Winning with Leslie A Monthly Newsletter Twitter leslielgroene Linkid lesliegroene
Leslie Groene Website Homepage December 2020, Vol. 185

Goal Setting for 2021 Part #2

6. Define your value propositions

We know our customers. We know their journey. Now we need to fit ourselves into their needs in the best way possible. This comes from defining your competitive advantage.

Your competitive advantage is what sets you apart from the competition, which fully understanding, and articulating is a crucial element of your sales plan template. Start by asking a few simple questions:

  • Why do customers buy from us?
  • Why do customers buy from our competitors and not us?
  • Why do some potential customers not buy at all?
  • What do we need to do to be successful in the future?

Remember that customers buy benefits, not features. When describing your value proposition, it's easy to get caught up in talking about you. What you've made. What you do. Instead, flip the script and talk about what your product will do for your customers. A strong competitive advantage:

  • Reflects the competitive strength of your business
  • Is preferably, but not necessarily, unique
  • Is clear and simple
  • May change over time as competitors try to steal your idea
  • Must be supported by ongoing market research

*Focus on value, not features in your sales plan.

Your competitive advantage is not just an integral part of your sales plan, but will inform everything your company does moving forward, from marketing to product development.

It's a great example of where sales can influence the development of a product and the direction of a business.

7. Build a prospect list

Now that you know the types of customers you're after and how you're going to sell them, it's time to build a list of people at these companies to begin sales prospecting. A prospect list is where we take all the theory and research of the last few sections of our sales plan template and put them into action.

At its core, a prospect list is a directory of real people you can contact who would benefit from your product or service. This can be a time-consuming task, but it's essential for driving your sales plan and company growth.

First, use your ideal customer profile to start finding target companies:

  • Search LinkedIn
  • Check out relevant local business networks
  • Attend virtual (in person when we are able) networking events and meetups
  • Do simple Google searches
  • Check out the member list of relevant online groups

Target up to 5 people at each organization (you can always move laterally towards the proper buyer no matter who in the organization responds to you). Targeting more than one individual will give you better odds for connecting on a cold outreach as well as a better chance that someone in your network can connect you personally.

Remember, this isn't just a massive list of people you could sell to - This is a targeted list based off the research you've done previously in your sales plan. In a sense, a solid sales plan template qualifies your prospects before you even spend a minute talking to them.

8. Leverage current client relationships

You're missing out on a huge opportunity if your sales plan only focuses on finding new business leads. Word-of-mouth, introductions, and current customers can be your most solid lead for growth.

Use LinkedIn to see if anyone you know can introduce you to one of your prospects. Or reach out to your most loyal customers and ask if they know anyone that would benefit from your product or service.

Now, when leveraging current client relationships in your sales plan, you'll need to make sure you do it in the right way. When asking for an intro, remember:

  • A good introduction is two-sided: As the person in the middle, you're asking your client to vouch for you. If you already have a good relationship this should be a no-brainer. You provided value to them and they should want to help you in turn. Ask them how well they know your target. Would they feel comfortable introducing you to them? By phone? Over email? A good introduction shouldn't come out of the blue. Ask them to make sure it's OK to intro and then cc you in on an email with both parties.
  • Stay in touch, even when they can't buy from you: Ask how you can help or support them, even if they stop being a customer. It's a small gesture that can pay off in the long run. Things don't stay the same for long.

9. Identify strategic partners (that reach the same customers)

The last group you should include in your sales plan are any strategic partners—individuals, organizations, or companies—that reach the same customers. Some people call these Complementary Service Providers (CSPs) as they aren't the competition and instead offer some product or service that complements yours.

For example, if you're selling a POS system for local stores, you could reach out to a retail organization like the California Retailers Association, or a respected local business consultant.

Plan to build your relationship with these groups through things like:

  • Writing for their publication
  • Giving speeches at seminars
  • Providing resources for their websites
  • Starting a mastermind group where you can swap contacts

Remember, you should be offering all these services free of charge and incorporate that time investment into your sales plan template.

It's all about providing value to complementary businesses and fostering a culture of 'growing together'. The more you add value to the community, the more people will want to send leads your way.

10. You're not done yet! Track, measure, and adjust as needed.

Just because you've made a solid sales plan to follow, doesn't mean you get to sit back and watch the cash roll in.

"A plan is simply a guess you wrote down."

My first boss told me "Plan your work and work your plan"

You're using everything you know about the market, your unique value, target customers, and partners to define the ideal situation for your company. But yes, try as we might, very few of us see anything when we gaze deep into the crystal ball.

Remember that your sales plan is a living, breathing document. You need to return to it regularly to assess whether your guesses are turning into reality.

Set regular meetings (at least monthly) to review progress on your sales plan, identify and solve issues, and align your activities across teams to optimize your plan around real-world events and feedback. Even if you don't have a sales manager, have business meetings with your best coach- YOU! to keep yourself on track. Learn from your mistakes and victories, and evolve your sales plan as needed.

In most sales situations, the biggest challenge is inertia. But with a solid, detailed sales plan and a dedicated team with clear milestones in place, you'll have everything you need to push through any amount of friction and keep on track to hit your goals!