If you don’t have a good strategy, your business or organization can have problems. Strategic planning can help businesses improve their productivity, profitability, and longevity by creating a clear plan for the future.
Does strategic planning sound too good to be true?
Although it may sound good in theory, it can be difficult to do in practice. In other words, nearly half of executives surveyed felt that their strategic planning sessions were unproductive.
If you’re lucky, you can join the 44% of leaders and teams that had productive strategic planning sessions. Strategic planning can have positive impacts on your business, including improving your bottom line. It is worth taking the time to do strategic planning.
What Is Strategic Planning?
A business’s leadership conducts strategic planning to set long-term goals and priorities for the business, outlining ways to reach these goals, and dictating how progress will be measured. The goal of strategic planning is to develop a clear plan of action.
Families of strategic planning frameworks include the Balanced Scorecard (BSC), Objectives and Key Results (OKR), and the Theory of Change (TOC).
Balanced Scorecard Institute sums up strategic planning nicely:
“It is a disciplined effort that produces fundamental decisions and actions that shape and guide what an organization is, who it serves, what it does, and why it does it, with a focus on the future. Effective strategic planning articulates not only where an organization is going and the actions needed to make progress, but also how it will know if it is successful.”
What Is the Purpose of Strategic Planning?
The goal of strategic planning is for a company to set a direction for the next few years. The goals you set will be overarching, and you will outline how you want to achieve them. Strategic plans may need to be modified to respond to changes in the business environment, such as new competitors or changes in customer needs.
The Small Business Administration believes that strategic planning is essential for any business that wants to be successful.
Setting long-term business goals makes it simpler for various departments in your company to arrange their activities, use resources, and take measures that will assist your business to achieve your goals inside the determined timeframe. Operational plans are created from strategic plans and are used to actionable steps that achieve the goals of the organization.
Strategic vs. Operational Planning
An organization that uses strategic planning would typically outline its long-term visions and goals for the next three to five years. This would be done in order to have a guide to follow in terms of what the organization wants to achieve over that period of time. These are the overarching priorities for the entire company. Operational planning supports the strategic plan. The organization is divided into different departments and divisions, each focusing on short-term goals that can be accomplished within a year and impact the priorities set in the strategic plan.
Strategic plans are long-term, while operational plans are shorter-term. Operational plans are a practical tool you can use to transform your high-level strategic goals into tangible objectives and actionable steps.
This activity is usually done by people in charge of departments or teams. They focus their efforts on creating strategies and tactics they can pursue throughout the year to support the broader goals in the strategic plan. This includes creating an annual operating plan that supports the strategic plan and allocating resources to attain the goals.
Wouldn’t it be amazing if your business executives created a strategic plan to increase revenue by 75% in three years?
The goal is ambitious, so the Business should take specific steps to help realize that goal. Each department will be responsible for creating operational plans that will 3 years.
Customer service may focus on customer retention, so customers are more likely to stay on and continue paying for your benefit, sales teams may focus on upselling existing customers and filling pipelines with qualified leads, and marketing teams may work on creating better buyer personas to ensure they’re always reaching the right customers. Each department will contribute to increasing revenue by operationalizing their plan.
Strategic Planning and Sales Teams
While the example above shows how sales can be used in the strategic planning process, let’s go over it in more detail.
The company’s long-term vision is determined by senior leadership or executives through a strategic plan. After the strategic plan is put in place, it is up to each department to come up with their own plans and strategies to make sure their team is working towards the goals that are set in the strategic plan.
Sales leaders develop a sales plan that includes the strategies and tactics to be used to achieve long-term goals. This ensures that sales teams and salespeople are working towards the same goal and are aware of how their progress and success will be evaluated.
Now that we understand the importance of strategic planning, let’s review the process.
Strategic Planning Process
The strategic planning process is when company leaders hold planning sessions to come up with a business’s vision and long-term goals. A strategic plan is the result of a strategic planning process.
What Is a Strategic Plan?
A strategic plan is a roadmap for success that details the long-term goals of a business, as well as the resources and actions needed to reach them. The strategic plan is a document that varies in length depending on the complexity of the company and its size, but it is a source of truth that keeps the organization on track to meet its goals.
Preparing for strategic planning.
Who do you want to be a part of the strategic planning process? The ideal group to assemble for this purpose would be a cross-functional group that includes leadership from critical business functions, such as finance, operations, product, sales, marketing, and human resources.
Create a timeline for your strategic planning group to follow. The amount of time it takes to plan varies depending on the size or complexity of your company. Pick a timeline that works best for your organization.
Assessing the business.
Look at the internal and external factors that impact your business. For example:
- Is there a particular business area that’s growing quickly? How can the business further support its growth?
- Will a new technological advancement help improve your business processes?
- Are any pieces of legislation being passed that the company needs to respond to?
Consider the following things when evaluating the environment your business is operating in: Tools such as SWOT Analysis, Porter’s Five Forces, and PESTLE Analysis can help you identify the organization’s strengths and weaknesses. The plus side of this is that you can see where you have room to grow and improve. You can also identify any potential areas of difficulty that might come up.
What Is Sales Enablement?
The term ‘sales enablement’ refers to the ongoing process of providing sales teams with the content, guidance, and training they need to engage buyers effectively. This process is strategic, meaning that it is part of a larger plan, and ongoing, meaning that it is not a one-time event. Sales enablement analytics help marketing and sales teams make better decisions by providing data-driven insights. This, in turn, leads to more optimized business practices and increased revenue.
Focusing on sales enablement makes sales teams more effective by providing them with the resources and tools they need to be successful.
- Connecting sellers to relevant content
- Providing flexible ways to present content
- Delivering real-time visibility into customer engagement
- Applying advanced analytics to optimize pitches
- Equipping sellers with training and guidance
- Measuring all of the above and mapping against bottom-line results
Let’s break this definition down further and step through three defining principles of sales enablement.
Principle 1: Commit to a Sales Enablement Process
set up a system for sales enablement so you can start to organize, find, share, customize, and analyze content in a sensible way. In order to achieve sales enablement goals, input from multiple teams is necessary, as well as clear expectations and a plan to execute. Remember that your marketing strategy should not be a one-time event. As an ongoing process, your sales enablement plan should allow enough flexibility to evolve or pivot when necessary. The agility of your company will allow you to keep up with the changing needs of your buyers and stay ahead of your competition.
Principle 2: Know and Involve Your Sales Team
The sales process can be seen as a funnel containing four different stages. The “Awareness” and “Consideration” stages, which make up the upper half, belong to marketing and are focused on generating interest in the company’s products and services. Marketing automation software has made a big impact on the sales cycle. This facilitates communication between companies and potential customers, and allows businesses to develop relationships with leads until they are ready to purchase a product or service.
The bottom half is mostly owned by sales and their main focus is on completing deals and making money. Sales enablement software is the new key player in enhancing and improving sales productivity. The software provides sellers with the tools they need to successfully engage buyers and drive revenue for the company.
Sales teams are the focus of sales enablement efforts. The primary reason businesses invest in sales enablement is because they are essential stakeholders. If sales teams work closely with marketers, they can improve the quality of their customer interactions through sales enablement.
Because sales teams need every edge available, we focus on them. People who move fast and think fast need to be able to access content no matter where they go for business. It is essential to keep the sales team’s requirements in mind throughout every aspect of content management, publishing, and engagement in order to get the most out of your sales enablement investments.
Principle 3: Engagement Equals Revenue
Sales enablement allows reps to more effectively engage with prospects and customers, leading to improved performance.
Every salesperson knows that engagement = opportunity. The format, precision, and data-driven nature of sales content strategy and execution must be tailored to the target audience in order to win deals. There’s no time for searching for sales collateral, having disconnected presentations, dropping mails, or having untrackable conversations.
Technology should be considered a springboard for this engagement. In order for sales enablement technologies to be effective, there needs to be a strong process in place, with a clear focus and intention. Best practices are built upon this foundation.
If sales enablement uses the best strategies for managing content, training salespeople, and developing playbooks, it can have an amazing impact on sales performance.
Why Is Sales Enablement Important?
In a competitive market with lower barriers to entry and more empowered buyers, sales enablement can save sales and marketing teams time by keeping them aligned and in tune with content performance.
In order to reach today’s buyer, businesses must employ new strategies that account for the new reality. The way that buyers evaluate and make purchase decisions has changed, so businesses must change their strategies to reach today’s buyer. More modern buyers have become independent and no longer rely on traditional sales and marketing techniques to make their decisions. Today’s buyers want to buy from sellers that can help them make a decision and add value. Almost three-quarters of buyers choose to continue working with the sales representative that is the first to provide them with value and insight.
Because customer expectations have changed, sales enablement has become a requirement for companies that want to remain competitive. A sales representative needs to have the appropriate content for their buyer at the right time to keep them interested.
As buyers have changed, so have sales reps’ requirements. The need for sales enablement became apparent in the late 1990s when sales conversations moved from physical to digital and content moved online. The days of the “marketing closet” are over as companies now post their content onto websites and portals. There was a problem with the way different teams were creating their sites, and the content became scattered across many places.
Anytime a sales team member has to slow down to look for information, they are effectively taking themselves out of the sales process. When sales team members have to stop what they’re doing to look for information, it reduces how effective they are at selling. Sellers don’t want to spend a lot of time looking for information in different places, so they save a small amount of content in their own storage. A sales representative uses the available resources as much as possible, even if they are outdated or ineffective. Because it is too much trouble to find the official version, sellers waste time quickly creating content that already exists. Marketing teams have very little insight into how their content is organized and used. Each content system is independent from the others and any other important element of the sales process.
In order to fix these issues, companies started to create sales enablement tools to provide salespeople with the content they need.
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