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4 Pitfalls to Avoid with Your Strategic Planning Process

Give yourself time, involve the right people, and don't overcomplicate the measures of success

General Finance Function IllustrationMost sales functions around the world are deep into strategic planning season now (as are most of their functional counterparts elsewhere).

They’re all looking for relevant, accurate strategies that break down into discrete goals and projects to make sure that all team members work together to make those strategic intentions a reality.

But it’s not an easy process. There’s a lot of information and people to corral and incorporate into the plans, and that can make for numerous pitfalls. Here are four to avoid.

  1. Late start: If you haven’t started, it’s time. Planning challenges, for example failure to get consensus on goals, are often caused by insufficient time for discussion.

    For sales organizations that align their operations to the calendar year, 2016 shouldn’t start on January 1. Implementing strategy begins then, but that effort should be preceded by months of careful planning.

  2. Insufficient engagement of business partners: The earlier that the team responsible for putting the strategic plan together starts talking to business partners, the sooner concerns and questions arise, and the faster solutions or compromises are found. To understand corporate goals and what Sales must do to support them, start by engaging with executive and business leadership to hone an understanding of business strategy and objectives.

    Then work with other sales leaders to discuss the team’s direction and the right objectives they should be pursuing to support the company’s goals, making sure these are “strategic priorities” (that they help the business) rather than tactical priorities (that they help the sales function). Next, assess your sales function’s current capabilities and what you’ll need to focus on to meet those objectives.

  3. Too many metrics: A broad set of metrics can easily distract teams from the most critical goals, and can be a sign of a lack of focus. Less is often more when it comes to metric selection.

    Some of the best sales teams take the time required to carefully prioritize strategic objectives and a clear, discrete set of metrics to measure progress.  This helps everyone to focus on what matters most and eliminates inconsistency and confusion in communicating the plan.

  4. No review of the planning process: As you close up the planning process itself, seemingly all that remains is to implement it.

    However, given the investment it takes to come up with plans each year, take the time to review the process’s effectiveness and gather feedback from all involved, in order to come up with lessons learned for next time.


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