• Sales operations leaders must keep in mind that sales planning is an ongoing process, not a one-time event
  • Every quarter, sales operations must evaluate performance against plan, identify variances and evaluate corrective actions or adjustments
  • Join us at SiriusDecisions Summit for a deeper dive into best practices for creating and maintaining an agile sales plan

The annual sales planning process is often an exhausting and frustrating exercise, so why would we want to do it more than once a year? Many of us just completed our first quarter of the new fiscal year and, depending on results, we may be celebrating a great start or concerned about the need to recover ground.

Sales operations is intimately involved in reporting results, participating in quarterly business reviews, and helping sales reps, managers and leaders answer the question, “How did we perform against the sales plan?” But answering that question is only a starting point to more in-depth analysis that needs to occur. When it comes to quarterly sales results, we can think about our analysis in three key categories:

  • Operational. What happened?
  • Diagnostic. Why did it happen and what’s likely to happen now?
  • Interpretive. What changes should we consider or implement to influence future performance?

Answering these questions and comparing results to the sales plan is a critical and time-sensitive process that must be informed by analysis of external data (e.g. market trends, competitive threats, macroeconomic risks) and internal factors (e.g. sales readiness, sales turnover, historical performance, product roadmaps). Each quarter, sales operations needs to work with other functional groups (e.g. marketing, sales enablement, channel sales, product) to go through a shorter, expedited version of the annual sales planning process focused on variances.

Best-in-class companies view sales planning as a continuous process of collecting, collating and analyzing operational data that drives better decisions about resource deployment, account assignments, territory adjustments, and even compensation and quota adjustments.

In most cases, these are minor adjustments to the annual plan, and we always have to balance the disruption of change against the intended outcomes. However, shorter business cycles mean that sales and sales operations leaders cannot wait until the end of the year to analyze results and assess corrective actions. Quarterly (at a minimum), they must take the time to assess what’s working, what’s not working and what the likely results will be to determine when change is necessary. 

The pace of business and the need for organizational agility is rapidly making annual sales planning a misnomer. For more insights into the process and components of sales planning, download our free e-book “The SiriusDecisions Sales Planning Model.”

I also invite you to join us at our upcoming Summit (May 6-8 in Austin), where quarterly-sales-planning, coverage design and the evolving role of sales operations – part of unique series of programs and sessions designed for sales and sales operations leaders.