True success always begins with a good plan. And for sales success, nothing beats a full-proof strategic sales plan. A sales plan sits alongside, or within, a marketing plan to direct the efforts of sales teams.
Specifically designed to help your sales team generate more sales, a good sales plan can inform you where you’re at, where you want to go, and how to get there.
Majority of the companies create or update their sales plans periodically, every 3, 6, or 12 months. So, treat your sales plan as a valuable living piece of document that you can easily revise regularly.
But, what is a sales plan exactly?
A sales plan lays out your high-level tactics, objectives, potential obstacles, and target audience. It’s quite similar to a traditional sales plan but focuses specifically on your sales strategy. While a business plan lays out your goals, a sales plan describes exactly how you’ll make those happen.
A sales plan will help you with the following:
- Define a set of sales targets
- Choose sales strategies that are better suited to your target market
- Identify sales tactics for your sales team
- Activate, motivate and focus your sales team
- Budget and clarify steps you’ll take to achieve your targets
- Review your goals periodically and improve your approaches to sales
- A sales plan makes it possible for the sales team to share the same objectives, see the bigger picture, and work the same plan to achieve them.
This blog explains how to create a sales plan and also the importance of having a sales plan.
What Is Included in a Sales Plan?
A strategic sales plan covers a lot of aspects of your business growth: selling methods & metrics, revenue goals, current sales force capabilities, target customers, etc.
Specifically, it covers the following 9 pieces of strategic information;
Executive summary and scope of the sales plan: This section provides a brief summary of the document, focusing on goals and the strategies to achieve them. It also states the specific time period and other parameters covered by the sales plan.
Business goals and revenue targets: This section clearly establishes revenue targets and may also include associated business goals (e.g., optimize lifecycle value through customer success programs, etc). Classifying revenue figures based on different categories (such as category and product line) helps clarify the document.
Review of prior period performance: This section presents a recap of the prior period’s performance, identifying mistakes as well as decisive actions that resulted in a positive outcome. The overreaching goal is to optimize the sales plan by adopting techniques and inputs that effectively work.
Market and Industry conditions: This section gives a summary on market trends that have high chances of influencing sales performance.
Strategies, methodologies, and tactics: This section recommends the best selling techniques, communication sequences, and playbooks for your company.
Customer segments; referrals/renewals/up-sells and new prospects/segments: This section addresses all the potential revenue-generating, Omni-channel opportunities available for your company. The document should clearly describe new segments of the addressable market when they arise.
Team capabilities, resources, and tactics: This section gives a brief summary and also describes the current state of all the production inputs (tech software, human resources, specialized sales teams, etc.) required to process and close sales deals.
Action plans for teams and individuals: This section assigns tasks, activities, and responsibilities to different teams and individuals. Tasks include prospecting activities, meeting appointments, and product demos/presentations.
Performance benchmarks and monitoring: This section lays out the performance metrics to track and the systems and processes that help monitor these metrics.
How to Create a Sales Plan:
Your sales plan doesn’t necessarily have to be a formal document. However, it does need to be clearly written, so all stakeholders and team members can easily understand your sales plan.
Here’s how to write a sales plan that’s both useful and usable:
Mission and Background:
Start-off your sales plan by stating your organization’s vision and mission statements. And then write up a brief history of the business, it will give background information as your sales plan move ahead into more specific details.
This is the next step of your sales plan where you describe who is on your team and what their specific roles are. Maybe you manage seven sales professionals and work very closely a sales ops specialist and a sales enablement professional.
And if you’re planning to add more headcount, including the number of new employees, their job titles, and when you’re planning to bring them on your team.
Knowing your target demographic is crucial, whether you’re writing your first sales plan or your eighth one. Do all your best customers belong to a specific industry? What do they look like? Struggle with the same challenge? Exceed a certain size?
Always keep in mind that you may have different personas for different products/services. For example, a company sales representative may primarily sell sales software to sales directors and marketing software to CMOs.
This section of your sales plan can dramatically change over time as your strategy and solution evolve and you find product-market fit. When your product was in its infancy in the very beginning and your prices were low, you may have found better success selling to startups. Now that you have raised the price and the product is more robust, mid-market businesses are more likely a better fit. So, it’s critical to constantly update and review your personas.
Tools, Software, and Resources:
In this section, you should include a description of your resources. Do you have a budget for sales contests and incentives? Which CRM software do you plan on using?
And in this section, you’ll layout which tools your sales representatives should use to effectively do their jobs. For example, documentation, training, sales enablement tools, etc.
Now, name all of your competitors. And explain how your offerings compare, where theirs are stronger than yours, and vice versa. Discuss the pricing of their offerings versus yours.
You should also discuss market trends in this section. If you sell ads, mention the rise in programmatic mobile advertising. And if you’re a SaaS company, you should note vertical-specific software is becoming more popular. Try to predict how these changes will influence your business.
Describe your pricing and any promotions you’re planning on running in this section. To increase brand awareness and generate leads, what key actions will you take? And note the impact on sales.
The following is a mock version:
Product A: Increasing price from $40 to $45 on March. 4 (2% reduction in monthly sales)
Product B: Free upgrade if you refer another customer from Feb. 10-18 (20% increase in monthly sales)
Product C: Decreasing price from $430 to $400 on June 1 (15% increase in monthly sales)
Product D: No change
How your sales team will qualify the leads that are generated by your marketing strategy? So, include the criteria that prospects have to meet before your sales representative reaches out to them.
In addition, identify which outbound and inbound sales strategies your sales team will use to close deals.
Once you’ve clearly outlined where you want to go, figure out how you’ll reach there. This section provides a summary of your game plan for hitting your revenue targets.
The following are some examples:
Objective: Increase referral rates by 30% this quarter
- Run three-day referral techniques workshop
- Hold sales contest for referral sales
- Increase commission on referral sales by 5%
Objective: Acquire 20 Enterprise logos
- Identify 100 potential prospects and assign a tiger team to each
- Hold two executive-level events
- Give a bonus to the first team to win three logos
The majority of the sales goals are based on revenue. For example, you may set a target of $5 million in annual recurring revenue (ARR).
Alternatively, you can also set a goal based on volume. This goal could be 375 sales or 125 new customers. Just ensure that your objective is realistic, otherwise, your complete sales plan will be mostly useless.
Factor in the price of your offerings, market penetration, total addressable market (TAM), and resources, including your marketing support and sales headcount.
You should tie your goal very close to your high-level business goals; to give you basic idea, if a business is trying to move up-market; your goal may be “Acquire 30 Enterprise logos” rather than “Sell XYZ in new business”, as the former will encourage you to entirely follow deals rather than focusing on the fit customers.
Obviously, you may have more than just one goal. So, identify the most valuable one, then go on to rank the rest based on their priority.
And if you have any territories, assign a sub-goal to each of them. This will make it much easier to identify under-and over-performers.
In addition, lay out your timeline. Having regular benchmarks ensures you’ll know if you’re ahead, on track, or behind in hitting your targets.
Let’s say that your sales goal for the second quarter of the year is selling $50,000. So, based on your last year’s performance, you know that April and May sales are quite slower than March.
Now, with that in mind, your timeline is the following:
- May: $8,000
- April: $8,000
- June: $14,000
You should also include the DRIs (directly responsible individuals) in your goal, if applicable. For example, maybe Rep Cindy’s April quota is $6,000. And Rep Kathy, who’s still ramping, has a $4,000 quota for the month. And for a smaller team, this activity helps to avoid replicating each other’s work and shifting the blame around if targets aren’t met.
Describe the costs associated with achieving your sales goals. It usually includes the following:
- Sales training
- Resources and sales tools
- Contest prizes
- Team bonding activities
- Travel costs
Now, compare your sales plan budget with your sales forecast for more accurate budgeting.
There’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all sales plan. And the only wrong approach to use a sales plan is to write it at the beginning of the quarter or year and then never touch it again; you should periodically review and update it after a while to ensure that you’re focused and are on track.
Types of Sales Plans:
A business may serve multiple markets or sell products/services that vary by geographical territory. This is why your company may be better served by the creation of more than one sales plan, each with a narrow focus and which work jointly to support larger organization sales objectives.
The five major types of sales plan include the following:
Strategic Sales Plan:
This is the primary type of sales plan that sets the standard for sales strategies and sales objectives across the company. In addition to objectives, the strategic plan also outlines the roles, responsibilities, tasks, performance measurements, and approved tools required to effectively achieve those objectives.
Territory Sales Plan:
A territory sales plan is a narrowly-defined version of the strategic sales plan and may include exceptions to the strategic sales plan like additional tools, systems, or roles needed to better serve a specified market. A territory sales plan is limited to tactics, strategies, and tools used within a specific group of prospects, customer base, or market segment.
Tactical Sales Plan:
A tactical sales plan supports a strategic sales plan by focusing on a distinct area of the company. For example, an inside sales manager may choose to build a miniaturized version of the corporate sales plan that goes into greater detail into the metrics and tactics that will be specifically used by his/her team.
Operational Sales Plan:
An operational sales plan supplements a strategic sales plan by defining the company’s procedures and policies as they relate to the sales team in minute detail. For example, an operational sales plan may outline minimum order requirements or specify how credit card orders are to be processed.
Contingency Sales Plan:
A contingency sales plan supports the strategic plan by defining how the company may continue sales-related activities in the case of circumstances like a major change in credit arrangements, the sudden loss of key personnel, or natural disaster. Contingency plans should also include strategies for alternative means of communication, accessing data and records, and policies that are related to public safety threats, mismanagement, and product liability.
Sales just don’t happen without a sales plan. Luckily, a sales plan is not as complex as it may seem.
So, take your time to identify your biggest problems and top challenges, solve them to overcome them. Once that’s done, your sales plan is simply the document that organizes your ideas.