Sunday, May 23, 2021

How to Create a Sales Plan

Entrepreneurs, sales managers, sales executives… Everyone needs a solid sales plan to drive their income, hit their targets, and scale their business.

But a sales plan is not possible without a comprehensive sales strategy—one that covers everything from your target audience to employee morale to prospecting.

Moreover, effective strategizing and creating a sales plan is easier said than done, as not only do you need to define your sales goals but also know how you’re going to reach them.

Luckily, things won’t be that hard when you have the right guidance. Read on as I show you how to create a sales plan that empowers your sales team to perform at their highest level.

What to Expect When Creating a Sales Plan

You can have an excellent sales plan to drive profits if you follow a few simple—and not-so-simple—steps.

Here’s how you can nail your sales plan template:

  • Step 1 — Forecast Potential Sales and Set Realistic Goals
  • Step 2 — Research Your Market and Target Audience
  • Step 3 — Chalk Out Your Customer Journey and Value Propositions
  • Step 4 — Start Prospecting and Developing Strategic Partnerships
  • Step 5 — Track, Measure, and Adjust

The Good

Creating a sales plan can seem intimidating. After all, there are so many nuances to consider, understand, and master.

But the thing is, there are hundreds of companies who’ve already created sales plans, leaving you with plenty of inspiration. You can mix and match different ideas to build a sales plan that is straightforward, unique, and, most importantly, effective.

Better results are another advantage. Every person in the organization will know their role, what needs to be done, and how to do it. Ultimately, this will give you more positive outcomes in the form of higher sales and improved customer relationships.

The Bad

Creating a sales plan is still a challenging job.

You have to put in a lot of time and effort, which also involves lots of trial and error to zero on strategies that work best for your target audience and niche.

Moreover, your market research needs to be absolutely thorough and accurate since it serves as the basis of your business decisions. If any part of your data is wrong, you’ll end up making bad decisions, which will have a negative impact on your business.

Your sales team plays a very crucial role in your business’s success and growth. You can have the best possible sales plan, but you won’t see conversions if your employees don’t do their part.

This makes things slightly tricky, but it’s something you can handle by hiring the right people who are passionate, dedicated, and knowledgeable.

Do you see why your employees are your biggest asset?

Let’s finally discuss the whole point of this article: How to create the absolute best sales plan for your business.

Step 1: Forecast Potential Sales and Set Realistic Goals

Having an end goal is a crucial aspect of a sales plan template, where everyone in your organization works towards achieving it. But while you’re at it, you must consider your target market size, the available resources, and employee experience.

Understand Your Company’s Market Positioning

Here’s a list of tasks to familiarize yourself with your company‘s positioning. This will help you figure out what you want your organization to achieve and where to position your brand in the market.

  • Talk to your marketing team to get deeper insights about demand generation, performance marketing, and other issues you think can help you understand your company positioning better.
  • Interview your customer support reps to learn common questions and pain points of your target audience.
  • Speak to your existing customers to find out what they love (and what they don’t) about your product or service.
  • Go through your social media profiles—articles, features, and press mentions—to see how other people talk about your brand.

Then sit down and think about everything you’ve learned. Try to come up with a list of questions to understand what your company stands for and why it exists in the market better. Here are a few examples:

  • Which insights would you consider most important from your research when creating a positioning statement?
  • What core values and ideals do you think caused your company to make XYZ promises in the positioning statement?
  • Why did your company position itself in XYZ ways? Does doing that give you a competitive edge over your rivals? If yes, how?
  • Do you think your objectives will change down the line?

Think hard about the answers to these questions. They will help you define your revenue goals, along with other targets, to skyrocket your sales.

Set Realistic Goals and Targets

Goals are essential to shaping your strategy, which is why it’s better to base them on sales activities and past performance data.

I recommend breaking down your revenue goal into sales targets and activity targets so that it’s easier for your team to know what to expect. While your goals can be anything you want, here are a few ideas:

  • Sending 250 cold emails per week
  • Making 200 cold calls per week
  • Conducting 20 demos per week
  • Sending 60 follow-up emails every week
  • Setting 10 new sales appointments every week

Just avoid wishful thinking and ignore your assumptions when setting up goals. Don’t forget to consult your sales team as they are the best people when it comes to knowing your customers.

Define Clear Deadlines and Milestones

Having clear deadlines and manageable milestones will motivate your sales teams to work harder and keep team morale high.

So you must include the total estimated time you think it’ll take on every activity and define targets for other metrics, like conversion rates between pipeline stages.

You can use last year’s numbers to track how your sales revenues have increased and compare them to industry standards. Talking to your sales team about the process can also help. Ask them what they’re currently on and how much bandwidth they have to do more.

Start working on your milestones next. Here, you can be as specific as you want, with your cut goals and deadlines. For instance, you might want to increase sales by 30% for a newly launched product or increase your customer base by 25%.

Setting individual milestones for your sales teams is another excellent practice.

If someone on your team is making a lot of calls but isn’t able to close deals, give them the milestone of upping their close rate. If someone isn’t doing enough outreach, give them a milestone of contacting 7-10 new prospects a month.

Regardless of the milestones you choose, just be clear about your expectations and set hard deadlines.

Step 2: Research Your Market and Target Audience

At this stage, you know the goals you want to hit. Formulating the nitty-gritty of your sales plan should be next on your agenda.

Disclaimer: Be prepared to do A LOT of research.

Find Your Niche

Knowing your market niche gives you a better shot at scaling your business and achieving your established goals. But before getting into any more details, let’s understand what we mean by a business niche.

Your niche is what your business specializes in, including your products, content, company culture, and message. It’s how people will identify your brand and look for you over your competition.

Many people think that choosing a niche will limit their business, but they couldn’t have been more wrong. A niche doesn’t put any restrictions on you ever. Instead, it puts the focus on you.

Here’s how to select the right niche for your business:

  • Consider the market size.
  • Think about the overall demand for what you plan to sell.
  • Do a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) of your current market position.
  • Find out about your competitors, and do a SWOT analysis for them.

The more visibility you have in your niche, the more likely it’s for you to hit your goals and milestones.

Study Your Target Customers

No matter how much time and effort you spend, you won’t see any results if you focus on the wrong prospects.

Your target customers are where you should focus your efforts, and the best way to start is to find all the information you can about them. Their likes, dislikes, preferences, pain points, geographical location, you should know everything. No joke.

But how do you determine your target audience?

The first step is to create an ideal customer profile. Make a list of traits you think will define your target audience best. Consider the company size, operating industry, geographical information, job title, age, etc.

This will help you qualify and disqualify leads, ensuring the optimal utilization of your time and effort.

The next step is to get in your customer‘s head to learn to speak their language and develop a similar vision and culture. Weigh in on the following questions:

  • Is your target customer on social media? What network do they prefer?
  • Do they follow any groups on social media?
  • Do you have time to answer industry-specific questions for them on Quora or Reddit?
  • What podcasts do they listen to, and what resources do they read?

Getting in your customer’s heads can take time. But when you do, you’ll better understand their behavior, which will ultimately assure you better results.

Step 3: Chalk Out Your Customer Journey and Value Propositions

You know what your customer looks like. Now, you have to figure out how to convert them into paying customers.

You have to know how to map out your customer’s journey from a prospect to a loyal customer for this, as well as figure out your value proposition to separate your brand from all the white noise.

Ask Your Prospects Insightful Questions

The first step in the mapping journey is to ask basic questions about your prospects. Think about what they want from your product. What features do they consider most important, and why? What’s their budget?

Once that’s done, question customers about their past buying experiences.

Find out when was the last time they purchased a product or service that was similar to what you sell and whether they had a good or bad experience with it.

How did they make the purchase decisions? Did they evaluate different offers? What were the deciding factors that made them choose that particular product? What can you do to make them your customer?

Put your prospect in a future-thinking state of mind to uncover potential roadblocks and accelerate the sales process. Ask them to imagine that they are buying from you before answering your questions.

Define Your Value Propositions

Let’s summarize a bit here. At this point, you know your customers, and you know their journey. Congrats!

But you’re still missing a competitive advantage that gives prospects an incentive to buy from you and not your competitors.

Your competitive advantage is what makes you unique. It’s why articulating it is an incredibly crucial phase of every sales plan template. Below, I’ve compiled a list of simple questions to define your competitive advantage:

  • Why do you think customers buy from your brand?
  • Why do customers buy from your competitors and not you?
  • Why are some customers not buying anything at all?
  • What do you think should be done to become successful in the future?

When drafting the value prop, keep the following factors in mind:

  • It should reflect your business’s USP over the competitors
  • It should be unique, simple, and easy-to-understand
  • Keep updating it from time to time to keep it fresh and attention-grabbing

If there’s anything that I’ve learned during my extensive career, it’s that customers don’t buy features—they buy benefits. So it’s best to come up with a value proposition that talks about what your product or service can do for your customers.

Remember, your competitive advantage isn’t just a crucial part of a sales plan, but it’s also a guiding factor. It’ll influence everything your team does moving forward. Take it seriously.

Step 4: Start Prospecting and Developing Strategic Partnerships

Here you’ll do all your prospecting and establish client relationships.

This part of writing the sales plan is important because it tells your team what they should do to generate leads and how they should behave to convert prospects into paying customers.

Create a Prospect List

Before you begin sales prospecting, you must have a list of people you can reach out to.

A prospect list is like a directory of real people who could be interested in what you have to offer. Honestly, this is a time-consuming task, but it’s crucial to drive a sales plan and boost your company’s growth.

Wondering how to start building one? Taking all your research from the last few steps and putting them into action.

Target up to five people at every company. You can search LinkedIn, attend networking events, do simple Google searches, or check out local business networks.

Don’t just randomly select people when making your target list, though. Only people that qualify as your prospects and are worth the effort should be on it.

Leverage Current and Past Client Relationships

Your current clientele can be a massive source of business—whether from referrals, word-of-mouth publicity, or brand. Not leveraging your existing customers is missing out on a huge opportunity.

Find people who can introduce you to one or more prospects. You can also reach out to loyal customers and ask them if they could refer anyone who would benefit from your product or service.

In exchange, you can offer them a referral bonus or discount.

When you talk to your current and past clients, make sure they feel comfortable. If someone isn’t able to help you, remain cordial and stay in touch with them. You never know when an opportunity can open up.

Step 5: Track, Measure, and Adjust

No sales plan is foolproof. So even if you have a solid sales plan in place, you can’t sit back and use it for the upcoming years as it is.

Inertia is the biggest enemy in almost every sales-related situation. It’s why you need an up-to-date and dynamic sales plan backed by a dedicated team to push through any friction and hit all your goals fast.

Replace Bad Tactics With Good Ones

Try to assess your sales plan regularly and keep evolving it to eliminate mistakes and include good tactics.

The rule is simple: Keep adjusting, improving, and enhancing.

Update your document by making changes to adapt to new features and market trends, and include new team members, if applicable.

from Quick Sprout