How to write a sales plan

Four easy steps to create a sales plan for the year ahead

4-minute read

If you’ve never written a sales plan before, the task might seem daunting. Fortunately, it doesn’t need to be complicated.

Think of a sales plan as your roadmap for the coming year. It’s where you set specific sales goals for your business and define the actions you’ll need to take to reach them. If done right, it can help you take a more strategic, big-picture approach to growing your business.

There’s no need to craft a 50-page report. For small businesses, a sales plan should be short and to the point.

“Whether it’s a couple of pages in Word or even a simple spreadsheet, all you need is something that will bring structure to your sales and marketing so everybody on your team is pulling in the same direction,” says BDC Business Consultant Diana Da Silva.

Here are four key steps to creating an effective small business sales plan.

1. Identify your goals

Start by deciding what goals you want to achieve. These can be revenue and margin targets, or more general goals for growth. Is there a new market you want to enter? Do you want to grow your team? Launch a new product or service?

Jot down whatever comes to mind. Dream big at this stage, without editing yourself. When you’re done, share the goals you’ve identified with your team and ask for their feedback or suggestions. Then flesh out your goals as needed. In the end, everybody should buy into the goals you’ve set.

“It’s critical that you share ownership of the plan with your people,” says Da Silva. “The more they feel their voice is heard, the more likely they’ll be to help you implement the plan going forward.”

2. Get specific about your targets

Once you’ve established your high-level goals for the year, it’s time to give them some focus. If you want to expand into a new market—for example, the U.S.—be clear about which states you want to concentrate on.

Do some research to make sure your targets are realistic. Test your assumptions. Is there demand for your product or service? What sort of competition will you face? This is another opportunity to get your team involved: assign them some research to help fill in the blanks.

3. Allocate resources

With goals and targets in place, you now need to think about what’s achievable and within your means. Do you have enough full- and part-time employees to implement the plan? Will anybody be away on vacation or maternity leave? Can you get help from employees who aren’t in sales or marketing roles? How much money will you need to invest to achieve every target?

Also take stock of your tools and systems. Will you need to invest in a customer relationship management (CRM) system or do you have something already in place? What kinds of marketing materials do you have to support your sales team?

4. Define your key performance indicators

The only way to know if your plan is working is to measure your results using key performance indicators (KPIs).

For example, you might want to track revenue by salesperson and region, or by the percentage of leads that go all the way from qualification to closing.

Keep things simple if this is your first sales plan: pick just three to five metrics and track them consistently throughout the year.

One of the keys to measuring progress is communication. Over the life of your first sales plan, Da Silva recommends holding regular meetings with your team to ask about what’s going well and the challenges they’re facing. Keep the conversation open and light to encourage honest feedback.

Always keep people in loop and never make assumptions. I’ve seen the best thought-out plans crumble because of miscommunication.

Make it manageable

Planning is often an activity that happens on top of regular business. To keep moving forward without biting off too much at once, spread the planning process across a week or so, focusing on one section of your plan at a time. The key is to just keep doing something—to avoid what Da Silva calls “analysis paralysis.”

“Your plan is never going to be perfect,” she says. “As your business grows and changes, so should your plan. Start small, see what works after a month or so, then add to it and refine things as you go.”

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