We’ve never had a sales plan – a planned out way to get leads and work the leads. What should we use as a template? How can we make sure the plan works?

Thoughts of the Day: Most small businesses are light on written plans, and that can get in the way of producing consistent results. Mapping out your sales strategy and tactics gives you and your employees a roadmap to follow. Consistency in approach allows you to measure what’s working and identify what needs tweaking. Knowing how one stage relates to another helps you forecast what it will take to get the results you want.

The best way to produce results in any area of a small business is to put on paper a process you think will work.

Then implement the process to test your assumptions. As the plan unfolds, you should find new customers and expand relationships with the right existing customers. Sales is the life blood for every business. Building and implementing an effective sales plan is a critical success tool for any business. Want a thriving business? You need to know how you improved revenue and profit, with which customers, market segments and against which competitors, so you can repeat the successes. That will result in a business that thrives.

Elements of a sales plan include identifying idea customers and vertical markets, documenting competitive advantages, clarifying pricing and pricing variations.

Define which people play supporting and front-line roles in sales, including duties and key performance measures. Put together a budget of what you plan to spend to support sales efforts. Use historical data to figure out how much work typically “just shows up”. Compare that to goals for the company and that will tell you how much additional work your team will have to identify and bring on board. Consider outside influences such as the economy, new innovations, competitor entrances into and exits from your market, and changes in buyers needs and tastes. Take a guess as to how all that will help or hinder your team’s sales efforts.

Map out a daily, weekly and monthly plan. Include goals for number of new leads to be identified and where they’ll come from, how many sales calls people need to schedule, quantity of qualified prospects, amount of proposals and closes. Compare that plan to recent history.

Starting out, be conservative in your guesses at how well things could go. Decide what’s realistic for your sales team. If they’ve historically delivered 1 sale / month, expecting them to jump to 10 sales / month is probably unrealistic.Better to under-plan and be thrilled when the team exceeds results, rather than over-estimate and fall short of your goals.

sales plan

Once you’ve laid out your plan, get everyone on board. Ask them to sign on to do their part to support the plan.

Anyone with reservations, hear them out and decide if they have the ability and will to participate, or if they need to be reassigned. Put the plan in motion and carefully monitor results weekly. Look for examples of what works and repeat that. Areas that aren’t delivering, try something else.

Once you have experience with your plan, you can start working backwards from results to actions needed to deliver those results. Figure out the formula based on results: X number of sales calls yields Y number of qualified leads, gets you Z number of proposals, which then yields one or more sales. Define number of sales you want in each area and you’ll be able to calculate the number of sales calls, qualified leads and proposals you’ll need.

Looking for a good book? How to Build a Sales Funnel: What the Leaders in Your Industry Are Doing to Stay at the Top, by Omid Kazravan.