Don’t be a laggard be a leader.
Many of us have just completed the typical Sales and Marketing plan for the upcoming year. We know the Dwight D. Eisenhower quote: “Plans are worthless, but planning is everything. We are ready to change it at a moment’s notice. We are very agile in nature.
Most of us start with the ways that we will increase revenue in 2013. A few classics:
We are going to increase sales by 3, 5, 10% or whatever arbitrary number we pick. The market is healthy and we are better than our competition, so we will get our fair share.
Projections from salespeople, who have received feedback from key customers. Sales managers and executives huddle up which in turn results in a forecast.
Increase sales exposure/people and through wider penetration, we will increase sales by another percentage.
Product innovations into new markets or old markets
Increased features and benefits that will appeal to a broader audience.
Exploring new markets that are ripe for our products (My favorite, not that there is someone already in that marketplace serving that need).
The list is practically endless. Some are based on a hypothesis and others based on evidence. The next step in the process is setting more specific objectives by-product line and often times, territories. We develop a collection of metrics that we will aim at. We take these metrics and shape our expectations of our sales force. We will supply them a great product with the needed features and benefits and with the necessary support and resources they will require. All that is left for them to do is close a few sales.
We know that sales can be difficult in these times and the sales people will need to hustle but the organization will do their part by supplying them with more leads and quicker turnarounds on quotes and products. We are even committed to handling more special products, since we know this is the age of the customer and one to one marketing. We have laid out a sound plan. Supplied the necessary resources. And our willing to adjust, not be hearsay but by the metrics that we have developed. What is missing?
Most measurements that are introduced to a sales force are not sales enablers rather detractors. We create measurements that sales people cannot even influence and even worse take much of their time to compile. The outcomes that you want and the objectives you are aiming for provide direction but have little to do with the activities that the sales people must do to achieve the intended results. Activities are generated at Gemba or the place of work. If you are removed from the place of work, you will more than likely develop lagging indicators. The key component in your planning process is to develop leading indicators. These are metrics based on your sales activities.
Granted these activities must be tied to an objectives which are tied to outcomes. I relate this in Lean Terms to Hoshin planning and the action of catchball. We propose the outcomes and toss it back and forth until we come to a agreement between outcomes and objectives. After that we toss it back and forth to determine the agreement between objectives and activities needed. It may transverse back and forth at the different levels but seldom if ever do we skip objectives and go directly between outcomes and activities.
If you do not have leading indicators as part of your sales and marketing plan, you are behind as of this moment. You will be unable to make the necessary adjustments needed as the year progresses.
Don’t be a laggard be a leader.
One of the best books on how to develop leading indicators is the Franklin Covey publication that I call Lean Simplified: The 4 Disciplines of Execution.