getting stuck at one point or wandering off into the wilderness by going off on tangents that bewilder the prospect. Your sales process plan can be built around the milestones handed to you by your sales manager’s plan, but where it will differ is that your plan lays out exactly how to get to and from each milestone.
For example, getting from the sales presentation to the close can be a challenge, to put it mildly. Your plan can lay out a series of steps that will take you in the right direction. The exact nature of these steps will vary depending on what you’re selling, who you’re selling it to, and your own preferences. Certain steps, though, are a requirement in most sales situations. The “proof” step is a good example. Prospects will want some kind of hard evidence to show that your product actually does the things you say it does. In the proof step, you bring out compelling evidence to prove your claims. This evidence might include testimonials, case studies, third-party evaluations, or even something hands on like a demo model or free trial period with which the prospect can test out your claims himself.
Designing a plan like this doesn’t just help you map out your course. It also provides a plan of action that you can share with the prospect. Prospects generally won’t have much trust in you at the beginning of the sales cycle – after all, all they know about you at this point is that you’re a salesperson, which doesn’t exactly engender trust in most people. If you share your roadmap right from the beginning and ask the prospect if your plan is agreeable to him, you’re essentially sharing ownership of the process with him. That gives him a feeling of control over the whole experience and helps to reduce his fears.
A good sales process plan can also help immensely with your forecasting and pipeline management. If you know exactly what steps you’ll be taking and what order they’ll come in, you’ll have an excellent idea of how far you are into the sales process and how much longer it will be before you resolve it. Thus you’ll be able to draw up much more accurate sales forecasts and will be able to place every sale in your pipeline on a fairly precise timeline.
Your sales process plan also makes it easier to predict the likelihood of success for any given sale. If you share your plan with a prospect and he’s clearly dubious about it, that’s a very strong indicator that he’s not really interested in buying and you might want to cut your losses before you invest a lot of time and energy in this prospect. On the other hand, if he gets quite enthusiastic about your plan, you can feel a lot more confident in his interest and engagement with the process.