Why salespeople fail
in new business development?

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why Salespeople fail in new business development?

On his book " New sales simplified" Author Mike Weinberg lists 15 reasons he witnessed in his 20 years career as Sales Leader and Consultant, about why Salespeople fail in new business development, i.e. get new customers.
Beside a bunch of reasons that can be realated to the personal behaviors of the single professional, what i noticed is that there are a good number of reasons that are a direct consequence of a lack or bad sales plan.

  • They do not know how to do it.
    They just respond to demand. When the tide reverses, they do not know where the customers are and how to reach them.
  • They constantly change direction,
    not focusing the effort on key priorities.
  • They can't tell the story:
    they do not have a sharp selling story.
  • They don't know their own sales process:
    do not have a clear mental picture of the "path to sale".

A sales plan can help:

The key advantages of having a sales plan

A sales plan, would help overcome all of these pitfalls.

  • It gives Direction
    providing visibility on the opportunities; clearly prioritizing them, based on attractiveness and ability to compete; defining the resources allocation to pursue them and assuring everybody is on the same page and the rest of the company works to get the orders, together with the sales force.
  • It fosters accountablity
    making targets, quotas, and success rate clearly visible and measurable, shared accross the organization, and therefore allowing to adjust the activities and make the eventual necessary improvements.

Sales people, but also Distributors, Commercial agents, Export Managers are the first to benefit from a sales plan.

If your sales model involves third party organizations, like local commercial agents or distributors, a sales plan will help a lot in transferring key information to them and assuring they can rump-up their sales activities quickly and effectivelly. On the contrary, without a sales plan, they will rely on their judgment, follow their priorities, giving precedence to those company that offer them a clearer and more effective sales strategy.

Where to start the sales planning process

Start where you are. Start understanding the key elements of your business, or reviewing them, if you know-it-all. As a minimum you may want to check out:

  1. High level business model
  2. Competitive market and pricing
  3. Differentiating communication
  4. Sales action enablement

It is not a case that these four areas of investigation are the same of our Business Exploration Workshop.

The 3 Key steps of the Sales Planning process

There are 3 questions you want to be able to answer:

  1. How many opportunities are out there?
  2. How many can I bring home?
  3. It is worth the money?

To answer them you have to define Entitlement, Capability and Profitability of your sales actions.

  • Entitlement
    means identifiying all the business opportunities. Indipendently if some of the are unreachable or fall prey of competition. Think you have infinte resources and that resources are not a problem.
  • Capability
    Then you want to focus your attention on those that you can take away from competition, given the resources you have and how well your sales process works; still without considering if it is worth or not bring those deals home.
  • Profitability
    Finally you have to shrink your attention to those opportunities that are worth pursuing: those that allow a meaningful return of investiment.

Other interesting questions you could love to answer with your sales planning process

Your sales plan may also check that the way you do business is consistent and scalable:

  • Reproducibility
    The actions that your sales force does in order to win an order should be replicable. You do not want to reinvent the wheel every time.
  • Repeatibility
    You will probably end up having more than a way to land an order. You should prioritize the way that is repeatible for more times.
  • Scalablity
    Among the opportunities, you should give precedence to those that allow your business to scale: do more with same or lower resources. This means that you prefer those deals that bring customer loyalty, that let you exploit economy of scale or the learning curves of your organization

Finally you may rise your head and look at your opportunities in their scenario's context:

  • Defensibility
    A deal that brings in a customer that next year is prey of competition, is not a priority deal.
  • Innovability
    A deal that can lead to expand your value proposition or change it, may be worth your attention as a game changer.
  • Expandilbility
    A deal that can open the door of a new market may be a great investment.

Time to summarize your sales opportunities finding with a SWOT

At the light of your Strenghts and Weakness you can now compare all the opportunities and evaluate them on the basis of:

  • Attractiveness
    or: how much is worth pursue them
  • Ability to Compete
    how easily you could bring them home from competition.

and look for opportunities and threats.

We should rank the targets in order of priority:

  • What are those 20 deals that make 80 percent of the business?
  • Can we concentrate on the ones that are strategic and doable with the resources we have?
  • Is there any deal that must be pursued with urgency, and other that are of high importance?

Alligning our organization to the plan.

Once the target are defined, we will have to make some adjustment to our organization and our way to operate.
First we will need to identify the tactics with whom we will contact and engage the prospects. At large there are 3 types of sales tactics: Inbound, Outbound and Partnerships, depending if you contact the customer, the customer contacts you, or you sell through a third party.

It's highly improbably that your existing organization would perfectly fit the task, so you may want to make some adjustment. Some immediatelly. Some with a dedicated program that enables your organization to deliver the tactics chosen.

  • Identify the Sales Tactics.
  • Execute the Quick Fixes
  • Program the strategic changes

Final step: writing the Sales plan.

All the above should have given all the elements to create your Sales Plan. Despite each business has unique needs, a Sales Plan would contain at least the following chapeters, that will instruct your team to bring home the business:

  • Commercial Target
    What are the expected results in terms of Revenues and Margins
  • Commercial Tools
    From software to brochures, all what is needed to close a deal
  • Commercial Training
    Training, coaching and mentoring to learn what to do
  • Commercial Tests
    Initial field tests to prove the plan assumptions ( some test could be perfomed also in the steps above.)
  • Commercial Tasks
    Activities program to tackle the deals
  • Commercial Tracking
    KPI dashboards to track the progresses of the plan and highlight the need of corrective actions

Most companies struggle to prepare a Sales Plan. Some drown into analysis, other create fluffy documents that bring no value to the Salespeople.
My recommendation is to proceed through iterative converging approximations. The first version of the Sales Plan, should be the results of a handfull of small group sessions, where just the CEO and the commercial direction could summarize the information by memory, following the structure proposed here above. This first draft will highlight the points where a deeper level of analysis should be done in a second iteration.
After just a couple of versions, the plan would contain 90% of the information needed. It will never be perfect. So…

It's time to start selling!

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