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Operational sales plans

Operational sales plans define the „right“ actions to lead the sales ecosystem to your operational sales goal.

Two purposes for operational sales plans

Obstacles we foresee may hinder sales:

This requires preventive operational initiatives to prevent obstacles before they appear,

A constraint exists and limits sales already today:  

This requires finding the root cause in the sales ecosystem and design of an operational initiative to resolve it.

One page operational sales plans

Whichever situation your sales ecosystem is in - the most effective format for operational sales plans are one-page tables of "logic trees", arranged from right to left or left-to-right, as you and your team prefer:

Five elements of constraint focused operational sales plans

Constraint focused operational sales plans are logic trees "backwards from the operational sales goal" consisting of five elements:

  • Critical success factors: the MUST ACHIEVE conditions for reaching the operational sales goal,
  • Competitor's plans: how our competitors plan to reach the critical success factors,
  • Necessary conditions: the performance goals of selected functions which will result in achieving the critical success factors, the true key performance indicators of the sales ecosystem,
  • Obstacles: what hinders us to reach the necessary conditions,
  • Commitments: obligations of members of the operational team to overcome the obstacles.

Four recommendations for designing operational sales plans

1. Use one page operational sales plans in all sales units

If sales units use different formats for their operational sales plans they cannot learn from each other and for you it will be difficult to review and compare them.

Ask each unit to use the one-page format for its operational sales plan.

2. In sales planning workshops engage the entire operational team

The operational team comprises all owners of functions in the sales ecosystem. Some of these owners may not want to engage in the design of operational plans. ("Just go ahead and design you plan and let us have a copy when you have finished"). If some members do not participate you miss their agreement to the operational plan and it will be difficult or impossible to make them accountable for deliverables later.

You must leave no one out of the design of your operational plan(s).

3. Own the quality of all operational sales plans

You have a high personal interest to ensure that all operational sales plans are of high quality: only if they are, your sales ecosystem will reach your operational goal.

Review and approve each operational sales plan - in difficult situations even personally lead the planning workshops.

4. For sales units apply the „Goals top down - plans bottom-up“ principle

The traditional approach to operational planning throughout sales units is for top sales managers to define key operational initiatives, such as core themes or top priority programs and then asking company entities to work on these with top priority.

This approach assumes that:

  • All units work in same business systems, and
  • Face the same obstacles and constraints.

Unfortunately, both assumptions are incorrect.

Instead, each unit needs to define its own operational sales plan, defining its own critical success factors and constraints to resolve.
Facing this reality sales leaders must set sales goals top-down and develop operational sales plans bottom-up.

Three example sales organizations

We demonstrate this principle for three sales organizations:

More information

More about designing the right operational plans in book SURF THE WAVES OF OPPORTUNITY, Chapter 6 "Right operational plans". (Website, Look inside)

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