When the New Year has passed, and the excitement of your new resolutions or goals is dwindling, it can be challenging to stay motivated. How do you stay on the right track and make your goals a reality?
Reignite your drive and excitement and give yourself an amazing gift — something that keeps on giving, all year long.
Whether you’re working in-house for an organization or are a commission-only sales rep, you can take your performance to the next level (and ultimately make more money) by thinking of your efforts like a business. That means thinking of your efforts like a business: Who are you targeting, what are your performance goals, and how do you plan to achieve them?
This year, give yourself the gift of a business plan. Not only will it help you meet and exceed your goals, but it might even help you get the promotion you've been striving for and advance your career.
You'll be back on the right track and have an action plan for success.
Here are some of the key elements a sales business plan should include:
Sales Business Plan Layout
Obstacles to Success
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. Last year, I wrote five key goals on the whiteboard in my office. At year-end, I had hit four of them — including finally buying the car I’ve had my eye on for 30 years.
Once you’ve articulated what you want to achieve, the next question is logical: How are you going to get there?
What new markets will you approach? What customers/prospects will you target? How you will 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?
It’s also a great time to take a few minutes and ponder the strategies you pursued last year. Which worked well and make good sense to reincorporate again this year? And which didn’t work at all and either need to be adjusted or scrapped altogether?
This section is critical because sales is a verb (it may not be in the dictionary, but in my book it is.)
There are way too many salespeople who are great at talking about what they are going to do, but when push comes to shove, there’s no action. The most well-intentioned goals and the soundest strategies mean nothing if you don’t know what steps to take to achieve them or put metrics in place to monitor your progress.
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 this many prospecting calls per week. Whatever the activities are, they should drive what ends up on your calendar on a daily/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, eliminate manual data entry (e.g. logging emails and calls), ultimately increasing your efficiency.
4. 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 have a chance to lay out what could prevent you from reaching your goals and also highlight areas where you might need some help. The blunt truth is that you likely know right now what may 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 by removing the obstacle or, perhaps, tell you it can't be removed in the short-term and you'll need to work with it. Either way, it’s in your best interest to declare these potential pitfalls now so they’re not excuses down the road.
5. Personal/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 did 20 years ago, would you?
So commit to growing as a sales professional this year. Think, what are you going to do to grow in your career this year?
What conferences are you going to attend? Which books are you going to read? Which sales blogs will you follow?
Free Business Plan Template (Word)
Once you have the layout for your sales business plan solidified, you must do two things:
Get it down on paper - According to Inc Magazine, you're 42% more likely to achieve goals if you write them down.
Get more specific - Using an actual business plan template can prompt you to think deeper about your motivation and action plan.
Your goal here is to continue thinking like a business, so here's how to adapt each section of this general business plan to fit your role as a sales rep:
The executive summary is a 1-2 page overview that includes 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 organization (or organizations) you chose.
In a typical business plan, this section serves to highlight the most crucial information for readers — in your case, that’s you. This means you can get creative and inspirational with it, summarizing the information that will most motivate you.
Company & Business Description
The company and business description can either refer to the organization(s) you sell for, or you can consider yourself as the company/business being described. Since this ends up being a personal document, choose the format that will most benefit you. Keep in mind that there are a few elements to include in each Company & Business Description section you end up making:
This is a 1-2 paragraph 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 you might consider outlining your purpose.
A mission statement is a formal summary of the aims and values of an organization. If you are making multiple Company & Business Description pages for your reference, include the mission statement for each organization.
However, you shouldn’t stop there. Also include your personal mission statement for why you’ve chosen this organization and how you plan to support their success.
For example, say I am a sales rep for an editorial company whose mission is “to guide women writers to successful self-publication by providing feedback without intimidation.”
My personal mission statement might be “to reach out to women writers suffering from imposter syndrome and encourage them to consider editorial help so they can publish with confidence… and inspire future women writers who dream of doing the same.”
Copy and paste your organization’s mission statement into the Word Document and then use the following template to begin writing your personal mission statement:
Personal Mission Statement for Sales Plan
To [activity] to [target market] and [goal] so that [vision or picture of success].
Use the core values for the organization(s) you work with, why they were chosen, and how they will manifest in your interactions with prospects. For example, here at HubSpot, our 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. We've found that 3-5 values is the sweet spot.
[Value] - [Short definition] to [why it's important]. [Value] - [Short definition] to [why it's important]. [Value] - [Short definition] to [why it's important].
Team & Organizational Structure
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 to include might be to include your key contacts at the company, including your sales manager and marketing contacts (if applicable), as well as how marketing and sales work together.
Product & Services Line
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/service cost for prospects, how much commission do you make for each sale, and what parameters do you have for discounts or special deals?
It might be easiest to represent this as a table within Word:
Commission Per Sale
Deals and Discounts
This section is all about who you’re targeting.
This will manifest in your business plan as an overview or outline of your target marketing, including general demographics and psychographics. You might want to include:
Business title or other role related to the product/service
Location and language
Pains or problems they're looking to solve
Here is where your target market becomes a little more specific. 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 service. You can do so using HubSpot’s Make My Persona tool and exporting the information into your business plan.
Where is the geographic location of your target market? Explain why you’ve chosen the location and the benefits of it.
Location Analysis for Sales
[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. Editorial standards change per country, so clientele is limited to the U.S. unless it makes sense to bring on employees/subcontractors in other locations. 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, which is well-suited to a wide market that does a lot of research.”
If your organization is an inbound sales organization with a marketing department handling the majority of the lead acquisition, 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. The elements you’ll need to consider are:
How is this product/service unique and unbeatable compared to its competitors?
Why are potential buyers going to be interested in the product/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?
Tools and Technology
What tools or systems are you equipped with (e.g. CMS, marketing automation software, etc.)?
This section is your bread and butter, and 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.)?
This section is all about the legal considerations for the organization’s core operating procedures. However, you are not likely responsible for the legal considerations of the organization(s) you work with. However, if you are working on commission or have your own legal entity, you might consider filling this out as appropriate. The template will walk you through what needs to be included.
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. In order to consider how much your time is worth and balance that with how much you make on the commission, 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 Word Doc template.
With this business plan, you'll be prepared to take on any goal or challenge in your career, and achieve it. Consider it your 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.
Originally published May 21, 2020 1:30:00 PM, updated May 21 2020