In order to increase and maintain favorable sales numbers, it’s imperative that a business employ a sales plan. A sales plan is separate from a companies business plan, as a sales plan is used by the marketing department to keep track of progress in that department. Without a good sales plan, you’re risking much in the way of profit. Sales plans can help you to identify problem areas and the reasons why there are problem areas in your sales department.
A good sales plan can bring the sales staff together to the point where they are working together on goals, instead of wandering aimlessly, competing with one another. The purpose of this article is to give you a basic overview of what a sales plan is. However, always keep in mind that there is no one right way to put together a sales plan, as different companies will have different objectives. Suffice it to say that the elements listed below will put you on the right path in crafting your own best sales plan for your particular needs.
What is a Sales Plan?
A sales plan is an orderly way to outline the steps you are planning on reaching your sales goal for a specific time period. For instance, if you want your business to increase sales by 10 percent by the second quarter, then you will create a plan that will take you there. The plan must be very detailed. A detailed plan will reduce or eliminate the nightmare of assumptions by giving you and your sales staff instructions that will need to be followed. This is crucial because if you don’t meet your sales goal, you and your staff can examine the plan and eliminate the step which failed you.
A good sales plan will provide your sales staff with an effective strategy and the methods or tactics to use to obtain your sales goal. In other words, you’re engaging in business growth. Whether your sales strategy involves increasing sales by a certain percentage or increasing the number of units to be sold during a particular time period, having a systematic plan of action and methods to achieve that plan are outlined in the sales plan.
A sales plan template is a document that is kept on file for the purpose of filling out forms much easier. The format for the sales plan is preset.
Why Use a Sales Plan Template?
A sales plan template allows even those new to the organization the ability to fill out the form correctly. It’s a starting point, so to speak. This way, efficiency is maintained as the individual doesn’t have to start from scratch each time a sales plan is needed.
Sales Plan Templates & Examples
Essential Elements of a Sales Plan Template
In order to formulate an effective and efficient guide for your sales reps to follow, it’s crucial to organize a detailed sales plan template. Each plan will be unique to its company. However, most will have the following essential elements:
- Demographics: It goes without saying that you must know your customers. This is your demographics. For instance, if you’re involved in creating video games, your demographics may include individuals from ages 3 to 35. Broken down further, each specific video game will have its own demographics. A war game may have a demographic with a higher percentage of males over females, and so on.
- Milestones and Deliverables: Milestones refer to important dates in your sales plan, and deliverables refer to the items that have to be delivered on those dates. If you have a tactic involving promoting a product or company, that is your deliverable. The milestone is the date agreed upon to achieve that goal.
- Organization of Sales Staff: Each member of your sales staff must be mentioned, along with a summary of their duties.
- Marketing Landscape: What is the current atmosphere for your product or service. In other words, is the market for your product or service growing or shrinking?
- Sales profits: This is the amount of profit you seek to gain during a specific time period, such as a sales quarter.
- Strategies and Tactics: Every sales plan must address these two elements, or they can’t be considered a true sales plan. Strategies outline your plan of achieving the goals, while tactics are actions your team will take to get to the goal.
- Customer Conversion: What do you plan to do in order to take someone from the browsing stage to one of being an actual customer? This can include giveaways, contests, promotions, special deals.
- Action Plan: When all is said and done, it’s time for the action plan. Here, you’ll have to outline just how you plan to achieve your goals. Consider the action plan an easy-to-read summary of the steps you plan to get to where you want to go. Action plans have one or more objectives. For instance, say your objective is to increase knowledge of your company:
Objective A: Increase knowledge of the company
- Offer gift certificates or coupons
- Reach out to the community by offering to help with issues
Budget: This includes all the costs involved in reaching your goals. Whether it’s the cost of printing brochures or obtaining a radio spot, any and all costs must be factored in.
How to Write a Sales Plan
Now that you’ve got a good idea about what a sales plan is, it’s time for you to sit down and write one for yourself. First things first, grab a notebook and write down what you’ll need. To get started, jot down the following information:
- Mission and background
- The demographics of your target customers
- Financial goals
- Strategies and tactics
- Tools to be used to achieve your goals
- Your competitors
- Individuals on your team and what they are responsible for
- Deliverables and milestones
- Pricing and promotions
- Action Plan
- Describe the market landscape as it pertains to your good/service
- Each of the elements listed above will be used as a subheading. Beneath each subheading, input your own personal information. For instance, begin with your mission statement. Here is where you’ll outline the vision you have with regard to your goals. Include just why your business exists–what its purpose is? This doesn’t need to be any longer than a paragraph or two. Keep it simple. Also, you might also consider creating a vision board for your sales plan.
- Vision boards are boards that hold images of things you wish to accomplish. For example, if you’re a dog grooming company, then your vision board could hold images of dogs being groomed, dollar bill signs as they signify profit, an image of equipment you’ll need to purchase in order to achieve your goal and so on. When done, put it up in the office. Ideally, your vision board should be done before you start writing your plan. Don’t fret, as you’ll be able to add to it along the way.
- Once you’ve got your mission statement and vision board out of the way, it’s time to acknowledge your team. Simply enter the name of each member of your team and what they’ll be responsible for.
- Demographics come next. This is the group you foresee as using your good or service the most. Know their age, what they look like, their tendencies, and so on. Keep in mind that you’ll need to keep going over this information as you write your plan in order to keep up with any changes. Someone who didn’t fit in your demographic group yesterday might today.
- At this point, you need to consider the tools you’ll be using. Are you going to be using a certain piece of software or perhaps depend on various surveys? Also included in this section are training seminars for salespeople to attend to help them achieve the goals put forth, as well as money needed to be put aside for bonuses given for those who exceed their mark.
- What comes next is crucial: Know your competitors. Hold talks with your team; this way, you all get to know your competitors together. Find out and discuss why their offerings are better or worse than yours; look at the pricing. Keep an eye out for any changes in the way the market for your good or service is trending.
- Take a look at your notes, and write down all deliverables and milestones, as well as who will be responsible for them. In other words, if you require a member of your team to sell 10 apples using a specific tool or method, that is a deliverable. The milestone is the date that you’ll need to have the results by. This is not as easy as it sounds, as things often come up and must be dealt with. However, that’s all the more reason to keep track of your deliverables and milestones, for if you do not, you’ll risk your entire sales plan crashing by falling behind schedule.
- Pricing and promotions are next on the list. Talk with your team about any promotions they consider feasible. What promotions or incentives did your competitors use? Were they successful? Sales are all about generating leads, so what will you do to achieve that? Look at how pricing affects sales. If you charge too much, your competitor will take advantage of that to overtake you. If you don’t charge enough, you risk going out of business due to little or no profits.
- Layout your goals and the plan you will use to achieve them. Get as specific as possible regarding goals. There can be no room for assumptions here. All salespeople need to have a clear idea of what needs to be done, or there will be chaos. Once you outline your goals, describe how you will achieve each one. It’s a good idea to have each salesperson write up their own sales plan on how they plan to go about achieving their deliverable and meeting their milestone. This way, you have your department’s sales plan, which guides the entire team, plus each team member comes up with their own plan of action to tell the manager how they’ll go about achieving this.
- Finally, we come to budget. Keep track of everything, down to the last pencil and paperclip. If travel is required, then provide your salespeople with a travel log for reimbursement. If bonuses are included, then include them and the amount. Whatever costs are involved in reaching goals, this is where you tally them.
Tips for Creating a Sales Plan
- If you’re reading this, chances are you’re on the internet and use social media. Well, put the internet to work for you and your business. You can use the internet to find industry trends or sign up to Linkedin.
- Make the strategies and tactics taken by your competitors work for you. Take a look at what your competitors are doing or have done. If it worked for them, look into it. However, if the strategy doesn’t work for your competitors, avoid it.
- Research your industry. This doesn’t mean just looking at hard statistics; it means looking at the businesses which are going in the direction you’d like to go, so search YouTube for videos where the company leaders give talks and/or interviews as to how they achieved their goals.
- Customers can be fickle. They’ll spend a lot of cash on the latest hula hoop, then drop it like a hot potato when the next big thing comes along. This means that when developing your sales plan, you need to know your customers. This is why you’ll see businesses leave polls or survey’s on their websites. They need to know if their attention given to a product or service is waning or going strong.
- Encourage customers to leave reviews. This is a great way to gauge how your customers are reacting to your product or service.
- Encourage or require members of your sales team to draw up their own sales plans with their own goals, with strategies and tactics they plan on using to achieve those of the department or company.
- Constantly search for new and better tools to use when writing your sales plan. These tools can be anything from software packages to selling strategies. Encourage members of your team to shout out any tools they’ve found.
- Encourage members of your sales staff to report anything that works for them or new discoveries to the group. Ensure that your team members feel comfortable interacting with each other. This is a team effort, so use any method designed to encourage team interaction. Some businesses send their staff to retreats, lectures, and even escape rooms in order to facilitate interaction between staff.
- Be honest about costs. Keep a detailed record of your budget and how the money is to be used, as well as how it was actually used.
Once you’ve written your sales plan, it’s time to include the sales action plan. In other words, your sales plan outlines what you want to achieve, and the sales action plan outlines the journey you’ll need to take to get you there. So, the purpose of creating a sales action plan is to create an easy-to-follow summary of the steps you’ll take to achieve your goal, in this case, an increase in profits.
The first step in writing an action plan is to list your objectives. For instance, if your objective is to increase brand awareness of your good or service, you’ll list the objective, then follow up with steps to get you there:
I. Objective: Increase brand awareness
ᐅ Offer discounts
ᐅ Offer gift certificates
ᐅ Look into advertising
ᐅ Start a blog
ᐅ Hire a Search Engine Optimization, or SEO expert
ᐅ Develop a social media presence
As you can see, creating an action plan is quite simple. Just keep in mind that everything you put in the action plan must be ‘actionable’. This means that there’s no room for a talk. Consider the action plan on your “to do” list. Keep tabs on what worked and what didn’t.
Above we mentioned the word “actionable” and explained that the action plan should only include elements that could only be achieved via action. Hence, one huge benefit of a sales plan is to get people to stop talking and start doing. Once you track their progress, they’ll have a better idea of how their own performance measures up and what they can do to improve upon it. Other benefits include:
ᐅ All salespeople are kept abreast of what’s going on, and no one is left out of the loop. All team members center their energies on the same goal.
ᐅ The plan and results achieved build stakeholder confidence in you and your team
ᐅ Sales goals are always clearly laid out; no room for assumptions
ᐅ Encourages teamwork among the sales staff
ᐅ Progress can be tracked and placed on a graph for a valuable visual aid
Sales strategies are plans of action that the sales force will use to achieve a particular goal. A sales plan can have one major goal, to increase profit. The plan may also have secondary goals, such as how to achieve brand awareness. The steps you take to achieve both primary and secondary goals are your strategies.
Let’s face it; much work will be involved in creating this sales plan. So, one of the first things to keep in mind while writing it is that the sales plan you’re devising must be designed to grow with the company. You need to consider your sales plan as a living, breathing thing. In other words, it has to be open to changes and revisions based on whatever you and/or your staff discovers. Don’t be afraid to edit your sales plan by cutting ideas out of it. That idea might have worked for your competitors 10 years ago but is not likely to render positive results now. Also, remember to compile research results based on hard data and statistics, keep a budget, keep up with milestones and deliverables. Most of all, as tedious as it may sound, the sales plan is your friend, so treat it as such.