A 4 Step Guide to Create Best-in-Class Sales Win Plans
- A sales win plan drives repeatable and predictable success through consistent execution.
- Sale win plans may not be required for simple transactional deals. However, they become invaluable for teams selling sophisticated or complex solutions to buying committees.
- Research shows teams that consistently develop sales win plans achieve 5 percent higher conversions and 10 percent higher quota attainment.
Sale opportunity win plans define the essential steps and shortest path to a successful sale. They guide sellers with orchestrated strategies and tactics to maximize the probability to win. They create and maintain momentum to accelerate the opportunity. When you operate with a clear roadmap to a defined destination, you are more likely to get there and get there faster.
So, with those benefits, why would salespeople not consistently develop them?
Most sale opportunities are pursued tactically, with an informal process, lack of information, little coaching and no documented plan to win. Most salespeople deliver piecemeal pursuits. That is, they do some things well, do some things not so well and miss some things. What they miss most is a masterplan to excel in all parts of the opportunity from beginning to close.
The top impediment to developing a sale opportunity win plan is the investment of time. However, when reps understand how small investments of time yield increased conversions and higher quota attainment, the value becomes clear and the obstacle is removed.
Research published in the Sales Excellence Report shows that while a minority of sales teams consistently create sale opportunity win plans, the Best-in-Class leaders (i.e., the top 15 percent) prepare them 4 times more frequently than Medians.
More revealing, the sellers that consistently developed win plans achieved 5 percent higher sales conversions and 10 percent higher sales quota attainment. These figures are significant and the impact can make or break achieving the annual revenue target.
As legendary Alabama football coach Paul Bear Bryant advised, "It's not the will to win that matters, everyone has that. It's the will to prepare to win that matters."
Top producers know this. They win because they invest in preparation. They plan the win from the start, make continuous adjustments and shepherd the sale opportunity to its final destination.
The 4 Sales Win Plan Components
There are four essential components to the most effective sales win plans.
Sale Opportunity Snapshot (SOS)
The SOS is our own terminology. It highlights the sale opportunity landscape. It includes the customer background and your company history and relationships with the customer. It's not a repeat of the qualification or discovery but it does extract a few key points such as the impetus or compelling event that triggered the buyer's purchase process.
It also identifies the buyer profiles. For most complex sale opportunities there are more than 5 people on the customer buying committee. We typically recommend a relationship map to identify each buyer participant, their roles, logical and emotional goals, and propensity toward your solution.
The SOS should also include competitor intelligence. To deliver true differentiation and competitive advantage you need to know your competitors and how you measure up from the buyers point of view.
Customer Problem Statement
If the customer has no pain there will be no sale. Further, if the pain of change is greater than the pain of same, there will be no sale. That's why customer pain must be accurately diagnosed and quantified.
The challenge is that customer problems may be different for each buyer role. And competing priorities or a lack of consensus increase perceived risk and stall the opportunity. The challenge is exacerbated when you recognize that most buyers have different rational and emotional goals.
It's up to the seller to create and drive consensus across the buying committee. The Sale Win Plan must articulate the shared problem in clear and measurable terms, communicate how the solution will solve the problem, and highlight the cost of inaction.
Every opportunity is unique so applying the same sales strategy to every opportunity is clearly applying the wrong strategy to some portion of your deals. Top sales strategies to consider include frontal, flanking, incremental and containment. None of them work all the time but at least one of them works most of the time.
Each sale strategy requires communication of a value proposition, win theme and credentials.
The value proposition must be based on differentiation and clearly articulated in terms the customer understands and agrees with. The best customer value propositions are relevant, personalized and measurable. They are directly aligned with the customer's pain points. Also, prospects have limited attention and memory, so distill your value prop down to no more than 3 points.
Win themes reframe your value proposition into a vision supported by customer objectives. They share what's possible, show what you will do for the customer and visualize how the customer will be better off with your solution. They demonstrate how the customer will get from their status quo to a new reality. The best win themes are bold and compelling. They use words like transform, empower, prioritize, optimize, modernize, align and advance.
Many times win themes are based on insights and new ideas introduced by the salesperson. Delivering powerful insights is not easy and requires advanced planning but when successful the seller alters the buyers decision making criteria. That in and of itself creates differentiation as competitors are pursuing the original but outdated buyer criteria.
Finally, vendor credentials are needed to provide assurance to nervous customers. Risk mitigation becomes an elevated factor near the end of the sales cycle. Credentials may include references, customer case studies, low risk trials or risk share agreements.
The act of creating a sales strategy as part of a documented win plan increases creative thinking and preparation. It forces rational review and revisions, delivers clear expectations to team members and serves as a guide to a predictable destination.
The Plan to Win
For complex sale opportunities or sales pursuits with buyer committees, no plan of action should be a verbal declaration based on wishful thinking or half-baked conjecture.
Instead, a documented action plan or roadmap is needed to define the actions that maximize the probability of winning. You need to sequence those actions into essentials steps, measure milestones and stage gates, flag and resolve exceptions, and lead to a predictable outcome.
But understand that sales plans are nonlinear, fluid and will adjust to changing circumstances. The plan you start with will not be the plan you end with.
Good sale opportunity win plans require the continuous removal of impediments, sales coaching and technology automation.
Sales plans are especially useful in identifying and eliminating obstacles. Red flags surface what you don't know, but should, or expose what can go wrong if left unaddressed. For example, they show when you don't have access to power, are competing on an uneven playing field or when you may get an unpleasant surprise.
Red flags illustrate reasons you will lose the sale. Resolving red flags removes or mitigates those obstacles. A question I routinely ask in every sale opportunity is, "If we lose this sale, why will we lose?" This question often surfaces the most significant red flags that must be resolved.
Sales coaching sessions apply collaboration, share practical experience and offer best practices. That not only improves the plan, it shifts the plan from being considered an administrative exercise to a tool that increases the likelihood to win.
Technologies bring automation, information reporting and variance alerts to planned execution. CRM software is the best technology to integrate win plans with the sales methodology and the multistep sales process.
While sales plans can be developed and maintained as standalone softcopy documents, that separation from the CRM system and the sale process will require more manual effort and discourage frequent updates.