Holiday parties, gift shopping, closing out year-end projects. It’s a hectic time of year,
and your calendar is jam-packed. Before 2018 rolls around though, there’s one more
essential event to add to your calendar: planning your 2018 sales efforts.
December is the time to sit down and give some serious thought to what’s worked well in
the past 12 months, and how to refine your sales strategy to hit your financial goals in
the New Year. Companies big and small must engage in this critical analysis. It’s a task
that can be broken down into three, concrete steps: customer development, refining
your pitch, and having clarity on your numbers.
Talk to Your Customers
As a sales professional, you should be constantly reengaging with your customers to
understand their evolving needs and the value that you can deliver to their business.
End of year is the perfect time to check back in.
Try to have at least five customer development conversations as you’re planning for
2018. First, ask for their thoughts on the problem you’re currently solving for them. Do
they still think it’s a problem? Do they think you adequately solve it for them? Have any
new problems come up?
Next, ask for feedback on how you’ve helped their business over the past year. Did you
help one customer reduce costs by 20%? Or maybe you cut down the time it takes an
employee to perform a certain task by 15%. Ask them to get specific so you can quantify
You’ll also want to gather intel on what alternative solutions they tried before they
started working with you, and their opinions on those competitive alternatives. Have
them share the consequences they would suffer if they’d done nothing to solve the
problem. That’s great insight for you to have, especially since most sales are lost to
companies doing nothing at all, not to competitors.
Finally, ask your customers how they’re getting information about their industry, and
how they find out about new technologies and solutions in the market. What websites,
magazines or blogs are they reading? What conferences do they plan to attend? These
insights will help shape your marketing strategy, so you know where to place your
messaging to reach more of your ideal customers.
The information gathered in these interviews will be gold for your sales, marketing and
Tighten Up Your Pitch
Once you’ve conducted your customer development interviews, it’s time to use what
you’ve learned about your markets to tighten up your sales pitch. Specifically, your sales
story should reflect the nuggets your clients have given you about how you’ve helped
them and benefitted their business.
You’ll also want to use that information to develop success stories. Tell these stories to
prospective customers about how you’ve helped similar companies to solve the same
challenges they’ve faced. It’s often helpful to write these out as a narrative, then practice
them aloud to make sure you’re telling the story – and your overall pitch - in the most
powerful way possible.
Crunch the Numbers
You’ve conducted customer interviews, revised your pitch and written success stories.
Your final step in 2018 sales planning is to think hard about your numbers.
First, you need to figure out your financial goals for the year. Perhaps you want to hit
$250,000 in revenue and your average deal size is $10,000. With that, you know you’ll
need to have 25 customers to achieve your goals.
You’ll then want to analyze your historical conversion rates to figure out how aggressive
you’ll need to be in your efforts. Say you’re shooting for 25 customers. You know that
25% of your proposals result in closed deals, so you’d need to submit 100 proposals to
get 25 deals. If 25% of all the conversations you have led to proposals, you’d need to
have more than 125 conversations. Finally, if 25% of your outreach or referral efforts
lead to conversations, that means you’d need to reach out to 150-160 possible targets.
Another factor to consider is time. Time is a critical piece of every sales process. For
most complex BRB sales efforts, it usually takes three to six months before a deal is
closed. Factor that time variable into your planning. If your sales cycle is 6 months, then
your final deal for 2018 needs to be initiated by mid-year. Otherwise, you’re leaving your
goals to chance.
Doing the work of remaining connected to your customers, constantly refining your
pitch and determining your activity goals is critical to ensuring success in sales
forecasting and effectiveness.
After completing this exercise, you’ll know exactly what that you and your sales team
needs to achieve in order to meet your goals in the New Year. Here’s to a successful sales
plan for 2018!