A Closer Look – Create An Effective Sales Strategy and Complementary Sales Strategy Plan For Your Business

September 2, 2020
14 minutes

The How and Why – A Current Methodology


The world has changed. Governments have changed. Businesses both large and small have changed. While many small to medium-sized businesses are emerging from the COVID-19 lockdown unscathed, many are not. Regardless, how, why, where, and when companies do business has categorically changed. Many businesses are entering uncharted territories. The definition of the “new normal” takes on a different meaning depending on the company and its operation. All companies will need to modify their operations, their strategies, and their overall ways of doing business because, even if they haven’t changed much as a result of the virus, their partners, vendors, and customers most likely have. There are a variety of patterns and trends that emerged both during the lockdown periods and now as operations start to “normalize.”. The unfortunate reality is that risk of failure is still high,  and we are by no means at the end of this journey. In the first half of 2020, more than 3600 companies filed for bankruptcy, 600 in June alone, an increase of 43% over the prior year. The Retail Apocalypse of 2020 has us saying goodbye to the physical stores of many household brands forever including Lord + Taylor, Modell’s, Wilsons Leather, Microsoft, Bose, and New York & Company, some closing their operations entirely.

It’s Time to Roll Your Action Plan Into Your Sales Plan

So what does this mean for those companies who have survived? It means they need to appreciate what they have accomplished in the past, roll up their sleeves, and get to work on the future. The largest negative impact COVID-19 had on the economy was lost time. Companies don’t have time to plan and strategize and then strategize and plan over several months. Gone are the days of endless leadership team meetings to solidify a company strategy or operating plan for the upcoming year. Everyone, from the CEO to the Sales Director, needs to take action now and put a plan in place for their sales teams to adopt and start selling. The longer there are delays in acting on a new strategy, the more growth opportunities are lost. If you’ve survived this far there is a good chance your business is relevant enough to survive for the duration – But don’t be complacent. Competition is particularly fierce right now. You are competing for a smaller universe of more discerning buyers, so the longer it takes you to reach these potential customers, the more at risk you are for losing your pre-COVID-19 gains. Of all the likely action items on your agenda, none is more critical than a solid strategy and execution plan for building your sales pipeline. 

Build the Sales Pipeline – First and Foremost

Get your sales team active and selling on your existing capacity to deliver and then you can revisit your other company goals. As long as your sales reps are securing successful, deliverable sales you’ll have some breathing room to focus on longer-term plans. In order to put your sales team to work productively, you need to have your sales strategy and sales plan in place in place and aligned with the rest of the organization’s capacity to deliver. It is the sales strategy that will ultimately deliver your topline revenue, so creating a sales plan that sales reps can understand, internalize, and get behind is where you’ll find the fastest successes. Here’s how to create a solid sales plan quickly.

What is a Sales Plan?

Once your leadership team has defined the sales strategy, it’s time to synthesize that strategy into a plan that your sales team can follow. Ultimately, the sales plan is the guide to the activities that will enable the company to meet its sales goals for the specified period, whether that is a month, a quarter, or a year. Sales strategies and their related sales plan content will vary company by company however, their purpose and structures are more or less the same. The sales plan should name who the sales reps will target, how they should best contact them, when is the best time to reach them, and, of course, what is the objective of each contact or touchpoint seeks to achieve. The sales plan is essentially the activities aligned with the process outlined in the strategy,  that details specific sales targets the team needs to reach and the tactics for reaching them. It describes the steps the sales team is expected to follow to meet their goals. A sales plan is a ‘living’ document that usually includes various motivational sections to motivate the sales team to successfully achieve – and overachieves – their individual and team goals.

Key Objectives of a Sales Plan

Just as the business plan is the corporate blueprint for the company’s management team, the sales plan is equivalent to the salesforce. The relationship is further aligned by the business plan, which maps out company goals, and the sales plan that breaks down how you will accomplish the revenue elements of those goals. The sales plan formalizes the primary objectives of the sales team and each team member, provides the priority tactics, target audience, and presents potential obstacles and/or issues that the team should make sure they can address. 

What To Include In Your Sales Plan?

Make sure your sales plan includes details about revenue targets, team structure, facts about the company that the sales reps should express to the prospects, and any resources or tools required to achieve the targets and goals. The sales plan is designed to assist in driving sales by showing the sales team where the company is now, where it wants to go, and how their efforts help the entire organization to get there. It will include previous quarterly or monthly sales, current market challenges, any industry or sector issues, who your customers are, and how you intend to find them, reach them, and sell to them.  Once the sales plan is completed and the salesforce commences their selling efforts, managers and the sales team will be able to quickly identify obstacles to success, whether related to strategy, process or execution issues and (if necessary), red flags and correct ‘goal killers’ before those issues take the entire organization off course. 

Sales Plan vs. Marketing Plan

There is a common misconception in the world today regarding the differences between sales and marketing plans, and which comes first. The reality is that marketing supersedes sales in the Revenue Operations funnel – from identification to conversion. A marketing plan is a macro view, the big picture of the strategic plan for communicating to and within the marketplace, while sales are much more targeted on the execution of the strategy. Consider marketing as what you want to communicate to the world as well as your specific target clients and sales as to how you will onboard and retain the customers you need to survive. Sales without marketing lead to short-term gains and long-term disasters. Marketing is strategic in that it helps a company identify what to sell and to whom, whereas sales make the point-of-contact. 

Marketing Makes the Product Attractive for the Sales Team to Sell

A sales plan differs from a marketing plan as it employs a more direct approach, it is the actual point of contact to execute the sale, whereas marketing plans are designed to help the marketing team to identify targets and create strategies to reach them. A sales plan details the exact strategies the business needs to implement to sell products and services that ultimately increase revenue. A properly developed sales plan consists of sections clearly defining goals, customer attributes, tools, metrics, necessary strategies, and estimated expenses. The following table compares and contrasts the differences between a sales plan and a marketing plan. Marketing is what makes the product or service attractive, drawing brand awareness and attention to the product. It is typically a behind the scenes discipline vs. sales which is front and center in front of the buyer or customer. Marketing makes it easier for the sales team to sell.

To Sell OR To Market – One OR the Other OR Both

Marketing PlanSales Plan
Key Messages – Value Proposition: Defines problems your product solves? What makes you relevant? Why should your target customer care?
Requirement: Articulate core messages
Prospecting: Where and how are you finding new leads? Where are you networking? Do you use marketing channels?
Requirement: identify realistic lead gen areas
Target Channels/Disciplines: Once you know what the message is where will you communicate it?Social media?Email marketing?PPC/Display ads?Content marketing?
Requirement: Each platform, channel, and community requires a different message/methodology, i.e. banner ads need short CTAs whereas a blog requires 500-1000 words plus images and backlinks
Strategic Partners: Referral programs from business colleagues?Leverage existing relationships?Focus on short terms and long-term sales pipeline? Corporate partnerships to share and complement relationships?
Requirement: Define your needs and budget restrictions before making commitments you can’t keep.Call on assistance from senior managers to weigh in and complement your efforts
Budget: Marketing has a cost, even free channels are becoming more of a pay to play platform. Your marketing plan needs to forecast your spend on which channel, when and for how long
Requirement: Budget approval must be received prior to campaign start to avoid having great messages and no productive places  to put them
Process: Mapping of the sales funnel for multiple entries?Where do leads enter the pipeline?Replication across the sales team?Brand characteristics that must be respected and how?
Requirements: Must be made available to the entire sales team regardless of customer contact. Must have buy-in from senior leaders. 
Goals/KPIs: You must estimate the ROAS for each channel so that you can properly measure ROI, adjust/modify and enhance
Requirement: Know and understand reasonable expectations and goals so you create a realistic assessment
Goals/KPIs: Must track activity as well as resultsSales require that you put in the calls, work, and effort into finding and closing your leads
Requirement: Identify key metrics to be able to calculate your earnings for each contact you make

How Do You Create An Effective Sales Plan?

Depending on your business model, industry, standard, and sales channels how, where, and when you sell will vary. There are particular processes and protocols that represent various industries that may not be present for others. Each sector has its own unwritten rules that are followed. As a result, creating a sales strategy and a sales plan will need to address the norms in each respective industry. However, there are some basic characteristics that all business sales plans must cover as a general rule.

Key Elements of An Effective Sales Plan

As a baseline, an effective sales plan should include the following categories. Within each of these sections more details and key highlights, characteristics and methodologies should be explained. These represent the key topics that should be addressed in greater detail. 

Examples of Sales Strategies

If you asked a hundred sales managers to list their favorite sales strategies you’d likely receive a hundred and fifty different answers! What works well for one company or one sales rep may or may not work well for the next company or sales team member. It’s important that you find which sales strategies resonate well with your team and, more importantly, your prospects and customers. Similar to how testing is performed online today, you might try a series of A|B tests to see which strategies are most effective for your business and your sales professionals and selling your products. Sales strategies run the gamut and the number of types is endless but here are a few examples to give you a sense of the myriad of sales strategy opportunities:

  1. Differentiate your company from competitors
  2. Embrace storytelling to sell
  3. Lead with what’s in it for your prospect
  4. Articulate end results
  5. Analyze past sales
  6. Be flexible
  7. Research, understand and help your customers
  8. Connect with the decision-maker
  9. Listen to what your prospects are telling you
  10. Give your undivided attention to your sales calls
  11. Follow up until you get a definitive answer
  12. Differentiate your company from your competitors
  13. Be patient and negotiate
  14. Sell yourself
  15. Develop the right mindset
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