Set Sales Up for Strategic Planning Success

Sales leaders can make strategic planning more productive by following a clear roadmap.

While 77% of companies conduct strategic planning, only half of senior executives believe their planning processes produce high-quality plans for growth. Ineffective strategic plans waste money, miss opportunities to drive performance, and damage credibility.

Strategic planning can be the most valuable exercise an organization undertakes

“Business executives estimate that 56% of time spent on strategic planning is wasted,” says Cristina Gomez, practice leader at Gartner. “When executed effectively, however, strategic planning can be the most valuable exercise an organization undertakes each year.”

At the functional level, it can be especially difficult to plan, articulate and communicate a plan that is driven by and supports enterprise strategic goals. To design an effective strategic plan, functional leaders need to take a comprehensive yet step-by-step approach.

Read more: Plan Strategically for Sales

Phase 1: Plan

Lay the groundwork for the strategic planning process by ensuring that all participants understand their respective responsibilities, process timelines and expected outcomes. This foundation should include a firm understanding of business goals and the sales capabilities required to support them.

To make the most of this phase, sales leaders should:

  1. Quantify and validate the achievability of goals. Goals should be outcome-based, measurable, aligned with business goals, and balanced between demanding and achievable.
  2. Engage other business leaders through meaningful dialogue. Involve others throughout the planning process to develop a solid understanding of their short- and long-term priorities and support needs.
  3. Simplify the plan into a concise story to engage stakeholders. To create a sense of urgency and consensus, highlight the link between organizational and sales goals, explain the cost of inaction, and provide the rationale behind the strategy.
  4. Eliminate unnecessary activities and legacy behaviors. Help employees prioritize activities and behaviors that support the new strategy and imperatives.

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Phase 2: Build

During the build phase, sales leaders should define:

  1. The sales function’s goals and objectives. Set goals and objectives that are clear, realistic, outcome-oriented and informed by business priorities and external trends.
  2. Metrics and targets to measure performance. Identify lagging and leading metrics that can help measure success against goals and objectives; settle on a concise set of metrics; and define the thresholds and targets for each.
  3. Prioritized strategic initiatives to address sales objectives. Direct your sales team to identify initiatives that plug capability gaps, meet sales objectives and inflect selected metrics. Prioritize and assign clear ownership responsibilities for active initiatives and new proposals on criteria such as strategic fit and execution capabilities.

As the strategic plan is finalized, sales leaders will need to communicate it to sales employees and the organization’s leadership. To ensure success, leaders must develop a concise and clearly articulated summary that reflects the business goals and initiatives. To earn buy-in and commitment, communications should share the rationale for their strategy. Buy-in and commitment from the organization’s leadership are crucial. Lastly, ensure that strategic plans across sales areas are reconciled and aligned.

Phase 3: Monitor

Planning, building and communicating is not enough. Sales leaders must actively measure progress toward objectives and adapt the function’s strategy as business conditions change. To make the most of the strategic plan:

  1. Build flexibility to allow for an acceptable level of risk taking or experimentation.
  2. Develop clear course-correction triggers to relocate resources when needed.
  3. Create decision factors, well in advance, that will guide project discontinuation decisions so that underperforming projects are quickly terminated.

Gartner for Sales Leaders clients can access the Ignition Guide for Strategic Planning for Sales.