Planning seasons is a critical time of the year for businesses to set goals, develop strategies, and allocate resources effectively. However, the process isn't just complex, it's also incredibly time-consuming.
In this guide, we'll break down how to approach planning seasons covering key areas such as sales capacity planning, sales commission planning, and lead generation modelling.
It's a whole season?
Mad isn't it? At the most important part of the year (Q4) you spend weeks if not months stuck in spreadsheets trying to come up with a narrative of what you're plan to achieve next year.
Narrative? We use that word because the plans created are very rarely actionable plans beyond giving hiring numbers, numbers which quite often are simply set to show that a certain number will be hit.
The reality of planning season is that unless it's an effort to maximise growth and profitability into next year based on your actual current performance, it's nothing more than a "fancy dance" for investors to make it look like you're all working to the same number, regardless of whether you really feel like you're going to hit it.
The Teams Involved in Planning Seasons
Teams across the business all pile into helping with planning season, with varying levels of input and necessity, including the RevOps team, finance team, sales team, and senior leadership team.
The RevOps team plays a crucial role in planning seasons, as they are responsible for lining up revenue operations with the overall business objectives, and are the custodians of the data that goes into planning. They analyze data, identify trends, and provide insights to inform wider strategic decision-making. The challenge for RevOps is that most of the work in planning season is simply building models (the same ones every year) and processing data. All of this comes at a time where other work like territories & key initiatives also need kicking off, and so it's an unwelcome drain.
If not built by RevOps, the model comes from the finance team. Also responsible for deeper financial planning and analysis, and tying back revenue models to cashflow & expenditure, their role in planning season is to assess revenue projections, budget allocation, and financial performance.
At the forefront of revenue generation, and their input and expertise are vital during planning season, giving insights into market conditions, customer preferences, and sales strategies. With the generation of opportunity being split between sales and marketing, it's really easy to oversimplify the models used, and so care needs to be taken to look work with sales in the right ways.
Traditionally less directly involved in the sales planning than they should, with such huge responsibility towards the end number it's important for marketing and their performance to be reflected into the plan. There's no point in planning for the sales addressable market if marketing won't bring them into the funnel.
Senior Leadership Team
The senior leadership team provides guidance and direction during planning seasons, setting strategic objectives, reviewing revenue projections, and making critical decisions based on the insights and recommendations provided. Ultimately the direction of the plan stems from the Senior Leadership Team, however it's important that the plan remains in touch with reality, rather than being dragged off in a direction that isn't possible through the use of "kind" data or "massaged" figures.
The Planning Motions
For revenue teams and revenue planning in particular, there's a few different areas that are key to planning season:
Sales Capacity Planning
Sales capacity planning is a crucial aspect of planning seasons, as it determines the number of sales representatives needed to achieve revenue goals. This section will explore the concept of sales capacity and discuss factors to consider in sales capacity planning.
Understanding Sales Capacity
Sales capacity refers to the maximum workload that a sales team or individual sales rep can handle effectively. Taking into account factors such as lead generation, conversion rates, deal sizes, and the overall sales process, businesses can ensure that their sales team is adequately staffed to meet revenue targets.
Factors to Consider in Sales Capacity Planning
When planning sales capacity, several factors need to be considered, including lead generation capabilities, conversion rates, deal sizes, and the overall efficiency of the sales process. Businesses should also assess their historical data to identify trends and patterns that can inform sales capacity planning.
Sales Commission Planning
Sales commission planning is another crucial aspect of planning seasons, as it motivates sales teams and aligns their goals with the overall strategic objectives of the organization.
Designing Effective Sales Commission Plans
Effective sales commission plans incentivize sales representatives to perform at their best and align their goals with the organization's objectives. When designing sales commission plans, businesses should consider factors such as market conditions, sales team capabilities, and the product portfolio's complexity.
Considerations for Sales Commission Plans
When designing sales commission plans, businesses should consider the skills and experience levels of their sales team members. New or less experienced salespeople may require different commission structures compared to seasoned sales representatives. It's also crucial to consider motivation and morale when designing sales commission plans, as unrealistic quotas can lead to frustration and demotivation.
Once you have your headcount plans built, you need to carve out your territories in so that accounts can be assigned across your sales teams and they can get reaching out & selling. Often this part of planning is held up by the previous parts, especially the capacity planning, which can effectively put the brakes on sales activity as rep hesitate to potentially open up opportunities that get reassigned away from them.
Like commission plans, it's important that the territory plans are built well ahead of Q1 start to ensure that you don't lose momentum going from Q4 to Q1.
Challenges and Limitations of Traditional Planning Methods
Traditional planning methods come with pretty hefty challenges and limitations that get in the way of accurate and efficient planning. The complexity of planning models, the difficulties in scenario testing, and the risks of errors and mistakes that arise when multiple people work with spreadsheets all make planning season more complex, and cause it to eat into the time of everyone involved.
Complexity of Models
Traditional planning models can become complex, involving numerous variables and calculations. This complexity can make it challenging to accurately project revenue and plan for different scenarios. In most capacity plans, the revenue formulas that they rely on can even work to build bad long term outcomes, as we've already covered.
Scenario testing is an essential part of planning, allowing businesses to understand the potential impact of different scenarios on revenue projections, but a part of planning that is difficult to do without either masses of spreadsheets or going deep into tabs. Traditional planning methods often lack the capability to perform comprehensive scenario testing, meaning that you either compromise on your ability to use detailed models (requiring a single sheet for each scenario) or a basic model used across many tabs.
Risks of Errors and Mistakes
With so many people working in the shared spreadsheets, there is a higher risk of errors and mistakes, with accidental changes to cells leading to some errors that are caught, but often are not. These errors can lead to potentially dangerously inaccurate revenue projections and flawed decision-making.
Clevenue: Your Last Ever Planning Season
Let's face it - Planning season hasn't worked for the last few years, and it's easy to question whether it really worked in the year previous, or if it was simply a mixture of market and luck.
We set out to build something that does away with the pain of planning, elevating the ability for plans to see far into the future at the same time. We've also built a bunch of free tools for those that really would prefer a spreadsheet after all...
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Free Tools for Getting Started
We've built a bunch of free tools to help businesses get started with planning - Templates and guides for sales capacity planning, sales commission planning, and lead gen, as well as sales forecasting and QBRs. Grab them today for free:
With planning season being a crucial time for businesses, it's important to get it right. When it comes to setting goals, developing winning strategies, and allocating resources effectively, there's now only one way that will actually work.
By approaching planning season in an intelligent way, businesses can better optimize their revenue and drive growth. The Clevenue platform offers a comprehensive solution for streamlining planning, providing efficiency, accuracy, and scenario planning capabilities.
Say goodbye to the spreadsheets, start using Clevenue today.