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Does Your Business Need a Sales Plan?

Everyone in business, whether B2B or B2C, knows that a meticulously crafted business plan is the foundation for success. It’s also a necessity for attracting investors, executives, or bank loans. A business plan is a company’s roadmap to its goals, and not working with one is like leaving the house on a cross-country trip without first getting directions.

“We’ll just follow the signs and figure it out as we go,” you might say with a shrug. This approach might eventually get you to where you want to go, but your trip will go much more smoothly with a little bit of planning. A business plan gives you a roadmap to your destination. It’s more than just a map, really; a business plan will help you determine exactly how long you’ll be on the road, how much you’ll spend on gas, and when you should leave to avoid traffic.

The usefulness of a business plan may be obvious, but have you also considered the importance of a more specific sales plan, distinct from your overall business plan? A business plan outlines a company’s overall goals and how it seeks to achieve them, but a sales plan does the same for a sales department, setting goals for specific timeframes and giving focus and clarity to your sales strategies. While a business plan will get your business started, a sales plan will keep it going, month after month.

What Is a Sales Plan?

A sales plan is a document that outlines the goals of a company’s sales department. A business plan makes a case for the viability of a business, while a sales plan helps you maintain that viability in an ever-evolving sales landscape, where new variables force course corrections every day. The audience for a business plan might be outside investors or internal executives and management, while a sales plan sets goals and strategy for a sales team.

Depending on your short-term and long-term sales goals, your sales plan can focus on different objectives. A typical sales plan will target a period of time, setting goals for 30, 90, or 365-day periods, or any period of time in between. Once you’ve determined the period of time you are focused on, you can set revenue or growth targets. Next, decide what your sales focus will be for this period. Types of sales plans include:

Business Development Plan: Focuses on networking and outreach. While such efforts should ultimately result in increased sales, business development doesn’t involve sales strategies directly. Networking efforts will lead to expanded brand awareness and new partnerships, which will translate to sales. Plans can include attending trade shows, using social listening tools to track consumer awareness and engagement on social media, and measuring and speeding up customer response time.

Customer Retention Plan: Focuses on retaining and nurturing customer relationships. KPIs include email newsletter subscriptions, text messaging opt-ins, email open rates, click rates, social media engagement rates, and repeat sales generated through these channels. These strategies aren’t just for B2C companies, either. Engagement, community building, and personalized content are even more important for B2B companies, which might have more personal engagement and frequent communication with customers than B2C businesses.

Product Launch Plan: Focuses on the critical window surrounding the launch of a new product. Conduct analysis of the competition, plan advertising, update your web and social media presence, and educate your sales team on messaging.

Once you have specific goals in mind, create Individual Action Plans by assigning tasks and goals to each member of your sales and marketing teams.

As with every good plan, it is also important to look back to previous sales periods and analyze what you did well and what areas need improvement. In addition to your own team’s performance, also consider overall market trends that may positively or negatively influence outcomes.

How to Write a Sales Plan

How you put this information together is up to you, but every sales plan should answer some key questions, listed below.

  • What period of time does the sales plan cover?
  • What are our revenue targets?
  • How did we approach this problem previously, and how have other companies approached this problem?
  • How will market factors and trends affect our performance?
  • How will we communicate with customers and clients?
  • Who will communicate with customers and clients?
  • What additional resources do we need?
  • What are individual team members responsible for?
  • How do we judge success or failure?

However you approach the sales plan, remember that it is a living document. It’s not something you write once and follow to the letter; it has to be updated and reevaluated with the feedback coming from your sales team. Just as important as making plans and setting goals is knowing when to revise the goal or deviate from the plan.

In every aspect of business, explicit, written plans are great tools for achieving your goals. After all, how can you achieve a goal if you aren’t able to clearly state what that goal is? Sales plans give your sales department a focus, something to work towards, and something to come back to if they’re feeling lost or getting wrapped up in something less important.

The amount of strategizing and analysis that goes into a sales plan can be overwhelming. Do you have any additional tips for organizing and implementing a successful sales plan?