Make sure you are ready for the new year by starting to prepare early. The most successful companies spend a great deal of time studying the present year, focusing on what worked and what did not work. They also spend time looking at market trends to make sure they are able to not only meet today’s market needs but the market needs of the future as well.
The smartest companies spend time studying their key accounts and the business that each of these accounts brought in during the past year. They look at how the business came in. They add up all of the business and how it came in during the past years to see if they can create some kind of intelligent algorithm to predict how the business will come in during the next twelve months.
Then armed with this information they create a forecast. A good well thought out intelligent customer-by-customer, month-by-month forecast is the most essential tool that a company can create. By providing forecasting, sales will help the rest of the company plan for the coming year.
By using a forecast, the operations people can develop a headcount forecast describing what they are going to need for people to handle the amount of sales that are forecasted. The engineers will have a handle on what they should be working on for new technology and they can also be creating their capital expenses for equipment buying in the coming year. And finally, the quality team can predict what specifications and qualifications they are going to need to meet the forecasted customers’ needs.
Let me stop here and address those salespeople who are cringing at the mere mention of account plans and forecasting. Sorry it is part of your job. You are the forward thinkers of the company, and it is your responsibility to develop and publish the most accurate forecasting possible. That’s it, end of the story…no arguments.
In fact, I would strongly urge sales leaders to tie their salespeople’s compensation to accurately making and hitting their forecast in the company year.
Then prepare for an annual kick-off meeting at the beginning of the year where the entire team including operations, engineering, quality, sales and management come together and review the strategy for the coming year.
This is critical. Personally, I do not understand companies that do not do this. It makes no sense that a company would avoid spending time on their business planning.
But to help you out in your own company’s planning for 2024, Here is a checklist of what you have to be doing. Not should be doing mind you, BUT what you have to be doing.
Reflect on the Previous Year: Start by reviewing the successes and challenges of the past year. Identify what worked and what didn’t. Use this assessment to inform you of your strategies for the upcoming year.
Set Clear Goals and Objectives: Define specific, measurable, and achievable goals for your business in 2024. These goals should align with your long-term vision and provide a clear direction for your efforts. Develop those account plans and forecasts.
Create a Budget: Develop a comprehensive budget that outlines your expected revenue, expenses, and investments for the year. Ensure your financial plan supports your goals and allows for flexibility.
Evaluate Your Market: Analyze your target market and industry trends. Understand your customers’ needs, preferences, and behaviors. This knowledge will help you tailor your products or services accordingly.
Competitive Analysis: Assess your competition and identify opportunities to differentiate your business. Understand their strengths and weaknesses to position yourself effectively in the market.
Marketing Strategy: Develop a robust marketing plan that includes both online and offline strategies. Consider content marketing, social media, email campaigns, and other methods to reach and engage your target audience.
Sales Strategy: Define your sales goals and strategies. Train your sales team, if applicable, and implement a customer relationship management (CRM) system to track leads, conversions, and customer interactions.
Operational Efficiency: Streamline your operations to improve efficiency and reduce costs. Automate repetitive tasks, update your technology infrastructure, and ensure your team is well-equipped to handle their responsibilities.
Employee Development: Invest in your employees by offering training and professional development opportunities. A skilled and motivated team can contribute significantly to your business’s success.
Monitor Progress: Set up key performance indicators (KPIs) and regular reporting mechanisms to track your progress toward your goals. Be prepared to adapt your strategies if necessary based on the data and feedback you receive.
Additionally, and this is really important, consider the potential impact of external factors, such as economic conditions, regulatory changes, and emerging technologies, on your business. Flexibility and adaptability are crucial in today’s dynamic business environment.
Remember that successful planning and execution require ongoing effort throughout the year. It does you no good to throw the plan in the bottom drawer after your January sales meeting. Stay committed to your goals, stay informed about market changes, and be prepared to adjust your strategies as needed to ensure a strong 2024 for your business. If you do all of these things and do them right… you’ll have a great 2024. It’s only common sense.