Working in sales can be tough at times. After working in a sales role for a while, you may begin to feel fatigued or experience low motivation.
Reignite your drive and excitement and give yourself an amazing gift — something that keeps on giving even after years of working as a sales representative or account executive. A gift that — no matter what type of sales rep you are — can help you improve your performance (and ultimately increase revenue).
Give yourself the gift of a business plan
A business plan requires you to think about all of your efforts from a high level: Who are you targeting, what are your performance goals, and how do you plan to achieve them?
Not only will a high-level view of your audience, goals, and more help you meet and exceed your goals, but it might even help you get the promotion you've been striving for.
Below, I share the key elements of a sales business plan.
Sales Business Plan Layout
Tactics and Actions
Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
Sales and Marketing Alignment
Obstacles to Success
Personal and Professional Development
Business Plan Template for Sales Reps
Free Business Plan Template
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I’ve found it easiest to start with the end in mind and work backward from there. Naturally, your goals will include your company’s expectations (i.e., quota), but why not go even further?
Be more specific: What do you want to achieve?
A promotion? A certain level of income? A certain number of conversions per month? X number of new clients acquired over the course of the year? How about increasing your average deal size? Whatever it is, put it down in writing and build a plan to get yourself there.
It’s powerful to write down our goals. One year, I decided to write five key goals on the whiteboard in my office. At year-end, I had hit four of them — including finally buying the classic car I’ve had my eye on for 30 years.
2. A Review
Got your goals on hand? Great. Now take a few minutes to ponder the strategies you pursued previously. Which ones worked well and make sense to reincorporate this year? And which didn’t work at all and either need to be adjusted or scrapped altogether?
This review will be your guidepost as you create a strategy and come up with an action plan. Be honest with yourself during this reflection. Consider asking for feedback from managers, peers, and clients. You might even seek feedback from prospects who didn’t end up buying from you. What can you do better? Was there anything about your sales tactics that put them off? Why did they choose a competitor over you?
If this all sounds vague, take a numbers approach to this review. Instead of reviewing your sales strategies, review how your numbers fared throughout the year — revenue generated, number of meetings, number of proposals, number of demos, close rate, and so on. (Your review will be even more telling and powerful if you combine that qualitative review with a quantitative one.)
3. A Strategy
Once you’ve articulated what you want to achieve, the next question is logical: How are you going to do better so that you can reach your goals?
What new markets will you approach? Which customers and prospects will you target? How will you frame the sales conversation or sharpen your sales story? What are the new things you will try on the phone, online, or face-to-face?
See that review that we did in that last step? This is where it’ll come in handy. Having a clear idea of what worked and what didn’t will tell you what you should keep or remove from your new strategy. For example, if last year you sent follow-up emails three days after a demo, you could try to send follow-up emails two days this time. This is one of the tactics you could use.
Which brings me to my next point. After creating a strategy, it’s time to come up with some tactics and take action.
4. Tactics and Actions
This section is critical because sales is a verb (it may not be in the dictionary, but in my book it is).
The most well-intentioned goals and the soundest strategies mean nothing if you don’t know what steps to take to achieve them. So for this section of your plan, ask yourself, "What activities am I going to commit to?"
For example, you’ll have X number of face-to-face conversations per month or make Y prospecting calls per week. Whatever the activities are, they should drive what ends up on your calendar on a daily or weekly basis.
Let's say your goal is to make more sales in a shorter period of time. Include the resources and tools you'll use to achieve that goal in your business plan. In this case, one option would be to use a CRM database to help you keep track of your prospects and eliminate manual data entry (e.g. logging emails and calls), ultimately increasing your efficiency.
5. Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
Action is action, but if there’s no way to measure its success, you won’t know what worked and what didn’t. You’ll therefore want to put metrics in place to monitor your progress. I recommend setting target numbers for the following KPIs:
Remember: set a target number for each of these metrics. That way, you have something to reach toward. You can either manually keep track of this information or use a dedicated sales software. Or you can ask your manager to give you the performance data.
6. Sales and Marketing Alignment
You know what you want to do, how you’re going to do it, and which metrics you want to track. As you carry out your strategy, be sure to align your efforts with the efforts of your company’s marketing team.
Aligning your sales plan with a whole other department may sound over-the-top, but hear me out: sales teams depend on marketing teams to deliver leads. Even when you’re prospecting, marketing has likely identified the types of companies — and the best job titles — you should use for outreach.
When those leads get to your desk, it’s time to sell to them in a way that continues the nurturing process that marketing started. Say the lead was acquired when they downloaded an ebook on how to improve their productivity. When that lead gets assigned to you, propose your company’s product as a solution. Don’t try to sell it as if you don’t know the person and why they’re there.
It’s helpful to have a CRM that keeps track of your leads’ marketing-related activity. That way, you know which pages they’ve visited, what they’ve downloaded, and whether they’ve reached out to your company before. When carrying out your sales strategy, do so in a way that can fulfill the promises extended by marketing. Take a look at the content on your website, your company’s slogan, and your buyer personas. Use this information to create the perfect pitch.
After, connect with the marketing team to let them know whether that was a good lead or whether the buyer personas and the content on the website need adjustment. If your team doesn’t yet meet regularly with marketing, bring the issue to your manager. Marketing and sales alignment is critical for your plan’s success.
But there are other obstacles to look out for, too — and it’s important that you recognize them.
7. Obstacles to Success
This is a unique addition I haven’t seen in many plans, but I think it’s an important component. This is where you lay out what could prevent you from reaching your goals and also highlight areas where you might need some help. The truth is that you likely know what will get in the way of your success. So instead of using these obstacles as excuses later, point them out right at the beginning.
Think carefully: What obstacles will keep you from succeeding?
Do you need new tools or different technology? More flexibility? Better internal support? Put it down in writing now. That way, when you present your plan to your manager (and I strongly encourage you to present your plan to your manager and maybe even a few peers), you give them a chance to support you.
They can either remove the obstacle or tell you it can't be removed in the short-term. Either way, it’s in your best interest to declare these potential pitfalls now so that they’re not excuses down the road.
8. Personal and Professional Development
This is another important aspect of the business plan that's often overlooked. I regularly see salespeople fail because they’ve stopped learning and growing.
Many have become stale. Others are bored and ineffective from deploying the same techniques year after year. You wouldn’t go to a doctor that didn’t read medical journals and was treating patients with the same protocol he used twenty years ago, would you?
So commit to growing as a sales professional this year. What are you going to do to grow in your career?
What conferences are you going to attend? Which books are you going to read? Which sales blogs will you follow?
Now, once you have the layout for your sales business plan solidified, you must do two things:
Get it down on paper: You’re more likely to achieve goals if you write them down. Just trust me on that.
Get more specific: Using an actual business plan template can prompt you to think deeper about your motivation and action plan.
Below is a free business plan template you can use to get started.
Free Business Plan Template
Start building your business plan with this free template.
Your goal here is to think like a business. I’ll teach you how to adapt each section of this general business plan to fit your role as a sales rep.
The Business Opportunity
The business opportunity is an overview of why you’re doing what you’re doing, who you’re doing it for, and what you hope to achieve. Include your mission statement as a sales rep and why you’re working with the leads and accounts you chose.
In a typical business plan, this section is called an executive summary and highlights the most crucial information for readers. This means you can get creative and inspirational with it, summarizing the information that will motivate you most.
The company description can either refer to the organization(s) you sell for or you can consider yourself the business being described. Since this is a personal document, choose the format that will most benefit you.
Keep in mind that there are a few elements to include in this section:
This is a short description of the business, providing a high-level overview of who they are, what they offer, and who they offer it to. You might consider creating multiple purposes if you sell on behalf of more than one organization or outlining your purpose as a salesperson.
A mission statement is a formal summary of the aims and values of an organization. If you’re making multiple company descriptions, include one for each organization. You can also include a personal mission statement for why you’ve chosen this organization and how you plan to support their success.
For example, say I’m a sales rep for an editorial company. My personal mission statement might be “to reach out to writers suffering from imposter syndrome and encourage them to consider editorial help so they can publish with confidence … and inspire future writers who dream of doing the same.”
Use the core values for the organization(s) you work for, why they were chosen, and how they will manifest in your interactions with prospects. For example, HubSpot’s values are: humility, empathy, adaptability, remarkableness, and transparency.
If your organization doesn’t have clear core values defined, feel free to come up with your own that will serve as your modus operandi. Three to five values is the sweet spot.
Product & Service Lines
This section will include:
Product or service offerings: What are the lines you’re trying to sell and what functionality does each have?
Pricing model: How much does each product or service cost for prospects, how much commission do you make for each sale, and what parameters do you have for discounts or special deals?
Outline this information in an easy-to-scan table.
Commission Per Sale
Deals AND Discounts
In a typical business plan, this would manifest as an overview of the company and all the key leadership roles. However, the most relevant information could be key contacts at your company or companies you sell to including your sales and marketing contacts (if applicable). If you’re filling out the template to create your sales plan, you’d simply include yourself.
In this section, you’ll take a look at the state of the industry, including your company’s competitors and your prospect’s competitors. Is the market in growth or decline? Who are your competitors? What edge do they have over your product? And how can you get your prospects to buy into the product you’re selling instead? Your sales manager might already have answers for you or relay new information as it becomes available.
If you’re filling out a business plan to understand your prospects, you’ll want to answer similar questions. Who are their competitors? What challenges are they looking to solve? Is their industry in decline, and if so, can your product help them grow during this decline?
This will manifest in your business plan as an overview or outline of whom you’re targeting, including general demographics and psychographics. You might want to include:
Location and language
Pains or problems they're looking to solve
Consider consolidating this information and creating dedicated buyer personas.
Buyer personas are fictional representations of individuals within your target market. The best practice is to create a buyer persona for each “type” of customer you serve. You can do so using HubSpot’s Make My Persona tool and exporting the information into your business plan.
If you’re filling out the template for a prospect, come up with a buyer persona for the target audience they serve.
Where is the geographic location of your target market? Explain why you’ve chosen the location and the benefits of it. Do the same for your prospects and customers, if you’re using the template for them.
Here’s a template you can use:
[Organization name] serves [Location] because [reason]. We found that one of the key drivers of successful acquisition is [Key element], which means our target buyers tend to be in [more specific location descriptor]. We plan to tap into this market by [method].
This might manifest as something like:
“Editorial Company serves authors throughout the United States because editorial work can be done online with virtual meetings and file sharing. We found that one of the key drivers of successful acquisition is participation in online writing groups, which means our target buyers tend to be active in social media circles. We plan to tap into this market with inbound marketing.”
In this section, a business typically specifies how long it will take for its operation to be up and running. They take logistics, partnerships, and other operational elements into account. For your sales plan, you might specify an implementation timeline for various checkpoints, including software adoption, sales-marketing meetings, and more.
Say that you told your sales manager you need sales software to keep track of the KPIs you identified earlier. You should take into account the time it will take for that CRM to be purchased and distributed to your team.
If you’re filling out the template to understand a prospect, consider laying out a timeline that specifies when they’ll buy the product, when you’re to follow up with them, and so on.
If your organization is an inbound sales organization with a marketing department, you might include your marketing and sales service-level agreement (SLA) in this section.
On the other hand, if you’re responsible for cold outreach and prospecting, this section might be helpful to complete on your own. The elements you’ll need to consider are:
How is this product or service unique and unbeatable compared to its competitors?
Why are potential buyers going to be interested in the product or service?
How will you address the buyer persona’s biggest challenges and goals?
What are your main lead acquisition channels (e.g. search engine marketing, event marketing, blogging, paid advertising, etc.)?
What do you plan to prioritize this year for lead acquisition?
This section is likely more suited for sales reps who are commission-only. You’ll want to consider how much financial collateral will be your responsibility as you sell for the organization. You’ll want to outline:
When you'll break even
Profit and loss projections
These things can be estimated and calculated in Excel and then imported into the template. There’s also a section on funding required, but you won’t need to fill it out as an individual sales rep. And since your prospects have already secured funding or are established firms, you won’t need to fill this out to understand their business.
Now, finally, we’ve reached the sales plan. This will be done in a separate worksheet — a Google Doc or Word document that you can continue to edit as you evolve in your sales role. You will likely be able to draw on your past experience to outline the following:
How will you reach and engage with new leads?
Are you pursuing an inbound or outbound sales strategy?
Why does your prospecting strategy make sense for your business?
Sales Organization Structure
Who do you report to within the organization?
Is there a marketing department and existing SLA between the departments?
How are leads qualified?
What are your main customer acquisition channels (e.g. online purchasing, through a rep, on location, via email, etc.)?
Tools and Technology
What tools or systems are you equipped with (e.g. CMS, live chat, etc.)?
Crush Your Sales Goals with a Business and Sales Plan
With the plan I’ve shared, you'll be prepared to take on any goal or challenge in your career. Consider it a gift to yourself that keeps on giving. Use your plan like a living document. Review it weekly. And make tweaks as necessary along the way. Let it dictate what makes it onto your calendar and what doesn’t. At year-end, you will be amazed at what you accomplished and thankful you invested the time to do this now.
Editor's note: This post was originally published in May 2020 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.
Originally published Mar 31, 2021 1:45:00 PM, updated April 01 2021