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Sales leaders, reduce your stress in 2018 by 80% by just doing this…

As the 2017 is coming to an end and everyone is thinking about the holiday season, family gatherings and the new year, sales leaders across industries are anxious about their new year sales targets, team goals and sales performance. Worries about how to achieve ever increasing sales targets are always looming in the background.  I am here to tell you that one of the simplest, most powerful (and unfortunately often under-utilized) tools to make your 2018 a success is the tried and true annual business plan (a.k.a.: territory plan/sales plan), prepared by each of the sale executives & partner managers in your team.

Created by the sales executive, reviewed and updated by the sales executive and the direct line manager regularly, business plan is a gift that keeps on giving year-round. Yet, it is ironic that I see few companies leverage it, and even fewer companies treat the business plan as a dynamic and living sales management tool throughout the year.

We have all heard and seen studies concluding that people who write down their goals and review it regularly are more than 40X more likely to achieve them.  But this is only a small benefit you can gain from building an annual business plan. The exercise of building a business plan forces the sales person to (at least once a year) step back from the daily reactive and tactical mode to look at the big picture.  Reflect on what worked and what didn’t, what he/she needs and how to get it, take ownership of the accounts/territory and be strategic.  I see so many sales executives start every year doing the same things that they did last year, without sufficient thought and reflection of what worked and didn’t work, resulting in the same undesirable outcome as they had previous years. 

another great benefit of sales executives building their annual business plans is that it forces them to take ownership of their success and failure.  If they say in their plan that they will do XYZ and will expect to get ABC results, then that is something the managers can call on if the activities and results are not there. 

I want to be clear. I am not an advocate of building complex, convoluted and ineffective business planning programs, templates and Excel sheets that only causes more challenges. In my role as the sales leadership advisor, coach and trainer I have seen some insane business planning tools that seemed to have been built by the NASA engineers and were so difficult to understand that the company had to have one or two days long training for the sales people to explain how to fill them out. This is not the right approach.

There is no one-size-fits-all business plan template.  We help clients and sales leaders to tailor a simple, easy to use and intuitive business plan template to fit their preferences. I often suggest a template that builds around the 5 Ws and 1H framework (Who, What, Where, When, Why, How).   Here I am sharing some of the key points that I think a good business plan needs to include:

  • The goals: this is the ‘What’. what are you going to achieve? you want to start with the end in mind. where do you want to be by the end of next year? this is basically the goals and targets set or given to you.  They could take the form of revenue numbers, new accounts, units sold, products delivered, …etc.
  • Historical data and business stats: Here the sales person needs to show her knowledge and grasp of the accounts and territory.  Does she know who the elephant accounts are? Who are the 20% of accounts that will give her 80% of her revenue? what did the accounts/territory did last year? What worked, what didn’t…etc.
  • Strategy to achieve your goal: This is the ‘How’. How are you going to achieve your goal? which target accounts, territories, market segments, products…etc.?
  • Activities: This is a bit of ‘What’, ‘Who’, ‘Where’, ‘When’ and ‘How’. What specific actions you are going to take? which campaigns? when do you run a campaign? who are you reaching? what do you expect from each activity? The sales executive needs to be specific, with numbers and estimates that makes sense.
  • Challenges: This section is where the sales person will share her concerns and possible obstacles that may stop her from achieving her stated goals. Beware that this is about real reasons and not excuses. 

For the brave ones among you I would suggest a simple SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis. Again, keeping it simple, a single page with 4 boxes with each box covering one of the above topics.  If you want a simple SWOT analysis form click HERE to download one for free!

  • Personal development: Every one of your team members has dreams and aspirations. It is crucial to your success as sales leaders to help them work towards those personal goals and aspirations.  They could be monetary such as commission earned, very specific goals such as buying a house, or intangible and qualitative such as more time with the family or helping the community. This is a great opportunity to gain the trust and loyalty of your team by helping them in their life journey.  In this section the sales person needs to set at least 2 to 3 personal goals that she wants to work toward.  This could be signing up for an MBA program, or taking a class on leadership, improving business acumen, or learning to play guitar. 

Just the act of building the business plan is quite powerful and will serve your team and you well all year-round.  However, that benefit is multiplied when you conduct, at the minimum, quarterly review of the plan and updating it with more current information such as new accounts to add or delete, adjusting target numbers, or new obstacles.

I close by urging sales leaders to consider all the benefits that will come from this simple exercise of having your sales executives put together their annual business plan and start your team now, if you haven’t already.


HELP IS HERE! SO DON’T WAIT!  In case you are asking yourself ‘Do I have an effective, easy to use tool for my team to use for planning?’ the answer is ‘NOW YOU DO!’  CLICK HERE to download a very easy to use territory/business planning template we have used for dozens of clients across different industries.  It has all the important elements you need in your success plan and shouldn’t take you more than couple of hours to fill out. 


Do you need help on sales planning and other sales related topics and not sure where to start? Contact us for a 30 minutes conversation with real impact on your business.

About the author:

Mark Ghaderi is an author, sales coach, mentor, entrepreneur and social selling evangelist with twenty five years of driving business results across the globe.

Vital Strategies Pte Ltd. Provides Revenue Growth Services to companies across the APAC region, helping organizations to grow their top line through digital transformation and improving sales execution.

contact us at: sales@vital-strategies.com

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