Over the last nine months I have been involved in a whole bunch of sales planning for clients, both as a facilitator and as a planning coach to facilitators – in fact I was astounded to learn whilst preparing this blog that if you include everyone that was involved in the planning sessions, they number over 400 sales professionals! Aside from learning a tremendous amount about how to run planning sessions remotely it was really gratifying to feel the excitement building on the Zoom calls as the plans were being created in MURAL using our planning process and the sense of achievement once they had been finished.

But, however good the plan is, it will all count for nothing if the plan isn’t delivered. To avoid this from happening we have incorporate a pre-mortem into the very last planning session, an exercise whereby the planning team identify all the reasons why they believe the plan will fail. It’s a post-mortem in reverse, the idea being that if you can identify what will go wrong then you can put actions in place to stop it from going wrong.

Interestingly the #1 reason for the plan’s likely failure across nine of my planning groups was lack of delivery; that people, however energised by the plan, would be sucked back into the day job and their great plan would gather dust in the drawer or in our case, digital dust in the Cloud.

So how do you stop that from happening?

As part of the pre-mortem the teams also had to identify solutions to stop the plans failing. Here are the top three ideas that came out of the pre-mortems we carried out with the planning teams. I’m sure you’ll agree they are not earth shattering. But isn’t that the point here. Plan execution is often simply doing the basics well:

  1. Get the necessary exec buy in – interesting one this and it certainly depends on the specific elements of the plan you are driving to execute. The feeling amongst the planning teams was that for certain initiatives, unless the manager or exec was invested in the plan, others within the organisation would simply play lip service. Investment means different things to different planning team but the key theme was driving accountability amongst the rest of the team – see next point.
  2. Have regular (weekly to monthly) cadence calls with the different deliverers – this was the most popular driver of a plan by far and having analysed why, it came down to responsibility through visibility. Just because your name is attached to a task doesn’t mean it will automatically get done especially if no one is driving it. However, if you schedule a regular catch up with the key stakeholders it can change that dynamic instantly. No one wants to be that person who doesn’t deliver on their task and become the blocker. We have used this approach for years to manage both our internal projects and external programmes with clients. Obviously how often you meet depends on the task and the person. Clearly an exec doesn’t need to be involved in every weekly meeting and I would caution against long sessions. Some of our best cadence calls are just 15 minutes.
  3. The final idea was to break the plan down into micro tasks and focus on the most immediate tasks. Just one at a time. We call it ‘chunking it up’. Whatever plan you have created – be it an account plan; or a joined-up plan between a channel partner and a vendor; or even if you’re looking at it from an account based marketing plan or a prospecting plan where you’re trying to infiltrate a net new company – it can be quite overwhelming to look at your GOAL which is broken down into a series of moves which themselves are comprised of a whole bunch of tasks. The key is to create momentum and to do that you need to chunk it up. To take the minimum viable action on a given day that will actually propel you forward, even if it’s a tiny, tiny little bit. It sounds easy on the face of it, but we’ve seen it happen time and time again with planners that even the easiest task can become overwhelming because of time pressures.

Sounds obvious. It is. We’ve all been there. We forget that success often lies doing the basics right. So, three words to keep at the forefront of your mind: CHUNK. IT. UP!

What are your tips for delivering a sales plan?