Without a sales plan, the lofty goals of business plans have trouble coming to life. Business plans often contain spreadsheets filled with optimistic numbers and outrageous revenue targets. What they rarely do is outline a strategy for getting there. A sales plan contains the granular details on how to make revenue goals a reality. A sales plan should be built based on the company’s vision, and can’t work unless each member of the sales team understands how his or her individual role helps the company reach its overall goals.
Beyond the Business Plan: What’s in a Sales Plan?
A sales plan acts as a road map to guide the goals established in the business plan. A business plan says that a company is going to turn over £5 million in three years. A good sales plan describes exactly who needs to take what action in order to make that happen. A sales plan should address:
- The makeup of the team — what does the sales team look like?
- The fundamentals of the sales strategy.
- The specifics regarding revenue, e.g.: is the company making money exclusively from direct sales, or are partners, introducers and referrers involved? Will there be third-party revenue sharing?
- Accountability and timelines — who is responsible for what, and by when?
- Contingency plans — what is Plan B if the original plan proves ineffective or unrealistic?
- Flexibility: What are the possible variations in pricing flexes and discounts?
- Resources: Is there a skills/capabilities gap that needs to be closed?
- The realities of the market: Do the products and services that are currently being promoted align with where the market and business are going?
- Quality vs. quantity: Is the team selling anything they can just to increase their numbers, or are they focused on selling the things that support the company vision?
The Foundation of a Sales Plan: 9 Key Elements
Now that you know what a sales plan includes, these are the steps needed to create one.
1. Analyze last year’s sales, revenues and marketing trends.
2. Establish your company’s vision goals and priorities for the upcoming year.
3. Establish your ideal customer profile and persona.
4. Break down your typical buyer’s purchasing journey into a timeline.
5. Evaluate your competitors, set your differentiators, and make sure that your sales team can articulate and leverage those differentiators during the sales process.
6. Review your website, marketing collateral and online marketing capabilities.
7. Update your sales process and proposal templates.
8. Put your sales and marketing strategy in writing.
9. Establish your budget.
It is important to note that sales plans dovetail into the needs, concerns and responsibilities of the marketing division. Since so many elements of a sales plan overlap with marketing (buyer’s journey, customer profiles, etc.), collaboration is crucial if the plan is going to be thorough and accurate.
A business plan is just a wish list unless it’s backed up by a sales plan. A sales plan provides direction, assigns responsibility and makes it possible for the sales team to function as a cohesive unit working toward a single goal.
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