Sales Leaders: Have you started working on your sales plan for 2023 yet? The best sales leaders that I’ve had the distinct pleasure to work with think of themselves as Revenue Architects (RAs). They are not passive forecast administrators. Rather they are RAs that create sales blueprints and act as a sophisticated conductor of a complex symphony known as field sales execution.

RAs have analyzed the strengths and weaknesses of their team and their competitors. They deeply understand their customers and the business outcomes that they want to achieve. RAs know where and how they will win and lose. They know what sales skill development areas they need to invest in and build in their team to optimize overall sales performance.

There are a ton of variables that you need to consider when developing an annual sales plan. Here is just a sampling of the variables that factor into a well thought out sales plan:

  • Macro-economic forecasts and projections for 2023
  • Micro-economic forecasts and projections for 2023 by Region of the World (ROW) and major industries that you sell to
  • Geopolitical issues and risk
  • Projected sales growth rate Year over Year (YoY) and on a Quarterly basis
  • Average Deal Size
  • Average Sales Cycle Length
  • Win Rate/Loss Rate/No Decision Rate
  • Pipeline coverage (e.g., 3-5X ARR goals)
  • Sales headcount needed
  • New sales hire ramp up time to full productivity
  • Projected sales team attrition
  • Competitive threats (existing and new)
  • Budgetary constraints

Again, the bullet points above represent just a small sampling of all the variables that need to be factored into a well architected sales plan. What’s the bad news that is inextricable linked to building sales plans? Regrettably, the bad news is not just that as a Sales Leader you have to figure out how you are going to create more hours in the day in Q4-2022 to successfully close out your 2022 fiscal year and build out your sales plan for 2023 in parallel.

No the bad news is that your 2023 sales planning process needs to include multiple contingency plans. The good old backup plan to the backup plan. The “What if” analysis. Two years ago no one planned for a global pandemic and how that would impact their business. What if the madman Putin starts World War III in Europe over the Ukraine invasion by using nuclear weapons?

One of the best Sales Leaders that I know is a pilot. He uses a lot of Aviation and pilot analogies as part of his sales leadership style. He is an expert Revenue Architect (RA). He is fond of saying; “Plan the Flight and Fly the Plan.” That is until the plan no longer makes sense. And rather than thinking of them as backup plans, think of them as alternative plans. That way it’s easier to mentally and emotionally accept that there were changes outside of your control that require an alternative plan.

In Aviation, pilots need to constantly monitor the weather and the aircraft mechanical issues. They have to figure out their fuel needs as part of their flight plan. Pilots have a dashboard of sophisticated gauges that need to be constantly monitored for changes called avionics. Sales Leaders similarly have a dashboard of analytics that need to be constantly monitored for changes called

But Sales Leaders and Pilots simply can’t afford to make the mistake of getting too distracted when a single indicator alarm in your dashboard goes off. In Aviation, you are taught three priorities (A-N-C) you need to focus on as a pilot:

  1. Aviate: Fly the plane
  2. Navigate: Figure out where you are and where you’re going
  3. Communicate: Talking to Air Traffic Control (ATC), fellow crew airplane members or passengers

But above all else, always Fly the aircraft first! I’d submit to you that the analogy in sales is always keep talking with customers and really listening/discerning what their needs are. They may have unmet needs that you can solve well for and deliver transformative business outcomes. If your sales team can become experts at discovery and discernment with your customers, you can bring substantive commercial insights to the conversation.

Best of luck to all you Sales Leaders and RAs as you go through your 2023 Sales Planning process!