With 2012 Sales Plans On The Horizon, A Smarter Way Of Setting Targets

If you lead a B2B sales or partner organization, you know the drill. Your 2012 sales plan is about to be unveiled. Here’s how things typically happen: You work hard all year, and at the upcoming kickoff meeting, someone hands you your new quota, at which point you are supposed to smile and accept it. Sadly, you seldom have any input in forming that new quota or plan.

There is a better way. And I found it through growth advisor Mark Faust.

Since 1990, Mark has helped B2B clients accelerate growth. His latest book, Growth or Bust, is a must read for any leader facing a turnaround, or passionate about creating a customer-centric growth plan and culture. I caught up with Mark last week, and here is what he shared.

1. In a nutshell, what inspired you to write this book?

My dream is that Growth or Bust will be a part of creating 100,000 new jobs. I also experience a recurring need to refer clients to a variety of strategies time and again. I needed the toolbox. Now I find my self saying "what you need to implement is on pages 64-67." 

2. How is sales growth planning different from strategic planning?

Strategic planning helps management ensure that their resources are in place to sustain customer-focused growth. While sales growth planning has similar elements, it involves the sales team in the process and gets them to more accurately identify potential revenue sources and new market opportunities. 

3. Why is sales growth planning important?

People tend to support that which they help to create. If you don't involve the sales team in setting the highest growth potential targets, they might not be engaged, or you may be leaving too much on the table. 

4. I’ve worked for and advised high-tech and consulting firms where stretch goals and plans are dictated by senior management at the beginning of each new fiscal year. It’s more or less a “take it or leave it” planning approach. What is your opinion on this strategy?

Leave it! As I said, no one knows the untapped sales growth potential with specific customers--and sometimes the market--more than the sales team. They also know the levers that they and others must pull to optimize growth. Involve them and you are bound to learn something; ignore them and you might have a quiet sales mutiny. 

5. Give us an example of a client who implemented an effective sales growth planning process. 

The CEO of a $25 million firm was ready to announce company-wide and individual sales objectives to his reps. I stopped him (just in time). I facilitated a session where we asked the team what a stretch set of targets might look like. One year later they exceeded his original targets by 30%.

6. How can innovation play a role in the sales growth planning process?

First you must give your sales team permission to set really high stretch goals and then, not hit them. Unlike a sales quota, which can foster sandbagging and other bad habits, a stretch goal is very difficult to attain. People hate failing, but worse they fear reprisal if they fail. Assure them that the biggest failure is not getting all they can out of all they have, and creating innovative ways to grow their business as fast as they can.

Second, coach them in a Socratic fashion around what they must change, innovate, delegate, or eliminate in order for them to optimize their activity. Ask open-ended questions and help them discover the best answers.

Third, get the team to share their successes in a regular and systematic fashion so that there is a cross pollination of ideas. Build a review cadence and frequency.

Sales growth planning will optimize innovation in the sales and marketing process in the same way you have fostered it around your products and services. 

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Mark's words of growth wisdom couldn't be more timely.

Before you schedule another pointless Presentation Skills or Negotiation Training class to fill a 2012 kickoff meeting time slot, think twice. Your sales and marketing teams will thrive when you allow them to build a sales growth plan that they can believe in. And the ROI will be higher than any skills training class you choose.

Related article: Meditating On Growth Challenges

Lisa Nirell helps companies grow customer mind share and market share. Since 1983, Lisa has worked with Zappos, BMC Software, Adobe, Microsoft, and hundreds of entrepreneurs in nine countries. Lisa is also an award-winning expert speaker, FastCompany expert blogger, and author of the acclaimed "EnergizeGrowth® NOW: The Marketing Guide to a Wealthy Company." Download your sample chapter and business energy booster survey at www.energizegrowth.com.

Copyright 2011, Lisa Nirell. All rights reserved.

[Image: Flickr user denemiles]

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