Creating a sales plan from scratch can be overwhelming. This can make it easy to overthink things.
Some people immediately start crunching numbers to define sales quotas. Others compile a list of product features that they can pack into a marketing strategy.
However, a good sales plan should never be crafted to meet the needs of your company, or to move product. A successful sales plan should crafted to meet the needs of your customers.
Elements of a Successful Sales Plan
As we explore this topic, we will cover these six essential elements to designing your sales strategy:
- Identifying your ideal customer profile
- Creating a messaging strategy
- Defining your sales funnel
- Choosing outreach methods
- Goals, and measuring success
- Unifying sales efforts
Part 1: Identifying Your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP)
Every great sales plan begins by defining who your target customer is. If you want to generate long-term value and ROI on your sales efforts, you will only successful if you know who you are selling to and why.
A customer profile is a representative description of a group of customers & personas that can be used to identify a segment of the market that needs your product/service. You can reach this definition by looking at your existing customer base, discovering common traits amongst current customers, and developing a customer profile based on that data. If you don’t have that data, formulate a hypothesis based on your customer development.
It helps to understand more about your than just how they interact with your brand.
- Where do they live?
- What do they do?
- What are their hobbies?
- Where do they spend time?
- What is their age?
Think of everything you can imagine and compress these details into a descriptive profile.
Example: Married men between the age of 30 and 40 who live in major cities who earn between $60,000 and $80,000 per year, work in a corporate environment, and watch basketball.
It's always better to create a customer profile using real data from customer research.
Here at Troops, we based our ICP on who has sponsored and signed agreements. If our champion was different, we also categorize this as well. This gives us a data driven understanding of who we're selling to and what they care about.
We further classify this information by the use cases that drove a purchase and tier of customer. Someone who makes a decision at an SMB company might be very different than at an Enterprise company.
Having this information allows you to better define your approach and messaging to various types of accounts.
If you don't have any data yet, we recommend doing some market research and surveying potential customers so that you learn everything you can about who will buy, and who will buy fast!
Customer profiling can also come in handy for sales teams that divide their territory. Traditionally, teams split the collective effort by region, industry, or size of prospect. You can also split the workload by going after named accounts that meet the target profiles.
Part 2: Creating a Messaging Strategy
Now that you know who you're selling to, the next step in your sales plan is to determine what you are going to say and how you are going to say it. There should be a consistent message throughout all of your outreach uniquely tailored to each persona.
First, reverse engineer the sales process and start by acknowledging customer pain points. Based on that pain, how might your product or service alleviate the problem?
Discovering pain points, starts during your customer development and discovery process. For example, it may appear that "Manager Marty" is looking for a new project management software because his team is letting projects slide through the cracks. However, the real reason behind Manager Marty's search might be his desire to impress the executives. In that case, your leading message might have less to do with failed projects and more to do with aspiration.
If you have multiple personas, and each have different pains, you want to rank the pains for each persona and tailor the messaging accordingly.
When you plan a style of messaging, think about your target customers and how they may react to your approach. A younger more millennial audience might react to totally different messages and mediums than an older audience. Would they respond to bubbly messaging or serious talk? Would they prefer to engage in a moment of small talk at the beginning of a cold call, or would they prefer to get down to business? Put yourself in their shoes while crafting your message strategy in order to create a successful plan that will lead to increased sales.
Part 3: Defining Your Sales Funnel
When you're building out your sales strategy, it’s essential to map out the necessary steps to ultimately get a deal done.
As the name suggests, a sales funnel refers to the consistent flow of potential customers from the first interaction to closed business (and beyond!).
Here’s an easy way to think about a broad 4 stage sales funnel stages:
- Discovery - Brand new prospects who have just learned about their problem.
- Qualification - Is this customer a good fit for you and your time?
- Deliberation - Prospects who are in the process of learning about potential solutions, and considering their options.
- Decision - Prospects who know they want to solve their problem, but they're not sure if they should choose you or someone else to help them.
- Delight - Prospects turned customers who you want to keep around as long as you can!
Each part of your sales strategy should address each stage of the sales funnel. Ideally you define entry and exit criteria for each stage you build. Think of these as gates in the process where you either need to have to learned certain things or the prospect must have taken certain actions in order to advance to the next part of the process.
Funnels can be further broken down into micro-funnels. Each one of these can be optimized. For example, think about breaking down the top of the funnel:
- A blog visitor learns about their problem on your marketing blog and enters the Discovery stage of the funnel.
- While exiting the blog, the visitor sees a prompt to sign up for blog updates and they fill in the form. Marketing has captured a new lead.
- Marketing emails the prospect a new blog which moves them into the Consideration stage.
- During this visit, the prospect engages with a salesperson on live chat to inquire about a solution.
- That salesperson collects their telephone number and calls them two days later to discuss buying the product. The prospect moves into the Decision stage.
- Marketing sends out another informational email.
- The prospect calls back and decides to purchase, moving into the Delight stage.
- From this point forward, both sales and marketing engage the customer in various ways to keep the relationship positive for the long-term.
As you look at your funnel, it’s important to measure each component so that you can move towards optimizing it.
If you notice deals keep getting stuck at a certain stage, it probably makes sense to zoom in and diagnose why that might be happening. This is often called “inspection” and something you can automate and make collaborative using Troops.ai.
Part 4: Pipeline Generation
To build a sales pipeline, create an exhaustive list of all the channels you can use to reach customers and increase your market share. Once you have that list, narrow it down to the most effective actions you can take and add them to your sales plan.
Some examples of outreach methods are:
- Cold emailing and cold calling
- Soliciting referrals from existing customers
- Cross-selling and upselling current customers
- Social media outreach on LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, etc.
- Online and offline advertising
- Hosting local events
- Affiliate marketing
- Email marketing
- Trade Shows
Once you determine which business growth strategies you want to lead with, make sure you spend some time training your sales team to engage and follow up with these leads.
We’re big believers in using a multi-channel approach that leverages calling, emailing, referrals, and social selling. Tony Hughes calls this “combo prospecting” and it works amazingly in the modern selling environment. (But, with so many methods in play, it’s essential to keep meticulous sales call reports.)
Part 5: Goals and Measuring Success
A successful sales plan requires sales goals. The primary goal of any business plan is to make money. So you need to set sales targets in order to make sure your team is generating more revenue than your operational expenses.
Appoint a sales manager who is responsible for keeping the entire team accountable. This is the part of the sales plan where it's appropriate to talk about numbers. You should develop sales quotas, minimum sales numbers that individual performs must reach to keep their jobs. Review these weekly as a team and share them frequently. We share these numbers in Slack throughout the day and week using Troops Salesforce Reports in Slack!
Here's a short list of key performance indicators (KPIs) to make sure everyone is on track:
- New leads per month
- Marketing qualified leads (leads ready for marketing engagement)
- Sales qualified leads (leads ready for sales engagement)
- Number of prospect interactions (outbound phone calls, outbound emails, etc)
- Opportunities Created
- 1st Demos Held
- Pipeline created
- New business closed
Part 6: Unifying Sales Efforts
You're almost done with your sales plan! Before you can implement your plan, though, you must consider ways to maximize the productivity of the team, and avoid duplicate responsibilities.
Build some repetitive workflows into your sales process. We all get distracted sometimes, and sales isn't always easy! Creating documented responsibilities for sales staff goes a long way to keep everyone on track.
And, don’t forget that morale is vital to the success of any team. Whether you are a sales manager, consultant, company founder, or someone leading the charge - do your best to keep the team positive and celebrate big deals and wins. Sales is so competitive that it could be a sport in the Olympics. Encourage a team to work together. Set individual performance incentives but also consider team incentives. Get creative here. Think outside the box and happily enjoy the glory of increased sales figures!