True success always starts with a plan. And for sales success, nothing beats a strategic sales plan.
Designed specifically to help your sales team drive more sales, a sales plan can show you where you’re at, where you want to be, and even more important, how to get there.
The question, of course, is how to create a sales plan that actually impacts sales. Keep reading for tips and a template to quickly and confidently create a strategic sales plan for your business.
What Is a Sales Plan?
A sales plan is a strategy document that lays out a company’s plan for improving sales results in a specified time period. It usually includes:
- specific revenue and performance goals for a given period
- the strategies for achieving them
- the resources and activities required to carry out those strategies
By mapping these elements, a sales plan makes it possible for everyone on the sales team to see the big picture, share the same overall objectives, and work the same plan to achieve them.
What Is Included in a Sales Plan?
A sales plan covers a lot of important aspects of business growth: revenue goals, selling methods and metrics, target customers, current sales force capabilities, and more.
Specifically, it covers 9 pieces of strategic information.
There’s No One Right Way to Create It
What usually comes to mind when you think about sales plans?
If you’re like most people, it’s the annual sales plan or weekly sales plan — broad strategic and tactical documents mapping out the plan for everything sales-related.
But there are as many different types of sales plans as there are needs for a sales plan. Here’s what I mean by that…
There’s the 30-60-90-day sales plan. This is designed to help a new salesperson or sales manager get up to speed quickly in their first quarter on the job. The plan includes milestones they’d need to achieve at the 30th, 60th, and 90th day of their ramp-up.
Another type of sales plan you’ll see a lot is an individual sales plan for specific sales tactics, such as prescribed call sequences, email follow-up frequency, and meeting appointments. This type of plan is similar to an annual/weekly sales plan, but it focuses on measuring and improving results for just one goal or task.
Meanwhile, sales managers who oversee a geo-location or region often use territory sales plans to give sales directors and VPs more visibility into their sales efforts.
And there are sales plans for every area of sales. Sales Enablement might have a sales training plan, for example, and Revenue Ops might have a sales compensation plan.
Lastly, a sales budget plan gives you a sales forecast for a given period based on factors that could impact revenue — like industry trends and entry to a new market segment. Similar to a traditional sales plan, they cover the staff, tools, marketing campaigns, and other resources needed to generate the target revenue.
The Benefits of a Sales Plan
A sales plan does deliver side benefits (such as promoting discipline and diligence), but it’s really about making sure your sales don’t dry up over time. Which means it’s not optional.
The reality is this: Most of us aren’t planners. We talk a good game, but nothing happens until we’re accountable.
Without a written plan, it’s just talk.
So the first benefit is of a sales plan is that it helps you execute on all your best ideas. But that’s not all. A good sales plan will also help you:
- Keep your sales team on the same page, aiming for the same target and focusing on the same priorities.
- Clarify your goals and revenue objectives for a given period.
- Give your team direction, focus, and purpose.
- Adopt a unified set of strategies and playbooks to reach your business and revenue goals.
- Know what your team capabilities are and be able to isolate your needs, from tools to talent and other resources.
- Inspire and motivate stakeholders.
- Track your progress and optimize performance over time.
How to Create a Sales Plan
A sales plan is a pretty straightforward document. It doesn’t need to be written in formal language or pass your compliance review. It just needs to outline your plans for the coming period, whether that’s a year, a quarter, or a month.
While there are 9 sections in the sales plan template, much of the document simply validates your ideas. The most important pieces of information are:
- Your goals
- Your SWAT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats)
- Your strategy
- The tactics you’ll use to execute on that strategy
Be aware, though, it’s not just a wish list or a collection of ideas. Your sales plan should be based on actual field data and only use benchmarks and quantities that are measurable. Be clear. Be specific. Be actionable.
Which brings me to another point: A good sales plan is realistic.
It’s fine to have a 5-year goal of hitting $10B. But what about now? Figure out exactly what your current numbers are, and set your targets based on those numbers.
If it helps, use goal-setting and planning frameworks such as SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound). Create goals that stretch your capabilities but that seem do-able based on your new strategy.
How to Write Your Sales Plan Document
I already mentioned that your sales plan doesn’t have to be a formal document. But it does need to be clearly written, so all team members and stakeholders understand the plan.
Here’s how to write a sales plan that’s both useful and usable:
- Use the Sales Plan Template I gave you above.
- Follow the prompts in the template, so you know what information is needed in each section.
- Don’t try to be fancy. Use simple language. Focus on being specific and clear.
- Share information in whatever format works best. That may be text paragraphs, tables, lists, charts, graphics, or screenshots.
- Adapt it as needed to suit your business, your sales team, and your needs.
When you sit down to write your sales plan, keep these tips in mind.
Base it on in-depth and updated research. You need relevant statistics and trends on your niche, industry, and ideal customers. Remember, markets and customers are in a constant state of flux. There’s nothing worse than stubbornly chasing prospects who aren’t a good fit anymore, while ignoring entire market segments that show a rising demand for your solutions.
Use that data to identify problem areas, find points of opportunity in your sales process, and validate your assumptions and ideas.
Verify your facts. Accuracy matters! Take time to review your facts, figures, and forecasts before finalizing the document.
Get tactical. Include a sales action plan for individual areas of sales: SDRs and account executives, sales ops, sales enablement, customer success, etc.
Use historical performance data to help you set targets for the current period. For example, what were your previous revenue targets? Did you hit them? Why or why not? This information can help you set achievable goals for your current sales plan.
List the tracking methods you’ll use to keep your plan moving forward. That includes performance metrics, monitoring techniques, and selling strategies for your business model.
Build a strong case for your proposed budget. Not only will you outline your plans for the coming period, you’ll need to detail the costs. Be sure to include an ROI analysis for any new tools or talent you think you’ll need.
Selling Your Sales Plan
Okay, your sales plan is written. Great! But you’re not done yet.
Your next step is to present it to the sales team, management, and stakeholders. That’s because you need buy-in to make it happen.
- When your sales team is on board, they’ll be pumped about doing their assigned tasks.
- When management is on board, they’ll be excited about giving you the budget you need to turn your plan into a reality.
With buy-in as your top priority, it’s important to be prepared to give a solid presentation. In other words, sell it.
One final note: There are lots of reasons you may not get everything you ask for. There may be plans in the works you don’t know anything about yet. Or the budget may need to favor another initiative.
If you don’t get the budget you asked for, be sure to update your sales plan accordingly. The goal is to stretch your team’s capabilities, not do the impossible.
Sales don’t happen without a good sales plan. Fortunately, they’re not as hard as they might seem.
Take your time identifying your biggest challenges and problem-solving to overcoming them. Once that’s done, your sales plan is simply the document that organizes your ideas.
What’s your biggest hang-up when it comes to creating a sales plan? Have you found any tricks that help? Let me know in the comments below.