In a recently released report by Dresner Advisory – the Wisdom of Crowds 2020 Sales Planning Market Study – 66% of surveyed professionals said they considered sales planning to be “Important”, “Very Important”, or “Critical” to their organization’s sales performance. Despite this, only 35% of respondents reported using any form of sales planning software.
With differentiation between companies becoming harder to achieve, and customers no longer as loyal as they once were, a competitive sales strategy – supported by a feasible action plan – is essential to success. In this blog, we’ll explore how a sales planning solution can help you to create an achievable sales plan in line with strategic goals and internal capabilities, and what you should look out for when selecting one.
What is sales planning software?
Sales planning software enables organizations to put in place their commercial strategy, monitor and control sales performance, and re-orient commercial action plans according to effective sales data. A sales planning solution supports customer segmentation activity, sales budgeting, quota and territory planning, sales forecasting, sales analytics, and incentive & compensation management, integrating relevant information from CRM, ERP, HR, and other legacy systems.
What are the challenges surrounding sales planning?
Sales planning is traditionally carried out as a departmental activity with the goal of achieving a set sales target. Sales leader(s) must work out how to achieve it – typically using a spreadsheet-based plan. In producing this plan, sales leaders face several challenges:
- Information coming from multiple sources – Past performance, market trends, previous customer purchases, territories, sales commissions, and other factors will all impact the final number. This information typically sits in separate systems and is hard to reconcile without considerable manual effort and cross-comparison, and in a fast-paced sales environment there simply isn’t the time to perform this depth of analysis.
- Integration with corporate processes – The sales plan is created in isolation from other departments, meaning it doesn’t consider the impact of other factors on achieving the desired numbers. What if operational capacity is not high enough to deliver the number of products required to hit a set target, making it impossible to achieve?
- Dynamic planning – Sales plans (like any plan) are subject to change. A shift in the market, staff churn, or the unexpected success of a product can all impact sales performance, and the plan needs to be able to adapt accordingly. It is difficult to see the impact of these changes using static, spreadsheet-based plans, and it is even more difficult to make changes as a result.
- Forecasting – A mission-critical sales planning activity is the creation of accurate sales targets. Is this activity accomplished better through managerial judgment or sales predictive analytics algorithms? Is there a back-testing process in place to check the consistency of past projections?
What are the benefits of sales planning software?
A sales planning solution can overcome these issues and transform sales performance by bringing together all the information required to produce an accurate plan. A comprehensive platform which also incorporates sales analytics can enable businesses to:
- Gain greater insight into customers through detailed customer segmentation, considering factors such as needs, preferences, and cross-selling opportunities
- Produce accurate, detailed sales plans in much shorter timeframes, planning quota for sales reps by allocating them customer portfolios and planning territory sales objectives by aggregating the sales targets for each rep
- Simulate the impact of different sales strategies on the rest of the business, and on the predicted outcome, before taking a decision
- Integrate ML predictive forecasting and traditional methods, using (at your discretion) figures generated by human estimates, sales pipeline analysis & inspection, and sales predictive analytics algorithms within a machine learning environment
- Monitor and control sales performance in real time, automatically conducting variation analyses between current data and targets within a multi-dimensional environment and dissecting your results in terms of volume, price, and mix effects
- Launch re-planning cycles at any time based on actual acquisition figures, updating and amending estimates generated by the previous planning cycle
- Drive commercial efforts towards strategic targets by integrating sales force incentives & compensation management with quota and territory planning
- Exploit visibility of the lead journey, customer behavior, and customer sales history, fostering sales planning efficacy thanks to integration with CRM systems
Take a look at this case study from KUKA to see some of the benefits of a sales planning solution in action.
What to look for in a solution
To realize the benefits of an integrated approach to sales planning, and drive transformation in the sales planning process, a sales planning solution needs to offer the right combination of capabilities. Some of the key planning functionality to look for, as rated by Dresner’s market study respondents (see the report for the full list), includes:
- Sales forecasting and pipeline management
- Year-end projections and forecasting
- Rolling sales forecasts by week, month, quarter, and year
- Account segmentation and scoring
- Sales quota and commission planning
In addition to these planning features a sales planning solution should also incorporate the ability to analyze data from multiple sources across the organization, so the true impact of sales on other areas of the business can be identified and taken into account when making decisions.
For more information on sales planning software, and to learn how a fully integrated approach is more beneficial than a standalone solution, take a look at this on-demand sales planning and analytics webinar.