The Elements of an Effective Sales Plan

The Basic Elements and Set-Up of an Effective Sales Plan

Business team meeting in office discussing the ongoing sales plan.
••• Cavan Images / Getty Images

A sales plan is a crucial tool for all salespeople. Your company may have a sales plan in place, and if so, you should make a point of learning and following it. But without an individual sales plan, you're missing an opportunity to boost your sales to the next level.

The Two Major Components of a Good Sales Plan

A good sales plan has two major components: sales strategies and sales tactics. Strategies and tactics are military terms used to describe a war plan. Strategy is about the war itself and what the leaders want to accomplish, and which battles they choose to fight. Tactics determine how an individual battle is fought.

In business terms, a strategy might be to let the people in your community know about your company. While the associated tactics might include attending chamber of commerce meetings, putting an ad in the local paper, setting up an event at your place of business, going door to door, etc.

Sales plans break down further into:

  1. New business growth strategies
  2. New business growth tactics
  3. Existing business growth strategies
  4. Existing business growth tactics (e.g., selling additional products to people who are already customers)

These four components provide a framework for your sales plan, and it's important to include all of them. However, it's up to you to prioritize these components in a way that makes sense to you.

If you've already hit up your existing customers recently, you'll probably want to focus on acquiring new ones. If you've just launched a new product that dovetails with an existing product, then your sales plan should take this into account and focus on selling it to current customers.

Sales Quota, Territory, and Line

You must be intimately familiar with three important details before you create your sales plan:

Understanding your sales quota helps you to build a plan that will make your manager happy, and will also enable you to design a plan that will maximize your commissions—which will make you happy. Knowing your territory keeps you from stepping on your fellow salespeople's toes. And knowing your product line and services help you to define your prospect requirements, which, in turn, gives you a realistic view of how and how much you can sell.

Revising Your Sales Plan

Even the best sales plan will need regular revising. Changes to your quota, your product line, your existing customer base, your industry – even economic ups and downs can necessitate an adjustment to your sales plan. At the very least, you should review your plan quarterly and decide if you need to make any changes. Consider the sales plan a living document, not something set in stone.

If you have trouble deciding on your sales strategies and tactics, your sales manager is a terrific resource. They will usually have a better grasp of company-wide sales goals and will be able to help you tailor your sales plan to meet these goals, while also making the most of your unique opportunities.

Other members of your sales team can also help. Ask your star salespeople what they include in their sales plans, and use these strategies as a jumping-off point to develop your own.

Examples

You could try to beat your quota by 25% over a specific period. Set the plan to make 50 cold calls a week, make twenty face-to-face contacts with potential prospects, set four appointments per week, send 40 email greetings to potential prospects per week.

Another goal may be to sell your existing customers an average of one new product per customer. You will send out fifty letters per week suggesting an account evaluation, call five customers per day to ask about their status, contact every new customer within two weeks of purchase to answer any questions or concerns.

Finally, you may make a plan to increase your base of local customers. To achieve this goal you would participate in 12 networking events, volunteer for three local non-profit organizations, attend every Chamber of Commerce meeting.