Create a sales plan: tips and templates

Posted May 31, 2023

By Serena Miller

Editor, Sales Best Practices at Outreach

The sales world is ever-changing. Customer demand and expectations, market conditions, technological advancements, evolving techniques, shifting employee demographics, and more threaten an organization’s ability to stay ahead of the curve and be successful.

Simply improvising in the face of change isn’t an adequate strategy to ensure your team will meet their goals. While flexibility is a vital quality for any great sales team, proper planning is crucial for reaching your goals consistently and predictably. 

A strong sales plan can help your team boost alignment and collaboration, better understand competitors and the broader market, effectively analyze performance, and improve future outcomes.

Let’s explore some important elements of sales plans, including key process steps and elements, real-world examples, tips and tricks for getting it right, and the template you’ll need to get started.

  • What is a sales plan?
  • Key elements of a sales plan
  • Examples of strategic sales plans
  • Tips for creating an effective sales plan
  • Sales plan templates

What is a sales plan? 

A sales plan is a document that outlines your specific objectives, challenges, strategies, and target audience. It’s a sales-specific illustration of exactly what steps your team will take to succeed. While a business plan lays out your organization’s broader goals, a sales plan maps out how you’ll actually achieve them.

What are the benefits of a sales plan

Effective sales plans help organizations align their sales and marketing teams and avoid conflicting efforts. It’s an essential part of a strong sales management process because it reduces distractions and helps managers and sellers focus on selling to the right prospects at the right time. When used as an ongoing process, sales planning enables teams to track their progress, boosts rep motivation, and reduces wasted time. 

The sales planning process

Nothing about sales is static. Sales planning should therefore be a living, breathing process that managers review as new products are updated or released, market conditions change, or their team scales.

Nothing about sales is static. Sales planning should therefore be a living, breathing process that managers review as new products are updated or released, market conditions change, or their team scales. 

The typical sales planning process includes 5 key steps:

1. Align your mission statement with your sales plan

Take the first step by crafting an awesome mission statement. This will establish your company’s purpose and unify your team around a succinct principle. 

But it is vital to bring that mission statement to increase employee engagement, boost productivity, and commit everyone to the same goals and objectives. To keep your big-picture strategy from floating around in the stratosphere, tie it together with your already-established mission statement. 

For example, if your mission statement centers around finding the best possible solutions for each customer’s unique problems, your sales plan should mirror that same sentiment—and offer ways you can actually deliver. 

Once you’ve ironed out these details, be sure to clearly communicate them with your team. Explain how your sales plan aligns with your mission statement and the importance of maintaining that continuity. 

2. Analyze your market 

Your business doesn’t operate in a vacuum, and neither should your sales plan. Take a close look at each of your competitors and your own company’s current performance in the market and incorporate that data into a holistic plan. How do your competitors serve your target audience? How do your own strategies stand up to — or fail to meet — market demands?

In order to identify your ideal customers, as well as their product and service needs, you should utilize customer feedback, user research, client surveys, sales team and service team interviews, social listening, keyword research, and competitive analysis.. Instead of assuming that you already know what customers want, potentially wasting time, resources, and revenue, take the time to pinpoint their demands, expectations, and requirements. Then train and develop your sales plan to address them. 

Remember that 77% of B2B customers find their buying journey difficult, so a sales plan that takes their unique needs into account can make all the difference when it comes to attracting and retaining clients. 

3. Set sales goals and targets 

Setting both short- and long-term goals and targets is sometimes challenging. Managers often scramble to improve everything all at once without a clear understanding of how to do it. The foundation for strong goal-setting is a healthy mix of the right sales metrics (e.g., activity metrics, pipeline metrics, lead gen metrics, and productivity metrics) and measuring them against the right KPIs

The best way to set realistic, yet challenging targets for your sales plan is to collect and make effective use of high-quality data. Powerful, fully-integrated sales tools help your team accomplish this by eliminating the need for manual data entry and updating. Your team can glean a comprehensive, up-to-date understanding of where they are and where they want to go; all without missing a beat. 

Over time, you can use metrics and KPIs from previous periods to fine-tune your targets. Integrate both your sales and marketing metrics to help you refine your goals and find more opportunities to improve your processes. 

4. Define your sales team’s roles and responsibilities

Each sales team member plays a crucial role in the success of the larger unit:

  • Inside and outside sales reps focus on making contact with prospects
  • Account managers retain, engage, and satisfy clients
  • Regional sales managers support their direct reports and coordinate sales operations 
  • Sales operations managers improve team efficiency, productivity, and effectiveness
  • Sales development reps (SDRs) research, prospect, and qualify leads
  • Account executives (AEs) run demos, conduct compelling presentations, identify and resolve purchasing challenges, and negotiate buying terms
  • Sales engineers address in-depth product questions, identify customers’ technical needs, and develop demos

While this isn't an exhaustive list of each individual role’s responsibilities, it illustrates how many moving parts a well-oiled sales team needs to run. Executive sales team members (like the Director of Sales, VP of Sales, and Chief Sales Officer) focus on higher-level sales initiatives, and their knowledge and expertise is crucial to the team’s overall success.

Because there are so many different sales career pathways, managers should clearly define each person's responsibilities and outline how their efforts will contribute to the sales plan. Break down tasks and targets for each team member and measure their performance alongside those larger KPIs. For example, you might measure SDRs against number of deals closed, number of calls, or number of meetings, while evaluating account executives using number of demos, opportunities won, and win rate.

5. Evaluate results

Your sales plan should never be rigid. Even if you think you’ve crafted a sales plan masterpiece, it’s essential to follow up after implementation and evaluate your results. Using robust sales technology, you can easily track every activity within your sales process and evaluate how the execution of each task reveals your team’s strengths and shortcomings. 

A strong sales tool offers a variety of features that help you assess performance—one of which being a sales dashboard. Dashboards standardize, centralize, and visually illustrate all of your sales data in a single place, helping managers evaluate team performance and progress against their set goals in real time.   

Then, armed with those deep insights, you can adjust your sales plan as needed for even better outcomes in the future. 

Key elements of a sales plan 

Though your specific sales plan will vary depending on your unique business, goals, target audience, team size, and industry, there are several common elements you should always consider.

Set realistic goals

Goals motivate sellers and keep them excited about their work. Since highly-engaged teams are 14% more productive than those with low engagement, taking the time to create achievable targets based on market conditions and your customers’ needs, which tie into the things that engage your sellers.

A varying combination of daily, weekly, and monthly goals can help managers keep sales people inspired. Make sure you clearly establish how these smaller goals impact the success of the sales plan to get reps fully committed. 

Explore sales tools

Many of today’s sales teams rely heavily on their tools, but some still struggle with lackluster, disconnected, or outdated technology. To create and carry out a seamless sales plan, your team needs tools that are completely integrated and offer the type of transparency that streamlines your entire operation.

Most sales teams use customer relationship management (CRM) tools to organize contacts and optimize sales management. In fact, 50% of top tech sellers use CRM tools, while 97% of sales professionals say that their CRM is important for closing deals. 

While your CRM is crucial, that one tool alone is not enough to support your team at every step of the sales process. Your team needs a full suite of integrated features, like dashboards, forecasts, automation, and buyer sentiment analysis. With the right SalesTech, your team can improve productivity, communication, and lead conversion to ultimately build and execute excellent sales plans. 

Communicate clear expectations 

Establishing and enforcing expectations is critical to just about every part of a business. After all, how are employees supposed to know what they should do and whether they’re doing it properly without understanding what’s expected of them? 

In sales, this is especially important. Success often hinges on specific, time-sensitive activities that are properly executed. For instance, swift customer follow-up can make or break a deal. A rep’s failure to understand where their co-worker’s responsibility ends and theirs begins can change a success into a failure. 

To anticipate or resolve any existing confusion, managers should define crystal-clear expectations both for the team and for individual sellers. Document those expectations in an easy-to-access place. Each seller should have the right resources and direction to execute every sales task in a timely manner. This builds trust and communication within the team, which is the key to the success of  any sales plan. 

Develop training programs 

Organizations that invest in training receive about $453 for every dollar invested (a 353% ROI). Top-performing sellers are more likely to spend a significant amount of time training with their managers. It’s no wonder 89% of sales leaders have invested or plan to invest in internal sales training. Those that fail to prioritize skill development will likely fall behind their competitors. 

There are many different types of training programs, each with varying benefits and costs. One thing to note is that regardless of which type of training program you choose, make sure your team has the right tools and the training to effectively use those tools to help everyone get the most out of the investment.

Examples of strategic sales plans 

There are several different types of sales plans that might be useful to your specific business and team. Here are some examples of the most commonly used strategic sales plans.

Customer profile  

Developing an ideal customer profile (ICP) is an excellent way to make sure your team targets the right prospects. An ICP can fine-tune messaging, and establish a strong overall sales strategy. To get started building this type of sales plan, identify your best current customers, reach out to those customers for feedback, and study your customer and sales data. Then, use those insights to craft a valuable ICP that’ll drive even more business from new verticals

30-60-90-day plan

It’s helpful to break your sales plan up into more digestible chunks. A 30-60-90-day plan divides goals, activities, and metrics into 30-day intervals, each with progressively challenging steps. It’s a great way to set reps up for continuous improvement without overwhelming them right off the bat. 

Market expansion plan 

Stimulating growth in new markets is a daunting task, but a market expansion sales plan gives your team clear direction on how to break through. This model is best used for new territories or regions where your ICP, account distribution costs, time zones, and other key factors differ from those in your typical market. 

Marketing-alignment plan 

Getting your sales and marketing departments on the same page can ameliorate many issues that might hinder your sales success—like inconsistent messaging, uncoordinated strategy, disparate data, disconnected tools, lack of understanding, differing priorities, competition for funding, and more. A sales plan that’s grounded in sales-marketing alignment can effectively bring both teams together for greater cohesion, better resource sharing, more scalable playbooks, and shorter sales cycles.

New product/service plan

If your organization plans to launch a new product or service in the near future, it’s probably ideal to create a sales plan around that debut. This will help your team properly track revenue, understand subsequent growth, and identify areas of strengths and weaknesses. 

Tips for creating an effective sales plan 

Regardless of the type of sales plan you choose, there are some well-established best practices that’ll help your team translate the plan into real-world success.

Create a market analysis

Fluctuating market trends make it difficult to stay on top of the competitive landscape and customer demands. Be sure to conduct an in-depth market analysis to better understand how to reach your target audience. Then, create a sales and prospecting approach geared to those insights. 

If your sales plan is founded upon hard facts and data, like industry standards, previous performance data and sales forecasts, and qualitative and quantitative feedback from sales and marketing teams, you can make meaningful adjustments that will garner better results at a faster rate. 

Utilize your marketing team 

If you establish your marketing team as your collaborative partner on your sales plan, they become your team’s secret weapon. Ask your marketing team to share their insights, and regularly voice their questions and concerns about your strategy. The effort required for getting sales and marketing teams in rhythm is worth it to make your plan more optimized and robust. 

Communicate with your sales team

At the core of any great sales plan is effective communication, so make sure your team has everything they need to receive updates, share input, and explore their colleagues’ challenges. Encourage them to let you know what’s working and what isn’t. Company chat applications (e.g., Slack) are great, but they don’t always enable the seamless communication required for a fully-optimized sales operation. Leverage tools that act as a central hub for all things sales.

Sales execution platforms, for example, offer centralized communication in a single place. Team members can always access and share updates and communication histories, collaborate, and work efficiently toward the same goals. 

Sales plan templates 

Even with a deeper understanding of what your sales plan needs and why it’s important, crafting one of your own can be confusing. Sales plan templates can help guide your process and ensure nothing falls through the cracks. An effective template should include spaces for key elements, strategy specifics, roles and responsibilities, KPIs, short- and long-term goals, and deadlines. 

To help get your sales planning juices flowing, we’ve created a sales plan template with everything you’ll need for success:

A powerful platform for effective sales planning

Your sales plan acts as your team’s guiding light for developing a clear, effective strategy. Effective planning aligns sales and marketing, helps teams progress and performance, and improves seller engagement, motivation, and productivity. But the various moving pieces of a strong sales plan require the support of an intelligent system of action.

Outreach’s Sales Execution Platform reduces the time-consuming, manual activities typically associated with sales planning. As the only AI-powered Sales Execution Platform, Outreach unlocks seller productivity to create more pipeline and close more deals.

Learn more about how Outreach helps managers boost their team’s productivity, or request a demo today.


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