The long-term success of any business will most likely come down to the types of decisions they make daily.

And in sales, just as anywhere else, these decisions most often come down to the processes, sales tactics, and plans put in place and continually reviewed as the company moves forward.

Because sales are an integral part of business success, you must develop a sales plan that encompasses your goals, considers past performance, and evaluates the best approaches for reaching the ideal customers in your situation.

And the good news is that no matter how big or small your business might be, a well-crafted sales plan can help you crystalize priorities and lay out a plan that will have a much better likelihood of delivering the successful results you want to achieve.
With that in mind, let’s look at the sales plan definition, the main reasons you need it, and the steps you should take when creating it.

What is a Sales Plan?

A sales plan is the process of mapping out your strategy, goals, obstacles, and target audience as they relate to your sales. In many ways, it’s similar to a traditional business plan, but it focuses on the specific area of sales to set benchmarks and improve performance in a strategic and calculated way.

Sales plans are typically laid out for an entire year, but you can also use monthly sales plans to make adjustments faster and respond to changes in the market, your company, or your financial goals. 

With a sales plan, your team can focus their attention on executing a specific strategy instead of having to worry about what to do next. As a result, each person has clearly defined responsibilities and can get more done while also improving the cohesion between team members.

Your team will also know what goals they need to accomplish and what strategies they can use to continually boost performance. And with a sales plan, you can collect and analyze data about sales performance, continuously improving your performance with each sales period. 

Why Do You Need a Sales Plan?

Although it’s clear that having a sales plan is better than not having one, how exactly it can benefit your business might not be clear. You’re probably making sales as it is, so how can mapping out the entire process helps you and your team function more effectively?

Let’s look at three key benefits of a well-executed sales plan below.

Identify Priorities

In business, setting the right priorities can be the biggest difference-maker in the results you can achieve. And even though we’d like to think otherwise, deciding what to focus on based on intuition isn’t always the most reliable way to maximize the chances of success.

However, when you develop a sales plan, you can use a proven framework for evaluating the current market conditions, your recent performance, the financial goals you set out, and the resources you’ll require to get where you need to go.

When putting together a sales plan, you may discover new opportunities or areas of concern that you weren’t aware of before. Addressing them can provide a significant boost to your sales performance because your entire team can focus on these critical areas instead of working according to their own judgment. 

Develop a Clear Process

Another reason why sales planning is so important is the ability to map out the process you need to take. Sales teams function at their best when each person knows their role and the sequence of tasks or steps they need to go through. 

That eliminates friction and allows each person to get the most out of their time, gain more independence, and rely on their skills and know-how rather than engaging in a constant back and forth with colleagues and superiors. 

Your sales team will know who they’re targeting, the best practices for reaching out and engaging prospects, the various angles they can use when making their arguments, and the resources and software they can use to streamline various processes. Understanding the big picture will help your team become more confident and zero in on improving performance instead of worrying about the details. 

Measurable Outcomes

A big part of consistently improving sales is being able to measure performance. And that’s exactly what having a reliable sales plan can offer, as it gives you many opportunities to test out different approaches and develop better processes that lead to more sales.

Since sales is a complicated process with countless variables, having a mapped-out sales plan will allow you to tinker with each aspect and track key sales metrics. This gives you tangible insights you can use to make decisions with more confidence.

  • Not sure if your current ideal customer matches up with your product?
  • Test out a new angle or target a different segment.
  • Aren’t getting enough responses?
  • Consider using a different prospecting channel.

Whatever problem you may be facing, having a comprehensive sales plan means you can mix and match various tactics and take a more data-driven approach to sales.

Creating a Sales Plan: Key Steps

If you haven’t developed a sales plan before, the process may seem complicated. But just like any plan in business, it can be broken down into actionable steps that will allow you not just to write your first sales plan but continually update it as well.

Here are five steps that you will most likely have to go through as you decide what specific goals, resources, and strategies you’ll be going with.

Start with the Goals

The goals are like a lighthouse that helps establish the direction you need to take with your sales efforts. They will dictate every step that follows, which is why it’s the best place to start if you want to increase the likelihood of actually achieving them.

By having an end goal to focus on, you can start mapping out the specific strategies you’ll need to take to get there, which will set in place every part of the process and turn an abstract idea into a roadmap you can clearly see visualize.

For instance, if you set a specific sales goal, you will need to estimate how many prospects you’d need to close to reach it. And that will help you figure out how many sales opportunities you need to create in the first place. This, in turn, will allow you to decide what verticals you should focus on to attract the correct number of high-quality qualified prospects that represent your ideal customers. 

However, it’s essential to be vigilant when setting goals and not get carried away with possibilities. Remember, rarely will everything go exactly as planned, so while it’s good to be ambitious, you should also try to be realistic and avoid wishful thinking that might lead to frustration and disappointment for your team.

Put Together a Team

Goals can only be accomplished if your sales team is driven to work towards them. And that means you’ll need a sales team capable of taking your goals and making them happen. A person can only make so many sales in a day or a month, so you need to evaluate how many salespeople you’ll require to meet the quotas you establish. 

If you already have a performance benchmark, you can use, that’s a good starting point when evaluating your needs. But as you make improvements, streamline processes, and establish better sales practices, you may be able to make more optimistic predictions in future sales plans and either increase the goals or reduce the number of people you need working on the campaign.

Identify Your Ideal Customers

Even the best salesperson can only do so much when trying to sell to the wrong person. That’s why you should spend a lot of time refining your understanding of your ideal customers and how you can better cater to their needs. 

Develop a detailed customer profile that your sales team can use to provide more relevant and persuasive solutions. 

To maximize long-term sales, you should consider the customer lifetime value when developing your ideal customer persona. That way, you can allow yourself to be more aggressive when prospecting since you’ll know you can make up for the higher upfront customer acquisition costs in the long run.

Select the Sales Strategies

Improving sales depends in considerable part on the efficiency of your sales process. If your sales team knows exactly what to do and can rely on proven sales strategies, they will be much better at closing deals and working with prospects. 

But for that to happen, you must select the right sales strategies that will empower your team to make the right choice in any situation. But what types of sales strategies can you implement? 

Well, first, there’s the script-based selling strategy, which lays out the entire sales pitch in a script that your sales team can then use when talking to customers. This technique has been around since the 19th century, enabling companies to have more control over how their sales teams communicate with prospects and allowing them to make gradual improvements through the refinement of the script.

Another popular approach is Active Listening. The best sales performance listen well but also are adept at asking the right questions. These  sales questions help to understand the customer’s problem better, allowing your sales team to match them with products accordingly. It also provides your sales team with more information to work with, helping emphasize different benefits of the same products according to the customer’s priorities.

Finally, if you provide a customized solution to each customer, you can use the consultative selling approach. In many ways, offering a somewhat standard solution to each client, your sales team would work with the client to develop a customized solution that’s ideally suited to fit the client’s needs.

Execute the Plan & Analyze Results

As you’re developing the sales plan, you may find yourself being hesitant about actually pulling the trigger and getting started. There will always be things you can reconsider, tinker with, or talk about, which can end up stretching the preparation phase much longer than you’d like.

However, the only real way to determine if your sales plan is working is to go through with it and execute each step. Then, you can collect data and analyze performance, learning what worked, what didn’t, and what you can improve upon right now.

Over time, going through the sales process will become easier as your team discovers the best approaches and learns to streamline various procedures to maximize efficiency. But for that to happen, you will need to make mistakes and use them as growth opportunities that you can build upon in the future.

Bottom Line

Developing a sales plan is one of the essential parts of running a successful business. With a sales plan, you can establish a reliable process for converting prospects into customers, prioritizing long-term value over short-term wins.

With the strategies discussed above, you can take into account the most crucial aspects of the sales process, figuring out exactly who you need to target, how to cater to them, and who are the best people for the job on your team.

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