Leveraging OKRs for a kickass sales plan

5 min read

Do you have a sales plan? 

Entrepreneurs, sales leaders and even frontline leads, all benefit from writing sales plans.

But what is a sales plan exactly?

A sales plan simply put is the “who, where, why, when and how” that guides you for hitting your sales goals for the year.

What makes a sales plan GOOD?

It is a quarterly forecast of the level of sales you expect to achieve and how you’re going to get there. And in a good plan the fundamental elements are:

✓ Situation Analysis – A current SOAR analysis ( Strengths, Opportunities, Aspirations, and Results)

✓ Objectives – What do you intend to accomplish via the plan?

✓ Strategy– How will you get there?

✓ Tactics– The day to day tasks that support the strategy

✓ Sales & Operations Alignment– Synchronizing with other functions to continually stay on sales targets

✓ Budget– This includes every earning and expense allocation to achieve the sales plan

✓ Communication – How will you engage the team and earn buy in for the plan?

✓ Process– The controls and measures for implementation such as CRM reports or weekly meetings

Are you ready to make your GOOD sales plan GREAT?

Adopt OKRs for Objective-Strategy-Tactics

I love them for writing sales plan because they clearly help define & delineate the big idea behind the plan, the strategies and tactics.

“Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” – Sun Tzu (544-496 BC) The Art of War

Often times you will see sales leaders write the sales plan objective as :

Increase Revenue by 20%. 

FALSE

Your real objective is to grow your business and the strategy is increasing revenue by 20% which should be an absolute number. 

If last quarter revenue was $10M, next quarter strategy is Revenue of $12M

Similarly tactics get commonly mistaken as strategy. For instance :

Each sales lead will make 10 cold calls a day. 

This is a tactic not strategy. 

OKRs enable all teams and individuals to clearly understand this difference with simplicity.

With OKRs, sales plans function as a living breathing document that you revisit and revise every 90 days not a dusty document in an old folder that you visit when looking at company KPIs.

And the best part, you don’t need to sell it hard to your team. They collaborate in writing the OKR driven sales plan for the team and themselves so they are all in from the get-go.

Writing a sales plan with OKRs

o= objective of your sales plan.

kr= key result or strategy

You could have 1-2 (vision objective) for the year and 1-2 for the next 90 days (strategic objective)

 Vision Objective

“Develop our sales reps into the best sales team in the industry” for instance is a vision objective that will remain unchanged through each quarter but the key results will vary.

Q1 may be focused on hiring 

KR= Hire 20 sales reps

Q2 may be focused on training

KR= All current and new hires (30 members) complete sales training with a score of 90% and above

Strategic Objective

Typical strategic sales objectives revolve around “increase”, “decrease” or maintaining key metrics. However it is important that they are inspirational and memorable.

Rule of thumb: If you can repeat them back in less than 60 seconds when you wake up in the morning and get pumped, you got them right!

For instance Q3 objective may be to build a pipeline of closures for Q4. 

One way to phrase it -Build a robust pipeline 

Even better-  Build the pipeline for a kickass year end

And KR would look like- $10M in bookings

Typical strategic objectives measure these metrics as key results

Rule of thumb for Key Results- Specific, Measurable, Time-Bound. If there is not an absolute number and an end state date it is not a key result.

I personally like tying all key results to the same 90 day cycle so its a well aligned efficient cycle. Its my proprietary A3 to scale technique for maximum results.

Here are some typical strategy metrics. Each quarter, ideally select 3-5 objectives, each with no more than 3-5 key results. That is how you would get the most agility and focus on critical priorities.

STRATEGY METRICS FOR SALES PLAN

Benefits of setting a sales plan with the OKR methodology:

Motivation. When someone else sets a target we see it as a chore. Set the objectives as the leader but arrive at the key results with your sales teams inputs. When we set key results ourselves, we are far more driven to achieve them.

Feedback. Instead of evaluating a binary outcome of targets met or not, sales leaders get multiple data points to assess and provide feedback. Best practice would be to reward and recognize sales teams for accomplishments on several metrics, not just revenue or units sold.

Agility. All salespeople do not have the same style. Adopting one strategy top down does not result in all of them being high performers. Setting several strategies together and iterating these every 90 days is what brings out the best quickly.

Tactics

Tactics are like your grocery list. A list of things to do that help you reach the key result.

In sales, tactics usually revolve around the following and also have numbers to them.

1. Prospecting – example: cold calls

2. Qualifying – example: ask intensive questions

3. Sales Presentations – example: proposal emails

4. Relationship Selling – example: showcase events

5. Objection Handling – example: expand the pie & lists all the high level benefits.

6. Closing – example : handover to a senior associate

7. Being persistent with leads – example: follow up emails

8. Showing customers proof that your product actually works – example: case studies

9. Standing by your product offering some type of guarantee- example: free trials

10. Developing relationships with your customers – example: customer referral programs

Rule of thumb with a tactic. It may or may not be measurable but the measure is always an output, not an outcome.

Now let’s pull together a mini-sample of Sales Plan with Objective- KR- Tactic

Sample OKR Sales Plan Q3

Last word of advice….

Run your weekly sales meeting in alignment with the sales plan. Measure the progress week after week and at the end of 90 days grade each result on a scale of 0 to 1. The goals should have a bit of a stretch so a good grade would be 0.6-0.7.

Then reset the OKRs for next quarter based on these results and where your priorities move. For instance, if the 20 reps have been hired, their training and scoring the training becomes the big priority. Quarter over quarter, the results get better and more predictable.

The teams become stronger and more importantly, they are 100% aligned with the sales plan priorities.

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