Small Business Sales and Activity Planning for Success
“It’s not about ideas. It’s about making ideas happen.” – Scott Belsky
Ideas are a dime a dozen. Your world changes when you make ideas happen. And in the for-profit business world, that means sales.
Do I Really Need a Sales and Activity Plan?
Yes. You start your business because you have great ideas. When you grow your business through sales, you are getting your ideas out there to a bigger audience, making an impact, realizing your dreams, changing your world and the world of others. You are, in Belsky’s words, “making [your] ideas happen.” You are also reaping the rewards you envisioned when you started your business.
This only happens through sales planning and executing! You start with a plan, then you execute through activity. I have found there are two types of business owners:
- those who love to plan and are afraid to execute
- those who hate planning and do nothing but execute
As a small business owner, your “happy place” is planning and executing! That means you need your sales and activity projections as a starting place. These are key metrics in business planning.
Before we go any further, let’s debunk a myth. As a small business owner, you often believe if you do enough marketing activities you will miraculously grow your business and be profitable, and therefore you won’t have to “do sales.” Not true. Marketing will grow awareness of your business, which is very important. However, you must also…actually…sell.
To increase sales without feeling like a hamster running endless circles on a hamster wheel and going nowhere, you need a sales plan. Your sales plan becomes part of your business plan.
Now that I have convinced you, how do you start to figure out your projections? The process is to ask yourself these questions:
- How many units must I sell to realize my desired profit plus expenses and taxes owed?
- How much time and effort per week/month/year will it take me to achieve my goal?
- Can I devote necessary resources (time/money) at this point in my life to achieve this goal?
- Do I want to?
- By doing this, what other opportunities am I giving up?
- By doing this, what opportunities am I “growing” for myself?
Sounds like a lot of work, right? Actually, it is not, with the right planning and support. In this article, we will stick with the basics of making realistic projections and ensuring you can handle the activity to support those projections. To simplify this, these calculations are based upon a solopreneur business where you are the business owner and the only sales person working in your business. If you have a sales staff, great! Simply add them to the math calculations below and consider them in the resulting questions you will ask yourself.
Sales Projections and Activity
I am assuming you have projected your annual expenses for your company, including taxes, and your desired profit for the next 12 months. This is your Annual Sales Goal. Divide that number by 12 for your Magic Monthly Sales Goal. [Note: This is where you begin to add those extra sales people in if you have them! If you have 3 sales people, divide your Annual Sales Goal by 3.]
In your business, you will break your monthly goals down into weekly and daily goals. In this article, to simplify this, we’ll keep it at the monthly level.
To keep the math simple, let’s say your Annual Sales Goal is $120,000 and you are a solopreneur. That means you will need to sell $10,000 per month to reach your goal (120,000/12). Is that realistic? First, you need to know a couple of numbers. Let’s start with your historical data.
- Average Sale Per Client: Let’s assume your revenue for the past 12 months was $96,000 and you had 48 sales. Your average sale/client was $2,000 (96,000/48).
- Conversion Rate: If on average you make 50 calls and they result in 2 sales, then your conversion rate is 4% (2/50).
- Activity Goal: Using these numbers, if you make 125 calls per month, you will close five sales (125 X .04). With five sales at $2,000 each, you will have reached your monthly goal of $10,000.
Are These Realistic Projections?
Now, back to our basic question about whether these projections are realistic. It depends.
You used historical data and math to calculate your key metrics. Good so far. But let’s dig deeper. Using our example:
- Do you have systems in place so that you will have 125 solid leads to call each month?
- Are you properly qualifying those leads? This is a great area to delve into, so you can achieve higher conversion rates (more sales!)
- Are you looking for opportunities to upsell?
- What is your client retention rate? To dig deeper here, ask yourself:
- Are you in a constant state of client churn? How can you change that? Do you need to?
- Are you reaching out to existing clients on a regular basis?
- Are you engaging in conversations with your leads, creating relationships, or are you simply being transactional? Does this fit your business model?
- Are you receiving word-of-mouth leads from existing clients and referral partners?
- Are you using the new technology that is available to you (there is always new technology!)?
- Do you have the proper tools and training already in place to be successful in sales?
- Have you included time in your projections for training and professional development if you need to get up to speed?
- Do you have any seasonal fluctuations in your sales? Have you adjusted your projections for that?
- Are things changing in your business or your industry? (Automatic answer: ) How is that impacting your sales?
- Are there new competitors in your space? How are they impacting your sales?
Soft Metrics Are Also Important
Now you have the hard metrics (black and white calculations). In our simple example, you need to make 125 calls per month to close 5 sales of $2,000 each, and you will reach your goal of $120,000 per year in revenue. You have determined $120,000 annual revenue will meet your profit goal plus expenses and taxes owed.
But what about the soft metrics, the “work life balance” and “quality of life” considerations? How much time and effort per week/month/year will it take you to compile a solid lead list so you can make 125 calls per month with a 4% conversation rate? How much time will you spend in making those calls and following up on each one, scheduling 1-1’s, doing demonstrations, etc.? Can you devote the necessary time and resources to your sales efforts while also running your business? Do you want to at this point in your life?
The answers to these questions are subjective. One person will say, “Heck, yes, I can’t wait!” while another person may not be so sure they are willing to pay the price to achieve their desired sales level. We are all at different points in our lives, with different responsibilities and personal goals in addition to our career goals. That is okay. What is not okay is to make excuses or let fear rule your decisions.
After careful consideration, you may decide that your sales goal is too aggressive for now, that you are not willing at this point in your life to give up other life opportunities open to you to achieve those goals. You may choose to adjust those sales goals and grow your business more slowly. That is fine!
Or you may feel now is the time and you are more than ready! Great! However, there could still be something stopping you. Are you afraid of sales? Many people are (just saying!). If so, schedule some sales coaching or training. We have a video in our Startup to Growth Video Library entitled Sales 101. It is fun and will get you excited about sales! Or you can take a seminar, a workshop, or hire a small business coach to work with you on your business sales goals. You can do this, if you are willing to devote the time and resources to making it happen.
Make the choices that best fits YOU and YOUR circumstances, but don’t make excuses. In setting your sales goals and making them happen, you are choosing between the time you devote to current opportunities (including life activities) and the time you devote to growing future business opportunities for you and your company. Grow at the pace you desire.
If you have any questions or comments about this article, of if you would like to schedule a free consultation, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Together, we’ve got this!
About Robin Suomi, MBA, Owner of Startup to Growth, LLC. Robin is a small business coach, consultant and trainer who has worked with thousands of small business owners for over 10 years, helping them start and/or grow their small businesses. She combines her combines solid technical knowledge with her coaching and listening skills to help clients achieve their goals. In addition to teaching business courses as an adjunct professor, she created her own Business Plan Boot Camp and Customized Individual and Group Business Plan Boot Camps for her clients. Today, she delivers most of her coaching/consulting/training services to clients across the country through a live, video meeting platform. She has also developed an online small business training and professional development video Library, where experts in the fields of marketing, sales, insurance and law, to name only a few, present their expertise to Library Members 24 X 7 X 365 by a recorded video format.