What's your plan for 2021?

I know the leaders who read this pretty well. Many of you are my friends and our clients. So, I can feel the reaction to my writing a headline about 2021 before many of us have been to our budget meetings for 2020. You’re thinking I’m crazy!!

I want you to spend time in the next 45 days thinking about 2021. Because the time to get ready for 2021 is sooner, rather than later. 2021 is going to be a tougher year. We all know that. Odd numbered years are frequently a challenge, and 2021 might be more challenging than ever. We’ll be post-election and quite possibly in a different economic environment. Chances are better than average that the world will be more challenging in 2021 than it is today. That means thinking about 2021 as you put together your 2020 plan makes a ton of sense.

That’s what great managers do. While many people won’t start thinking about 2021 until after the election NEXT year, great leaders are planning ahead. Realistically, this can be hard for sales managers. We’re so focused on making the quarter that taking a step back and thinking about our team two years from now is really hard. But if you start working on these things next year at this time, it will be way too late to impact a challenging 2021. So, now is the time for figuring out your 2021 plan.

How can you start today to get your team prepared for 2021? I’m a big believer in doing a SWOT exercise for your own sales staff. SWOT stands for STRENGTHS… WEAKNESSES… OPPORTUNITIES… THREATS. It’s the strategic planning technique we used in our company for over 20 years. It’s a powerful tool.

While looking at your Strengths (and trying to determine if you can build on them) is smart, I spend the most planning time looking at Weaknesses and Opportunities.

Be rigorously honest. Don’t sugarcoat your problems. And, get very specific. Your weakness list could have things on it as specific as this:

  • 2-3 members of our team are anemic at new business
  • Our new business churn is high
  • Our digital product mix isn’t giving us the margin we need
  • We have issues with production getting ads on our platforms in a timely way
  • Our new business process isn’t consistent
  • Rep A and Rep B have problems with closing
  • The average 90-day dollars closed (amount per month for first three months) is too low
  • We need _____ more AE’s to help us meet our new business goals

I encourage only having things on this list you have some ability to fix. As the DOS or GSM, you might not have the ability to fix news ratings, but what can you control?

When brainstorming a weakness area, keep asking more questions. Don’t just articulate the problem, That’s a useless exercise that isn’t leadership. Leaders aren’t victims—they work on finding the solution. Questions will help bring out solutions, so keep asking them. Why is new business churn high? Is there a relationship between churn and our smaller average order size? How can we start asking for bigger dollars? What training do our team members need in order to start asking for bigger dollar amounts that reduce churn? Do we have any team members who aren’t strong enough for the new TV business? Do we have enough sellers?

This planning exercise isn’t just about knowing the problems. It’s about digging and probing to determine what the solution might look like.

Once you and your leadership team start looking at solutions, there’s one more step. It’s better to do 2-3 things really well than to try to take on 10 things that won’t get implemented effectively. Less is more.

It’s the same thing with the work on OPPORTUNITIES. Focus on the biggies and do them well. Don’t chase crumbs. Look for opportunities to add big dollars and practice the principle of FOCUS with those as well.

I want to leave a strategic planning SWOT session with a specific plan. If you don’t have a plan, then the time you’ve spent won’t have impact. Some of the things in that plan might require a budget expenditure. That’s why doing some of this now makes sense. But frankly, most of the things on the list above can be fixed with more management focus or the courage to deal with your underperformers. Most improvement isn’t a money issue.

As leaders, most of us, quite naturally, have a short-term focus. “We need $_____ to make October.” That’s appropriate. I want you to make October. Your bosses want you to make October. Make October!!!

But October and the next couple of months are the time to take a longer view. What needs to change to give us the biggest opportunity to go into 2021 with our team in great shape? Work on that now and your job in 2021 will get a lot easier.

Read anything that makes you think? Send me a note a jim@jimdoyle.com. I love hearing from you with your comments.


Do you have Sales Managers who need to get better? I promise, we can help. We’ve designed our Sales Manager’s High Performance Boot Camp around how leaders can create a high-performance culture, recruit and retain superstars, and motivate their teams for extraordinary new business growth. A combination of real-world skills and world-class leadership and culture speakers. January 26-28, 2020 in Tampa (www.jimdoylebootcamp.com)