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Using a clear, well-though-out sales plan to strategically drive success is a must in today’s competitive business environment. Created to lay out a company’s overall strategy for improving sales results in a specified timeframe, a sales plan will help sales leaders and entrepreneurs to:
Define a set of sales targets for their business.
Choose the approach that is most suitable for their target market.
Identify the best tactics to be employed by their sales team.
Outline roles and responsibilities for sales teams and senior management.
Motivate and guide the sales team.
Establish the budget and steps to be followed to hit the set targets.
Monitor the sales team’s progress on organizational goals.
Periodically review the set goals and adjust tactics accordingly.
To learn how to create an effective sales plan that actually impacts your sales, on this page you’ll find a series of essential facts to keep in mind along with a professionally-designed sales plan template that you can use for free to get started.
Given that a sales plan describes the high-level strategy that will provide the direction and means to drive more sales in the long run, it requires careful planning.
Here are the main seven steps to take in order to write an effective sales plan that gives you a clear vision of what you need to accomplish and an executable map for how to get there:
Covering several aspects of business growth, a typical sales plan includes the following sections:
Let’s dive deeper into some of the most frequently asked questions about sales plans.
To write an effective and comprehensive sales plan, we recommend the following these steps:
Clearly define the objectives in terms of sales volume, markets, prospect venues, etc.
Evaluate your current market position and available resources (conducting a SWOT analysis can help).
Define your sales tactics clearly (lead generation, marketing channels, client outreach programs, etc.).
Outline and communicate the roles and responsibilities within your sales team.
Liaise with other departments and bring the sales objectives to their attention.
Support the sales team with the tools they need to perform their tasks efficiently.
Set up a strategic direction on monitoring and evaluating progress.
Here are, broadly speaking, the 4 main types of sales strategies to choose from:
Also known as canned selling, script-based selling relies on the salesperson memorizing and delivering a pre-written pitch, with very little variation from customer to customer. It is an effective strategy when you’ve clearly defined a customer base with needs that don’t vary a great deal.
To employ this tactic, the salesperson asks the potential customer a set of questions aimed at identifying their problems and needs. The customer’s answer to the queries will help the sales rep tailor a pitch that focuses on addressing those specific needs. This tactic works well when the needs of the target audience vary, but the products are fairly standard.
Similar to the needs-satisfaction approach, consultative selling relies on questions to uncover the client’s needs. However, the distinction comes from the level of customization applicable to the solution. In other words, the salesperson relies on special expertise to address the customer’s issue by presenting a custom-built product.
Strategic partnerships take the relationship between seller and buyer to a whole new level. Both parties bring their resources and expertise to the table and collaborate in creating solutions that are synergistic with each other’s business.
In a rapidly changing socio-economic environment, marketing remains a ride or die element for success. Figuring out the market dynamics and planning accordingly will help your organization thrive, but special attention must also be paid to other related factors – like the 7 C’s of marketing:
Customer centricity – placing the client’s interest at the heart of the decision-making process;
Customer experience – creating a pleasant and memorable journey for the customer, starting with the first moment they learn about your company;
Customer journey – ensuring that the experience a person has with your organization transforms them into a loyal customer and/or a brand advocate;
Customer data – leveraging the power of analytics to help tailor optimal solutions for your client base;
Company culture – ensuring the personality of your business (brand voice, customer support, leadership) is in line with your audience’s preferences;
Consumer experience – paying attention to what your clients tend to remember about the brand after their purchase or interaction with the staff;
Consumer expectations – listening to your customers and finding out what they came to expect after repeated purchases or interactions.
A sales roadmap is the counterpart to the product roadmap that grows and evolves alongside your business. To be more specific, this document lists selling goals, tactics, and key deals, effectively mapping your sales’ trajectory. When you’re sitting down to create a sales roadmap, we recommend following these 5 steps:
Using data from previous sales, create a list of KPIs that are easy to understand for your team and mark goals using milestones;
Pick out major deals that have a high impact on your entire strategy and keep a channel of communication open with the sales reps handling them;
Define your sales pipeline, outlining all the contact points between your sales team and the customer from early prospecting to signing the deal;
Organize your roadmap using visual representations like a timeline or Gantt chart to get a better high-level view of your chosen strategy;
Once the roadmap is completed, share it with your sales team to ensure that everyone is on the same page.
Sales roadmaps are high-level business documents consisting of visual representations that outline all strategies and initiatives to promote and sell your company’s products. These documents offer an eagle-eye view of the sales within the organization, rather than focusing on specific customer interactions and deal pipelines. The role of a sales roadmap is to align all members of the sales, production, operations and marketing with the vision and goals set by the leadership. At the same time, their linear timeline nature makes them excellent tools to monitor progress and discover bottlenecks.
New entrepreneurs will, at times, believe that a sales roadmap is only required once their startup develops into a full-fledged powerhouse. After all, if you’re closing two or three deals a day at this stage, why do you really need to create one? As it turns out, there are multiple advantages to using a sales roadmap from the get-go:
Setting a clear strategy allows your sales team to focus on connecting with your customers through tried-and-tested tactics, rather than guessing and experimenting;
Identifying potential hurdles and bottlenecks early enables you to finetune your sales process;
Having a clear view of sales projections versus actual sales allows you to measure success accurately and tweak your expectations early on;
Aligning all team members ensures that everyone’s efforts are compounding, and nobody’s work goes to waste.
Sales plans are the type of documents that sound complex and frightening to newcomers, which is why the task of writing them often ends up being postponed or neglected entirely. Here are a few tips to get you started the right way:
Clearly define your high-level goals (profits, revenue, growth, etc.);
Identify more specific but realistic goals (expanding in a new market, a new target audience);
Take stock of your resources and compare them against your set goals;
Define your KPIs to help you keep track of what progress means for your business;
Don’t strive for perfection to avoid the dreaded analysis paralysis, just make sure your objectives are achievable and manageable.
Using a timeline framework helps you evaluate current progress against your set goals.
The sales cycle represents the iterative process used by the sales teams to transform leads into customers. Using a clearly defined sales cycle can help your reps in determining where they are in the process and what their next move should be. Here’s what the steps look like:
Finding the leads;
Contacting the leads;
Qualifying the leads;
Presenting available products to the prospective customers;
Closing the deal;
Follow-ups and nurturing the business relationship with the new customers.
When you’re sitting down to create the outline of a 30/60/90-day plan, here’s how you can go about it:
First 30 days: during this phase, your newly employed sales reps will focus on learning everything there is to know about your company, its mission, products, services and customer base.
Days 31 to 60: once the training phase is completed, it’s time for your salespeople to begin implementing what they’ve learned by interacting directly with the customers and tracking the designated KPIs;
Days 61 to 90: using your sales metrics of choice, you can evaluate the effectiveness of the training program and the employees in order to identify successes and areas of improvement.
Using timelines to map your employee’s journey through this cycle is an effective way to measure their progress.
Correctly selected sales goals can be extremely helpful both in defining a coherent business strategy and in aligning your sales team’s tactics with it. While there’s no cap to how many sales goals you create, it’s important to ensure they are clear, easy to understand, trackable and achievable. In other words, sales goals should be SMART goals.
Let’s look at some examples:
Achieve a month-on-month revenue increase of 15% over the following 6 months;
Reduce the duration of the sales cycle by 7% over the next 12 months;
Cut down the customer churn rate by 4% in 12 months;
Increase the generation of leads by 15% over the next 12 weeks;
Decrease the cost of new customer acquisition by 5% over the following 12 months.
These guidelines are applicable across the board to help you leverage the resources at your disposal in an optimal manner:
Embracing the digital revolution. The impressive rate of technological progress favours those who choose to adopt the digital transformation as part of their marketing strategy through means like advanced analytics, data security, KPI tracking, etc.
Optimizing the revenue generation pipeline. Analytics provide key insights into your sales cycle and allow you to optimize your processes to cut down unnecessary expenses, while dedicating more resources to efficient tactics.
Incentivize your sales reps. Once you have a sales strategy and KPIs in place, think about how you can align the incentives with it and reward the team for achieving those milestones.
Use a customer-centric approach to sales. You can increase brand loyalty and gain advocacy by branding yourself as a partner to your customers and fostering a relationship built on trust.
To maximize the chances of prospects turning into customers, here are five features to look for in your qualified leads:
They are aware there is a need that must be addressed;
They have a sense of urgency to find a solution for the uncovered need;
They possess the authority to purchase or make a commitment;
There is mutual trust between them and your sales representatives;
They are willing to listen to your pitch.
Sales leaders know that a good sales plan is essential in achieving sales and marketing goals. Illustrating a sales plan on a timeline with clear objectives laid out monthly, quarterly, or annually is an excellent tool for staying focused on strategic goals and tracking progress toward them.
The sales plan template was created for sales leaders, marketers and account executives who need to present their business plans to staff, sales teams and management. It can be customized to show campaign plans over days, weeks, months, quarters, or years. It presents these plans in a clear way that is easy for audiences to understand. The sales timeline template can be used as a visual aid to align organizations and management behind the key targets and deadlines of sales campaigns, or it can be used as a scorecard to present a plan’s attainment and progress against its objectives.
The sales plan template is simple to customize because it is built natively in the familiar Microsoft PowerPoint. It can be easily shared, edited and re-shared with anyone who has PowerPoint, so team members can quickly collaborate and contribute to the sales plan.
You can edit the sales timeline sample in PowerPoint by adding your own data to the slide’s placeholders and by moving the milestones and tasks manually. For quicker editing, you can download Office Timeline, a free timeline maker plug-in for PowerPoint which will update the sales plan template automatically right from inside PowerPoint. Office Timeline will also revise your slide instantly if your plan changes.
Getting your sales plan onto a visual slide is critical for presenting your strategy to management, but manually building it in PowerPoint can take a lot of time. Office Timeline makes this task simple, and it creates slides that are easily updated. This means sales and marketing professionals who need to outline important campaigns in an impressive way can do so in minutes, not hours.
Use the Office Timeline PowerPoint add-in to quickly update any of these timeline templates or create your own project visuals. Easily change the texts, dates, colors, shapes and styles of your timeline, right from inside PowerPoint.