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Most people handle their annual financial planning the same way the handle their New Year’s resolutions: by waiting until Dec. 31. Gallup’s annual Economy and Personal Finance survey for 2013 revealed 70 percent of Americans do not prepare a detailed personal budget. Entrepreneurs who handle their personal finances this way are prone to carry the same habits over into their business planning.

Because poor financial planning is one of the top causes of small business failure, creating an annual financial plan early gives businesses an advantage over the competition. Each fourth quarter, it’s prudent to prepare a profitability plan for the coming year.

The first step toward successful financial planning is setting an intent to successfully complete the plan. What doesn’t get scheduled doesn’t get done. Make a commitment to complete an annual financial plan by midnight of December 31. If for some reason you don’t end up reading this until after December 31, make a commitment to create an annual plan over the next month so that you have it ready by the start of the next quarter.

Ask the Right Questions

Creating a plan is largely a matter of asking and answering a series of questions that help identify sales, marketing, and other financial goals and then verbalizing steps to achieve those goals. Ask questions about key annual sales goals such as how many leads should be generated, how many appointments should be set, and how many sales should be made. After defining some annual goals, break them down into smaller time frames by quarter, month and week to make it easier to define concrete steps for achieving them.

Examples of the types of sales and marketing goals that can go into creating an annual plan include:

  • ultimate outcomes for the year;
  • annual revenue projections (sales results);
  • annual marketing strategy (marketing tactics);
  • ultimate outcomes for each month;
  • monthly revenue projections;
  • monthly marketing strategy; and
  • monthly projects (if any).
These goals can be broken down into more specific areas. For instance, break the target sales results down into lead generation, appointment setting and sales. Each category also can be broken down by quarter and by month, or even further by week or day.

Supplementary Goal Setting

To achieve marketing and sales goals, set goals in other areas of your business or personal life. For example, in your business, set a goal of hiring more staff, adopting new automation tools, or developing and releasing new product and service lines.

Achieving personal goals can also help achieve business goals. For instance, if you haven’t been sleeping on a regular schedule, set a goal of getting on a more consistent sleep cycle next year may help make you more productive. Similarly, set goals in areas such as personal finances, health, relationships and spiritual development.

Create a Space for Success

A fundamental strategy for annual planning is creating a space for success. When something is occupying space, something else cannot occupy the same space. This is true both literally and in the metaphoric sense of occupying mental space or space in the business. Get rid of unnecessary items to create space to attract something new.

To help review the “space” surrounding a business, following are some questions to ask.

  • What was great about the past year?
  • What are you most proud of?
  • What were you most surprised by?
  • In what ways did you grow?
  • What was your biggest success?
  • What adversity did you overcome?
  • What skills did you develop?
  • What goals did you accomplish?
  • What was your most challenging sale?
  • What were you consistent at?

Finding Direction

Review past year’s performance to identify some areas that can be improved. Here are some examples of questions to help perform this evaluation:

  • Based on annual goals where should your results be right now?
  • Did you hit your gross sales number, total units number or total recruits for the year?
  • How was your consistency during the past year?
Then, determine your success in the following areas.

  • appointment setting;
  • follow-ups;
  • consistency;
  • marketing;
  • social media;
  • web marketing;
  • recruiting;
  • training;
  • motivating your team;
  • making calls;
  • time management; and
  • objection handling.
Use this list of questions to develop questions specific to your industry, business, and product and service lines. Also, ask questions about non-business areas that impact your business. For instance, how many hours of sleep did you average per night this year, and how many hours would you need to achieve optimal energy for top business performance?

Expand on the above list of questions to help identify areas for strategic improvement. To achieve your potential in the next year, uncover what areas of your business and other parts of your life that need improvement.

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