How to Create a Successful Sales Plan
A sales plan outlines your goals, top-level sales techniques, target audience, and potential obstacles. It is similar to a traditional business plan but has a specific focus on sales strategy. Whereas a business plan defines your goals – a sales plan states exactly how you will achieve these goals.
The importance of having a sales plan
To achieve real sustainable growth for your business, you need to prepare an effective sales strategy, and this starts with preparing a solid sales plan that helps you:
- Define a set of sales goals for your business
- Choose sales strategies that fit your target market
- Define sales tactics for your sales team
- Energize, motivate and focus your sales team
- Budget and outline the steps you will take to achieve your goals
- Review your goals periodically and improve your sales methods.
The sales plan can be within the marketing plan or stand alone to direct the efforts of the sales force.
Most companies and businesses develop or update their sales plans periodically – every 6 or 12 months. Treat your sales plan as a “living” document that you can review and update regularly.
How to create a sales plan
This guide will help you prepare, implement and review your business sales plan:
Market study to increase sales
Understanding the market well is the first step to developing a good sales plan. To understand your market, you will need to conduct market research.
An effective sales plan relies heavily on market research.
You need to build a picture of your target market segments. And specify the following:
target market segments
The types of people in this market
What are the data and numbers in each slide?
Segment rankings according to past sales volume or potential sales volume.
Based on the market study, you have to explain the following:
* Why is there a demand for your product?
* Your current position in the market – strengths, weaknesses, opportunities or threats
* The strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of your competitors.
Your sales plan may also include market research on emerging or anticipated trends in your target market.
Use your marketing plan
Your marketing plan will influence your approach to sales from strategy to point of sale. A marketing plan also helps you:
* Build a reputation for your product
* Increase your customers’ awareness of your product’s ability to meet their needs
Make a list of assumptions to describe the facts or beliefs that affect your sales plan, such as:
* The number of customers you expect to retain
* Your competitors’ capabilities
* The amount of competition you have
* Resources to continue your operations
* Material and labor costs.
Periodic sales plan reviews will allow you to consider whether your assumptions remain relevant over time. If you find that your assumptions have changed, it’s time to make changes to your sales plan.
Sales forecasts and targets
Using your past sales history and market research, you can predict the number and value of sales you can expect. You can then set goals for the sales you want to achieve.
Record your annual sales performance for all your products. This will allow you to quantify your performance and make improvements to your sales strategies over time.
You can choose to keep more regular records – for example, weekly, monthly or quarterly.
If you are starting a new business, market research will help you find useful records about the sales performance of companies similar to yours.
Use your sales history and market research to project monthly forecasts of the sales you can expect to generate. It is important to set realistic expectations. Includes:
* How many new clients do you gain each year
* How many clients do you lose each year?
* What is the average sales volume per customer?
* What are the periods when you gain or lose more customers than usual?
* How many products do you sell annually or per month
* How many sales do you make in each market segment each year or each month?
* How much monthly sales do you expect by product or product line
* How much do you expect monthly sales by market segments.
Your sales targets indicate the sales you need to make in a given period to break even and start turning a profit.
You have to specify the sales targets that you want to achieve in the next year, quarterly or monthly, in a list by product and product line.
Try to set realistic sales goals for your sales plan.
You may also want to research available sales plan templates or sales planning software.
After you define your sales goals, you can develop strategies, tactics, and actions to achieve them.
Work out comprehensive strategies to increase your sales. For example, you can:
* Break into a new market segment by adapting an existing product to market
* Increase average sale per customer by 10% using incremental sales.
When developing your sales strategies, consider:
* your market sector
* Customer motivations and expectations
* Your ability to meet your customers’ expectations.
Sales Achievement Methods
Once you have developed your sales strategies, think about methods for implementing the strategies.
For example, you can:
* Find customers in a new market segment
* Train sales staff to provide complementary/additional sales.
Sales plan implementation procedures
To determine the steps and actions you will take to implement your business sales plan, you need to determine:
* Steps that you will take to implement the sales methods.
* Sales team members responsible for sales methods.
* When does each step begin and when does it end.
* How much will each procedure cost?
Verify that your business plan supports all sales strategies and tactics
Determine the budget
Allocate a budget for the operational procedures and steps that the sales plan will require. Record the total cost of implementing the plan. Make sure you have the funds to implement your sales plan. If you don’t, you have to adjust your sales tactics.
Ensure that the quantifiable benefits you expect to derive from your actions are greater than the costs you will incur.
Sales plan evaluation
A sales plan can help you monitor sales performance and make continuous improvements.
List your marketing goals, and specify the results you expect the marketing to achieve. These results are (numbers) that indicate whether or not you have achieved your goals. For example:
Goal: By the end of the third quarter, create awareness of the new market segment
Measure: Get responses from at least 2,000 potential customers
After inventorying your goals and estimates, specify in the sales plan a mechanism for regularly tracking and monitoring sales performance, and who will record and verify results and how.
This process allows you to check your sales performance over time and adjust your sales strategy and methods to improve sales.