How to Create a Sales Plan That Actually Works
Planning is the essential element of success, and the sales process is not an exception. You can’t succeed in a job as demanding as sales without a strategic sales plan.
A well-conceived plan drives more sales and helps you assess your current performance. So, you may quickly know where you are and where you should be. And the most crucial part of the whole process is how to achieve your sales targets.
This article will discuss how to create a sales plan that actually works and boosts sales.
What is a Sales Plan?
The sales team uses a sales plan as a strategy document that brings the entire team together to achieve predetermined goals and revenue targets. It helps them focus on the big picture so that the team members can collaborate, work as a team, employ the required resources and sync their activities. Here, the ultimate goal is to achieve the best results in a stipulated period.
So, a sales strategy plan will generally include:
Sales Planning and Strategy Making Process
Sales planning isn’t limited to creating a strategy document that the sales team can refer to once in a while to get the sales direction. On the flip side, it is a high-level strategy document that ensures that the sales targets are achieved consistently and with a high degree of certainty. So, it’s primarily data-driven and offers a practical approach considering all the obstacles in the way.
To create a sales business plan, you should do the following:
- Identify your business goals and set sales targets accordingly to ensure a steady revenue stream
- Collect and analyze the previous years’ sales data and identify trends, inconsistencies, and major issues
- Identify the metrics to measure your sales performance
- Do an honest evaluation of where you are and where you want to be
- Use SWOT (Strength, Weakness, Opportunity, and Threat) analysis to identify the obstacles and how you can capitalize on the existing opportunities
- Do realistic sales forecasting in light of the past trends and demand in the market
- Make a list of the gaps you need to plugin
- Make a plan to capitalize on the missed opportunities
- Collaborate with marketing and product teams and involve them in the sales strategy-making process
Once your strategy doc is ready, you need to review and update it every year to maintain your sales performance. Make sure you stick to your sales planning process.
The Benefits of a Sales Plan
The biggest challenge for a business is not to let the sales dry up, as a steady cash flow is a prerequisite for the very survival of a business. It is also the ultimate objective of a sales business plan besides the secondary goals of organizing and motivating the sales force. So a sales plan is never an option; it’s a must-have for the sales teams.
Salespeople can be efficient and at the top of their game, but they are not planners. So, unless everybody is held responsible for their tasks, you can’t achieve desired results. A written plan infuses accountability into the team members. A sales plan also promotes diligence and allows the teams to execute their best ideas.
It also helps keep everybody on the same page and work in sync with different teams. The workflow becomes smooth and efficient when you have common priorities and targets.
With a sales plan, you can ensure that you achieve your sales and revenue goals within the stipulated time. Without a sales plan, there’s a high likelihood that your team members may feel purposeless, directionless, and lazy. A well-laid-out plan motivates the stakeholders and allows you to track your performance and tweak your tactics accordingly.
How to Write a Sales Plan?
A sales plan is created for the common folks responsible for achieving their sales targets. So, it shouldn’t be too formal. A sales plan should outline everything you need to document to run your business successfully. You can tag a deadline to it. The period can range from a month to a year. The most important sections of a sales plan are as follows.
Goal setting is the most effective technique to achieve high productivity and success in life. However, unrealistic goals can be counterproductive and even lead to failure. So, you should set smart goals – realistic goals, yet they push the individuals to perform at their best.
When you focus on SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound) sales goals, you don’t just chase numbers; you build a feasible process that you can replicate over and over again.
It doesn’t mean that you should remain in your comfort zone. SMART goals help you stretch your capabilities, yet it keeps things doable.
2. SWOT Analysis
SWOT is the abbreviation for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. The SWOT analysis adds more certainty to your sales plan. The success of your business depends on your sales performance, and the prime reason most businesses fail is that their sales dry up and they run out of cash to remain afloat. SWOT analysis helps you address the core issues responsible for inconsistency in sales. On the flip side, you can use your USPs and other strengths to boost sales and find a wider audience for your products and services.
3. Your Strategy
The best sales strategy is to differentiate your product from others, and you need a documented plan for that. Another approach to boost sales is to position your products and services. It means that you should focus your advertising messages toward a specific audience and position your product that serves a particular purpose. The sales will pick up once you differentiate your services from your competition.
You can ensure consistent sales if you successfully address customers’ needs at every sales funnel stage. So, while making a sales plan, you should ensure that the customer needs are prioritized everywhere. Rest assured, this would be a foolproof plan that will not disappoint you.
Your sales plan should be balanced and incorporate both inbound and outbound tactics. These days outbound strategies work only in limited instances, but they can be convenient when your organic presence is insufficient. Similarly, inbound strategies ensure consistent traffic and sales.
4. Your Tactics
Fancy ideas are good to try, but a sales plan shouldn’t be based on that. So, be realistic. You need to use measurable benchmarks to achieve specific goals. For that, you need to be data-driven. If you can’t quantify something, it can’t be performed in a given time frame. So, set smaller yet realistic goals. Achieving small goals builds momentum and puts you in the right frame of mind to achieve the bigger ones.
You can also use tools to get actionable insights and specify your goals. According to Statista, the sales forecast for the global jacket and coat market was estimated to be around $94.5 billion in 2021. In 2016, it was just $81 billion. So, the premium jacket brands can quickly increase their sales targets by at least 5% this year.
Another benefit of having a realistic sales plan is galvanizing your entire team around your business goals. Setting a 50% higher sales target for the next five years looks fine, but that may not motivate your teams now.
Tips to Create a Sales Plan
- Align your plan with company goals
- Be research and data-driven
- Involve team members in the goal-setting process
- Use easy to understand language
- Screen your facts and data
- Tie organizational goals to individual goals
- Revisit your goals regularly
- Split it into tactical plans
- Track previous data
- Keep your ROI analysis-ready
A sales plan needs to be informal and easy to understand so that everybody can follow it. It serves as a guidebook that everyone can refer to for direction, and it should be kept flexible to accommodate changes in the external environment.
A. Align Your Plan With Company Goals
No organization can succeed with vague goals. That’s the reason we put so much emphasis on goal setting. However, before setting company goals, you should make sure that the entire leadership in your organization is on the same page. Lack of clarity may lead to confusion and chaos during the execution phase. The leaders must believe in the goals they set for the company entirely to motivate their team. Set achievable and tangible goals, and your body language will reflect them.
B. Be Data-Driven
You should find ways to cut through the excessive “noise” in the field of marketing. Otherwise, you’ll end up shooting in the dark and waste your energy on the wrong prospects. Study trends and data related to your niche and determine your ideal customers. Because of the dynamic nature of markets, the demographics and psychographics of our target audience keep on changing. However, most of us never adapt to these changes and keep on chasing the wrong prospects. On the flip side, you tend to ignore the rising new customer segments. When you are data-driven and use statistics to guide you, you are unlikely to commit such mistakes.
C. Involve Team Members in the Goal-Setting Process
One significant benefit of involving the team members in the goal-setting process is to see the big picture where the attainment of company goals becomes their milestones. The leadership must decide the objectives and key results for the organization. Once they do that, you should share this critical information with other team members, especially those tasked with its execution.
It will allow them to discuss and explore what they can contribute towards the team goals. Invite suggestions from your teammates and let them contribute according to their strengths and expertise. You’ll be surprised to know how efficiently you can galvanize your team to achieve your business goals. A Gallup study suggests that team members are 3.6 times more inclined to engage when they are made part of the goal-setting process.
D. Use Easy to Understand Language
When you use easy language, you can swiftly convince the masses. Avoid using jargon and acronyms that only a few people can understand. Business jargon can be particularly complex. How would you react if some use the phrase “blue-sky thinking“? You may be tempted to use more words than you need to express yourself. But using more words can reduce clarity and flow, and people may find it difficult to understand. Use plain language and tie your company objectives to individual performance.
E. Screen Your Facts and Data
Since marketing and sales rely too heavily on facts and data, we must deal with the numbers carefully. A slight mistake can lead your marketing plan to fizzle out. Accuracy can be a game-changer. So, take your time to dig into the datasheets and screen everything from facts and figures to projections before writing your plan on paper.
F. Tie Organizational Goals to Individual Goals
People are generally invested in their performance and success. Therefore, the best way to bring about the best performance from your team is to tie the organizational goals to the individual performance. If there is a gap between these two objectives, you will hardly achieve significant results. You can reach it by employing this two-way approach.
- Making the goal-setting process a collaborative effort where employees are equally involved in it along with the company leadership
- Communicating with the employees in a way that they see personal growth in achieving organizational goals
- Let the employees fully understand the objectives and take ownership of the tasks assigned to them
G. Track Your Team’s Progress
Too often, the management doesn’t track their goals along the way. The usual course of action includes:
- Briefing the team about the organizational objectives.
- Setting a time frame.
- Measuring the achievement at the end of the stipulated time.
It is not a good practice, and it can often lead to disappointment if you observe that the team is far behind its targets. The usual excuse cited is the lack of time. But, it’s devastating when you see that your expectations weren’t met at the finish line. So, the best practice is to periodically track the team’s progress and how it’s faring against the goals initially set.
H. Split It Into Tactical Plans
Since sales comprise several tasks, splitting those tasks into smaller tactical units is crucial. This way, you can achieve it quickly without disrupting the overall flow. Some of these tactical tasks can be as follows.
- Account executives and sales representatives
- Sales operations
- Sales management
- Customer service and support
Get in touch and collaborate with the concerned teams and departments such as marketing, sales, & customer support, etc., to ensure that your sales plan is on track at different tactical levels.
I. Track Previous Data
You can successfully mirror past performance and plans to achieve your future sales targets. It’s crucial to gather insights as well. You can use the past data and stats to spot your mistakes and how you can correct those mistakes. For example, if you failed to achieve the sales number the last time, you can dig into your data sheets and figure out why that happened. It will allow you to view your errors from a different perspective.
J. Keep Your ROI Analysis-Ready
With the sales plan and projections, you also need to present detailed cost analysis and ROI to your stakeholders. It builds confidence and prevents any disagreement in the future over the proposed budget. It’s applicable for any investment in tools or software or addition in human resources.
Sales Strategy Template
You need a sales plan template before you write your sales strategy. A strategic business plan template allows you to incorporate and record every detail of your sales plan and make it user-friendly. Initiate your sales planning by using the sales plan template given below. You need to follow the prompts as the sections are already designed to enter the required information.
However, you need to make sure that the language you use is straightforward. There shouldn’t be any ambiguity or complexity because it can lead to confusion afterward. Apart from that, you should also not use jargon that cross-functional teams may find difficult to understand. You can use different content formats to fill in the information, such as text, spreadsheet, graphics, screenshots, and charts.
The business plan template is flexible, so you can quickly adapt it to suit your business requirements.
Some of the sections in a sales template are as follows.
A. Executive Summary
An executive summary is a formal and brief document about your sales plan. It provides the reader a bird’s eye view of the entire sales plan and the strategies that you are going to use. Apart from that, it also gives you vital information about your sales and revenue goals, time frame, and strategies you will employ. Your executive summary should not be more than two pages.
B. Business Goals and Revenue Targets
Most of the business goals are inspired by revenue targets. Therefore, the revenue projections are a crucial part of a sales template. Your strategy isn’t complete unless the target revenue figures are classified in your template for different categories.
C. Review of Past Performance
The best way to minimize the number of errors is to revisit your past performance. Conduct an honest analysis of the mistakes that caused you to fail and lose track and the strengths that led to positive outcomes. This practice can alone put you on track to success in sales.
D. Specific Strategies
It’s crucial to mention the sales strategies and playbooks you will use. It brings transparency and makes sure that everybody is aware and on the same page about the sales strategies to be used. It also helps in a fair analysis and making strategy tweaks if something doesn’t happen according to your expectations.
E. Customer Avatars & Segments
Identifying customer segments and making buyer personas is the key to identifying revenue generation streams. Over time, new customer segments keep on emerging, and if you can keep track, you can successfully tap them and generate another revenue stream. You can also do it through referrals, upsells, and sales renewals.
F. Workforce and Resources
Sales can’t function in isolation. You need to provide relevant information to the cross-functional teams. In this section, you can add the summary of inputs you need for the sales process. It may include the tools, software, and human resources. Mention the current resources and proposed inputs, and justify why you need that.
E. Action Plan
The simple formula for achieving success is setting a goal, arranging the inputs needed,
and attaching a deadline. You also need to develop strategies and related tactics. It is referred to as the action plan. It also calls for assigning tasks and responsibilities to the team members recruited to implement the sales process.
Here is how an action plan looks like.
F. Sales Tools
This section should add all the tools you need to accelerate the sales process and make it smoother. It may also include AI tools that automate various sales tasks to avoid unnecessary delays in the process. Listing sales tools is an excellent way to collaborate with cross-functional teams to know the processes, workflow and bridge the gaps.
G. Performance Metrics
Measuring the performance is as important as the sales process itself. So, the last section is meant for performance metrics. So, this section highlights how you will track your organizations’ sales performance. You can also add links to the resources or tools you are using.
This section may also include report generation and storage. It should also highlight how you interpret the report and assess the team performance.
How to Sell Your Sales Plan?
Now that you have created a brilliant sales plan, you need your stakeholders and managers to buy-in. Your sales team is all pumped in and ready to dive in. Your management wants you to develop a plan with high chances of success, and you desperately need stakeholder buy-in. To achieve this, you need to get ready for a powerful presentation.
Still, your proposed plan may or may not be accepted by the management. The management may offer a budget that can be less than you asked for. Maybe they have some other thing in mind that you don’t know about yet. In that case, you would have to update your plan and manage to work with the existing resources.
It’s impossible to achieve your sales targets without a sales strategy plan. The key is to identify the major roadblocks and challenges and work your way up to overcome them. Once the implementation hassles are resolved and bottlenecks cleared, your sales plan will become a set of instructions and a to-do list that you can follow smoothly. It makes things easy to organize. What are your biggest challenges while making a sales plan? Let’s know in the comments.