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How To Create An Effective Sales Plan That Works

Sales plans are a necessity for any business owner. They outline what you want to accomplish next year and how many customers you need to reach that goal. The right sales plan will help you achieve your objective and help you be better prepared for the future.

This article will break down how to create a sales plan to help your company achieve its goals.

By following along and taking action, you can outline a sales plan that can help your business reach all the necessary goals by the end of the article.

Let's get right into it.

What Exactly Is A Sales Plan?

A sales plan is a document outlining your company's goals, objectives, and strategies. It includes what you hope to accomplish next year, how many customers you'll need to reach this goal and your marketing strategy.

One way to start drafting a sales plan is by listing out all of your current products or services on one side of the page with descriptions for each product or service. On the other side of the page, write down why these items are valuable to potential customers. Then use this information as an outline for creating a sales plan to help you achieve your goals.

How Does A Sales Plan Benefit You And Your business?

A sales plan is very beneficial to you and your company because it focuses on what's essential to reaching goals, making decisions, and planning. It also helps prevent unnecessary expenses from being made.

A good sales plan can offer your business several benefits, such as the following.

Helps You Reach Your Company's Goals

Creating a sales plan will help you to set goals for your company and ensure that those goals are achieved.

Goals that are not well-defined end up ignored because it is difficult to judge whether or not such goals have been reached.

For example, your sales plan may have a goal of increasing revenue by ten percent for this year. Without a sales plan, you would never know if you met that goal. However, you can review your progress and determine whether or not you hit your target with one.

It Helps You Stay Organized And Focused

Creating a list of all the tasks required to achieve your company's goals will help keep you on track and prevent distractions from taking over; instead, you'll dedicate time to work towards essential milestones in the business.

It Helps You Stay Organized And Focused

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Being organized and focused will help you become more efficient with your time, allowing you to make the most of each day.

It Prevents You From Wasting Time On Unproductive Activities

You will be less likely to waste time doing things that do not contribute to reaching your goal if you have created a sales plan with all crucial tasks outlined.

Productivity is the name of the game when it comes to starting and growing your business. By creating a sales plan, you can ensure that you spend all of your time doing things that matter.

Keeps You Accountable

Creating a sales plan will hold you accountable for reaching your goals because if you fall behind, it will be visible in the plan, so there is no excuse to do so.

When tasks are completed, they should be marked off or crossed out to keep track of progress, so nothing slips through the cracks.

It Helps You Track Your Progress

As mentioned before, marking items on a list as complete when handled helps maintain accountability. Still, it also offers other benefits, such as easier tracking of progress, allowing you to shift your goals if needed.

Reviewing all of the tasks you have completed during the week, month, or year will help you spot patterns in your work that you can use for future projects. You'll also notice when specific projects take longer than others, and you can use this information to streamline your future efforts.

Ensures That All Members Of Your Sales Team Are On The Same Page

If everyone is working towards the same goal but following their path without the right communication, it's easy for people to become frustrated.

It's essential for everyone involved in a project to know why they are doing what they do so they understand how their role contributes to reaching the final goal. Creating a sales plan ensures that everyone knows exactly what

It Gives You A Roadmap To Follow

Another benefit of a sales plan is that it gives you a roadmap to follow as you work towards your goals.

Each step in the process should be outlined so that nothing falls through the cracks and everything remains on track.

It Gives You A Roadmap To Follow

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A roadmap as part of a sales strategy will help you map out the best possible course of action to take and ensure that you arrive at your destination quickly and efficiently.

Step By Step To Creating A Strategic Sales Plan That Works

Now that we've looked at the benefits of sales planning let's look at the steps involved in creating one for your business.

As I go along with each step, I'll also give an example that you can follow to build your own sales plan template.

Define Your Targets

Your target market is the whole reason you are working to develop a sales plan in the first place, so it makes sense that this is step one.

Before writing anything down, sit down and talk with your team members about who your target market is. Make sure everyone agrees on what group of people to target before moving forward.

Once you've all come together on this, there are several different ways to create an outline for your target market section in your sales plan. The easiest way would be to create a bulleted list of your target audience's demographics (i.e., age, gender, location, household income). These can later be used when researching how best to advertise or promote your business online.

Creating lists like this will give you a clear idea of the kind of customers you want to reach, and it will help streamline your future marketing campaigns.

For example, let's say that we run a jewelry company and we want to reach middle-aged women in the United States that live in a two-income household. The demographics of our target market will be:

  • Age: 35-55 years old
  • Gender: female
  • Location: United States
  • Household income: $75,000 or more per year

Once we have this list, we can refer back to it at any point while creating our sales plan.

Understand Your Market

Your various sales strategies and advertising campaigns will be much more effective if you understand what your market wants and needs.

You can research this information by reading reviews of similar products online, surveying your target market, or even just asking them what they want in a product or service that isn't currently available.

This understanding will help you develop the content and products that your target market will be enticed by.

For example, our research might show that women in our target market are looking for ways to express their individuality while maintaining an overall sense of style. They also want unique pieces that they won't find at other retail stores.

This means that our business plan will revolve around providing our target market with one-of-a-kind pieces, so they don't have to shop around.

We also know that this demographic is looking for flexibility in their style, so we should offer stylish but versatile accessories to appeal to them even more.

Identify Your Strategy

To achieve our business revenue goals, our sales department needs to have a strategy that will help get us there. An excellent place to start would be simply identifying the current method of sales that your company has been using and how successful it has been at bringing in new business.

Sometimes, a change of strategy is needed if you want to reach your revenue goals more quickly or with less effort than you've previously experienced. It could also be that your current system is working fine, but you need to make sure that you adjust it as your target market's needs change.

If the current strategy isn't bringing in enough business, there are several ways to find a new one. You could start by simply surveying your customers to find out their opinions on what changes they would like to see, or you could set up focus groups with your target market.

This would allow you to get more quality feedback on how they feel about your products and what would make them want to buy more. You can also do some of this research yourself by reading reviews or combing through social media channels for comments or insights that stand out to you in particular.

In our example, imagine we've been selling jewelry through an online storefront for five years, but we want to reach a wider audience and generate more revenue. We might look at our current strategy and see that our website has been getting around 5,000 visitors per month.

This isn't bad, but it's not enough to make us the amount of income we want or get us closer to our revenue goals. We might decide to implement a social media strategy so that more of our target audience (i.e., ladies between 35-55 years old) can see our jewelry and interact with the products on offer. We would then use this as a platform to generate buzz and excitement about our upcoming sales.

Craft A Compelling Message

If closing more deals and achieving new business revenue are our goals, then having a compelling message will be crucial to our success.

Some questions we might ask:

  • What do we stand for as a business?
  • What makes us compelling to our current and potential customers?
  • How can we make people buy from us instead of our competitors?

If you don't know the answers to these questions, then really dig deep and craft them before moving on in your sales plan. This will ensure that everyone in your business is on the same page and that your current and potential customers know what you want them to know.

Craft A Compelling Message

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In our example, let's say that we've identified that we sell budget-friendly pieces without sacrificing style. We also offer free shipping and returns for all orders within 30 days, so no matter how many pieces someone buys from us at once, they don't have to worry about paying any extra fees for shipping.

These are the kinds of details that a potential customer would want to know before buying from a new e-commerce website, so we should make sure that they're highlighted in our message and kept front-and-center throughout our sales plan.

If you’re just starting an eCommerce business, knowing how to craft a compelling message is a particulary useful skill.

Develop An Offer That Stands Out

Sales managers need to understand that a product by itself is not an offer.

In a traditional business plan, closing deals revolved around having a product and shoving it in people's faces until they bought it.

But in today's market, that will never cut it. Consumers are inundated with offers every single day, and if they're not finding yours unique or exciting in some way, then you'll lose them to the competition.

In our example jewelry business, we might find that a lot of our target audience does not just stop at buying one type of jewelry, say necklaces.

They also love to look at reviews and purchase additional pieces or accessories, such as earrings or a matching bracelet. That is the information we could include in our offer so that more customers know what they would get if they bought from us.

So, we might develop an offer that includes the price of one necklace and free shipping on any other item they would like to buy that is delivered within 30 days. In addition, if someone spends over a set amount, they also get a free bracelet that compliments the piece they got.

Build A Sales Funnel

A sales funnel is a sales tool that, surprisingly, still not everyone is using in this day and age. And that's a shame because it can be very effective for businesses of all sizes.

In a sales funnel, you lay out the different steps a customer must take to become your client or close a deal (i.e., purchase your product).

Plus, they're easy to set up and track, focusing on key performance indicators along the way.

Having a sales pipeline will also show you just how many deals you expect to close in a specific timeframe and precisely the amount of revenue that your business can expect as a result.

In our jewelry business, we could implement a sales funnel with the following steps:

  • The customer first visits our site through social media or an ad campaign. If they already know about us, that's great. We might ask them to sign up for our mailing list to receive exclusive information about our sales, discounts, and events.
  • If they haven't visited us before, we might send them an email with a 10% coupon code for their first purchase to get them hooked on our top-selling product.
  • Once they've made their first purchase, we might offer them a 15% coupon for any additional accessories (i.e., earrings and bracelets that match the necklace they bought) or an additional item from our collection.
  • Our last step would be to ask them to review our site since reviews are crucial to getting more customers and boosting our credibility.

A step-by-step funnel like this will help us plan for future projects and investments.

Create Powerful Lead Magnets

While a sales plan lays out the strategies you've decided to use, lead magnets are what entice your audience to take action.

A traditional business plan may have focused on the features and benefits, but in today's market, people can be turned off by this type of information overload.

Instead, marketers now rely heavily on lead magnets to create engagement across a wide range of platforms.

These can be a mix of free tools, discounts, downloads, and exclusive offers that will get your audience to sign up for something and get the ball rolling.

In our example jewelry business, we might find that women love advice about fashion and trends along with insider information on the latest pieces from our collection. So, we might develop a lead magnet that includes:

  • How to style our jewelry with items from other collections on the market.
  • Information about fashion trends and how women can integrate these new styles into their existing wardrobe.
  • Exclusive discounts for subscribing to our mailing list.
  • Exclusive discounts and offers on our new collection, which we unveil to our inner circle members before the general public has access to it.
  • Downloadable images of key jewelry pieces that women can use as wallpapers or screensavers on their computers and cell phone.
Create Powerful Lead Magnets

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We could create a lead magnet like this and then post it on our site and social media, where women are actively looking for trends and advice.

With the right lead magnet, you can quickly turn cold prospects into warm leads who want to know more about your business. And once they're hooked, they'll be much more likely to convert into actual customers or clients. 

Customer relationship management will also become easier since you can track who is signing up for what and then send them the right offers whenever they are interested in a specific topic.

You can also see how many leads have been generated from each lead magnet, which will help you better understand the return on investment of your time and resources.

Nurture Leads With Email Marketing

Sales reps should also nurture prospects when they're still in the consideration stage (and every step after that).

Theoretically, this is when our email marketing efforts should kick into high gear since these are people who have expressed an interest in our business or products already.

We can use drip campaigns and categories to automate follow-up emails to not send out the same information to everyone we contact.

A drip campaign is a series of pre-written emails sent over time. Each email will be slightly different, but they'll all be focused on one topic or area and should make the audience want to take action (e.g., sign up for something, purchase a product, etc.)

We also want to make sure that we're staying in touch with our audience and building rapport with them. This might mean sending out occasional emails containing inspirational quotes as well as practical tips for using what they've purchased from us (e.g., where to wear those new earrings or how to coordinate a new scarf with a favorite dress).

This personalization level will help build trust and establish you as an authority figure. Over time, this could turn casual fans into lifelong customers who keep coming back for more advice, products, and services.

Qualify Leads And Close More Deals

Hitting your sales targets is all about finding the right prospects and getting them to convert into customers.

The first part is qualifying your leads based on an initial conversation with a sales rep. 

Ask yourself:

  • How much are they willing to spend?
  • How quickly are they looking to make a purchase?
  • Is the content you offer something they'd be interested in subscribing to or learning more about?
  • If not, what might be a better fit for their needs and budget?

Once you've narrowed down your leads to those most likely to convert into paying customers, it's time to start the sales process. This might mean sending out an offer (e.g., "act now and receive 20% off") to a segmented audience or creating a complementary product/service that compliments the original purchase they made from you.

When we're able to find the right balance between nurturing our prospects and closing deals, we'll see an increase in conversions as well as a drop in consumer complaints.

10.  Measure Results And Optimize

If you want to hit your sales goals and revenue targets, you need to measure how your campaigns and actions impact the bottom line. This is where CRM tools come in since we can measure which channels/activities our leads and customers respond most favorably to (e.g., organic search, paid ads, direct traffic, etc.).

We can also use these reports and dashboards to monitor the number of qualified leads coming in from each source. For example, is your team spending too much time on expensive advertising channels with little ROI?

By using the right CRM tool, we'll see exactly how many prospects sign up for our blog posts or newsletter via certain types of links (e.g., referral links vs. PPC links).

This will allow us to optimize our processes and activities to be more efficient. We'll also be able to quickly fix any issues (e.g., poor website performance) before they start hurting our overall sales numbers.

What Kind Of Data Should A Sales Plan Include?

A good sales plan should outline the following:

Your Business's Mission Statement

This should explain what your business is about and how it contributes to making the world a better place. This could be something as simple as "helping people achieve healthy hair" or "inspiring women to express themselves through fashion.

While some company's mission statements are lengthy and in-depth, they all share a few commonalities: they're usually positive in nature and end with a call to action such as "help" or "inspire."

Your Company's Goals

Goals should be established for the coming year, broken down into quarterly objectives (this helps achieve smaller milestones that one can reach more quickly), and specific tasks need to be outlined to meet those goals. These might include hiring new employees, adding services/products to your line, etc.

The Sales Process

This should include a step-by-step process about how you plan to reach your goals. Often one will break down plans into smaller tasks that need to be completed for the process to work.

A SWOT Analysis

A SWOT analysis evaluates the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats involved in a project. This can help you make better decisions when it comes time to plan and determine your next move if something unexpected happens.

Profit Margin Percentage (By Season)

This is probably something you don't want to think about too early on, but predicting how much of your revenue will come from each quarter will help you determine whether or not it would be wise to invest time and money into a project.

The Cost/Benefit Ratio

This information can help you determine if an idea is worth pursuing or not. You want to be sure that the benefits outweigh the costs; otherwise, it might just be more competent to move on to something else.

Details About Your Competitors

In addition to knowing how your company stacks up against the current market, it's also a good idea to see how you stack up against your direct competitors. Your sales strategy should include a list of what makes your company unique so that when you're in a position to start selling, whatever product or service you have created will attract buyers right from the start -buyers that you won't end up losing to your competitors.

Conclusion

By following the above steps and creating a sales plan that is feasible and achievable, your business will be much more likely to meet its goals and succeed long-term.  

While some like to complicate the whole process, simple is often better. Focus on what you need to do and the steps involved in getting there. If your plan is solid, it will be easier to attract buyers - even if your business is still in its early days.

About the author 

Mike Vestil

Mike Vestil is an author, investor, and speaker known for building a business from zero to $1.5 million in 12 months while traveling the world.

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