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What is sales planning and how to create a sales plan?

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Sales planning is a crucial component of a strong sales effort. After all, you can’t structure an effective sales effort without, well, structure. Everyone, from the top to the bottom of a sales organization, benefits from having solid, executable, and carefully organized sales plans in place.

This type of planning offers clarity and direction for your sales team, covering everything from the prospects you’re trying to reach to the goals you’re trying to achieve and the insights you’re trying to provide.

But putting one of these plans together isn’t always straightforward, so, to help you out, we’ve compiled this detailed guide on sales planning, including expert-backed insights and examples, that will ensure your next sales plan is fundamentally solid and effective.

The purpose of your company’s sales plan should:

  • Communicate the goals and objectives of your company.
  • Provide strategic direction.
  • Outline roles and responsibilities.
  • Monitor the progress of your sales team.

Communicate the goals and objectives of your company

Goals and objectives are the lifeblood of successful sales efforts. You can’t know what you’re working for or if you’ve achieved something significant if you haven’t set them. Your sales representatives need to have a solid idea of what is expected of them: you can’t go to your team and simply say, “Sell.” You must establish clear benchmarks that reconcile practicality with ambition. And if those goals change over time, you need to regularly communicate those changes and the accompanying strategic adjustments to your team.

Provide strategic direction

Your sales strategy keeps your sales process productive: it offers actionable steps that your representatives can take to fulfill your vision and reach the goals you set. Therefore, naturally, you need to communicate it effectively. A sales plan provides a solid resource for that. Regardless of how you want to approach the situation, a carefully structured sales plan will provide both you and your representatives with a high-level perspective that would inform more cohesive and effective efforts throughout the team.

Outline roles and responsibilities

An effective sales organization is a machine: one in which each part has a function that serves a specific purpose that must be executed in a specific way. That’s why everyone in that organization needs to have a clear understanding of how they specifically contribute to the company’s broader sales strategy. Outlining roles and responsibilities during sales planning lends itself to more efficient task delegation, enhanced collaboration, reduced overlap, and increased accountability. All of which translates to smoother, more efficient, and successful sales efforts.

Monitor the progress of your sales team

Sales planning can establish the framework for measuring how well your team is fulfilling your sales strategy. It can inform the benchmarks and milestones that representatives can use to see how their performance compares to your goals and expectations. It also provides sales leaders with a holistic view of how well a sales organization is functioning as a whole, giving them the necessary perspective to understand if they have the right people and tools to be as successful as possible.

Sales Planning Process

Sales planning should not be limited to the actual sales plan document you produce. If that document is going to have any practical content or value, it should be the byproduct of a comprehensive, well-informed, and high-level strategy.

When planning sales, there are some key steps you should cover, including:

  • Gathering sales data and looking for trends.
  • Defining your goals.
  • Determining metrics for success.
  • Assessing the current situation.
  • Starting sales forecasting.
  • Identifying gaps.
  • Devising new initiatives.
  • Engaging stakeholders.
  • Outlining action items.

Creating a Sales Plan that Grows with Your Business

There’s no one-size-fits-all sales plan. The only wrong way to use a sales plan is to write it at the beginning of the year or quarter and never refer to it again. You should review and update it periodically as time goes on to ensure you’re focused and on the right track. By continually improving your plan, you can ensure that your company generates revenue more effectively than ever before.

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