Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Making an Annual Plan

Planning ahead is very important in sales. I suggest making an annual plan—one that is centered around activities with your Target, Must Have, and Priority accounts since those are important enough to justify spending a lot of time on. To ensure that these long-term campaigns with the greatest revenue potential don’t get pushed aside in the hustle to complete short-term tasks, you need to set blocks of time aside for them and schedule all less important activities around those blocks.

I like to use one of those great big wall calendars that I can write on with a dry-erase marker and where I can see all 365 days at once. You may prefer a computerized system or a day-timer. At the beginning of each year, I note the times I expect to make presentations to my Must Have, Priority, and Target Accounts. There may be one such presentation each month for each account. If so, I’m going to mark that twelve times for each one on the calendar.

I then note the predictable sales events and sales support activities that I know will happen during the year. These include trade shows and conventions, promotion campaigns, special seasonal offers, sales meetings, report due dates, and anything else of that nature that I have even approximate dates for.

After that, I plug in my vacation (yes—it’s important, too) and important personal dates like the kids’ school programs, wedding anniversaries, and others that I don’t want to forget in the rush of business. These may be non-sales activities, but they’re valuable, too, so they deserve a place in the plan. If you have laid out the first two categories of activities ahead of these, you won’t have to worry about accidentally being on a fishing trip in Manitoba when your top account’s contract comes up for renewal.

Here’s what goes on your annual plan:

1. Must Have Account Presentations

2. Target Account Presentations

3. Priority Account Presentations

4. Predictable Sales Events

5. Trade Shows

6. Seasonal Offers and Promotions

7. Report Due Dates


9. Personal Dates

Advantages of Long-Term Planning

Having a long-term plan like this allows me to further schedule the time to prepare for each event. If I’m planning on making a presentation to a Target Account during the first week of May, I know I need to do the research the first week of April, write the proposal the second week, call the prospect for an appointment the third week, and rehearse the presentation the fourth week of April. And if there are other people in the company who will play a part in this pitch, they have a timetable to refer to as well.

Long-term plans get changed. That’s to be expected. In fact, I suggest that you informally review your annual plan every month to see just what adjustments need to be made. A year is a long time and lots of things can happen which may change some of your priorities. So change the plan to reflect those changes.

One of the often overlooked advantages of long-term planning (and even short-term) is that planning reduces stress. Few things cause your blood pressure to shoot up worse than “discovering” that a report is due tomorrow—and you need some information from a co-worker who left on vacation yesterday. I don’t know about you, but my life is full of surprises. Some of them are pleasant, but many of them aren’t. The bad thing about all of them, though, is that every surprise reminds me that I’m not in full control of my life—a major cause of stress. Planning at least gives me the illusion that I am somewhat the captain of my own ship. This lowers my general stress level and enables me to more calmly cope with the surprises of each day.

Dave Donelson distills the experiences of hundreds of entrepreneurs into practical advice for small business owners and managers in the Dynamic Manager's Guides, a series of how-to books about marketing and advertising, sales techniques, hiring, firing, and motivating personnel, financial management, and business strategy.

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