How to write a sales plan: Types, template, and tips
A sales plan helps you outline sales strategies and goals, identify resources, and set a budget so you can pack your pipeline with high-quality leads.
By Cristina Maza, Contributing Writer
Last updated August 16, 2023
Before the start of a new fiscal year, organizations should create a sales plan. This must-have asset will be a boon in the upcoming year, helping sales staff better understand your products and meet their quotas. It can also provide crucial data insights on product- and territory-specific sales initiatives.
To write an effective sales plan, you’ll need to rely on cold, hard numbers and facts to develop data-driven strategies and pull off a seamless implementation. Read on to learn how you can guide your team to success.
What is a sales plan?
A sales plan lays out all sales-related activities and details sales objectives, strategies, budgets, timelines, and processes. It includes information on your target audience, market conditions, resources needed, and high-level tactics for achieving goals. It also outlines your team structure and the roles and responsibilities of team members.
Your plan will guide you and your team through the sales cycle and illustrate the big picture, empowering all of you to work together to reach your revenue and performance goals.
Purpose of creating a sales plan
The primary purpose of a sales plan is to outline a set of strategies and tactics that will help you meet your sales objectives. This resource can also help you:
- Properly allocate resources
- Set quantifiable goals and clear expectations for team members
- Make more accurate sales predictions
- Understand threats and opportunities
- Increase sales rep productivity
Sales plan vs. business plan
A business plan outlines broad company goals, market research findings, company resources, and value propositions. Meanwhile, a sales plan zooms in on sales and revenue, offering an execution plan. Both play an important role, especially if you have investors to impress.
Sales plan process overview
When executed well, your sales plan template will empower your team to reach their quotas, streamline daily operations, and help you scale your business.
The process of sales planning entails:
- Sharing time-based company objectives
- Providing strategies to meet business goals
- Outlining job roles, descriptions, and expectations
- Defining how to measure and monitor progress
What to include in a sales plan
You can tweak your sales plan to suit your company’s unique needs. However, some tenets of a strong sales plan that you shouldn’t skip include a(n):
- Mission statement
- Executive summary
- List of business goals and objectives
- Analysis of past performance
- Industry and market overview
- Set of approved sales strategies and tactics
- Plan for tracking metrics
According to Brad Kemp, EVP of business development at Verblio, a winning sales plan must include an objective, a 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.
Start your sales plan by sharing your mission statement. The key is explaining your company’s values and what sets you apart from your competitors. You can also provide a brief history of your business here to give readers a comprehensive overview of where you started and where you’re going.
Next, write an executive summary to share essential details about sales initiatives and company goals with your team and any investors. This foundational component can include:
- A vision statement
- Sales goals
- An abstract on plans to scale
- Company history
Business goals and objectives
Every sales plan must have a section that clearly outlines your business objectives and revenue targets.
No matter the specific sales goals, they should all be realistic yet ambitious enough to motivate your sales agents. 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.
Here are a few types of sales-related business goals you may want to consider for your organization:
- Revenue amount: Determine a specific dollar amount you want to make in sales during the upcoming year.
- Profitability targets: Set sales goals based on your desired profit margins.
- Sales forecast projections: Establish realistic sales targets based on industry-driven predictions.
Analysis of past performance
To hit goals and benchmarks, monitor every team member’s progress in the same way and track team performance as a whole. Keep a written or visual record of:
- Conversion rates
- Average hold times
- Customer satisfaction rates
- Average talk times
- First contact resolution rates
- Dial transfer rates
That way, you’ll always know how your team is performing, and agents can see how they’re doing.
Set up regular meetings with each sales agent to determine whether they’re on the right track and feel motivated. Be sure to measure both their short- and long-term goals and the milestones that fit into each stage of the sales funnel.
Industry and market overview
To create a successful sales plan, you must understand what your consumers want and what your competitors offer. Here are some questions you can ask yourself to get a leg up:
- Who is my ideal customer, and how will they use my product or service?
- What pain points are prospective customers facing?
- Is there a demand for my product or service?
- Do external factors (like seasonality or regionality) affect demand?
- What is my unique selling proposition?
- Who are my competitors? Where do they excel, and where do they fall short?
The market overview will likely evolve as you add products, make updates, establish yourself, combat inflation and economic challenges, and contend with new competitors. However, the above questions will help you keep a finger on the pulse of the industry.
Tip: Unearth valuable information by reviewing analytics in Google Data Studio. You can also survey consumers directly and read competitor sales materials if you have the time and resources to conduct more thorough research.
Sales strategies and tactics
A sales plan should also include concrete actions that your team will take to reach the goals laid out in the document. Some popular strategies you may want to outline and implement include:
- Conversational selling
- Social selling
- Cold calling
- Discount pricing and promotions
- Google Ads
Your sales action plan can also describe potential buyer pain points and how to address them in a way that will convert leads into customers. Or, it can explain the various ways to connect with your target customer and conduct outreach about a new product.
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 high-quality leads. You’ll also want to state how often your team should contact those prospects and provide sales techniques to help them move leads further down the pipeline.
After gaining a comprehensive understanding of your customers and competitors, you can create buyer personas and segment buyers based on shared traits and characteristics. You can group customers by:
- Job title
- Buying process and timeline
- Pain point
- Business size
The final—but crucial—component of a sales plan is the budget for sales operations. Factor in the following to ensure you have the necessary funding to execute the strategies in your plan:
- Salaries and commissions
- Travel expenses
- Software and technology
- Fixed operating costs
Plan for tracking metrics
Finally, you should identify what key performance indicators (KPIs) you’ll track to monitor the performance of your agents and sales strategies. This data will be critical when it comes time to adjust your overall sales plan.
Some great KPIs to keep tabs on include:
- Revenue by product or service
- Average length of sales cycle
- Revenue from new customers
- Sales funnel conversion rates
- Revenue from returning customers
- Customer acquisition rate
Once you determine which metrics are most important to you, talk to your team about how often you plan to review sales data.
How to create a sales plan in 12 steps
Follow these tips and tricks to craft a sales plan that’s actionable, data-driven, and impactful.
1. Identify company objectives and set goals
Create a SMART goal to drive better results and accurately reflect on progress. SMART stands for:
When determining your SMART goals, it’s critical to base them on accurate data and facts so you choose appropriate targets. You’ll also want to ensure your benchmarks align with the 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. Also, ask yourself what methods you’ll use to gauge your team’s success. Those could include performance metrics, software, and monitoring techniques.
Regardless of what you decide, communicate your SMART goals and tracking methods to your team so the process is transparent and everyone is working toward the same objective.
2. Review sales and consumer data
Make sure 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 new opportunities in your sales process, see what mistakes to avoid, and come up with more accurate metrics for measuring success.
Tip: Assess sales funnel and pipeline data from your CRM to map out the customer journey and visualize buyer personas.
3. Determine performance benchmarks
Strategic sales plans need to incorporate milestones and processes that’ll help you monitor the progress and performance of the team and individual sales agents.
This is where KPIs come in. They can vary based on your company’s needs, but some typical ones include:
- Gross profit margins
- Annual contract value (ACV)
- Customer lifetime value (CLV)
- Return on investment (ROI)
- Pipeline leads and age
- Conversion rates
- Customer retention
- Daily web traffic
Additionally, you’ll want to specify the technology you’ll use to measure success, such as a sales CRM or analytics software.
4. Audit the existing plan
To truly prepare, your company needs to assess how existing and former sales plans performed (if you have any). That way, you can identify trends and perform a SWOT analysis that allows you to up your sales game.
The SWOT analysis will reveal your:
5. Take stock of resources
Once you collect the bulk of the data and get a general idea of what to accomplish with your sales plan, take inventory of your resources. Some tools you’ll want to have throughout the process include:
- CRM software, integrations, and automations
- Lead gen, prospecting, and outreach tools
- Internal communication and project management software
- Engagement and outreach tools
- Sales tech stack
6. Start sales forecasting
Sales forecasting is the process of predicting future sales. It’s not a perfect science, but it can provide baseline data to help your company plan for:
- Product development
7. Staff for success
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. This helps balance the workload and ensures the whole team is actively engaged in improving the sales process.
8. Outline team responsibilities
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 choose tactics that’ll help you achieve those objectives.
Ensure your team knows the steps to reach qualified leads, their duties, and how you plan to measure performance. Here are some typical responsibilities that sales managers need to assign to an individual or group of representatives.
- Prospecting and lead scoring
- Outbound sales
- Inbound sales
- Sales enablement
- Onboarding and retention
To execute the sales plan properly, everyone on your team should know precisely what they need to do and when.
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 new salespeople, include that in the sales plan and specify what role they would fill, the value they would add, and when you would want to bring them on.
It’s beneficial to include an organizational chart showing 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.
9. Align marketing with sales objectives
Create action items for the marketing and support teams to create cross-functional go-to-market strategies, and equip the sales department with sales enablement materials that help:
- Inform consumers
- Score leads
- Promote inbound leads
10. Outline your sales plan
We already covered the must-have components of a sales plan, which include:
- Mission and vision statements
- Business objectives
- Past sales performance
- Software inventory
- Industry and market analysis
- Sales strategies and tactics
- Customer segments
- Sales operations budgets
Beyond that, you can customize your sales plan as much as you want. We recommend including the following elements:
- Pricing and promotions
- Deadlines and important dates
- Product demand
- Team structure
- Market conditions
11. Monitor your progress
Select a person or a group of people to track progress as you begin implementation and to make sure you achieve complete compliance. They can keep track of:
- Interdepartmental collaborations
- Sales enablement collateral
- Strategy adherence
- Labor, production, and supply costs
- Sales channel performance
- Team performance
Using sales software features like sales tracking, analytics, and reporting makes it easy to assess how your team and sales strategies perform over time.
12. Revise the sales plan regularly
Keep in mind that sales planning doesn’t end with the first iteration. Once you reach the pre-defined date, you must review the results and adjust accordingly to ensure sales don’t stagnate.
Set up monthly meetings with your sales team to address any questions and concerns that arise, and keep close tabs on what does and doesn’t work.
Types of sales plans and examples
There are four sales plans your business can try when outlining processes, setting goals, and determining your execution strategy.
- 30-60-90 day sales plan
- Territory sales plan
- Market expansion plan
- New product sales plan
30-60-90 day sales plan
This plan has a three-part timeline for accomplishing larger goals. Companies often use it to help new salespeople acclimate to your business and understand your product’s value proposition.
- 30 days: This is generally an introductory phase and includes onboarding sales staff. During this time, they will learn the ins and outs of company processes, your target audience, and the products they’ll sell.
- 60 days: This phase allows your new hires to put what they learned into practice by role-playing, making mock sales calls, presenting sales pitches, and attending coaching sessions.
- 90 days: Finally, send your sales team members out into the world to implement the skills they’ve gained. This is the time to assess their performance, provide feedback, and make any necessary adjustments.
Territory sales plan
Target customers within a specific geographical region and deliver top-level insights to company directors and VPs. Here are some things you can do when writing a winning territory sales plan:
- Assess your existing customers’ characteristics and purchase history
- Segment customers using region-specific data
- Audit existing plans to find strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats
Market expansion plan
This sales plan outlines strategies, tasks, and metrics to expand into new target markets. Market expansion plans should include:
- Distribution expenses
- Time zone variations between the sales team and potential buyers
- Industry compliance regulations, policies, and laws
New product sales plan
You’ll need this type of sales plan to generate revenue early on if you plan to launch a new item in the near future. Some things to consider when creating a product sales plan are:
- Sales strategies
- Brand positioning
- Consumer demand
- Product perception
Sales plan template
Use our free sales plan template to outline your sales goals for the upcoming year and define the strategies your team will use to achieve them. Our template has tips for:
- Crafting your mission statement and vision statement
- Understanding your target market
- Determining sales data, processes, and strategies
Execute your sales plan
Use a CRM to keep tabs on sales performance. A tool like Zendesk Sell can help you manage sales data, monitor your team’s pipeline and performance, and forecast sales. 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.
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