Most K-12 sales managers agree – it’s important to have a sales plan. In every situation a sales manager is likely to encounter, a well-conceived sales plan is a critical component of success, yet many don’t invest the time to do it right.
Neglecting sales planning results in a reactive business environment requiring frequent ad hoc responses to immediate concerns. It’s an inefficient management technique that wastes resources as people scramble off their current tasks to put out the latest fire. Sound familiar? In this article are a few tips to get out of this trap. For more advice, listen to our interview with STS leader, Glen McCandless, on STS Radio.
Lack of careful sales planning for companies in the educational technology market can have an immediate negative impact on the bottom line as well. Since the sales process for most companies is three to eight months, companies without a plan lack a fundamental strategy and focus for their activity. Months fly quickly by while sales team members struggle to develop a cohesive approach. Quarterly sales targets are missed. In fact, many companies miss an entire school selling season completely, all because they lack a planned approach to their markets.
The urgency to generate sales and the short-term view for many companies today often trumps the process. Even though managers know better, there is still a sense that the market changes too often to plan for, or a "down and dirty" approach may work fine, or that it is better to get out there and get the "low-hanging fruit." There are plenty of excuses why companies don't have a solid sales plan to guide or justify their behavior.
Yes, you are busy, and finding time to plan is tough. But it is extremely useful to develop, at minimum, a three-year sales plan to allow a company to determine what it can reasonably expect in terms of revenue, growth, and profitability. In addition, investments in programs like inside sales can be rationally justified with factually supported sales projections. At the outset, the cost-of-sale may appear higher than desired. However, over a three-year period, resulting sales and the program’s profitability could more than justify the expense.
Now it's time for the litmus test. When we ask managers who are responsible for K-12 sales whether they have a sales plan or not, they usually say, "Yes." But when we show them what we mean by a sales plan, they begin to squirm. That's because a solid plan for success in the K-12 school market must have six components:
Assessment of the company. A summary “snapshot” of the company’s current situation, financial health, and market presence.
Evaluation of the market opportunity. The potential for selling products and services and analysis of segments of school market using relevant criteria and market definition. A territory coverage plan should also be included with the market opportunity. The selection of states covered should be based on resources available as well as states with funding that will likely purchase your products.
Specification of sales goals and tactics. A statement of goals and channel strategy for reaching new customers, maximizing revenue from existing customers, and retaining customers.
Identification of potential K-12 sales channels. A look at channel options, including Inside Sales Reps, Field Sales Reps, Independent Sales Reps, Resellers, Company Partnerships, or a combination of channels, and determining the most cost-effective and profitable way to address the market while achieving the desired revenue goals.
Evaluation and selection of sales channel. A close look at important topics, such as your territory coverage plan, and key questions to ask as you evaluate and select from many possible sales channels.
Development of a financial plan with ROI analysis. A breakdown of your sales goals and related channel expenses, along with a profitability analysis and forecast.
This famous quote from Benjamin Franklin should be a reminder to all of us who navigate the turbulent waters of the K-12 school market that careful planning will help us avoid failure. Nobody wants to fail, but a tactical, reactive approach to selling in the education market, or skipping over critical components in the planning process, will increase your risk that you will. We recommend you invest the time, and also seek outside help from an expert if needed, to guide and facilitate your sales planning process. The wisdom that Benjamin Franklin left for us is actually practical advice you can take to the bank!