In part-one of our two-part blog on common mistakes sales ops makes during planning season, we uncovered three ways in which errors in sales planning assumptions could lead to shortfalls of hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars in missed bookings and sales productivity. We also provided some tips on how you can prevent these errors from occurring in your own organization. To recap part-one, we advised sales ops professionals to avoid:
- Underestimating how long it takes to hire sales resources
- Underestimating the true impact of ramp on productivity
- Focusing on pipeline and forecast at the expense of sales capacity
Let’s take a look at 3 other common mistakes made by Sales Operations pros during planning season.
- Not understanding the variability of Sales teams quota performance across your organization. This can be especially challenging for growing companies who are rapidly adding new reps and territories. Most companies have a pretty good idea of their average quota performance overall, but how does that translate into the number of reps hitting quota on a consistent basis? For example, a recent study by the Bridge group showed that only 67% of inside sales reps actually reached their quota on a monthly basis. Many companies find that even though they make their overall target, it’s not because most of their reps are performing well. Instead, they might be succeeding based on a few reps (or territories) that are crushing it at 200 + % of quota, while a large number struggle to reach even 50%. Be sure to take a close look at your reps performances over the last couple of years. Look for patterns such as regions where quota attainment lags or individual or team performances that are below the norm. What areas need the most attention or corrective action? It is important that your plan reflects likely performance based on these patterns as well as revising assumptions to ensure they more accurately reflect likely performance until corrective actions have time to take their effect.
- Planning in silos within the company. Sales planning often starts with a top down bookings target and an associated profit margin for the business. Expense budgets are expected to be in sync with delivering that margin. If the new bookings target is a substantial increase over the prior year, Sales will need to plan to add enough new sales hires to make the target and will need help from Human Resources to make this happen. In addition, Sales may need a lot more lead generation activities from Marketing. Trouble will occur if these expectations are not communicated during the planning process so these departments adjust their budgets accordingly. To prevent this, Sales Ops should play a strong liaison role among Sales, Marketing, Human Resources and Finance to ensure that everyone is aligned on what resources are needed across the company to reach the bookings target in a cost-effective manner
- Viewing the annual sales plan as a static document. A surprising number of companies still view sales planning as a once a year exercise. Once completed, it becomes the benchmark that you measure actual performance against, but it is rarely altered. Conversely, in most organizations, an expense budget is generally seen as a living plan that is modified throughout the year in response to the company’s financial performance. For example, if the company misses the Q1 top line number, Finance takes hard look at expenses, comes back to each department and asks them to plan on reducing their expenditures going forward. These reductions are incorporated into a revised expense plan that applies for the rest of the year. Sales Ops should operate in a similar fashion. If you miss your bookings target, figure out what went wrong and how you can correct it. You might start by looking at the pipeline and determining if deals can be brought forward, but what if part of the shortfall was due to unplanned attrition or slower than planned hiring? To catch up, you may need to adjust your plan to accelerate hiring and get more sales reps on board faster. A sales plan is not static. Treat it as a living plan that should be modified in response to the company’s financial performance throughout the year.
Avoiding these common mistakes can save you time, increase revenue and enhance sales operations’ value as a strategic partner in your business. For more best practices on how to prepare for 2018 planning check out our collection of planning resources here.