Cellular Attitude is a staff training business that has a special sales focus. With Adam Caplan’s: The Psychology of Sales flagship programme and his self-development book: Cellular Attitude – The 9-step guide to a happier life, we offer a large range of sales focussed training courses. This week we talk about the importance of having a Sales Plan and how to create one if you don’t. If you want us to help you develop your sales strategy, we can help! This article offers a step by step method to help you build your sales plan.
All businesses are reliant on sales and often our clients are the owners and senior management of organisations.
Often even senior staff have never been formally trained in some of the key elements required to generate sales for their businesses.
One of the most common areas ignored is the Sales Plan. Businesses will have a ‘business plan’ but often, there’s no formal sales plan. Since sales are so key to the entire business, it’s amazing to think that so many companies do not have a formal, annually updated and referred to sales plan.
This week’s blog will give you the tools you need to create your sales plan. Your sales team’s chances of success will be greatly increased if they have an in-depth plan to follow.
A good sales plan is specific and outlines tasks, realistic goals, and a base strategy for individuals to learn and develop their sales skills.
Creating a bullet-proof sales plan can be time-consuming and difficult – which is why they are often delayed or avoided, yet a good sales plan sets the tone for your entire year.
Sales plans are not quick and easy to make as they should include detailed goals, tools, KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators), a budget for costs and a budget for projected sales figures. Furthermore, a good sales plan incorporates a programme of learning to ensure that staff involved in sales are kept motivated, energised and at the top of their game.
Whilst the plan can be time consuming in the beginning, it will save time in the long run, and that’s time you can spend building up the business rather than focusing on minute details that will delay and side track you away from selling, selling, selling.
If you have revised your sales plan in the last 6 months, the rest of this article may be teaching you to suck eggs. If you have not done this or do not have an active sales plan for your business (and this is as true for an organisation with 25,000 staff as it is for the stand alone entrepreneur), then my humble advice is to read this article and then immediately start building your sales plan.
To create a bullet-proof sales plan, you will have to carry out pre-planning research. Ask yourself:
- What is/are my target market/s?
- What does my ideal customer/ client look like?
- What are the target demographics of my client?
- Where do I find my customers?
- What makes my customer buy my product?
- Can I describe the benefits of my solution simply and easily?
- Do I understand my sales costs, margins and profits?
- How much profit do I need to make to break even – Based on that, what sales do I need?
- How much activity is required to a) break even and b) achieve the desired profitability?
Sales plans are how you will achieve your sales. Marketing plans are how you will get the leads in to get those sales. A marketing plan is different for the simple fact that it is used differently: the purpose of marketing is to generate leads and then turn those leads into sales. Your sales plan will include all of this, and more.
A sales plan is often called a Sales & Marketing plan for this very reason.
What comes first, the sales or the marketing?
Your sales plan must come before the marketing plan. You must define your goals for the sales before you can work out how many leads you’ll need to generate to achieve those results.
If it sounds like a lot of work, that’s because it is. But whether you have a huge sales team and an established business, or you’re a one-person operation just getting the business off the ground, having a detailed plan to follow can make all the difference.
It’s a roadmap. You are setting the stage for future expansion and the route to get to that goal.
With a good route, you’ve got more chance of reaching your destination of ‘sales target achieved’. Without one, you’ll wander in the wilderness and you reduce the chances of getting to your goal.
What follows is a tried and tested method for building your Sales/ Sales & Marketing Plan.
Prepare, prepare, prepare. Building the Template
Often called the budget, the financial planning includes several key elements.
Use the following pointers to keep you on track:
- KPI’s. These tell you the statistics for your sales efforts from your previous year (or shorter period if a newer business)
- Your prediction for market growth/ shrinkage for the coming year
- A budget to work out your costs (Commonly includes cost of sales, marketing budget and other sales/ marketing costs)
- Who will help you create the plan (if anyone)? I always look to include sales team members in this part as they are going to be delivering this. If they were involved in the creation, they can’t turn around and disagree with the plan later in the year!
Whilst the plan will give a strategy, it also needs to explore the ‘bigger picture’.
Reverse engineering Sales Goals is a key training plan we offer everyone involved with selling from CEO’s to salespeople to individual operators. Simply put, it means working out what you want and how you will get there in a step by step manner. (It’s covered in more depth in our training programmes)
Think: Where do I want to be? – What do I need to do to get there? – How will I go about doing that? – What changes do I need to make to do that?
A good plan targets the right customers, sets achievable sales revenue goals, involves strategies, looks at pricing and accommodates special offers, has a cashflow plan, outlines deadlines and key people in the business, examines the team structure, and considers market forces.
When this is collated (or at least a good amount is collated) you can start to scope out the plan.
Part 1 – Mission and Objectives
Your company may have a ‘mission statement’ Most companies have a mission statement and operate based on that concept. For your sales plan you should incorporate the ethos behind the mission statement to create the AIM of your sales plan.
- What is your company’s USP (Unique Selling Point)?
- Does your company have certain principles that separate it from the rest?
- Do you understand the brand message of your company?
Use the above as the basis for your business strategies. You should stay aligned your original goals as a company. This is the MISSION Part. Now OBJECTIVES
- Where do you want the company to be next year?
- How many new customers do you want to bring in?
- Have you a clear idea of revenue?
- Will there be any new marketing campaigns to start this year?
- What events will you do?
This creates a framework for strategic and budgetary planning
Part 2 – Financial Goals (Use SMART goals)
Now you have your overall plan, you can work out your exact financial goals. It’s important to do through a structured process. Too many times I have come across arbitrary financial sales targets that were either plucked out of thin air or just were last year’s target plus 15%. One business I worked with some years ago had increased the sales target every year by 10%. The problem is that the sales team had not achieved the original target, let alone the increased targets. As a result, the sales team had lost all motivation and the targets were completely unachievable. We took the client through this process, created a new plan, retrained and re-energised the team and the very next year they exceeded the original target and narrowly missed the planned increased for year 5. It was a sales increase of 147% in one year. One step back to take three forward in this case.
Estimating the revenue objectives can be achieved using the SMART goals acronym:
- Specific – What exactly do you want achieved? Not just a value but a breakdown of how that value is to be split across your business products and services
- Measurable – How will you measure these sales
- Attainable – Can this be done? Do you have the structure and support in place to hit these targets?
- Relevant – Have you made the goals relevant to the sales team? Have they bought into your vision?
- Timed – Have you a step by step sales forecast that can monitor their progress? Will you share this with the team?
Now you can start to structure the sales plane with revenue, costs and profit
SMART works because it helps achieve reachable goals that measure success within realistic time frames. It allows you to stay in control of the sales process and will give you an early earning if the team are behind their targets.
Sometimes goals are set for sales teams by people who are not directly involved with customers and the product or services. This should be discouraged as it creates potentially unreasonable targets the demotivate staff and reduce potential sales revenue. It’s NOT a good idea to deliberately set very high targets in the hope that the salespeople will try harder and therefore get higher sales, even if they miss the target. It will not happen and will unnecessarily load pressure on people thus reducing performance or introducing burn out into the sales team.
If the goals are ultimately unreachable, it will appear to the staff that the company is failing, create doubt and demotivate the entire company. If your team feels like they can readily attain those targets, they can see and feel a real sense of accomplishment – and you will too.
Your projected revenue should be based on a) previous tears sales b) market forces c) the ‘math of sales’ (staff x activity x closing rate = sales) d) market predictions for the coming year
Part 3 – Identifying Your Customers – existing and potential
Your business cannot exist without customers.
What digital technology do you use to track your customers, their demographics and behaviour?
When creating a sales plan, you should really be identifying your customers, who they are, what they buy, why they buy and how you will approach them
If you have KPI’s this is a good place to start. If you do not have past KPI’s, you’ll have to create some assumptions to accurately build a profile of the perfect customer type.
Demographics should include the usual things like age, location and job role. You could psychological profiles for your ideal customer. This helps you frame the sales and marketing message you are putting out there.
Creating a chart with the data you want to capture is a good idea. Remember to conform to GDPR though!
Part 4 – Sales strategy and selling tactics
With this data, you can work with your marketing team to create a strategy that will generate leads from your target customer demographic. This will generate RELEVANT leads and improve your CLOSING conversion rates.
In strategic planning you should have three elements
Short term – Day to day operational targets. How many customers do you contact every day? How many leads are generated? How are the team performing against the activity targets? What are the conversion rates?
Medium term – Quarterly reviews and reports and how are you doing over the quarter in terms of your marketing results (marketing spend and tactic against actual leads created. Leads created per marketing activity against deals closed)
Long term – Annual reporting and review of everything that happened in the last year. This in turn helps you construct the plan for next year
Those are the steps that your team will address every day to make your goals happen. Be specific with these tasks so you can lay out an accurate budget.
Step 5 – Financial Budget
With your revenue goals created, the next step is to add the financial budget,
Using the information already laid out, you can add in the accurate costs of sales (staff wages, marketing spend (advertising/ collateral/ events/ etc, product cost) and any other associated costs. REMEMBER to add sales commissions if relevant! These will be based on sales achieved which means you may have to brush up on those Excel worksheet formula skills) Remember to include
This ties in with you overall business plan and is a good checkpoint to make sure your business plan matches what you require from the sales plan.
Create a financial budget for each department within your sales team – Do you need more salespeople to deliver sales based on the leads you are expecting to get? Do you need to increase your advertising spend to get the required leads to feed the salespeople?
Look at where you will get the most ‘bang for your buck’. Which activities generate the most return. Don’t spend money on something that traditionally give a low return on investment over a long period of time when there are other strategies that return larger amounts over a shorter time, freeing up further reinvestment to return more revenue, etc.
Don’t forget expenses like travel, supplies, paid advertisements, and outside charges. If you’re going to use a recruitment agency to hire new salespeople, include these costs.
Software costs must be allocated as well as print and web promotion costs.
Keep an eye on the costs against budget throughout the year, you do NOT want any nasty surprises alter in the year.
Part 6 – Lay Out an Actionable Plan
Finally, you can put it all together. This is your last step.
You’ll need all the information you’ve created above to create a daily, actionable plan that your sales team work to and you can track the progress of.
Assign managers and team leaders to monitor and evaluate so they can report back the results to you. Ensure everyone know their place in the process and that there are not political disagreements.
These are the people that will make this happen, so make sure they have bought in to this. If you’ve included them in the creation of the plan in the first place, they will be much more emotionally invested in achieving a successful sales year.
Now you put in the key performance indicators that allow you to track success:
List out the trackable items: Weekly new customers/ weekly google ranking/ how many leads are generated a month etc. These can include many things not listed here that you want to see happen in the year. Put a deadline to them – so: I want to be on page 1 Google ranking for ‘x’ search term by ‘x’ date.
Anything related to the sales performance of the business should be noted here with timelines and goals.
The size of your company will determine how detailed this plan is. The good news is that if you are a large organisation, they very act of getting others involved increases the chance of success whilst reducing your workload.
Set aside budget for rewarding success for team members and the company for achieving targets. It will massively motivate everyone.
If you build it, they will come!
Build the plan. Publish it to the people working it, follow up with the regularly to ensure it is being followed and working and the sales will come!
Flexibility is critical when it comes to leads and conversion rates, flexibility is vital to success. If you see areas working better than expected, divert resources away from less successful ones. Follow the money as they say.
Your planning and preparation have enabled you to be able to react to market forces and increase revenue instead of blindly following the order from the top.
Do not act like ‘The Charge of The Light Brigade’ and continue to follow orders that are going to fail, be adaptable.
With six simple steps, you have made a sales plan that will increase your sales, motivate your staff and give your business the best chance to deliver good profits year on year.
At Cellular Attitude, we work with companies looking to develop their sales plans and help restructure businesses so that they are sales led, not production or accountancy lead.
Our executive coaching and mentoring programme gives CEOs, directors, owners of businesses from multi-national corporations in all sectors to medium, small and micro business owners the opportunity to access a different point of view and help structure their businesses to be sales powerhouses, whatever the product or service being sold.
If you’d like to discuss how we can assist, call us on 020 8530 9797. We offer a money back guarantee that you will get a return on your investment if you follow our advice.