Back to school, back to work, and back to all of the craziness and excitement between now and the end of the year closing deals and beginning the 2015 planning process.
Offsites with the team for a day or two at the Marriott, mini sessions in the big conference room out near the lobby, and then countless push & pull "discussions" with the accounting guys who always seem to be single minded-more results with less expense. Maybe it's just part of earning the CFO badge, but, as keepers of the budget, CFOs orchestrate the annual dance trying to balance greater revenue growth while keeping expenses in check.
I trust that you had a great last week of the summer and are now deep in the thick of it gearing up for the four month quarter while putting in an extra 20 hours a week to work on your 2015 sales planning and budgeting process. It's just the rhythm of business.
You might want to think through how you're going to spend your first week or two back from vacation in terms of focusing your own time and that of your team.
Three Planning Rules of the Road that might make this year's planning cycle easier:
1. Start at the End
Work with your CFO (go ahead, he or she has been trained not to bite) and figure out a week-by-week schedule of what they need by when. Try to work against their schedule, and you and your team will always get squeezed, since at the end of the day, it's the CFO who needs to deliver and defend your budget at the December board meeting.
Get in lock step with what they need, take out your calendar, figure out that there are 14 weeks until the first Friday in December, and then assign the tasks that you need to accomplish at the end of each week. Then delegate the corresponding subtasks to your salespeople and to their managers. Every Friday afternoon over pizza lunch in the conference room then becomes a delivery and review period for sales forecasts, expense budgets, key account plans, new product launches and everything that will finally add up to be The Perfect 2015 Sales Plan, Sales Forecast & Budget.
2. Take the Team Offsite
Nothing is better than using a couple of days in early October to take the sales team offsite and...
- ...gather inspiration and motivation from one another while trading best practices for the Q4 push and mapping out new strategies for 2015
- ...either invent or polish your selling processes so that there's only one process and one very effective way to sell, which uses and builds on the same tools, identical technologies and the sales same training for everyone on the team.
- identify whether there should be entirely new sales and/or marketing strategies that you would add to your 2015 initiatives:
-Is this the year to take on new distribution? Or to end what you have?
-Should you expand or retract from your field salesforce and build the inside?
-Do you cut off your manufacturer's reps, and go totally direct?
-Is this the year to invest in a new market segment? Why not two?
-Do you make a more dramatic shift from Outbound to Inbound in 2015?
Walking through the answers to these questions and many others is extremely stimulating, energizing and also unifying in that the process itself cements the team and focuses your company's objectives, if not it's entire mission.
3. Remember, You Must Make Choices
The most difficult part, and also the most critical, is actually leaving the offsite having made choices and having come to absolute total consensus on everything that was discussed. Too often, people come into these meetings either not prepared, or too often becoming stuck in too much data in analyzing the business's weaknesses and opportunities.
To make these meetings highly effective, you must agree as part of the meeting prep that you are going to force yourselves to make choices. Discussing various strategies is exciting and energizing since you often end up discussing new practices, different product ideas and innovative approaches to the age old question of "How do we sell more stuff?" But the reality of managing your business more effectively and efficiently while dealing with the constraints of money and time, is that in order to compete and to grow, you must make choices about what you will do...and about what you will stop doing. That's the tough part, but that's why you get paid the big bucks as a manager.
The best companies limit their strategic initiatives for any given time period to only two or three which requires firm decisions from you and the rest of your team as to where to invest your time.
- If you plan to build Inside Sales, do you carve back the Field?
- Do you limit geographies to specific cities and forget about "the midwest"?
- Do you change the commission plan from bookings to revenue or to gross margin?
Good Selling...and Planning!
I've mentioned "teams" many times during this particular blog for a couple of reasons. Most importantly, it's the only way I know how to manage any business or group of salespeople. I also wanted to squeeze in a survey request on team performance for a friend of mine, Steven Forth, the co-founder of Nugg, which is a company focused on Team Performance. If you have a couple of minutes, please click on here- https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/buildingbetterteams