You’re half-way through the quarter and one of your sales representatives is not delivering. You want to correct the situation but you have nothing on paper setting out the person’s targets. Like many entrepreneurs, you may be making a common error —trying to run a business without a sales plan.

You can’t manage results. You can only manage the activities that lead to those results. A sales plan is focused on how you’re going to specifically reach your sales goals, whether it’s by acquiring new business or by growing existing business.

A sales plan is a practical tool that you can use to proactively manage your sales team and document what is expected of them.  If it’s not written down, it’s not going to happen.

Following are a few pointers to put together a winning sales plan:

  • Make sure your plan is simple, concise and easily revised. Keep in mind that it’s a document you need to revisit on a regular basis in order to track ongoing performance.
  • Stick to what is measurable, so that you can easily monitor progress, i.e. number of calls, prospects, account reviews, client referrals and leads.
  • Along with company-wide sales strategy, be sure that every sales team member has an individual sales plan. Consider key factors such as the nature of the territory and sales representative experience. Adjust goals accordingly.
  • Ask sales team members to devise their individual sales plans; this ensures that they are accountable for their commitments and helps them set realistic and attainable goals.
  • Ensure each sales team member develops specific tactics; i.e. “I will hold 12 seminars in order to attract 136 potential clients.”
    Or, “I will send 35 letters a month to existing clients to offer them our new product.”
  • Ensure your sales people have “stretch” goals that challenge them personally and keep your business growing.
  • The plan should have the right balance of “hunting”, which is acquiring new business, and “farming”, which is developing existing business with current clients. “Farming” can be a more cost-effective use of your sales team’s time because the client relationship has already been established.
  • Don’t forget the skills development component of your plan.  You should document what skills your sales people need to improve in order to bring your company more business.  For example, a team member might need stronger presentation or negotiation skills. They can then seek out seminars or other learning opportunities to develop those skills.