Leading a B2B sales team without a well-defined sales plan is like going on a road trip without a map. You may reach your destination, but not without wrong turns, distractions, and missed opportunities along the way.
Sales planning gives your team a clear direction, turning big-picture goals into actionable steps with strategies and deadlines. The best sales plans are data-driven, targeting high-quality prospects, setting realistic objectives, and enabling your sales reps to perform their best. In short, this plan is one of the most important tools for sales success, so every sales professional should know how to write one.
In this guide, we’ll go over everything you need to know to create a strong sales plan — what to include, how to prepare, and tips to implement one. We’ve also included some sales plan templates so you can get up and running quickly.
What is a sales plan, and why create one?
A sales plan is a living document that outlines your sales targets and defines the specific actions you’ll take to meet them. It’s a roadmap for where you want to go and what you want to achieve in a specific time period, like a month, quarter, or year. Done correctly, it will help you:
- Clarify your top-priority business goals
- Choose the right sales strategy for each audience
- Empower your salespeople and incentivize success
- Win new customers and new business
- Measure progress and optimize sales performance
- Set an accurate budget for your sales efforts
- Build confidence with investors and stakeholders
Now, let’s talk about what a sales plan isn’t. A sales plan isn’t a business plan, which is a top-to-bottom look at a company’s objectives and resources, usually created during the startup stage. It also isn’t a marketing plan, which covers how you’ll attract and engage your different market segments.
Your sales plan should work alongside these other documents to get all your teams — sales managers, sales reps, marketing reps, and customer success reps — on the same page, creating one cohesive sales organization.
What’s included in a sales plan?
There are different types of sales plans you can use to give your business a competitive advantage.
For instance, an annual sales plan typically covers overarching goals and maps out high-level tactics for the coming year. A 30-60-90-day sales plan is an onboarding tool designed to help new sales reps or managers hit the ground running. It lays out milestones they need to achieve by their 30th, 60th, or 90th day on the job.
Territory-specific sales plans work well for businesses with multiple locations, diverse market segments, or outside sale reps with varying geographic territories. (We’ve included templates for all of these below.)
Most sales plans cover the following topics:
- Target market and ideal customer
- Sales goals and deadlines
- Team members and responsibilities
- Resources and budget
- Relevant pricing and promotions
- Key performance indicators (KPIs) or metrics
Keep in mind that this is a reference document for your team, so make sure it’s packed with information and expertise to help them hit their quota.
How do you prepare for the sales planning process?
Your strategic sales plan is only as strong as the research, reflection, and evaluation that feeds into it. Before you move into the creation stage, take time to do the following:
- Examine sales performance data from previous years and look for any emerging trends.
- Assess market conditions and obstacles your business may face going forward.
- Gather insights from other departments that influence sales outcomes, like marketing or research and development.
- Identify any past opportunities or lost deals that are worth revisiting.
With that taken care of, you’re ready to launch into the sales planning process.
Create a smart sales plan with these 8 steps
Use these eight simple steps to build your sales plan from scratch, or download one of the sales plan templates below and follow along from there.
1. State your company’s mission, vision, and positioning
One major purpose of sales planning is to get everyone aligned and working toward the same goals. That means each member of your team needs to understand what your company aims to accomplish, the unique value your products or services bring to market, and how your business outshines the competition. So, begin your sales plan with your company’s:
- Mission statement
- Vision statement
- Value proposition
- Competitor overview
This step also helps you develop a sales approach that’s in line with your company’s brand identity.
2. Describe your target market
Identifying your target customer for every product or service is crucial. If you’re chasing the wrong prospects or trying to upsell the wrong customers, no amount of lead nurturing or follow-up will convince them to close the deal.
Set your team up for success by including an ideal customer profile. For a B2B company, a customer profile is a detailed description of a customer who represents your target buyer. It’s similar to a customer persona or buyer persona, which is a fictional representation of your customers, but instead focuses on factual information like:
- Industry or vertical
- Company size
- Annual revenue
- Buying behaviors
- Pain points
There are many tools and methods you can use to compile demographic information, like industry reports or customer surveys. First, look at your existing customers. What do they have in common? What makes them a good fit now? Compile these qualities into your profile.
As a salesperson, it’s easy to get lost in quarterly quotas and new product pushes. Your customer profile will remind your team to always put your audience’s pain points, needs, and wants ahead of your own, which leads to better sales pitches and happier customers.
3. List your team roles and responsibilities
Next, do a team headcount and write down everyone’s responsibilities. Maybe you’re one of three sales managers overseeing 30 sales reps. Maybe you have separate sales enablement and sales operations teams. Include tasks and expectations for each individual role or unit.
Are there any gaps in skills or experience? You may need to nurture current talent or add to your sales team. Describe the value they’ll add to your organization.
With new sales goals comes heightened pressure and competition. This is a great opportunity to revisit compensation, incentives, and team-building for the upcoming sales period. If there are relevant changes or new initiatives, add them to this section and mirror changes in the budget section later on.
4. Examine your sales and marketing toolkit
List the go-to resources your team already uses, like customer relationship management (CRM) software or task management software. Here are some of the software tools used by top companies:
- Data and lead prospecting tools
- Sales and marketing tools
- Sales process tools
You can also include any training modules, internal sales documents, or other sales enablement tools that reps rely on.
5. Go over your prospecting strategy
More than 40% of salespeople say that sales prospecting is the most challenging part of the sales process. As one of the biggest roadblocks your team will face, your prospecting strategy should be well-defined and up to date.
Describe how you’ll generate leads. For example, the sales team might use outbound tactics, like cold calling and store visits. The marketing team might drive leads using inbound marketing tools like emails, social media posts, and paid advertising.
Whether you have a large or small volume of leads, it’s crucial to incorporate lead scoring or qualifying into your business strategy if you haven’t already. This will help you understand which prospects have the strongest possibility of closing before you even begin outreach efforts.
Real-time prospecting software like LeadLander removes the guesswork from the sales cycle. You can quickly pinpoint which companies are responding to your sales efforts and the solutions they’re hunting for, allowing you to tailor your sales tactics to each prospect.
6. Determine your sales goals
Once you’ve listed out your company goals, target market, team, sales enablement tools, and prospecting strategy, it’s time to zero in on your sales goals. Sales goals are typically anchored to revenue targets, like selling $100,000 each quarter, or volume targets, like 50 closed deals or 80 new customers per sales rep.
At a large company, you’ll likely derive many of these goals from high-level company revenue goals set by sales leaders, and have to do some reverse-engineering to figure out sales quotas.
In any case, let data guide your goal-setting. Think “Ambitious but achievable.” Each target should motivate your team to reach or stretch for their objective, but also be realistic given factors like time period, available market, team headcount, and past sales performance. Give each goal a deadline and break long-term targets into smaller monthly or weekly chunks to help reps stay focused.
7. Distill it all into your sales action plan
Although every step of the sales plan is vital, the action plan is considered the key deliverable. It’s where you get tactical — drilling down into the specific strategies you’ll use to turn your sales goals into reality. Here’s an example:
Goal: Close at least 50 deals during Q4.
- Send 200 cold emails per day
- Conduct 10 demos per day
- Develop a referral call script
- Boost commissions on referrals by 7%
Do this for every goal you set in step 6. As management consultant Peter Drucker once wrote: “What gets measured, gets managed.” Include the metrics and benchmarks you’ll use to track progress and evaluate performance.
8. Set a budget for your sales activities
With everything out on the table, you can estimate the costs necessary to meet your sales targets. Here are some example line-items:
- Software tools
- Food and travel
- Team-building activities
Although we’ve covered the major elements of a standard sales plan, you may find it helpful to add sections or use one of the different plan types below.
Free sales plan templates
Here are three fill-in-the-blank sales plan templates to try out.
- If you need an all-in-one plan: Hubspot sales plan template
- If you need multiple plan types: Asana sales plan template
- If you’re a visual learner: Venngage sales plan template
Pro tip: If you’re using a prospecting or sales management platform, see if your vendor offers tools or templates you can use in your sales planning process.
Here at LeadLander, we send users reporting templates when integrating our software with web forms and email campaigns. These reports enable you to track leads who engaged with your web forms and emails, allowing you to easily see their contact details, most recent visit, as well as any search terms used to find your company.
Getting the most out of your sales plan
Sales planning builds a solid foundation for your entire organization. Instead of ad hoc initiatives and one-off tasks, you’ll have one streamlined sales force working toward a shared goal. Remember that a sales plan is a living document. Regularly reviewing, testing, adjusting your strategy is what takes your sales process from functional to phenomenal.