Sunday, September 26, 2010

4 lessons how to make your sales manager love budgeting and planning


Sales professionals are probably one of the most difficult audiences to incorporate in a planning and budgeting cycle. In one of my first projects I found myself confronted with a seasoned sales manager. After trying to contact him by mail, leaving numerous voicemails and a few meeting requests I finally just stepped into his office one day. Surprised by my persistence he proudly showed me his desktop computer. The machine was on his desk, unplugged, all cables wrapped around it. "This is what we do with these teller machines, we leave this number crunching to the accountants" he laughed. I left his office fully determined to even get this 'hard target' to use our new planning model.

Bringing sales into your planning cycle brings a unique perspectives and makes your plans better connected to the world outside your organization. This connection makes your plan more responsive and a more valuable basis for other functions to build their plans. The last couple of years we have been working with sales professionals in numerous projects. Although they are almost always among the most reluctant to use our new planning models, we learned our lessons and managed to get them involved.

Use available information as a planning basis

The first lessons we learned was to make use of all data that is already available in your sales organization. We typically find a lot of valuable data in customer relationship management (CRM) systems or other salessystems. In the most successful cases we were able to take the expected revenue from the pipeline in the CRM-system and use them as a solid starting point for the revenue planning. The time span of this basis depends heavily on the industry you are in. Planners from the sales department are always pleasantly surprised if they can start planning from a basis that is already familiar to them. More than once we have found this approach also a good impulse for improving the quality of the data in the source system that we use.

Use 'seelzy' terminology for your planning model

A second, and very important lesson, was to make use of a really sales based dimensional model for this type of planning. A dimension model is the data skeleton of your planning model. Typical dimensions in sales planning model are customer(group), product(group), channels and revenue type. By using this kind of dimensions the sales planner can really plan revenues in familiar terminology which brings the planning model closer to the real business activity and easier to align with processes like account planning etc. We have seen sales planners that were given only P&L line items to build their plans. In the majority of these cases the sales plan was nothing more than an administrative task to keep the accountants happy and was seldom used to really manage the sales function.

Bring marketing in the planning cycle

Alignment with the marketing calendar is the third lesson we learned. At a telecom provider the sales manager introduced us to the marketing department, after a short interview we decided to try to integrate their marketing calendar into the planning cycle. By doing this we greatly enhanced the accuracy of the spread of revenues over the months. This step also initiated some good discussions about the effectiveness of planned marketing efforts already during the planning cycle. The fact that these kind of discussions were initiated this timely was seen as a great additional value of the improved planning cycle.

Make it personal

Probably the most important lesson has nothing to do with the planning model itself, it's the human factor. Sales professionals are in general 'people-people'. Sending e-mails, writing manuals is not very effective way to communicate with them. If you bring your ideas to their desk en sit down with them for a short while you can make big steps forward. If you can make their life a lot easier by making some minor adjustments to your planning process or model, do it. It will make their work more efficient and they can spend more time on what they should be doing, paying attention to customers and potential customers.

A big step towards value adding planning

Getting sales actively involved is a big step towards are value adding planning cycle. It might seem like near impossible goal at first sight, but take a closer look. We have learned our lessons and have seen that it's not only possible but also very rewarding. Please share your experiences in this field with us, so that we can also learn your lessons.

8 comments:

  1. Hallo, I have a problem. I have got the question and i dont know the answer for this question, could you please help me. Here is thr question:what additional value can salespeaple do? what this value qould be?

    ReplyDelete
  2. I'm not quite sure what your question is in detail, but let me answer in general terms. Sales people add the greatest value to planning processes when they bring their knowledge of the markets your organization operates in. This external input is crucial if you want to use your plan as a mean to make your organization more proactive towards changes in your markets. If your organization 'sees the future first' you have an enormous advantage on your competitors.
    If you give me a little more context on your organization I'm happy to help you in more detail. Just drop me an e-mail on info@sonum-int.com.

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