Wednesday, December 9th, 2009
A tribe of primitive peoples is facing starvation: "we need food". The chief pulls the hunters together to discuss the situation and they develop a plan.

It’s not documented because writing has yet to be invented but the plan is agreed on – it’s articulated. The plan goes like this…

"We will focus on the water buffalo because they are slower, yield more per kill, there are more of them, and we know where to look for them."

Everyone agrees that this is a good assessment of the market place and the decision to hunt buffalo is strategically sound.

The next day the hunters arise as usual and assemble for a day's hunting.

"Today we hunt buffalo" and off they head. At the end of the day they return empty handed. The next day, the same, and the day after.

Strategically the plan was good, but it lacked detail. It didn’t identify where they were going hunting (which water ways they would investigate), who was going to go where and how many water buffalo they needed to kill.

It was a marketing plan but not a sales plan.

The chief puts more detail into the plan.

"There are 48 waterways, here on the map (scratched into the dirt). I will divide you into 4 groups of hunters; each group will travel to 12 waterways in the next week.

"But chief there is a great distance to cover; it is not possible to cover that many waterways in 7 days" (unrealistic number of sales visits).

It is agreed that they need to focus on the waterways (territories) that are most likely to contain the highest number of buffalo (market intelligence identifying the lowest hanging fruit).

And so it goes on, until every hunter knows where he will be going as soon as he leaves camp next morning, the morning after that, and for the foreseeable future. He knows what catch he is expected to achieve in order to make his contribution toward feeding the tribe (sales targets and budgets).

A few weeks later the chief and the hunters meet.

"How is the hunt for buffalo going?"

"Well, Chief, most of the waterways that we chose are achieving their targeted number of buffalo kills." .... A cheer rises from the assembled hunters.

"However, there are a small number that are well below targe".... a groan.

Somebody shouts out, "Our plan is a failure!" After he is solidly beaten with clubs (a sales meeting) the discussion continues.

"No! Our plan is good, but it needs fine tuning," says the Chief (the sales manager).
"We need to decide; do we abandon these waterways and put these resources into others that we have chosen to ignore, or do we put more hunters in to these same waterways?"

Sales plans have to provide gritty detail. There has to be a sense of who is doing what, when and where and it must set targets. It has to be believable and achievable.

A plan is not something that is slavishly followed, cast in stone, never to be rescinded.

It is our best guess, based on the information we had, the information we could afford to obtain, and our past experience.

It is a bench mark against which we measure progress. And through measuring progress we identify where changes to the plan need to be made.

So many plans in business are said to have failed when really they were never followed through (sadly in many cases they were never even started); it is impossible to say it was or wasn't a good plan; it simply never happened.

Sales management is the process of developing a sales plan, putting it into action and fine tuning it on the fly.

In reality a large number of businesses have no sales plan.

As one Chief Executive once said to me, "The only plan my sales reps have is to decide whether to turn left or right when they drive out the gate in the morning."

So how do we put together a sales plan?


By Justin Wearne, Principal Consultant, JWPM Consulting

Contact Profile

JWPM Consulting - Industrial Strength Marketing

JWPM is a marketing company providing strategic advice and creative services to industrial and B2B companies. The firm provides research and analysis, brand development, sales force engineering, asssitance with tenders, advertising, online promotion and graphic design. It is an Adelaide based firm founded in 1993 by Justin Wearne, an industrial marketing specialist.
Justin Wearne
P: (08) 8359 3066
M: 0414 744 481


The chief of a primitive tribe applies sales planning methodology to efficiently direct their limited hunting resources toward the best yielding source of food. This tale introduces our "how to" guide to sales planning.



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