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Planning and Plans
By Peter Lowy
Dwight D. Eisenhower said, “In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.” His words apply to business in general and marketing and sales in particular. Whatever your plans, chances are external events will emerge to change them. But you’re better off for having gone through the process.
In marketing and sales, planning lets you:
Identify and quantify goals. If you don’t know where you’re headed, you won’t know when you get there. Put a stake in the ground, e.g., we want to increase sales by 50% within 12 months.
Assess the landscape. Start by understanding how you’ve succeeded to date. Whether or not you’ve ever aimed to increase revenues by 50% in a year, look at your current customers. How many of your top customers would you need to replicate to grow total sales by 50%? Probably fewer than you think. Now identify prospects and stay clear of suspects. Someone who would have good reason to buy from you is a prospect. Someone who is capable of buying your product, but who has no reason to do so is a suspect.
Evaluate the odds. Assign every prospective sale a probability of success of 25%, 50%, or 75%. (Situations of 100% or 0% have been decided.) If you don’t meet the person who has veto power over spending, give this prospect a 25% probability, no matter how well the discussion goes. Deciding between 50% and 75% probabilities depends on a lot of specifics. Don’t waste time figuring out, say, a 60% probability, because you can’t distinguish between 50% and 60%. This approach tells you where to spend your energy and helps focus your team on what needs to be done.
Consider alternatives. What happens if a new, low-price competitor comes on the scene? What will you do if your biggest customer suddenly goes away? These and other life altering conditions occur. Have a contingency plan.
Now, implement your plan. You’ll likely learn that conditions in the field changed before you even get out the door. No matter. You’ve thought out your goal and you can adjust it because you know the nuances supporting it. You’ve studied the landscape and know where to go and what to avoid. You have a system for assessing success; it’s just a matter of applying it to new conditions. You’ve also thought how major developments could affect you. In short, you’re ready to go forth and succeed.
© Peter Lowy