Playing it by ear doesn’t work in sales.
You need a lot of prep and some tried-and-tested approach.
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
- Do Market Research
- Do a SWOT Analysis
- Set Sales Team Goals
- Choose Sales Strategies and Tactics
- Define a Sales Plan Budget
- Describe Your Target Customer
- Build Your Sales Team
- Tools and Software You Will Need
- Review and Refine
- Closing Words
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.
What Is a Mission Statement?
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.
Why Is a Mission Statement So Important?
The first step to take after you’ve asked yourself “How do I make a sales plan?” is communicating your mission, vision, and core values to members of your team.
It is important that your sales team plans and acts in accordance with your mission statement.
This document will help them understand what the ultimate goal is and how to achieve it by following the company’s principles 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.
When doing research, try to answer the following questions:
- What’s the size of your target market?
- Is there a demand for your solution?
- What’s your existing marketing position?
- Who are your competitors? What are their strengths and weaknesses?
A well-planned marketing audit will help your sales team to create a marketing plan that can guide them 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.
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.
This refers to breaking your goal into measurable elements.
Defining the physical manifestations of your goal makes it clearer, and easier to reach. It will also tell you whether your plan works or not.
For example, getting 100 new quality leads a day.
If you don’t have the time or resources to reach a certain goal you are setting up your team to fail. So, setting realistic goals is essential.
Make sure you take factors such as the market size, available resources, and overall company goals.
For example, you can aim to make your department twice as efficient this year, but results slightly below that point are also good. Especially if your team consists of young professionals that still don’t have enough sales experience.
Ask yourself whether reaching that goal is really relevant to your team and company.
For example, you could think that having a bigger team will increase performance, but will it really?
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 a good idea to establish some milestones and align them with hard yet achievable deadlines.
If applicable, use historical data such as last year’s numbers as a starting point.
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 some of the following.
1. Reaching predefined sales quotas
This can be achieved by
- Contacting a certain number of new prospects each month
- Creating a certain number of proposals each month
- Making a certain number of pitch presentations each month
2. Increasing awareness of your products or services
Understanding how to expand your customer base is crucial for growth. This can be done by increasing brand awareness. Some of the tactics you can use include:
- Attending a certain number of trade shows or conventions
- Getting involved in a certain number of associations or organizations in which prospects belong
- Leveraging social media, email marketing, and content marketing
3. Obtaining feedback from new customers
It’s not enough just to make a sale.
Keeping your customers happy and engaging them, later in the process, is crucial for preventing attrition and capitalizing on word of mouth.
That’s why you need to:
- Follow up with new customers
- Ask new customers to send referrals
- Create an effective onboarding process
- Level up your customer support and customer success
4. Setting short and long-term milestones
Map out your planned growth and create a timeline for your sales strategy. It’s a good idea to set short-term milestones, as these are easier to achieve and measure.
Balancing both short- and long-term goals will allow you to prioritize your activities.
- 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 into account expected costs, you can then measure the 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
- training for your sales team
- office equipment
Describe Your 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 buyer persona is a description and a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer. It’s created based on behavioral and demographic information.
Ideal customer profile
An ideal customer profile refers to the type of business that’s a perfect fit for the product or service you sell. In other words, you offer a perfect solution for their pain point.
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 research about your customers, and so on.
Identify their preferred channels of communication
Now that you know who your potential customers are, it’s equally crucial to find out where they hang out and identify their preferred channels of communication.
LinkedIn is most probably where a majority of your target customers are, but other social media platforms such as Facebook or Q&A websites like Quora can be useful for establishing contact.
Find out what podcasts they listen to and what resources they use, as that can also be a good way to capture their attention.
Build Your Sales Team
Members of your sales team are your most important asset, meaning that you should carefully pick and train them.
Hiring talent will depend on your business model and sales team activities that have to be carried out.
Some organizations will benefit from having experienced business development execs than SDRs, particularly if building strong relationships is at the core of their sales activities. Bear this in mind when structuring your sales team.
How Many People Do You Need?
As for the headcount, use the targets you set and hire based on that.
For example, if your sales plan says that 200 cold calls should be made every day, you probably should hire 10 reps who could make 20 calls per day.
Roles and Responsibilities
Think about the roles you need and define their responsibilities. This way, it will be much easier to come up with effective job descriptions and attract top talent.
At the same time, having roles and responsibilities clearly outlined will eliminate potential confusion about who’s in charge of what activities.
Finally, when people know what their tasks are, they’ll be more focused on completing them, which will increase accountability and reduce the need for micromanaging.
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 NTask
- Time tracking tools, like Clockify or Time Doctor
- Email prospecting tools, like Autoklose DataUnlimited
- Sales engagement platforms like VanillaSoft
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 of 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.