Lately, I’ve been thinking how sailing relates to sales planning. New technology has made sailing safer with advancements such as tracking transmitters that send your location when trouble strikes and iPhone apps that better predict changing wind conditions.
With sales planning, modern cloud solutions are helping sales ops better manage and mitigate risk while also opening new opportunities to deliver more high-value strategic insights. This represents a huge win for many companies, including mine.
We consistently hear from CFOs that top-line sales planning and forecasting presents the most risk to their business. We use the following tactics to reduce this risk:
Plan with flexibility
When you’re sailing, you typically set out with a clear destination, just like with your annual sales goals. Yet with ever-shifting winds and weather, getting there requires the flexibility to adjust to the realities—in real time.
Too rigid of an approach invites risk because conditions can change and adjustments may be necessary to deal with new market trends, a shifting economy, or idiosyncratic changes, such as a territory underperforming or unexpected attrition. Flexibility in planning is essential.
Address attrition with ROI in mind
When a salesperson leaves, the default move is often to slot a new salesperson in the same position in the same territory. Yet today, we can track sales performance in real time, plan for attrition, and model a range of what-if scenarios with a deeper analysis to determine the best move. If you have the right tools, you can make the optimal decision backed by hard data and sound logic.
Skip the surprises
Being able to better carve out and assess territories, develop stronger capacity plans, and track and predict performance adds more clarity and certainty to the entire sales planning process. That leads to greater consistency and fewer disruptive surprises—surprises that can not only hurt productivity, but also sink morale among the sales force.
There’s nothing more frustrating to a valued and motivated salesperson than getting blindsided by a territory change after he or she has spent months working a patch to cultivate relationships and develop leads. By leveraging new technology and tools that deliver sound analysis and track real-time performance, you can significantly reduce those types of disruptions. And when changes do need to be made, your recommendations will be backed by data and insight that clearly spell out the rationale for the move.
Make data-driven decisions
History is littered with tales of sailing expeditions that went terribly wrong when the captain relied on a “go-with-your-gut” approach. Sales planning can face a similar fate if too much weight is placed on gut feel or “that’s-how-we’ve-always-done-it” thinking.
We are now better able to optimize the business and drive profitability with confidence because we can make decisions based on and supported by hard data and detailed analysis. We are more capable and can better keep our sales force engaged and happy.
Respond strategically to leadership requests
Say your sales team is significantly outperforming in a territory in the first half of the year, and senior leadership comes asking if it’s possible to keep on that torrid pace without adding headcount. In the past, coming up with a sound answer would have likely been a painstaking manual spreadsheet exercise, complete with updating broken links and building a whole new model to then compare with the old model.
The new reality: Because you use Adaptive Insights for Sales, you maintain an updated model so you can quickly generate several different scenarios that range from keeping the status quo to making additional hires.
The result: You can confidently offer up a range of data-backed options that provide key business partners with the information and insights they need to make optimal decisions.
Despite all the technological advances and risk-reducing improvements, there will always be a degree of art to go along with the science of sailing. The human factor is what makes the difference between a capable sailor and a great one. The same goes for sales planning. By tapping new tools and technology, you can free up the time and information you need to deliver your best strategic skills and insights to the planning and forecasting process.
The result? Much smoother sailing as you chart the right course to reach your company’s goals and objectives.