Each fourth quarter as the new year approaches, it’s prudent to prepare a profitability plan for the coming year, especially with respect to your sales and marketing endeavors. Doing so can give you a notable competitive edge, particularly given the extraordinary number of professionals who don’t bother producing this strategic tool. But, whether developed before or after the start of the new year, the importance of creating a tactical plan for sales and marketing success cannot be overstated. Here’s how to set yourself up for annual planning success.
Successful annual planning requires one key ingredient: your mindset. Indeed, the first step toward successful financial planning is setting an intent to successfully complete your plan. What doesn’t get scheduled doesn’t get done. Make a commitment now to complete an annual financial plan by midnight of December 31. If for some reason you don’t end up reading this until after December 31, make a commitment to create an annual plan over the next month so you have it ready by the start of the next quarter.
Creating your plan is largely a matter of asking and answering a series of questions that help you identify your sales and marketing and other financial goals, and then verbalizing the steps to achieve those goals. You should ask yourself questions about key annual sales goals such as how many leads you want to generate, how many appointments you want to set, and how many sales you want to make. After defining some annual goals, you can break these down into smaller time frames by quarter, month, and week to make it easier to define concrete steps for achieving your goals. I’d encourage you to create a Word document or get a notebook where you can ask yourself some annual planning questions.
Examples of the types of sales and marketing goals that can go into creating your annual plan include:
You can break each of these goals into more specific areas. For instance, you can break your target sales results down into lead generation, appointment setting, and sales. You can also break each category down by quarter and by month. You can break it down even further by week or by day if you choose.
To achieve your marketing and sales goals in the coming year, you may find it helpful to set goals in other areas of your business or personal life. In your business, for example, you may set a goal of hiring more staff, adopting new automation tools, or developing and releasing new product or service lines.
Achieving personal goals also can help you achieve your business goals. For instance, if you haven’t been sleeping on a regular schedule, setting a goal of getting on a more consistent sleep cycle next year may help make you more productive in your business. Similarly, you can set goals in areas such as your personal finances, health, relationships, and spiritual development.
A fundamental strategy for annual planning is creating a space for success. You can have only so many things. When something is occupying space, something else cannot occupy that same space. This is true both literally and in the larger sense of occupying mental or emotionalspace or space in your business. If you no longer need something, getting rid of it can free up some space. This creates a space for you to attract something new to your business or other areas of your life.
Once you’ve oriented yourself in your business space, it’s time to review your past year’s performance to identify some areas where you can improve. Here are some examples of questions to help you perform this evaluation:
Use this list of questions to develop questions specific to your own industry, business, and product or service lines. You can also ask questions about non-business areas that affect your business. For instance, how many hours of sleep did you average per night this year, and how many hours would you need to achieve optimal energy for top business performance?
Expand on the list of questions above to help you identify areas for strategic improvement. For you to achieve your potential in the next year, uncover the areas of your business and other parts of your life that need improvement.
The fact that you’re reading this article now gives you an advantage over most people. Think about how many people wait until December 31 to make their New Year’s resolutions. Most people handle their annual financial planning the same way. Gallup’s 2013 Economy and Personal Finance poll revealed that 70 percent of Americans do not prepare a detailed personal budget. People who handle their personal finances this way are prone to carry the same habits over into their business planning. When you consider that poor financial planning is one of the top causes of small business failure, you can see why creating an annual financial plan early gives you an advantage over the competition.
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