A sales plan is a strategic document that sets out your sales goals and objectives and then goes on to share the tactics, focused on both new and existing customers, that you will use to achieve them. Metrics are also included to explain how you will objectively measure your progress in achieving your objectives. A good sales plan also covers the resources required to execute the sales plan.
While most small businesses create some kind of business plan, the sales plan is often overlooked. In this article we explain how to create your own sales plan using our free sales plan template to help underpin your small business success. We’ll also show you how a CRM such as Pipedrive can help you manage the plan from start to finish. Click here to start a free trial and see how it can help boost your results!
Sales Plan Template
A sales plan template is used to guide the process of generating your sales plan. You can use our free sales plan template below (DOCX) to begin creating your sales plan. Simply download, open in Microsoft Word or Google Docs, and begin filling it in.
Once you have completed your sales plan using the sales plan template above, I would strongly recommend enabling it in a small business CRM tool like Pipedrive and meeting with your sales team on a weekly basis to review your progress. This is because the most common mistake is to create a great sales plan, but to fail to ensure that it is executed on a consistent week-to-week basis.
What Should My Sales Plan Include?
Below we outline each of the sections a sales plan should include. Remember to follow along with your own sales plan template document.
Section 1: Sales Plan Template – Objectives
In this section, you’ll define the goals you want to achieve during the timespan of the sales plan.
When a goal is specific and measurable, it is much more likely to be achieved. This is because the objective become crystal clear not only to the person responsible for achieving it but also for the person whose role it is to make sure that things get done.
So what is a SMART objective? When we say that a goal needs to be SMART, we mean that it has to be:
In the sales plan template, we provide you with examples of SMART objectives, which you can reference prior to creating your own.
Section 2: Sales Plan Template – Customer Focus
In this section you want to clearly describe the 3 key dimensions of your customer sales focus. This can be summarized as follows:
In this section, summarize the ideal customer that you are targeting. You may have more than one of these.
A customer profile is a generalized description of your ideal customer. For example to describe your ideal B2B customer, you are likely to include the following:
- Relevant job titles
- Key responsibilities
- Memberships and clubs e.g. Chamber of Commerce
- Channels attended e.g. phone, email, LinkedIn, Twitter
If you run a B2B sales operation, in this section you want to describe the type of organization you are targeting. Typical criteria include:
- Company size by annual revenue
- Company size by number of employees
- Relevant Industries e.g. professional services, business services
This should be a simple and concise description of the geographic region that you are going to operation within. It maybe that you also want to define a list of named accounts to each salesperson or focus them on a specific market niche.
Section 3: Sales Plan Template – Strategies & Tactics
This section is where you will probably need to spend the most time as it defines your strategies (i.e. plans required to accomplish your objectives) and your tactics (the required steps to execute the plan).
There are 2 parts to a sales plan:
- New business acquisition strategies and tactics
- Existing business growth strategies and tactics
New Business Acquisition Strategies & Tactics
In this section you need to list your strategies for capturing new customers.
To help you get started I have listed 3 strategies that you might put in place if you were running a b2b sales operation:
1. Exceed sales quota.
- Send no less than xx letters of introduction to new prospects each week.
- Make no less than xx cold calls of introduction to new prospects each week.
- Make no less than xx face-to-face contacts with new prospects each week.
- Create no less than xx proposals each week.
- Make no less than x pitch presentations each week.
Your numbers need to stretch the team to maximize their potential, but at the same time they also need to be realistic. What’s important here is that you calculate exactly how many contacts you’ll need to make in order to achieve your sales revenue objective.
If you have a sales team, then you will want to understand what sales quota each salesperson can realistically achieve.
2. Increase awareness in the marketplace of my products, services and solutions.
- Join and participate in no less than three professional associations and organizations that my best prospects and customers belong to.
- Attend any and all trade shows and conventions that my best prospects and customers attend.
- Purchase the mailing list of these associations and organizations and send either a postcard or a letter of introduction.
3. Obtain referrals from new customers.
- Within 30 days of delivering my product, service or solution, I will follow-up each of my new customers to ensure that they are delighted with the product or service that I have sold them.
- If they are not delighted I will aim to resolve this so that I can go back to seek customer referrals at a later date.
- If they are delighted, I will ask them to at least 3 customer referrals.
We have written a separate article, which outlines how to create an efficient and effective referral program for your business.
Existing Customer Business Strategies & Tactics
In this section you need to list your strategies for growing existing customer accounts.
To help you get started I have listed 2 strategies that you might put in place if you were running a b2b sales operation. These strategies should be designed to capture high-margin, add-on business from your existing customers:
1. Create a touch-point program.
- Contact each of my existing customers no less than once per month with a new idea they cannot get from anyone else.
- Create a user-group within my existing customer base.
- Take at least 3 customers to lunch each month and invite a customer prospect to join us.
2. Prospect within my existing customer base.
- Introduce myself to no less than 3 departments or divisions within each of my existing customer accounts.
- Ask each of my existing customer contacts to introduce me to one other person within their organization.
- Personally meet the top executive at each of my existing customers’ businesses.
Section 4: Sales Plan Template – Tools & Systems
In this section, you should summarize the systems and tools that you will require to support the successful implementation of your b2b sales plan.
The core processes and systems that you will need to outline include:
- Weekly sales progress meeting process to review progress against plan
- A CRM system to enable your plan and generate sales plan metrics
- Communication tools e.g. phone system, email, LinkedIn, etc.
Section 5: Sales Plan Template – Metrics
Once you have decided upon your sales objectives, you need to work out how to measure your progress against achieving each of these.
I strongly recommend creating a sales pipeline that identifies with each stage of developing your new business leads and also with sourcing further sales opportunities within existing customer accounts.
The key metrics that you will want to measure include:
- Conversion rates for each stage in your sales process
- The reasons for sales opportunities being lost at each stage
- How long it takes for a sales opportunity to pass through each stage
- The win rate i.e. the percentage of all leads that convert into sales
To learn more about the metrics you require to support your plan, I recommend reading our article on sales metrics.
Section 6: Sales Plan Template – Team
In this section you need to list each member of the core sales team and summarize their role, responsibility and personal KPIs.
If you have separate marketing and/ or marketing agency support. I would also go on to describe this support team as your sales performance will suffer if they are not properly considered and put in place to support things like:
- Website enablement
- Lead acquisition campaigns
- Sales collateral development
Section 7: Sales Plan Template – Budget
List all costs that you will need to incur to support the achievement of your sales objectives. Let me start with some obvious costs that you are likely to incur to help you get started:
- Sales team salaries
- Sales team commissions
- CRM tool monthly subscription costs
- LinkedIn subscription costs
- Video conference tool monthly subscription
- List purchase costs
- Travel expenses
- Telephone expenses
What is the Purpose of a Sales Plan?
In a large business, the purpose of a sales plan is often dominated by the need for budget approval. After which, it’s usually put in a file until it’s time to report on performance at the end of the year.
In a small business, the purpose of a sales plan is quite different. A good small business sales plan will enable your small business to:
- Learn from your past performance
- Create structure, discipline & focus
- Consult with and align the rest of your team
- Measure progress in realtime
- Enable sales management tools
- Work more cohesively as a team
Let’s take a closer look some of these benefits in more detail to understand better why you are investing your time to create a proper sales plan:
Learn From Your Past Performance
One of the best ways to improve sales is to reflect on your own past performance and use this to help improve your future performance and drive increased sales and profits. While you could do this without a formalized process, adopting a sales plan will make it much easier to measure, test and improve your performance.
Create Structure, Discipline & Focus
Sales works best when experienced sales people are given responsibility and freedom within a clear framework. You need good individual performance, but you also need to balance this with working as a sales team to ensure that your sales objectives and revenue targets are achieved. Without some structure, discipline and focus applied to sales, your business will run the risk of cash-flow difficulties and potentially much larger problems.
Consult With & Align The Rest Of Your Team
Without a plan, it’s likely that each member of the sales team will have a slightly different idea of what you are aiming to achieve, how you are going to go about achieving it and what success will look like.
Consulting with everyone who will be involved with the plan helps to ensure their buy-in and commitment to delivering it. It also allows other teams like marketing, for instance, to understand what sales is trying to achieve so that they can properly align and support the achievement of sales objectives.
What You Measure You Can Manage
An essential aspect of any good sales plan is not only what you set out to achieve and the sales strategies and tactics that you deploy, but also the way that you will measure and manage your sales progress. Breaking progress down into milestones and activities allows an experienced sales manager to:
- Identify when the business is underachieving
- Diagnose accurately what is causing this
- Take action early to resolve this swiftly
Increasingly, small businesses are creating their sales plan and then enabling this within a small business sales CRM system like Pipedrive which allows most aspects of the sales plan to be measured and managed in real-time.
What Guiding Principles Need To Be Followed?
Hopefully it’s now clear just how crucial your sales plan will be to future success of your small business. However, not just any old sales plan will do. I have provided you with a sales plan template that you can use to create your own sales plan. But first, it’s important to understand the key principles that must be respected if your sales plan is going to provide you with a solid foundation that you can rely on to deliver the right outcomes.
Only Manage What You Measure
Whether you are a business owner needing to manage your own time or a sales manager needing to manage your sales exec’s performance, it’s impossible to manage what you cannot measure.
Do not be persuaded away from this principle. Good salespeople want to be measured because it allows that to demonstrate how hard they work and how good they are at their job. Poor salespeople want to muddy the water to make themselves less accountable if things do not work out.
For instance, if you hire a pre-sales executive to help with first contact cold calling and follow-up and you have no way of measuring how many calls they make each day, how are you going to manage this person? The simple answer is that you will not be managing them; they will be managing themselves. Instead, you need to implement some kind of measurement. This could be the number of calls they make each day, or how many appointments they secure, or both.
I would recommend not including anything in your plan that you cannot measure effectively.
Make Your Sales Plan A Living Document
The idea of creating any kind of plan and then putting it in a file and forgetting about it is insane. Your plan needs to be the start of a process that kick-starts and guides your sales team on a week-to-week basis. Whether you are a one person business managing yourself or running a sales team with 20 people in it, the principle is equally important.
This is because you have paid down some great ideas about what you need to achieve and how you are going to achieve it and so this needs to stay top of mind.
Your plan also needs to be built into your sales operations so that you have all the checks and balances and reporting mechanisms on hand to help you to execute your plan efficiently and effectively.
Successful small businesses increasingly use CRM tools like Pipedrive to support the execution of their sales plan.
Keep It Simple
The sales plan for a small business should be as simple as possible without leaving out any of the essential elements. Typically I would not expect it to be any longer that 6 pages long. The reason for this is that there are lots of things that you could include, but if you apply the 80:20 rule, there are only so many things that you should include.
The principle of this rule is that 20% of your activity achieves 80% of your outputs. So make your plan about the key 20% that drives 80% of your performance and the rest should naturally follow.
For example, at FSM, each employee has rocks to shift each quarter. The thinking is that if we first lift the rocks into place, we can then pour over the sand and it will fill the cracks. If we do it the other way round, we’re left with gaps between the rocks.
Who Should Be Involved in Creating the Sales Plan?
I would recommend involving anyone who is involved in delivering the sales plan in helping to create it. However, this does not mean that you necessarily want to get other people to draft it from scratch and this can lead to a loss of control and focus.
Personally, I favor setting the objectives and then consulting with my team to ensure that these are realistic and have their buy-in. We then tend to work together to determine the strategies and tactics that will best achieve the objectives. This might involve salespeople, marketing folks and maybe an external consultant or agency to bring more fresh ideas to the game, or to help challenge our thinking.
How to Enable Your Sales Plan
Given the tools that are currently available to small business, it makes absolutely no sense to try and run small business sales as a paper exercise. This is because there are now a good range of free CRM tools, mobile CRM tools and paid CRM tools available at prices that small businesses can afford.
Most CRM tools are easy to use without requiring any technical skills. What’s more they allow you to structure your sales pipeline into meaningful stages and measure every aspect of your plan as you implement it without the need to put any additional time into creating sales reports.
There are many benefits to gain from using a good small business CRM tool. Not least the ability to:
- Manage your sales plan activity in real time – with the whole team being able to see the same realtime view. The more people in your team the more important this becomes, especially if you have more than one salesperson dealing with the same prospect of account. CRM allows that to get a real time update from the system, which reduces to need to update each other outside of sales meetings.
- Measure all of your sales plan activity – without the need to do any extra work, most good systems will provide you with reports that will allow you to measure all of your key sales activity. For instance you can run sales conversion reports, sales stage activity reports and reports of the reasons why sales opportunities are lost. Take a look at our more in-depth article on sales metrics if you would like to learn more about sales metrics.
- Run more effective sales progress meetings – More and more small businesses use their CRM sales pipeline dashboard as the agenda to their weekly sales progress meeting. The sales manager has all the information that they need at their fingertips to review each key stage of the pipeline. Not only for the team as a whole, but also the performance of each salesperson.
If your team operate in the field them mobile CRM tools may suit them better as these will allow them to meet with prospects and add action notes and updates back to the system from their mobile whilst they are travelling.
The Bottom Line
A sales plan is an essential tool for startups and small businesses. While this sometimes gets merged into the overall business plan, it makes much more sense to break out your sales plan as a separate document. Sales revenue is the lifeblood for any small business and, as a result, requires its own focus.
This article, and the sales plan template that I have provided, will provide you with everything that you need to create your own sales plan. Don’t forget to follow the guiding principles as these are essential to creating the sort of sales plan that you can rely upon to underpin your business success.
Finally, make sure to enable your sales plan within a small business CRM tool like Pipedrive. CRM tools will help you to bring your sales plan to life. They will also make it easy for you to measure and manage your progress against your sales objectives. Click below to start your free trial: