A sales plan is a document used to establish sales objectives and develop strategies necessary to achieve them. Typically, this document establishes a plan for revenue growth and other measurements of success. Sales plans consist of sections outlining goals, identifying key customer attributes, and listing necessary strategies, tools, metrics, and estimated expenses.
A sales plan works best when you are able to regularly review its performance. Once you have completed your sales plan, you can use a customer relationship management (CRM) tool like Freshsales to view customizable reports on your sales plans, including visual sales reports, sales cycle and velocity reports, trendline reporting, report scheduling, and more. Sign up today for a 21-day free trial to learn more.
Free Sales Plan Template
Sales plans don’t have to be complicated documents. However, they do require that you take time to think through several aspects of your business. To help, we’ve created a free downloadable sales plan template that is broken out into seven standard sections. Use this sales plan template as well as the information below to create your own unique plan, based on the needs of your business.
The seven specific steps needed to create your sales plan include:
1. Outline Your Mission & Objectives
Start by outlining your company mission statement, as well as your sales objectives, in terms of growth. This section will serve as the foundation of your sales plan, defining your unique selling proposition and thus making it critically important to your plan’s success because it will guide your future sales efforts.
Before you go too far, be sure you have clearly defined your mission statement, which is a formal statement describing what your business stands for and what it aims to achieve. An example of a good mission statement is:
“We provide customers with cutting-edge digital marketing solutions with best-in-class technical support at a profit to our shareholders.”
A mission statement should be the framework for all strategic planning and a cornerstone of your sales management practices.
Establish Your Sales Objectives
Sales objectives are goals supporting the company’s growth a year from now, as well as years in the future, in terms of revenue, market share, or profit margin. By establishing these sales goals, you are explaining what success will look like in the clearest terms while also giving your team targets to rally around.
Next, describe your sales objectives using the SMART format:
Start by creating one to three SMART objectives for your plan’s first year. What is it you hope to achieve in terms of growth a year from now? Once you have stated your objective, describe how the objective will be measured as well as how often you intend to audit the objective’s progress.
2. Describe Your Sales Team’s Roles & Responsibilities
Your sales plan should list the roles of your sales team as well as any separate marketing and agency support. Summarize the responsibilities of each role or their expected contribution to the sales process. Next, list the names of the individual team members and their personal key performance indicators (KPIs). This step benefits the team by providing clear expectations for performance and details how they will be held accountable.
In addition to the team’s direct sales activities, you should also list indirect sales responsibilities. Some examples of indirect sales responsibilities include website enablement, running lead acquisition campaigns, and developing sales collateral.
3. Define Your Customer Focus
You want to clearly describe the key characteristics of your ideal customer. There are three things to consider in this section, which include building a profile of your ideal customer, describing their expected buying patterns or creditworthiness, and defining your anticipated sales territory. This will be used to identify prospects, prioritize sales efforts, and create a customer-centric business.
Here are the things you should do in order to define your customer focus:
Build Your Ideal Customer Persona
A customer profile is a general description of your ideal customer. In this section, summarize the attributes of customers that you are targeting. This includes demographics, which not only describe a population in terms of location, age, and gender, but should also include psychographics, or the things that might influence their attitudes, aspirations, or other behavior like interests and lifestyle.
You may have more than one ideal customer profile if you have a high mix of products or services. For more information, we have an article on how to create a customer persona, which includes additional templates and examples for your reference.
For example, if you’re using a business-to-consumer (B2C) sales model, your ideal customer profile will include attributes such as gender, age, family life, homeownership status, income, education, interests, and available sales channels. To describe your ideal customer in a business-to-business (B2B) sales model, include additional information, such as relevant job titles, key responsibilities, memberships, clubs, and the communication channels they use.
Describe Customer Buying Patterns
Thinking about your ideal customer organization is only relevant to business-to-business (B2B) sales, and this step can be skipped if that’s not your business model. Describe the type of organization you are targeting. This is the organization where your ideal customer works or is the customer itself. Typical criteria include company size by annual revenue, company size by the number of employees, and relevant Industries.
Define Your Sales Territory
For both B2B and business-to-consumer (B2C) businesses, define the sales territories where you expect to find your ideal customer. This should be a concise description of the geographic region that you are going to operate within and why you believe it will support your sales goals. It may be that you also want to define a list of named accounts to each salesperson or focus them on a specific market niche.
4. Consider Your Strategies & Tactics
This section of your sales plan template is where you define the longer-term strategies and day-to-day tactics you’ll use to acquire new business as well as grow business with existing customers. These are the tasks your team will use to execute your sales plan and acquire or grow ideal customers outlined in the step above.
Once you have established your strategies and tactics, it is a good idea to create a dashboard that displays progress against your plan at a glance. Freshsales allows you to easily track the progress of your opportunities, create tasks to help you reach your goals, and filter deals by sales reps to develop the most effective sales strategies. Sign up for a free 21-day free trial.
In addition to offering revenue growth potential, new business acquisition strategies help reduce risk by minimizing your reliance on a single account. In your sales plan, list strategies for adding new customer or prospect information that fit your ideal customer profile to your sales pipeline. Then, identify at least two tasks that will be performed by members of the sales team on a daily or weekly basis to help them meet their sales quota.
Here are examples of three business acquisition strategies you can use in a sales plan template:
Manage Sales Quotas
- Make no less than 20 cold calls of introduction to new prospects each week
- Make no less than 6 face-to-face contacts with new prospects each week
- Make no less than 3 pitch presentations each week
Increase Awareness for Products, Services & Solutions
- Participate in no less than three professional associations in which my best prospects and customers belong
- Attend all trade shows and conventions that my best prospects and customers attend
- Purchase the mailing list of these associations and send a letter of introduction
Obtain Referrals From New Customers
- Within 30 days of delivering my product or service, I will follow up with each of my new customers to ensure that they are satisfied
- 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 send at least three customer referrals
In addition, we have compiled a list of sales strategy tips that can help you get started. Those tips, along with those in this article, should be considered as you build out the strategy that makes the most sense for your business.
5. List Your Sales Plan Tools & Systems
Use this section to summarize the systems and tools that will be used to support the successful implementation of your sales plan. This will ensure your sales process is managed and activities are performed using the best methods.
Here are three common types of tools that can help you create a sales plan:
Customer Relationship Management Software
CRM software lets you manage sales activity in real-time, measure performance, access information quickly, and may allow you to make updates even when you are away from the office. If the ability to access data in real-time isn’t enough, some CRMs allow you to structure your sales pipeline into meaningful stages and measure every aspect of your plan as you implement it, without needing to create additional sales reports.
Contact management software helps streamline your sales process by keeping relevant information about contacts such as title, relationship details, and call notes in one central place. Freshsales CRM manages all of your relevant information and can be accessed via the mobile app when you’re on the go. Visit Freshsales for a 21-day free trial.
Video Conferencing Software
While some sales meetings take place in person, as our society becomes more digital, video meeting are more popular. Every sales team should choose video conferencing software that helps them engage with prospects and customers to move the sales process forward.
There are many affordable video conferencing software choices available. For example, Zoom offers a free version for meetings up to 40 minutes and has affordable plans for longer meetings.
Scheduling meetings manually can be difficult when you’re working with a lot of customers and prospects. Fortunately, there are many programs available that can help automate the process, eliminating the back and forth of finding a convenient meeting time.
For example, Calendly is software that automatically connects to your calendar, so customers and prospects know when you’re free to meet. You can simply send them your personal Calendly link and they can choose a meeting time, after which it’s automatically put onto both of your calendars.
6. Assign Your Sales Plan Metrics
Once you have decided upon your sales objectives, decide how to measure your sales performance to monitor the health of your sales plan and meet those sales objectives. You do this by establishing a sales process, defining the critical steps in each stage, and then describing success in terms of conversion rates and resource time or process flow.
For example, common metrics you will measure on a monthly or quarterly basis include:
- Year-over-year (YOY) revenue: How do your sales this year compare at the same time to last year’s sales?
- New business revenue: Track your monthly and quarterly revenue coming in from new accounts.
- Individual sales rep performance: Monitor the performance of each sales rep by tracking their monthly, quarterly, and YOY sales targets.
- Recurring revenue: Track how much revenue is coming in from current accounts (loyal customers).
- Customer churn: Monitor how many customers you are losing to churn on a regular basis. If your churn goes up significantly, you’ll know you need to analyze the reasons and create a win-back campaign.
“We wanted to ensure that the entire team knew what our strategic objectives were so that they 1) understood how their work fit into the company’s long-term plans, and 2) had a context through which they could better understand the decisions the executive team make. Interestingly, while we did not change what we do as a business, it was helpful (and interesting) to hear how other team members viewed what we did and what we should be doing.
“Now we are more focused on our strategic objectives and therefore less likely to get distracted by those things that do not speak to what we are committed to be. This helps us better serve our all of customers—external, internal, and our partners.”
– Michael Owens, President of DNA Group
7. Create Your Sales Plan Budget
A sales plan cannot help you achieve your sales objectives if the plan costs more than your business is expected to earn. By itemizing expected costs, you will be better able to measure the anticipated return on your investment. Not all expenses are recurring, which is why it is also a good idea to break your budget out into one-time expenditures as well as ongoing costs.
Some examples of the major budget items to include are sales team salaries, commissions, and service subscription costs like CRM, LinkedIn, and video conferencing (which are listed as examples in the sales plan template). You should also include additional costs like the purchase of prospect lists, travel expenses, and telephone or other equipment expenses (which are also listed). Once you have defined your budget, set a schedule to periodically revisit it for accuracy.
Pro tip: It’s a good idea to include sales promotions in your budget plan. Learn about creative sales promotion ideas from the pros.
Sales Plan Best Practices
While a sales plan offers several potential benefits, the creation of a strategic plan takes time away from sales activities. Therefore, you want to make sure your plan doesn’t become just another document in your filing cabinet. To do this, make sure your sales plan is built around measurable metrics, treated as a living document, and is simple to understand.
Consider the following best practices as you build your sales plan:
Measure What You Want to Manage
Good salespeople want to be measured because it demonstrates how hard they work and how good they are at their job. On the other hand, without clear and quantifiable metrics, poor performance is more difficult to correct, making salespeople less accountable. Your ability to manage your team effectively maximizes the plan’s overall chance for success.
For instance, if you hire a business development executive to help with first contact cold calling and follow-up, but you have no way of measuring how many calls they make each day, how are you going to manage this person? Implement some kind of measurement, such as the number of calls they make each day or how many appointments they secure.
Make Your Sales Plan a Living Document
Once your plan has been established, it should become the tool that guides your sales team on a week-to-week basis. 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.
Keep It Simple
Your sales plan should be simple without leaving out any essential elements. 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 output. So make your plan about the key 20% that drives 80% of your performance, and the rest should naturally follow.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What is a sales plan?
A sales plan is a formal document that outlines a company’s mission, goals, and general strategy for growing revenue. This document should be regularly reviewed and adjusted based on current marketing conditions and any changes in any business model.
How is a sales plan different from a sales management plan?
A sales management plan is an internal-facing strategic document that defines how sales teams will be recruited, trained, managed, and compensated. Additionally, this plan outlines how revenue generated from the execution of the sales plan will be reinvested into the company through staff development, training, or other managerial tools. A sales plan, on the other hand, is a more global strategy that helps guide your processes, goals, and team member roles.
How can I increase sales with a sales plan?
You can increase sales by better targeting customers through careful examination of the market, selling with a clear, defined message, and by prioritizing your efforts to focus on the opportunities with the highest chance for success.
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. Whether you create your own or use the sales plan template we’ve provided, it should be the lifeblood of any small business sales process and, as a result, requires a dedicated focus.
Once written, your sales plan can be put into practice using a CRM tool like Freshsales. Freshsales offers a free plan with paid plans starting at $12 per user, per month. It makes it easy to measure and manage your progress against your sales objectives with automated processes, reminders, and robust collaboration. Click here for a 21-day free trial.