Sales Leadership in Action Group
Developing a Strategic Action Plan
Strategic action plans bridge each step in the sales process. Key account planning allows reps
to better align, differentiate, and demonstrate value throughout the sales process. This alone
can reduce the number of accounts that require discounting by up to 20%. Sales leaders who
take the time to implement action plans into the culture of their sales teams reap the beneﬁts
of better deﬁned actions and adherence to processes from their reps.
Bottom Line & Business Impact:
Failing to plan is planning to fail. Strategic action plans, whether large or small,
complex or simple, should only be used with accounts where the juice is worth the
squeeze. Strategic actions plans are the roadmap to success, especially in a
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Strategic Action Plans Guide the Process
The number of sales organizations that do not use strategic action plans as part of their
sales strategy is alarming. The absence of a plan severely restricts a sales rep’s ability to
track the success of their sales process and negotiations with buyers and make necessary
adjustments to their approach as a deal develops. It is the glue that holds the sales process
Lay of the Land
together from initial pre-call planning to the ﬁnal stages of closing the sale. Top sales reps
who use strategic action plans to guide their sales process understand:
• Strategic Action Plans Create Focus
• The Elements of a Strategic Action Plan
• How to Determine the Number of Actions to Include
Strategic Action Plans Create Focus
A strategic action plan acts as a road map for each deal. It provides reps with a view of the
entire process, how it has evolved, where adjustments have been made, and where
improvement is required. It also outlines for reps a list of actions that must be completed
before and during each phase in the sales process. These plans facilitate a smooth
transition from strategic to tactical selling during the sales process.
Strategic action plans keep reps focused on actions that are speciﬁc to their sales
objectives and the buyer’s purchase process. They can use it as a tool to determine the
validity of an action, how it ﬁts with the overall objectives of the deal, and whether or not it
aligns with the buyer’s expectations of a solution.
Many sales leaders shy away from implementing action plans for fear of spending more
time performing administrative tasks. Granted, action plans do require an adjustment
period to get them implemented, but once they become part of the company’s sales culture
they will pay dividends and helps rep focus more on the process rather than the end result.
The Elements of a Strategic Action Plan
There are ﬁve main elements of a strategic action plan required for it to be effective:
1. Single sales objective: A well deﬁned single sales objective is the key to creating a
strategic action plan. The single sales objective is the speciﬁc focus of a sales call. It
identiﬁes what reps want to accomplish from their interaction with buyers. The objective
has to bridge the gap between the current status of the buyer and what reps want to
accomplish with that speciﬁc meeting.
An effective single sales objective needs to be measurable, speciﬁc, realistic, and timely.
Setting the objective in these terms will help sales reps answer questions about the deal
in terms of:
• Who is involved
• Where and when meetings are going to occur
• What information will be collected
• How the actions are carried out
• The speciﬁc desired outcome
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2. Buying inﬂuencers: Buying inﬂuencers are the key players from the organization that
have a vested interest in, and inﬂuence over, the speciﬁc details of the deal. It is
important to understand who the key inﬂuencers are in the account and where reps are
positioned strategically with them. Once this understanding is reached, reps can
customize their approach, the sales objective, and solution so that they may focus on
the inﬂuences that require the most attention.
3. Response modes: Response modes are the way buying inﬂuences react to proposed
solutions from sales reps. Therefore, understanding the buying inﬂuencer’s view of the
current state of the deal is important. It will help reps be conscious of how each
inﬂuence reacts to instances of change within the account. They will react in one of two
o This opens the door for additional growth within the account
o This allows for negotiation about new options to move the deal forward
Sales reps have to understand that responses are temporary. Response modes change as
the operating environment in the buying company changes. They should not be
confused with the buyer’s personal feeling about the deal.
4. Win/Win Environment: This is a must. Each action has to create a win/win situation for
both the sales rep and buyer. A win/win environment exists when both the rep and
buyer are satisﬁed with the existing business relationship and solution. To effectively
develop momentum for a potential solution, both parties must be satisﬁed with the
current state of the account, and be aligned in terms of the direction of the deal.
Focusing on process (especially what the buyer is doing during each phase of the deal)
over results ensures this environment is maintained and enhanced.
5. Competitive Analysis: Many sales reps make the mistake of improperly assessing their
competition. They focus on other sales organizations and what they are offering. In
doing this, they often fail to consider other competing factors that exist within the
account (i.e. any available alternative to the tabled deal). Sales reps have to create
actions that are focused on minimizing the importance of a competitor’s offerings by
focusing on the differentiated unique capabilities of their own solution.
How to Determine the Number of Actions to Include
Once sales leaders have convinced reps of the importance of creating and using action
plans, they also have to convey that:
• Every situation will be different
• The number of steps in the action plan is dependent on the variables of the current
state of the solution
The focus of the action plan is to improve the current situation, move opportunities
through the funnel, and further engage buyers in the development of the solution.
Therefore, sales reps need to:
• Assess the current situation
• Create the sales objective of the meeting
• Create as many necessary actions steps that will be required to achieve the objective
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Once reps have improved the current state of the sales situation, the single sales objective
is complete. Sales reps must be cognizant that one complete action leads to another
action. Strategic plans are comprised of multiple objectives. Each sales objective builds on
previous objectives and, when completed, each one is another milestone for the deal.
Within each action reps will need to complete a number of steps to ensure the objective is
completed. When each single sales objective is completed, a new plan must be created to
begin the process of completing the next action. Therefore, the sales process is the
culmination of numerous completed action plans.
While there is no limit to the number of actions in a deal, each objective has to be:
• Logical: There should be a natural progression from one step to the next.
• Signiﬁcant: The action must be necessary to closing the deal. It needs to be high on
the priority list.
• Realistic: All actions have to be realistic considering the current state of the deal and
the reps positioning with the buying inﬂuences.
• Valid: After developing the action plan, review it and think about how sales reps feel
about each action. There has to be a ﬁrm belief that each action is working to nurture
the deal and work toward closing.
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Putting into Practice
Construction of a Valid Buyer’s Reason
Sales 101 - Features and Beneﬁts
Sales 101 - Five Types of Closing
Closing Challenges & the Buyer Engagement Process
The Buyer Engagement Approach
Minimum Acceptable Action Commitment
Status Questions - Knowing when to use Information and Data Questions
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