If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a thousand times: right now, change is our only constant. Markets are unpredictable and constantly shifting – and they’re unlikely to settle down any time soon. Combine this with a new set of customer expectations, and you’ve got a fair few headwinds to contend with.
Your guiding light in these turbulent times? Your sales plan.
It’s always been an essential tool. But in the face of all the changes happening right now (the pandemic and its ongoing economic impact, for instance), it’s time to review and revamp it.
So, whether you’re starting a business from scratch and want some pointers, or you need to rethink your business goals – let’s look at what makes a sales plan effective.
First off, the basics.
A sales plan does exactly what it says on the tin. It’s a document that:
Outlines the stages of your sales process.
Establishes business goals so you can achieve them.
Evaluates organisational, implementational, and structural factors.
In all, it lets you optimise your sales network performance.
A sales plan is a powerful tool. But to be effective, it has to be flexible too. As your business grows – and as your markets change – your sales process will too. Ultimately, your sales plan needs continuous revision and adaptation.
Before drawing up your actual sales plan, you need to define your sales process.
This step involves:
An examination of your company’s recent activities.
An in-depth analysis of its most important processes.
With this, you can make a data-driven plan for the future.
There are many different aspects to this preliminary analysis. But the most important tasks are to:
Check the previous year's sales data.
Evaluate business opportunities that you haven’t paid attention to yet (like remote sales, for example).
Analyse the obstacles that prevented your sales team from achieving past goals.
Examine your current situation, taking strengths and weaknesses into consideration.
Map your competition, how they move in the market, and their pricing policies.
Identify new trends in your industry and your market.
Create a sales forecast based on the previous year’s performance and trends.
Review relationships with the departments your sales team works with, like marketing and product.
Set sales targets (which should include micro-goals to achieve along the way).
Sketch out a timeline for each micro-goal and target.
Once you’ve gathered all that information, it’s time to bring it together into your sales plan.
Whether your business is just getting started or is already established, here are the key elements that create a comprehensive sales plan:
Your company’s mission and vision. Customers expect companies to communicate their values (and live by them). So make sure your sales team knows how they translate to their work – and how they align with sales targets.
Your market and, more specifically, your target buyer persona, defined using demographic and psychographic variables.
Your sales team, with clearly defined structure and roles, along with key leaders and managers.
The resources available to the sales team, including sales training and upskilling programs, your CRM system, and sales competitions and incentives.
Your positioning compared to the competition, based on product, prices, and the market.
Strategies for promoting products, tailored to whether sales are forecast to fall, hold steady, or rise.
The follow-up process for managing prospects.
Sales targets, divided into short-, medium-, and long-term. Establish specific time-frames, and the people responsible for them. (Don’t forget: calculate targets both in terms of revenue and number of customers.)
An expenditure plan to keep tabs on all the expenses, like commissions, team building activities, incentives, travel, and promotional and training events.
An at-a-glance timetable where you can see schedules for preparation, promotion, and sales activities.
Now you’ve got your plan in place – see how you can accelerate your online sales performance with these four strategies.