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    Seven Steps for Effective Sales Planning

    By guestauthor2 | Yahoo Small Business

    Sales Planning

    If you want to set yourself up for sales success, your best strategy lies in being fully prepared for the all-important sales call. It’s critical to think through every aspect of the call ahead of time. Don’t fool yourself into thinking you can just wing it – you’ll get much better results if you clearly define your goals and create a strategy you can follow to achieve them.

    With careful planning, you’ll have a much clearer vision of what you need to accomplish and a roadmap for how to get there. Unfortunately, many sales professionals have never been taught to create a comprehensive sales plan. The good news is that the process is relatively simple. Here are seven steps you can take to create an effective sales plan:

    1. Define your objective. Clearly outlining your goal should always be your first step in planning a sales call – or any other business endeavor. Is your purpose to establish yourself as a trusted advisor? Close a specific deal? When you define your key objective, you can plan later steps around achieving it.

    2. Evaluate the current situation. Next on the list is an honest assessment of the situation, and it will relate to the goal you set in the first step. If your objective is to expand your relationship with a customer, an evaluation of the current situation would consist of defining your present relationship.

    3. List barriers to success. This step can be one of the most critical to achieving your goals: Create a detailed account of obstacles to your success. Knowing exactly what you’re up against can be incredibly inspirational, sparking new ideas about how you can overcome barriers.

    4. Assess your strengths and assets. Take an honest look at your resources and think about how you can apply them to achieve your objective. Strengths and assets can include things like personal relationships, sales kits, competitive advantages like new products and much more.

    5. Create your sales call strategy. Using the information you’ve compiled in steps one through four, develop your sales plan by outlining how you’ll reach your goal. Depending on the situation, your plan might include the sale of a specific product and the steps you’ll use to persuade your prospect.

    6. Identify your needs. Once you have your basic strategy in place, now is the time to outline what you’ll need to get the job done. Your needs may include items like a sales deck or demo program. Requirements could also include a list of accounts. The important thing is to identify needs upfront.

    7. Outline an action plan. The action plan is a companion piece to the sales call strategy described in step five: It is a to-do list of tactical steps you’ll need to accomplish the strategy. The action plan might include items such as finalizing pricing with your company before you make the sale.

    Sales professionals, perhaps especially those who have been in the business for awhile, often neglect to thoroughly plan sales calls, counting on their experience and confidence in their ability to think on their feet to carry them through. And while that strategy may generate adequate results, it doesn’t prepare the sales professional for every contingency and may produce less than stellar returns.

    In just about every other facet of life, accomplishing an important task requires careful planning, be it hosting an event, winning a baseball game or putting together a vacation itinerary. The same is true of sales: No matter how experienced you are, having a solid game plan will give you that much more confidence and free you to focus on every new opportunity.

    By following these seven steps, you can create a comprehensive sales plan that will allow you to understand your challenges and use your assets to their best advantage. With upfront planning, you can gain the confidence you need to pursue new sales opportunities and win.

    Larry Caretsky is CEO of Commence Corporation, a leading provider of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software designed for the middle market. Larry has more than thirty years of experience with top 100 software companies in the high tech area.

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