Finding focus through your sales planning

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This discussion has been edited and abridged from a webinar entitled “Finding Focus: How to build an effective sales plan in 2020”. View the full webinar here.

Nida Chughtai is the Head of Planning AI Marketing at Anaplan, and previously served as Vice President of Marketing at Mintigo.

Jason Loh is the Global Head of Sales and Marketing Solutions at Anaplan, where he leads the go-to-market strategy for Anaplan’s solutions designed to drive performance and revenue.

Dana Therrien is a Principal on Anaplan’s Accelerate team, with expertise in business planning, sales operations, and go-to-market strategy design and execution.

What's changed in the last few years, and why should businesses be looking at 2020 as the year they reinvent sales strategies?

Jason Loh: Recently, there’ve been some incredible advancements in technology, especially in the sales tech space, with the advent of artificial intelligence and machine learning and bots and big data. While these are all good, a lot of this inadvertently leads to the introduction of noise, and it can make things, from a sales strategy perspective, a little bit fuzzy. Let’s make 2020 the year we find focus, the year where we can help our sellers find focus so we can help them exceed their sales goals.

Where do you recommend that sales leaders should begin finding focus?

Jason Loh: In order to start talking about where we should focus in 2020 and beyond, let me start off with where we are today. Sales strategy, or go-to-market strategy, means different things to different people depending upon where you sit in the organization.

Let’s talk about compensation planning. If someone was given, say, a million-dollar quota and I want to drive them to $1.2 million, then it’s about properly motivating them. But if they’re going from $1 million to, say, $5 million, then it’s going to take a lot more than just a minor tweak to the sales comp plan. Talking about the incentive program very quickly will drive us to then talk about the quota plans. Then all of a sudden we start having conversations with our finance department to talk about alignment with the revenue plan. Many times, as we’re going from department to department, from function to function, we’re creating friction for our sellers.

Dana Therrien: In the minds of the people responsible for planning, there’s a lot to keep track of. Really, the entire process begins by scoring the market. This is where a company’s growth strategy starts to get implemented. Finance has its understanding of where the corporation should go and they’re setting high-level targets, but it’s the responsibility of sales and marketing to go back to their finance counterparts with a plan for achieving the company’s revenue goals.

What’s changed in the new decade is that we have a really good understanding of this process and the sequence in which these activities should occur to achieve the best outcomes.

Often, data lives in disparate systems. How can sales leaders still gain a clear understanding of where they need to focus?

Dana Therrien: Typically, pulling data is an all-hands-on-deck scenario. Support is enlisted across functions—sales operations or revenue operations, marketing operations, financial analysts, customer success, and supply chain analysts, all trying to agree on the most accurate sources of data and create an accurate picture of the business. If their information sources aren’t dynamically updated, or if they’re working on plans where they can’t collaborate with one another, they’re not doing a very effective job.

It begins with understanding the steps that need to be gone through for planning, and then creating a uniform platform where people can collaborate on the same plans and also use the same source information. That’s the only way that you’re going to achieve the speed and the level of accuracy that’s required.

Studies show that most companies don’t even begin this exercise until the final quarter of the current fiscal year. That’s not a very long period of time to get it finished and also to get it accurate.

How can sales and sales operations leaders extend their planning focus and stay agile and efficient in execution?

Dana Therrien: Planning is not a once-a-year exercise. It’s something that occurs continuously, and you’re always informing these different steps all at the same time so that you’re prepared to make a change whenever you need to.

You can no longer take weeks and months to make decisions about changes in your go-to-market strategy or changes in personnel or even changes in quotas. It has to happen dynamically in real time. The only way you can do that is when people have access to information instantaneously.

Jason Loh: As a sales leader, it’s an exciting time, because I always say that there are only three small things that stand between you and total world domination. Those three things are simply people, money, and time. How do we manage our resources and our money so that we’re getting the biggest bang for our buck?

In order to do this, we need to be predictive. We need the ability to understand what the intent of our buyers is so that we can better serve them. This is where, talking about the advents of technology, AI and machine learning and predictive capabilities can become really, really powerful.

Want more in-depth insights on how to drive efficient and effective sales planning in the age of AI? View our full webinar Finding Focus: How to build an effective sales plan in 2020.

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