Article | 9 min read

How to create a successful sales plan (+ a free template)

Build a strategic sales plan for your business to improve team communication and meet sales goals.

By Cristina Maza, Contributing Writer

Published September 20, 2021
Last updated March 23, 2022

Picture this: You’ve just taken on responsibility for a new sales team. You set out to craft an annual sales plan, but you quickly discover that you’re missing key insights and data points. You don’t know what the market for your product looks like, how many sales agents you’ll have on your team, or how much revenue your company made last year.

To write a successful sales plan, you’ll need that critical information. From sales targets to revenue goals, your sales strategy must stem from cold, hard numbers and facts. You must be aware of where you currently are so you can think about where you want to be and, even more importantly, how you’re going to get there.

Read on to learn how to build a strategic sales plan that’ll guide your team to success. You’ll explore:

What is a sales plan?

A sales plan is a roadmap that lays out your goals and how you’ll reach them. It includes details like your sales objectives, target audience, market conditions, resources needed, and tactics for achieving goals. It also outlines your team structure and the roles and responsibilities of team members.

A sales plan describes your sales strategy.

Essentially, a sales plan describes your sales strategy. Your plan will guide you and your team through the sales cycle and illustrate the big picture, empowering you all to work together to reach your revenue and performance goals.

4 elements of a successful sales plan

According to Brad Kemp, EVP of business development at Verblio, a winning sales plan must include an objective, crystal-clear view of what makes your company’s offering different and an understanding of the tangible impact your product or service will have on your customers.

Kemp adds, “Aggressive but attainable goals and milestones, and a mechanism to celebrate wins together as a team are also key—that is so important but is often overlooked.”

Here are the other essential aspects every sales plan should include in order to be successful.

  1. Company goals and objectives

    Every sales plan must have a section that clearly outlines your business goals and revenue targets.

    For example, you might want to increase customer acquisition by 5 percent, boost quarterly sales by 20 percent, make $1 million as a team by the end of the year, or schedule virtual coffee chats with 15 potential clients each month.

    No matter which specific sales goals you set, they should all be realistic yet ambitious enough to motivate your sales agents. You want your reps to work hard and get creative in order to reach their targets, but you don’t want them to get discouraged by unattainable numbers. So, you’ll need to find the right balance.

    You must also ensure the objectives are clearly stated in the sales plan and communicated to your team so they know where to focus their efforts.

  2. Strategies and tactics for achieving goals

    A sales plan should also include concrete actions that your team will take to reach the goals laid out in the document.

    Say you want to land more deals by targeting only the most qualified leads with a sales pitch. Your plan should include steps for implementing a lead scoring model so your agents can identify highly qualified leads. You’ll also want to state how often your team should contact those leads and provide sales techniques to help them move leads further down the pipeline.

    Your sales action plan can also describe potential pain points and how to address them in a way that will convert leads into customers. Or, it can explain the various ways to contact your target customer and conduct outreach about a new product.

  3. Team roles and responsibilities

    Your sales plan will only be successful if it helps your team work like a well-oiled machine. That means defining clear roles and responsibilities so everyone is on the same page.

    In this section of the plan, assign tasks and activities to specific individuals or groups. For example, perhaps you give cold-calling responsibilities to one set of agents while another set oversees lead nurturing.

    If you believe you’ll need to hire new salespeople in the future, include the number of employees you want to bring on, what their roles are, and when you’d like to add them to the team.

  4. Performance benchmarks and monitoring

    Strategic sales plans need to incorporate milestones and processes that’ll help you track the progress and performance of the team as a whole and of individual sales agents.

    Imagine you want every agent to reach a quarterly quota of $10,000. You can hold regular check-in meetings with team members to see how close each agent is to that goal and discuss what they need to do to reach it. You’ll want to include such details in your sales plan.

    Additionally, you’ll want to specify the technology you’ll use to measure success, such as a sales CRM or analytics software.

How to build a sales plan

Follow these tips and tricks to craft a sales plan that’s accurate, actionable, data-driven, and impactful.

  • Set sales goals that align with the company’s goals

    While determining the goals and objectives for your sales plan, it’s critical to base them on accurate data and facts so you can choose appropriate targets. You’ll also want to ensure your benchmarks are in line with the type of growth your company wants to experience.

    Think about how much revenue your company strives to generate. Review previous performance data and sales forecasts, too. This will allow you to set realistic revenue goals that will help you get closer to or reach your destination. Also ask yourself what methods you’ll use to gauge your team’s success. That could include performance metrics, software, or monitoring techniques.

    Regardless of what you decide, make sure to communicate those goals and tracking methods to your team so that the process is transparent and everyone is working towards the same purpose.

  • 7 secrets of sales leadership

    Read the full list of sales leader secrets to find out how these managers are getting the most out of their teams.

  • Specify the actions needed to reach objectives

    You won’t reach your sales goals without taking concrete steps to make them happen—and the more specific and well-planned your actions are, the faster you’ll realize your goals. So, you want to set certain supporting tactics that’ll help you achieve those objectives.

    Say you’re aiming to increase your sales by 20 percent year over year. To reach that target, you want your team to focus only on high-value prospects that match your ideal customer profile. One of your actions would be to create or refine that profile. And to ensure that your team knows what steps to take to reach those ideal customers, you’d also want to specify the number of sales calls agents should make or the number of emails they should send each month.

    You can also assign owners to each action item. For instance, you can have a group of sales agents perform the lead scoring and another group manage the outreach.

  • Use data from previous sales cycles

    Make sure that your plan builds on sales data from previous quarters. Historical data will enable you to spot trends, determine where you can improve compared to last year, and establish realistic expectations. (Of course, you’ll want to consider the current state of the market and demand forecasts, too.)

    The data can also help you identify potential challenges, find points of opportunity in your sales process, know what mistakes to avoid, and come up with more accurate metrics for measuring success.

  • Assign responsibilities for key tasks

    For the sales plan to be executed properly, everyone on your team should know precisely what they need to do and when.

    Create an organizational chart that shows every person on your sales team, their personal goals, and their primary responsibilities. It would also be helpful to outline any important deadlines they might have to meet. Avoid ambiguity as much as possible.

    When assigning tasks to your team, ensure the workload is manageable—be realistic about each individual’s capacity. If you find that you may need to hire more people, include that in the sales plan and specify what role they would fill, the value they would add, and when they should be hired.

    You’ll also want to set your staff up for success. To help them hit the ground running, you’ll need a sales enablement strategy in place. Describe the tools and resources your team will use, whether those include an internal knowledge base, a sales content management platform, CRM software, or team collaboration tools. Giving everyone the resources they need to do their jobs effectively will save you time in the long run and make your team happier and more productive.

  • Describe the tracking methods you’ll use

    Continually monitoring your sales team’s progress can help you avoid falling behind on your goals or benchmarks.

    Set up regular meetings with each sales agent to see if they’re on the right track and feel motivated. Be sure to measure both their short- and long-term goals as well as their milestones that fit into each stage of the sales funnel.

    It’s important to monitor every team member’s progress in the same way. Keep a written or visual record of how everyone is doing. That way, you’ll always know how your team is performing overall. And when sales agents can refer to a central document to see how they’re doing compared to the rest of the team, it’ll encourage them to keep going even if they hit a slump.

    You can also use a CRM to easily keep tabs on sales performance. A tool like Zendesk Sell helps you manage sales data, monitor your team’s pipeline, and perform sales forecasting. You can even create reports to evaluate your sales strategy and determine whether your team is on track, ahead, or behind in meeting milestones and key objectives.

Sales plan template

Your sales plan can evolve

Your sales plan isn’t set in stone. You should continue to modify it as you gather more data and track your team’s progress.

Suppose you see that one strategy is working more than others and that the sales agents implementing that strategy are closer to meeting their goals than everyone else. In that case, it’s entirely acceptable for you to pivot and have your entire team adopt the winning strategy.

Most companies update their sales plans every six to 12 months, but you can do it more frequently if you decide it’s necessary. Incorporate solid information and flexibility into your sales plan, and you’re sure to come out on top.

7 secrets of sales leadership

Read the full list of sales leader secrets to find out how these managers are getting the most out of their teams.

7 secrets of sales leadership

Read the full list of sales leader secrets to find out how these managers are getting the most out of their teams.

Read now