A sales plan is a crucial tool for all salespeople. Your company may have a sales plan in place, and if so you should definitely make a point of learning and following it. But if you don't have an individual sales plan as well, you're missing an opportunity to succeed.
A sales plan will cover two major components: sales strategies and sales tactics. Strategies and tactics are military terms used to describe a war plan. Strategy is about the war itself: what the leaders want to accomplish, and which battles they choose to fight. Tactics determines how an individual battle is fought. So in business terms, a strategy might be to let the people in your community know about your company, while the associated tactics might include attending chamber of commerce meetings, putting an ad in the local paper, setting up an event at your place of business, going door to door, etc.
Sales plans break down further into new business growth strategies and tactics, and existing business growth strategies and tactics (e.g. selling additional products to people who are already customers). These four components provide a framework for your sales plan, and it's important to include all of them. However, it's up to you to prioritize these components in a way that makes sense to you. If you've already hit up your existing customers recently, you'll probably want to focus on acquiring new ones. If you've just launched a new product that dovetails with an existing product, then your sales plan should take this into account and focus on selling it to current customers.
Before you create your sales plan, you must be intimately familiar with three things: your sales quota, your sales territory, and your line of products and services. Understanding your sales quota helps you to build a plan that will make your manager happy, and will also enable you to design a plan that will maximize your commissions – which will make YOU happy. Knowing your territory keeps you from stepping on your fellow salespeople's toes. And knowing your products and services helps you to define your prospect requirements, which in turn gives you a realistic view of how and how much you can sell.
Even the best sales plan will need regular revising. Changes to your quota, your product line, your existing customer base, your industry – even economic ups and downs can call for an adjustment to your sales plan. At the very least, you should review your plan quarterly and decide if you need to make any changes. Consider the sales plan a living document, not something set in stone.
If you have trouble deciding on your sales strategies and tactics, your sales manager is a terrific resource. She will usually have a better grasp of company-wide sales goals and will be able to help you tailor your sales plan to meet these goals, while also making the most of your unique opportunities. The other members of your sales team can also help. Ask your star salespeople what they include in their sales plans, and use these strategies as a jumping-off point to develop your own.
To get you started, here are some examples of useful sales strategies and their tactics.
Beat my quota by 25%: Make fifty cold calls a week, make twenty face-to-face contacts with potential prospects, set four appointments per week, send forty email greetings to potential prospects per week.
Sell my existing customers an average of one new product apiece: Send out fifty letters per week suggesting an account evaluation, call five customers per day to ask about their status, contact every new customer within two weeks of purchase to answer any questions or concerns.
Increase my base of local customers: Participate in twelve networking events, volunteer for three local non-profit organizations, attend every Chamber of Commerce meeting.