How to Develop an Action Plan for Sales Success

June 4, 2019

Man working in office

Editor’s Note: This guest post was contributed by Mike Schultz, President, RAIN Group.

“Setting a goal is not the main thing. It is deciding how you will go about achieving it and staying with that plan.” ― Tom Landry, Hall of Fame football coach

Athletes, professionals, and people in general all have goals. These aspirations represent what’s really important to you and what you want in life. They push you forward.

Maybe you want to win a Super Bowl, start your own company, get promoted to VP of Sales, or own a house on a lake.

But how are you going to get there? What are the stepping stones that will lead you to that ultimate destination?

Before you can get into the details, you need to be very specific about what it is you want to achieve in the long-term and short-term.

  • Big picture goal: This is the one thing you want to achieve over the long-term.
  • Three-year goals: These can be two to three goals that put you on the right path to reaching your big picture goal.
  • Annual goals: These are your specific targets for the year.

If you want to achieve your goals, get the most done each day, and even increase motivation, action planning is essential.

You need to come up with a precise roadmap of how you’ll achieve your goals. Once you’ve identified them, here are four steps you must take to reach those milestones.

Step 1: Set Short-Term Priorities

You can’t just go from setting annual goals to weekly goals. You need to break them down into short-term priorities, which will help you arrive at your weekly goals. These include:

  • Quarterly priorities: Start by documenting your 90-day priorities. These are the lynchpins that bring the goals framework together, bridging the gap between the long-term goals, and the actions you’re going to take right now to get there.

    Begin by listing three to five 90-day priorities. One of these should jump out as the most important priority.

  • Monthly objectives: Next create your monthly objectives.

    Ask yourself, “What do I need to get done this month to work toward and achieve my quarterly priorities?”

Step 2: Create Weekly To-Do Lists

When you’ve established your monthly objectives, you can then create weekly to-do lists. Think of your to-do list in two distinct categories:

  • To-do this week: The next planning step is to break down the monthly list of actions into the big things you want accomplished for the week. This is often a list of three to five core activities you’re going to push forward 

  • To-do — core list: This is your catch-all. Maybe there’s a report you need to create for a manager, three run-of-the-mill sales calls on your calendar, a weekly internal sales meeting, a reminder to catch up with a teammate on an important opportunity, etc.

    This differs from the to-do this week list in that it’s typically the longer laundry list. By separating the two lists, you’re forced to prioritize what really needs to get done.

    It’s good to keep that catch-all list, though, as it relieves the mental stress of trying to remember everything.

Step 3: Write Down Your Greatest Impact Activity Each Day

Your Greatest Impact Activity (GIA) is the one activity that, should you do it consistently at high quality, will get you the greatest eventual return on your time investment.

By identifying your GIA every day and putting it first, you make strides toward the long-term reward of achieving the career success you’re seeking.

Your GIA is rarely the easiest activity on your to-do list. It may be making 25 prospecting touches each day, brainstorming value-add growth ideas for a specific account, or developing a big play to win a large new client. Whatever the specifics, it’s the one activity that’s most likely to help you make forward progress toward your goals.

Step 4: Share Your Actions

This last step is critical. Don’t just plan your weekly actions, track them with someone who’ll help you successfully achieve those objectives and hold you accountable.

We call this your Accountability Partner. The process is simple:

  • Pick an accountability partner
  • Choose a day and time you’ll check in with them (e.g. every Monday at 11 a.m.)
  •  Each week, type up your weekly plan and share it with your partner (this can be done via email, or during your designated meeting time)
  •  Check in with your partner at the set time to review activities from the previous week, indicating which tasks you did and didn’t get to (and why you didn’t)
  •  Repeat the process with your plan for the week ahead

If you find you’re falling off the wagon and getting side tracked from your priorities (this happens to all of us at one point or another), tap your accountability partner. Schedule a meeting and discuss ways you can get back on track and stay focused.

People who write down their goals are 20% to 40% more likely to successfully accomplish them. Document your goals and priorities using a goal setting worksheet to help you stay on track.

This simple, 4-step action planning process with a strong emphasis on weekly actions—we recommend just 20 minutes a week planning them—will help you remain focused and boost motivation.

For more tips on how to achieve your sales goals, subscribe to the LinkedIn Sales Solutions blog.