How to write a sales plan

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What’s a sales plan?

A sales plan lays out your objectives, high-level tactics, target audience, and potential obstacles. It’s like a traditional business plan but focuses specifically on your sales strategy. A business plan lays out your goals -- a sales plan describes exactly how you’ll make those happen.

Who writes sales plans?

Entrepreneurs, sales executives, and sales managers all benefit from writing sales plans -- whether for their business, department, or team.

What is a sales plan template?

A typical sales plan includes the following sections:

  • Target customers
  • Revenue targets
  • Strategies and tactics
  • Pricing and promotions
  • Deadlines and DRIs (Directly Responsible Individuals)
  • Team structure
  • Resources
  • Market conditions
  • Buyer personas

Whether you’re writing your first sales plan or your fifteenth, knowing your target demographic is crucial. What do your best customers look like? Do they all belong to a specific industry? Exceed a certain size? Struggle with the same challenge?

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Keep in mind you might have different buyer personas for different products. For example, HubSpot salespeople might primarily sell marketing software to CMOs and sales software to sales directors.

This section of your sales plan can also change dramatically over time as your solution and strategy evolves and you find product-market fit. In the very beginning, when your product was in its infancy and your prices were low, you may have found success selling to startups. Now that the product is far more robust and you’ve raised the price, mid-market companies are likely a better fit. That’s why it’s important to consistently review and update your personas.

Sales plan targets

Most sales goals are revenue-based. For example, you might set a total target of $10 million in annual recurring revenue (ARR).

Alternatively, you can set a volume goal. That could be 100 new customers or 450 sales.

Make sure your objective is realistic, otherwise your entire sales plan will be largely useless. Factor in your product’s price, total addressable market (TAM), market penetration, and resources (including your sales headcount and Marketing support).

Your goal should also be closely tied to your high-level business goals; to give you an idea, if the company is trying to move upmarket, your goal might be “Acquire 20 Enterprise logos” rather than “Sell X in new business” (because the former will encourage you to solely chase deals rather than focus on the right type of customers).

Of course, you’ll probably have more than one goal. Identify the most important, then rank the rest by priority.

If you have territories, assign a sub-goal to each. That will make it easier to identify over- and under-performers.

Strategies and tactics

Once you’ve outlined where you want to go, you must figure out how you’ll get there. This section summarises your game plan for hitting your revenue targets.

Here are a few examples:

  • Objective: Increase referral rates by 30% this quarter
  • Run three-day referral techniques workshop
  • Hold sales contest for referral sales
  • Increase commission on referral sales by 5%
  • Objective: Acquire 20 Enterprise logos
  • Identify 100 potential prospects and assign tiger team to each
  • Hold two executive-level events
  • Give bonus to first team to win three logos
  • Expenses
    • Describe the costs associated with hitting your sales goals. That usually includes:
    • Pay (salary and commission)
    • Sales training
    • Sales tools
    • Contest prizes
    • Team bonding activities
    • Travel costs
    • Food
    • Pricing and promotions
  • In this section, describe your pricing and any promotions you’re planning on running. Note the impact on sales.

Here’s a mock version:

 

Product A: Increasing price from $40 to $45 on Feb. 2 (2% reduction in monthly sales)

Product B: Free upgrade if you refer another customer from Jan. 1-20 (20% increase in monthly sales)

Product C: Decreasing price from $430 to $400 on March 1 (15% increase in monthly sales)

Product D: No change

Deadlines and DRIs

Lay out your timeline. Having regular benchmarks ensures you’ll know if you’re on track, ahead, or behind in meeting your targets.

 

Suppose your sales goal for the first quarter of the year is selling $30,000. Based on last year’s performance, you know January and February sales are slower than March.

 

With that in mind, your timeline is:

January: $8,000

February: $8,000

March: $14,000

You should also write in the DRIs if applicable. For example, maybe Rep Carol’s January quota is $5,000. Rep Shane, who’s still ramping, has a $3,000 monthly quota. On a smaller team, this exercise helps people avoid replicating each other’s work -- and shifting blame around if targets aren’t met.

 

Team structure/resources

Next, describe who is on your team and what their roles are. Perhaps you manage five salespeople and work closely with a sales enablement professional and a sales ops specialist.

If you’re planning on adding headcount, include the number of employees, their job titles, and when you’re planning to bring them on the team.

You should also include a description of your resources. Do you have a budget for sales contests and incentives? Marketing budget? The ability to send reps to President’s Club?

Market conditions

Now, name your competitors. Explain how your products compare, where theirs are stronger than yours, and vice versa. In addition, discuss their pricing versus yours.

You should also discuss market trends. If you’re a SaaS company, you should note vertical-specific software is becoming more popular. If you sell ads, mention the rise in programmatic mobile advertising. Try to predict how these changes will influence your business.

There’s no one-size-fits-all sales plan. Customize this template to fit your needs, organization, and goals. The only wrong way to use a sales plan is to write it at the start of the year or quarter and never touch it again; you should periodically review and even update it as time goes on to ensure you’re focused and on-track.

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Create a sales plan

A sales plan is a strategy that sets out sales targets and tactics for your business, and identifies the steps you will take to meet your targets.

A sales plan will help you:

  • define a set of sales targets for your business
  • choose sales strategies that are suited to your target market
  • identify sales tactics for your sales team
  • activate, motivate and focus your sales team
  • budget and clarify steps you'll take to achieve your targets
  • review your goals periodically and improve your approaches to sales.
  • A sales plan sits within, or alongside, a marketing plan to direct the efforts of your sales team.

 Most businesses develop or update sales plans periodically - every 6 or 12 months. Treat your sales plan as a 'living' document that you can revise regularly.

 This guide explains the importance of having a sales plan, and will help you develop, implement and review your business's sales plan.

sing market research to increase sales

Understanding your market is your first step to developing a good sales plan. To understand your market you will need to carry out market research.

 Market research

An effective sales plan relies heavily on market research.

 Summarise your business's target market segments. Describe:

  •  your target market segments
  • the types of people in that market
  • the numbers in each market segment
  • segment classifications according to previous sales volume or potential sales volume.

Based on your market research, explain:

  • why there is a demand for what you're selling
  • your current market position - including any strengths, weaknesses, opportunities or threats
  • your competitors' strengths, weakness, opportunities and threats.
  • Your sales plan might also include market research about emerging or forecasted trends in your chosen market.

Learn more about market and customer research.

Using your marketing plan

Marketing is positioning your business's reputation in a way that ideally matches your chosen market's needs and wants.

Your marketing plan will help you:

  • define and build your chosen business reputation
  • increase your customers' awareness of your ability to meet their needs
  • communicate with your customers in the way that increases your customers' opinion of and reliance on your business.
  • Your marketing plan will influence your approach to sales from strategy to point of sale.

Market assumptions

Make a list of assumptions to describe the facts or beliefs that influence your sales plan, such as the:

  • number of customers you expect to retain
  • capabilities of your competitors
  • amount of competition you have
  • resources required to continue your operations
  • costs of materials and labour.

Your periodical sales plan reviews will allow you to consider whether your assumptions remain relevant over time. If you find your assumptions have changed, it might also be time to make changes to your sales plan.

 

Sales forecasts and targets

Using your sales history and market research, you can forecast the number and value of sales you expect to make. You can then set targets for the sales you would like to make and figure out ways to achieve your target.

Sales history

Record your business's yearly sales performance by product sales. This allows you to determine your performance and make improvements to your sales strategies over time.

You may choose to keep more regular records - for instance, weekly, monthly or quarterly.

If you are starting a new business, market research will help you find useful records about sales performance in businesses similar to yours.

Sales forecasts

Use your sales history or market research to forecast month-by-month predictions of the sales you expect to achieve. List them by product or product line and market segment.

It is important to make realistic forecasts. Include:

  •  how many new customers you gain each year
  • how many customers you lose each year
  • what your average volume of sales is to each customer
  • particular months where you win or lose more customers than usual
  • how many products you sell per year or per month
  • how many sales you make to each market segment per year or per month
  • how many sales per month you expect to achieve by product or product line
  • how many sales per month you expect to achieve by market segment.

Sales targets

Your sales targets indicate the sales you need to make in a given period to break even and make a profit.

Identify the sales targets you wish to achieve in the year ahead, by quarter and month, listing in order of product and product line.

Learn how to set realistic sales targets for your sales plan.

You may also like to search for sales plan templates or available sales planning software.

Also consider...

Find out about your competitive advantage.

Learn more about sales skills.

Read about how the sales process works.

 Sales strategies and planning

After identifying your sales targets, you can work out strategies, tactics and actions to achieve them.

 Sales strategies

Identify overarching strategies for increasing sales in your business. For example, you could:

  •  break into a new market segment by adapting an existing product for the market
  • boost the average sale per customer by 10% using add-on sales.
  • When developing your sales strategies, think about:
  • your market segment
  • your customers' motivations and expectations
  • your capacity to meet your customers' expectations.

Sales tactics

Once you've developed your sales strategies, think about tactics to implement your strategies.

For example, you could:

  • find customers in a new market segment
  • train sales staff in offering add-on sales.
  • Using your marketing plan

Your marketing plan considers the market your customers are in, and defines how you communicate to that market. Its strategies set out:

  •  the messages you will communicate
  • your products or services
  • your marketing objectives, tools and tactics.

Your sales plan identifies how you will approach and sell to your customers. Your sales plan strategies set out:

  •  your approach to attracting new customers
  • your plan to increase existing customer sales
  • your plan for achieving new targets and increasing your profit margin.

Sales action plan

The actions section of your sales plan will identify and list:

  •  the steps you will take to implement your sales tactics
  • the sales team members responsible for implementing your tactics, by location
  • when each action will start and finish
  • how much each action will cost.
  • Check that your action plan supports all your strategies and tactics.

Budget allocation

Allocate a budget for actions within your plan. Record the total cost of your actions. Be sure that you have the funds to implement your sales plan. If you don't, refine your tactics.

Conduct a cost-benefit analysis. Make sure the quantifiable benefits you expect to receive from your actions are greater than the costs they will incur.

 Also consider...

  • Find out how to use social media to market your business.
  • Learn more about branding your business.
  • Read about how to respond to competition.
  • Discover how to become an innovative business.

 

Communicate and monitor your plan

Once you've developed a sales plan, it's important to communicate it effectively to your staff, customers and suppliers so they can help you achieve your sales goals. Your sales plan also needs to identify steps you will take to assess its effectiveness. Remember, your sales plan is a living document and needs to be regularly monitored and updated.

 

Communicating your sales plan

Your sales team

The success of your sales plan rests on your sales team. Your sales team can't achieve your sales plan targets unless they thoroughly understand the plan. Your sales plan should describe how you will communicate the plan to your staff and how you will train them to implement your plan's actions.

 

Think about what your team needs to know. This includes:

 the sales targets, strategies and tactics in your sales plan

  • how to determine what motivates their customers to buy
  • how you will measure their results
  • how they will be rewarded.
  • Your customers and suppliers

It's also important to think about any impacts your tactics will have on your customers or suppliers. Ask yourself:

 Will your customers' orders or buying patterns be affected by your plan?

  • Will supplier production or delivery need to change to implement your tactics and actions?
  • Identify the steps you will take to communicate changes to your customers and suppliers.

 Monitoring your sales plan

Your sales plan can help you monitor your sales performance and make ongoing improvements.

Listing your marketing objectives, identify the results you expect your marketing to achieve. These results are measures (numbers) that indicate whether you have achieved your objectives. For example:

Objective: By the end of the third quarter, create awareness in the new identified target

Measure: Obtain responses from at least 2000 new sales leads

After listing your objectives and measures, identify in your sales plan how you will monitor sales results, who will record and check results and how regularly.

This information will allow you to check your sales performance over time and adjust your tactics to improve sales results.

 

 

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