If your sales department doesn’t have a targeted, detailed strategy for how it approaches sales, it may lead to disorganization and unclear guidelines. That’s why an official sales plan is so important: It can help you define your mission, goals, targets, approach, and budget. With it, your sales team has a clear path toward what they should accomplish and what determines their success rate.
Knowing how to write a sales plan may be a daunting task at first, but once each area is outlined, it becomes easier to complete. Start at the beginning and work your way down the list so each section can snowball and your sales plan can come together organically.
The best salespeople are the ones who know and respect their company’s mission. Without outlining why the products or services you offer are important, your sales team won’t be able to properly explain it to customers. It’s important to have a central document for the sales team (and others across the organization, as needed) that clearly states the company’s mission.
If your company doesn’t yet have a mission statement, try using these four questions to create it:
Most mission statements aren’t more than one or two paragraphs. Once you have a concise mission statement, the rest of your company sales plan can fall into place, as you should base your goals, targets, and approach on it. Consider this the starting point; now you can examine the other components of your sales strategy.
Goals are crucial for any sales plan, but how they are outlined is just as important as the goals themselves. Sheena Jones writes in FitSmallBusiness that all goals in a sales plan need to follow the S.M.A.R.T. framework in order to create actionable, clearly defined indicators of success.
For example, “Increase revenue in 2019” would not follow the S.M.A.R.T. framework — it’s too vague and leaves too much room for interpretation. A better goal would be: “Increase recurring revenue by 25 per cent by the end of the third quarter of 2019.” In this sales plan example, the goal is specific with the type of revenue, measurable with the percentage increase, relevant to sales because it deals with a specific sales metric, and time-based.
Goals should be reviewed individually, as often as a few times per week and, as a team, monthly and quarterly. This will help your sales team stay on track. Then, depending on the company, goals should be re-evaluated at the end of each quarter, upon reaching the goal’s deadline, or each year to see if they were met. This also allows for reflection on what could be done differently or better, and what your sales team’s goals should be for the next time period.
Goals set up a sales plan to move into the next section: targets. According to Klipfolio, sales targets differ from goals in that they are solely focused on sales-specific numbers, whereas goals don’t have to be. These could include how many products are sold, how many leads are given a free demo, and the income brought in over a specific time period.
While goals need to be specific, targets are an even more specific key performance indicator (KPI) that help salespeople determine if they are successful according to a very narrow or precise metric. According to business development expert Ian Brodie, if a company doesn’t have sales targets that are actively monitored, the sales team will struggle to accurately estimate future sales based on what they have in their pipeline.
Some organizations set quotas as part of their targets. Quotas are the beginning of targets: If a salesperson’s target is $100,000 in new business each quarter, a quota breaks that down more granularly to help them reach their goal. In this example, their monthly quota would be approximately $33,000 in new sales each month. If they know their average conversion rate and order amount, this can be dissected even further. An average conversion rate of 10 per cent and order amount of $5,000 means a salesperson would have to pitch about 66 new leads each month to reach their quota and eventual quarterly target. The data provided by lost and won sales can help salespeople better predict and plan their approach.
The specifics of how each company goes about meeting sales quotas, targets, and goals vary and are determined by the industry, its offerings, and management’s willingness to try new things. For instance, many companies still rely on door-to-door soliciting, cold calling, or email outreach and see some success with each of those tactics. However, new strategies, such as adding social media to your sales funnel or using referral selling, can help salespeople get more engaged with prospects and build relationships with them. Relationships usually help salespeople be much more effective, rather than cold calling.
Wendy Connick, in an article for the National Association of Sales Professionals, reports that outlining strategies ahead of time can help salespeople be more successful. Some of the strategies included in the sales plan examples she gives are:
Having specific strategies for salespeople is important so they know what can actually help them achieve their sales goals. It also gives newer salespeople better direction as to what they can try first. In your sales plan, try to outline five to 10 approaches and strategies that can help drive sales.
Some other ideas include:
Finally, many sales plan templates include a section for the sales budget. This isn’t a need for some companies, but there are some sales strategies that require a budget. For example, if the company decides all salespeople should have LinkedIn Premium, this would need to be included in the sales budget.
Other costs may include entertaining current and potential customers, paid tools, subscriptions, advertising, training, conferences and trade shows, travel, and any other vendor or necessary costs, such as better headsets for the team to make calls. If each salesperson has their own individual budget for expenses that accrue during the sales process, be sure to outline that as well.
A sales plan is the guiding light for a sales team to identify their goals, the specific metrics that are important to the company and their team, and specific ways they can excel in their role. By learning the company mission and what it takes to meet it, salespeople can be more confident meeting new prospects and engaging with customers and contacts to build a more robust sales pipeline.