How we do it
The Foundation: Business Plan
When we start a new engagement, we assume nothing – not even that there is a business plan in place. As the business plan and sales plan are inextricably linked together, we start with a review of the business plan to ensure it is:
- Comprehensive – is it addressing everything it needs to be?
- Feasible – we look at target growth versus market growth, and ask how much growth can be supported given the external influences and internal resources available
If your business utilizes an Excel spreadsheet as its sales plan, you are among the majority of businesses – unfortunately, you are making the same mistake they are. Spreadsheets are Forecasts, and while they are an important management tool, they are not a Sales Plan. In the strictest sense, a Sales Plan is the “how” that completes the strategy of moving from the Business Plan to the Forecast.
For example, a business plan may describe an initiative to take 5% market share from a specific competitor – but business plans by nature are high-level, they don’t get into the granular details. The sales plan will address the details of how, in practical terms, the initiative will be accomplished. Based on taking 5% from a specific competitor; the sales plan may include the following:
- Product/service mix to focus on
- Promotional campaigns
- Potential sales strategies such as hiring a salesperson from the target company
- Internal & external resources required
- Key target customers
Choose Growth does some project work with a small instrument manufacturer in an industry that does both renting and purchasing. The company had decided that they wanted to increase their share of the rental business and put together an extremely compelling program – a great program for the customer.
Six months into the initiative, they were far short of expectations (expectations are a Forecast) – which is how we got involved. When we reviewed the program, we quickly uncovered the source of their problem – no salesperson wanted to sell it. Although the program was compelling for their rental base, it was structured in such a way that the commissions earned by the sales team were dramatically reduced when compared to the ‘old’ structure. Therefore, no one was selling it.
In this case, the initiative was the business plan, and the expectations were the forecast. What they were missing was the sales plan, which should have determined the strategy for executing initiative. Had they worked through that issue from the beginning, they would have saved themselves considerable time, money
Additional components of a comprehensive, strategic sales plan include:
- Sales Team Structure
- Compensation/incentive plans
- Target market (very different from the addressable market in your business plan)
- Tools, processes, resources (CRM)
- Marketing strategy
- And more….
Once that solid foundation is in place (business plan/sales plan), it’s time to add some fuel to heat things up.
Knowledge, Training, Support
The knowledge we are referring to here is not product/service or industry knowledge – we assume those are givens and will be addressed via your onboarding program. No, we are talking about the knowledge that will lead your team to outperform 90% of sales organizations: the understanding of true investigative sales and Value-Based Sales & Pricing.
These are not sales programs! Choose Growth firmly believes that most programs available will ultimately cost your business far more money than the cost of the program and likely more than any gains recognized. Most sales programs walk you through the same process – just disguised by different vocabulary. The problem with this approach in sales is that the environment is far too dynamic to be pinned down to a process.
You are investing in training because you don’t feel your team is performing as well as they could be, right? The problem with a process arises the moment a salesperson encounters a deviation from the process – something likely to happen within the first week. More than likely, they are going to revert to whatever they were doing prior to the training – which is exactly what wasn’t working, and the reason they were sent to the training in the first place!
What we teach is a strategy, an approach, a mentality. This is not about memorizing what to do at each stage of the sales process, no – this is about understanding the process from the buyer’s perspective and consistently addressing their needs. This is about:
- Asking insightful questions
- Listening – really listening! Not thinking about responses while the client is still speaking, but genuine interest in what they are saying and genuinely wanting to solve their problems
- Crafting the best solution possible for your client’s true needs, based on your company’s core competencies
- Going beyond feature – benefit – value, and actually monetizing, or putting into real terms, that value to the client
When this is done properly, your close rate and margins will increase! Why?
- Close rates will improve because you are providing a solution to their true problem
- Margins will improve because you’ve been able to monetize the value of your solution, making the pricing discussion an afterthought rather than critical decision criteria
The best results can only be achieved through an ongoing program – one training session is simply not adequate. This is why we at Choose Growth implement a proven methodology via our partnership with The Sales Coaching Institute:
- A typical training/coaching engagement starts with two online assessments to define a baseline and develop specific curriculum
- We include one-on-one interviews with your team and key management to further refine the baseline and curriculum
- Live training session(s)
- Ongoing coaching and performance evaluation
- The Sales Skills Readiness Index (one of the assessments) can be conducted multiple times to help monitor progress
The Results – What Can Your Business Expect to See?
As mentioned above, we are certain that your business will see increased close rates and improved margins by following Choose Growth’s strategy. While individual results vary, many of our clients have seen 10%-20% increases in gross margin and significantly higher than market growth rates.
Take a recent case study:
A leading practitioner of Value-Based Sales and Choose Growth’s methodology recently drove a significant win.
As the new business unit leader of a $20M-$50M division of a Fortune 500 corporation, his challenges included:
- The BU had been shrinking YoY for the past three years in a rapidly growing market
- The BU had been losing money YoY for the past three years
- Virtually all sales were opportunistic, with no plan or strategy driving focus
- Efforts were diluted, and there was no focused target market
In fact, things were so bad that the sales team had forgotten what success looked like.
This recent Choose Growth graduate took the following steps:
- He ensured that Corporate established an effective business plan. Using core strengths, he and his team developed a concise and focused target market.
- He trained and continued to coach the entire team on Value-Based Sales.
- He broke down ‘success’ into daily achievable actions.
After making some changes to the organization, crucially moving headcount from remote locations to their central market, this business leader and VBS graduate achieved the following three-year results:
- Year 1: They grew YoY for first time in four years; while they did not hit plan, they turned a profit for first time in four years
- Year 2: They hit 102% of plan, YoY growth in revenue and profitability
- Year 3: They did not quite hit plan, but maintained YoY growth in revenue and profitability
Perhaps most impressive was YoY GP% growth in each of the three years! So, yes – you can grow revenue and margins at the same time!
One of the most critical keys to consistent, predictable, and sustainable results is clearly defined target market(s) and the discipline to commit to them. As your business starts gaining traction in a specific market and you reach an acceptable market share, it’s time to look at expanding to the tier 2 market(s). Just ensure that you; apply the same discipline you did for your tier 1 market(s) and be very careful not to divert too many resources or too much focus.
To achieve real sustainability, a business must recognize that both their business plan and their sales plan are living and breathing documents. This requires not only the discipline to regularly review them, but also the courage to make changes – early! At these inflection points, it can be extremely beneficial to have an outside resource acting as an independent advisor.