If your idea of Strategic Planning is to put together an annual sales plan, then this newsletter is right up your alley. Sales planning is indeed a critical part of any strategic plan but the plan itself has to include all the tactical elements as well.
Are you looking back at your sales results – and your sales plan – for 2009 and seeing a big gap? Now isn’t the time to chuck the whole idea of planning. More than ever, it’s time to take a close look at your planning process and consider your opportunities.
Frequently the agency sales plan is a top down process. “Here is the agency's sales goal. Your share is this.” Unfortunately, agencies who follow this approach to sales planning seldom meet their goals. And it’s not good enough to do sales planning as just a bottom up affair. While individual producer plans become the building blocks for the agency’s tactical sales plan, the agency’s strategic mission and goals should help determine the basic shape of those building blocks.
A big part of the sales manager’s job is helping each producer set personal goals and the action plans to achieve them. Personal production plans should be simple. If the plan is too complicated, it will not be used. It must also support the overall agency goals and objectives. The successful sales manager will guide the producer toward the types of businesses and customers the agency is targeting and ensure that there is a persistent, consistent approach to developing and retaining business.
Sales Manager and Producers should work together to ask, “What could we write?” Then, “What should we write?” This will help ensure the agency's goals are the producer's goals.
Revisit the SWOT. The planning process needs to be based on a sound understanding of the existing book of business and current marketplace and trends. It should include a critical look at the strengths and weaknesses of the producers, the agency, and the competition.
What about growth? When the market is “soft” or the economy is “hard,” how can you expect to grow your business organically? Well, if you’re not growing you’re actually falling behind. Growth is more important than ever when there is more attrition in the book. And remember that attrition comes in two ways. Lost customers and declining revenue per account. While the two are closely related, it’s important to understand the difference because each problem requires its own solution. (Sounds like a good topic for a future newsletter. Stay tuned!)
Build in accountability. In any sales plan there should be a clear understanding of what needs to be done to reach the goals. This part of the plan is very tactical. And it’s how you ensure accountability. Especially for a new producer, but also for established producers, clearly defined goals and directions are critical. Without these there can be no measurement of the producer's success. And without measurement, there is no accountability.
Do you measure results or activities? Typical “consultant’s” answer, that depends. For established producers, results may be enough. If the results aren’t what you expect, and for new, developing producers, keeping track of activities provides control for the sales manager and motivation for the new producer. A good way to ensure that every producer is making his or her contribution to the overall well being of the agency is to think of producers as profit centers.
The most profitable and successful agencies are highly focused on new business sales. In the face of economic turmoil, increased competition, and alternative distribution systems, the agency must have a genuine sales focus built into its culture. Business development should be part of every individual’s job description. This is the ultimate in sales planning.
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