Five Steps to Create a Successful Sales Plan

Sales and marketing are two functions in your business that need to operate in a tight partnership. Yet, we tend to think of them as very different cultures and processes.

Marketing is traditionally viewed as a planning-driven function, whereas sales is generally seen as an action-driven function. You may need to plan for advertising or a new website, but sales is all about ‘getting out there’. It may come as a surprise, then, to learn that the companies with the most successful sales teams are those that view sales, like marketing, as a planning-driven function as well.

Effectively creating a professional sales plan for your business will give your sales people clear goals; provide them with a process; and enable them to increase the consistency and reliability of their activities as sales people representing your company. The following five elements are critical to successful sales planning for any business:

1. Set Sales Goals

To establish your sales goals, start with what you know today. For example, what are your core “break-even” expenses? What are your costs and average profit-dollars per sale? What profit margin is necessary to support growth? How is pricing set, and how can it be made more flexible or effective? Then, do the math to arrive at how many sales are needed to stay in the black and grow your company.

2. Identify Your ‘Ideal’ Prospect/Customer

How can you identify an ‘ideal’ prospect? Start with the customers who have most benefitted from your business, and the people you LOVE to work with, who bring a realistic profit margin. What do these customers have in common, both in terms of needs they have and benefits they gain from your products or services? Develop this list clearly, so you can focus your marketing efforts and resources in going after other ‘ideal’ fit prospects. And remember: all of the ‘less than ideal’ prospects will find you anyway.

3. Create a Sales Activity Plan

Your sales activity and behavior plan will be a guide that spells out the amounts and different types of sales generating actions that must be taken to reach your sales goal. A key component here will be standard ratios you will use to set the process in place. For example, X number of initial contacts  will yield Y number of appointments made, which will yield Z number of sales, which which will yield other opportunities to sell to the same customer or to people they refer you to. The activities you perform — and the behaviors you use (such as the tone or style of follow-up emails and the agreed-upon internal ‘best practices’ for when and how to make follow-up calls) will set the stage for success.

4. Track Your Sales Activity & Behavior

Follow the actions that ultimately result in sales, and develop your own personal sales statistics (Initial calls to appointments ratio, and appointments to sales ratio). Knowledge is power. This tracking allows you to accurately assess the effectiveness of your sales behaviors, and adjust/change them based on “live data” in order to maximize your sales efforts. In order to make this easier, it is important to consider implementing a contact management or Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system that can help you and your team track performance.

5. Review Your Progress

Conduct weekly and monthly reviews of your sales progress so you know where you stand at all times in relation to your goal. This helps eliminate the kind of negative ‘surprises’ no one wants to experience when it’s too late to do anything about them. Remember, a monthly sales quota review meeting is not the time to discover that the sales team is missing its goals. Rather, continuous review and feedback — both between you and your sales team, and within the team itself — is essential. If one sales person is experiencing particularly good results with a given approach or behavior, that needs to be shared with the team as quickly as possible.

These five steps will guide you on an effective path toward sales success — for yourself, and for your team. By setting clear goals, focusing effort on the best prospects, and then planning the work (and working the plan), your team will feel more confident; work more efficiently; and bring your business closer to your growth vision.

Learn how Sales4You can help you create a dynamic sales plan through our Sales Planning services.