For the majority of brands and retailers, building a sales plan for the year is a ‘one and done’ activity. In the best of scenarios, sales and marketing teams work together to create a comprehensive, complementary sales and marketing plan to guide their activities for the year; but in reality, teams tend to work in silos, using department-specific data to create individual sales and marketing plans (a sure way to miss out on ‘big picture’ opportunities). In either context, as the year’s activities ramp up, the sales and marketing plan becomes a distant memory – buried deep in hard drives, never to emerge again.

Sales Plan? What Sales Plan?

Fast forward 3 months – it’s now the end of March and your sales and marketing teams have had a difficult start to the year. A dip in consumer confidence turned stores into ghost towns, rendering your January BOGO promotion a complete miss. Mother Nature threw us for a loop with an uncharacteristically balmy winter, slowing sell-through of your seasonal SKUs, and that new product you launched for Spring didn’t gain early momentum as you had hoped. Your sales plan, which has been sitting in your hard drive unadjusted for the past 4 months, now seems irrelevant. Without a reliable solution to measure in-store performance, your sales team is unsure of where your SKUs are selling and where they aren’t, and your marketing team is left guessing at the actual ROI of their efforts. Ultimately, you don’t know where you’re failing and what you need to do to recover before the end of the year.

It’s no secret that in today’s market, unexpected obstacles are anything but uncommon. From sudden changes in consumer demand, to competitor price cuts and promotions, erratic weather, economic swings and everything in between, the retail landscape is full of surprises. When the sales plan breaks down, sales and marketing teams are quick to blame their inaccurate predictions. According to a recent study, 78% of brands feel that they could improve their sales by 5% if they had more accurate forecasting. But with predictive analytics and advanced forecasting tools being far too expensive, brands need to take a fresh approach to planning their retail business.

The Adaptive Sales Plan

Smart brands and retailers know that their survival depends on their ability to identify issues in the moment and pivot strategies quickly. The intelligent and affordable, cloud-based point of sale analytics platforms on the market today are capable of maintaining ‘living’ sales plans and overlaying real-time sales data, allowing teams to measure their performance at the SKU, store and regional levels. Leading brands and retailers are leveraging these solutions, turning their focus away from perfect anticipation and towards smart adaptation. Rather than attempting to guess at the obstacles that the year may bring, they are using sales insights to keep their plans agile and make data-driven decisions in the midst of challenges.

They are making collaboration more than just an annual affair, with sales and marketing teams working together on an ongoing basis to adjust their plans and build merchandising and promotional strategies that complement each other. Marketing teams are measuring the ROI of their promotions to improve efficiencies over time. Most importantly, sales and marketing departments are using data to think strategically and optimize outcomes, allowing them to meet and even surpass their annual sales targets.

And the benefits extend beyond the company level. Adaptive sales planning with point of sale data drives collaboration between key account managers and retail buyers, as brands are now empowered to provide timely insights to buyers and contribute to mutually-beneficial outcomes. This turns traditionally transactional retail relationships into true partnerships, laying the foundation for growth throughout the year and beyond.

It’s time to empower your team with insights rather than intuition. Get a head start by better leveraging your point of sale data to make your sales plan a year-round asset, and not just an annual chore.