A sales plan is a strategy that defines every part of the sales process and sets clear targets and tactics. An organized sales plan is just the groundwork you need to reach your company’s sales goals.
Creating a sales plan shouldn’t be very complicated. You only need some starting data about your customers, the goals you wish to achieve, and a budget you will have at your disposal.
Communicate Mission With the Sales Team
Although not something sales teams are normally tasked with, mission and vision are the factors every employee must have in the back of their mind.
A company mission statement, when smartly crafted, should act as a guide to all company employees, and even customers. It tells your whole business environment what your business stands for and what its goals are. In short, a good mission statement speaks to both the company’s employees and its customers.
It is important that your sales team plans and acts in accordance with your mission statement, so they know and understand what the ultimate goal is and how to achieve it following the company’s principals in communicating with customers.
Do Market Research
Market research is something many businesses today overlook, but an effective sales plan should heavily rely on it. For this reason, many launch new products and services that end up failing just because it turned out people weren’t interested in them. A marketing plan will guide your sales from strategy to the point of sale. The target is positioning your business in a way that matches the needs and wants of the market you are targeting.
According to your business goals, you should describe:
- targeted market segments
- targeted demographics
- approximate numbers for every segment
- previous sales and potential sales for every segment
Do a SWOT Analysis
Before you start working on your sales plan, you must first learn how your company is positioned in its targeted market. Is there an opportunity to grow your existing accounts or to find new accounts like the ones you have? Align your sales and marketing teams to get the best answers to these questions.
A SWOT analysis is a pretty standard marketing practice, but sales should also use it, so business activities can be coordinated between teams.
SWOT is an acronym consisting of the following terms:
- Strengths – write down what your company’s advantages over its competitors are
- Weaknesses – see what disadvantages you should focus on fixing
- Opportunities – list the opportunities your business can exploit better than your competitors
- Threats – what potential dangers can arise in your business environment.
When you list these internal and external factors, you will get a clearer picture of how to target your leads and how to better showcase your products to your potential customers.
Set Sales Team Goals
After you have done marketing research, you can set goals according to it. A good strategy for defining goals is to make sure they are SMART:
- Specific – It explains exactly what you want to achieve. The more specific the description, the greater the odds that you will get exactly that. For example, sell 10,000 units of certain product this quarter.
- Measurable – It means breaking your goal into measurable elements. Defining the physical manifestations of your goal makes it clearer, and easier to reach. For example, getting 100 new quality leads a day.
- Attainable – If you don’t have the time or resources to reach a certain goal you are setting up your team to fail. For example, you can aim to make your department twice as efficient this year, but results slightly below that point are also good.
- Relevant – Is reaching that goal really relevant to your team and company? For example, you could think that having a bigger team will increase performance, but will it really?
- Timely – Deadlines are what makes most people switch to action. Keep the timeline realistic and flexible, and you will also keep morale high within your sales team.
It’s best if you set your goals in 12-month periods. Some goals you can set are:
- The number of deals you should close
- The average number of engagements
- The number of new markets
- Average project size.
Choose Sales Strategies and Tactics
In one part of your sales plan, you must define long term strategies and day-to-day tactics you will use to achieve your goals and grow your business. These are the activities your sales team will use to execute your company’s sales objectives.
Strategy for acquiring new customers may contain tactics like:
Reaching certain sales quota:
- Contact a certain number of new prospects each month
- Create a certain number of proposals each month
- Make a certain number of pitch presentations each month
Increasing awareness for your products or services:
- Attend a certain number of trade shows or conventions
- Get involved in a certain number of associations or organizations in which prospects belong
Obtaining feedback from new customers
- Follow up with new customers
- Ask new customers to send referrals
A good idea is to set milestones for short periods. For example:
- target 50 leads
- make 10 exploratory calls
- run 2-3 final presentations
- make a prospecting plan
- identify the best industry trade shows
- select target accounts
- create a renewal plan
- launch a new campaign
- attend trade shows and conventions happening that quarter
Define a Sales Plan Budget
By creating a sales plan budget and by taking account expected costs, you can then measure anticipated return on your investment. It’s also a good practice to clearly define your fixed and variable costs to have a better idea for future planning.
Some budget items in your sales plan can be:
- salaries for the sales team
- tools and software
- travel expenses
- trade show tickets
- purchase of mailing lists
- office equipment
Describe a Target Customer
Depending on the research your marketing and sales teams did, you can document desired and targeted customers. Find relevant data about your existing customers and based on that you can go on to create your target buyer persona and ideal customer profile.
Target buyer persona – a description and a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer, taking in the consideration behavioral information and demographics.
Ideal customer profile – the type of business you are targeting in your sales process.
You can come by the data needed by observing the behavior of your current and most loyal customers, reading reviews of your products or services, doing Q&A research of your customers, and so on.
Tools and Software You Will Need
Sales teams need software and tools to function effectively. Include in your plan the types of tools needed, delegate roles for admins, and create an action plan for utilizing software solutions.
Tools and software you can consider when planning your sales process are:
- CRM software, like Pipedrive, Hubspot or Salesforce
- Communication tools, like Slack and Skype
- Sales email automation tools, like Autoklose
- Project management tools, like Jira or Asana
- Time tracking tools, like Clockify or Time Doctor
- Email prospecting tools, like Autoklose DataUnlimited, or Hunter
Review and Refine
The best sales plans are agile documents that can be altered on the go should the necessity arise. Schedule regular meetings, track progress and tweak your plan according to the results. Have your team provide periodic updates and data, so that you can be aware of possible bottlenecks or obstacles.
Treat your sales plan as a living thing that should be able to adapt to the changes in its surroundings. That way you can make adjustments to your plan and optimize it to reach desired goals as soon as possible.
A sales plan is an essential tool for businesses of all sizes. Regardless whether your sales team consists of just one salesperson or it’s a team of a couple of dozen salespeople, its importance stays the same. It should provide guidance about how your team should choose, approach and communicate with prospects, set deadlines and goals in which they will operate, and include financial compensations and incentives to your team.