Are you planning to increase your sales in 2013?

Are you planning to increase your sales in 2013? The 2 key words here being “planning” and “increase”.

Do many advice firms just continue on in a never-ending sales cycle without proper planning? Well of course some do. However these businesses are really missing the opportunity to reinvigorate their sales effort every year. Carrying out structured planning gives you valuable focus on your customers, your market and your own internal capabilities. It gives you a structure to work to and a basis on which you can track progress. It also helps you identify dependencies your sales team have on other areas of your business to help them achieve their numbers.

Sales planning needs to happen at every level of your organisation. There needs to be an overall sales plan for the business as a whole. However this then needs to be translated into a relevant sales plan by every region, team or indeed every individual sales member. Yes, each individual sales person needs their own sales plan to ensure they maximise their own opportunities. A sales plan gives the individual sales person the focus and structure needed to achieve their goals. It also gives them a mechanism to report fully on progress and indeed to highlight supports they need from other areas of the business.

So what should you expect to see in a well thought out sales plan for a financial advice firm or sales person? Here are a few thoughts of what might be included.

Know your numbers

It might seem obvious but it is really important to be crystal clear on your sales numbers, whatever the most relevant numbers are. What level of income do you need, what level of assets do you need to secure, how many new customers do you need? You’ve got to be clear exactly what is needed to ensure you can achieve and indeed exceed expectations.

Consider external impacts

There are lots of factors at play in the market over which you’ve no control that will impact your sales effort – some positive, others negative. Identifying these at the outset is really important. How will you leverage these positive impacts (maybe the opportunities offered by technology for example) or deal with the negative factors (what if tax relief is reduced on pensions in the Budget this week – your income needs won’t reduce with this!).

What makes you different

What are the unique strengths and opportunities that will help you stand apart from your competitors? What areas of your proposition, your skill set or your relationships can you leverage to your benefit? On the other hand, what weaknesses do you have, gaps that you need to close or particular threats that you need to prepare to deal with? Now is the time to be thinking about all of these.

Plan to beat your competitors

Who are your competitors, what are their particular strengths and weaknesses and what strategies have you considered to win against each of them? What do you need to do to get yourself fit to face your competitors down?

Capture your target market groups

You obviously need to know who you hope to sell to. You need to articulate these groups and write them down. Further on in the planning process, you will need to tailor your sales activities depending on the profile of each group. Your approach for example to prospective business owner clients will be very different to how you drive sales from within your existing personal lines clients.

Know your sales objectives

At this stage, you’ve actually broken the back of the planning process as based on all your earlier work, your sales objectives will start to become clear. Typical sales objectives could include the likes of,

  • 10 new SME business owner clients secured during 2013
  • Carry out financial reviews, identify additional needs and cross sell an additional financial product to 20 existing clients who currently have a single policy with you.
  • Secure 3 new clients from introducer relationships.

With each of your sales objectives, you then need to put a measure against them. These measures in turn should add up to 100% of your sales target identified at the outset.

Identify the activities to achieve the objectives

For each of your objectives, what activities will be needed to achieve the goal? These might include making a set number of phone calls to prospects each week, securing planning meetings, presentations, seminars, entertaining etc.

Then it is a case of using your CRM system (or mapping out on a spreadsheet) the sales activities needed to be carried out with the actual target customers. This then becomes a dynamic business process that is updated every day. As you target a new customer, they are added. As you carry out an activity, that customer record gets updated. This will quickly demonstrate to you gaps or areas of particular activity needing more focus in your sales effort.

Make the activities happen!

Your next step is to make sure the activities actually happen. For “big” activities such as seminars, these should be planned out for the year and the customers to be targeted identified at the outset. Yes, this picture will change as the year progresses.

For the more “day to day” activities, it is important to set aside time (and allow your sales people time) to  plan your activities for the upcoming week. This then should enable you to also have identifiable periods during the week that are solely for time out in front of customers.

Review Relentlessly

If your sales people are planning at the outset, keeping the plan updated and producing realistic sales forecasts, it makes your conversations with them more meaningful and gives you the opportunity to help them. If they plan effectively, it also ups the ante on you as any reasons for sales under-performance that are outside of the salesperson’s control become more apparent. These are your challenges to address!

These are just a few thoughts in relation to sales planning. Yes it takes time, particularly so at the outset and it takes ongoing commitment to continue planning and monitoring throughout the year. However the focus and structure that you gain will result in the rewards outweighing these costs through increased sales!

What tips do you have for sales planning? All comments are very welcome.

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