In the fast-paced world of business, sales planning serves as the compass guiding organizations toward their goals. From aligning targets with quarterly projections to optimizing resource allocation, a well-crafted sales plan is indispensable for success. 

In this comprehensive guide, I’ll be covering the intricacies of sales planning, exploring its significance, key components, and essential steps I have gained over the years woking in the sales domain.

Without further ado, let’s get started.

How Does Sales Planning Help an Organization? 

Sales planning has primarily facilitated target planning by aligning our goals with projected quarterly figures. This strategic approach helps in resource allocation, including headcount, ensuring realistic projections.

For instance, if a quarter demands additional resources, we adjust the targets accordingly, contributing to better alignment with overall company objectives.

What Does a Sales Plan Include?

A sales plan varies and is subjective to the different needs of a company. Our sales planning includes several elements, such as assessing current resources at hand, evaluating their productivity, understanding their roles and responsibilities, and setting targets for each individual. 

Once we have a clear picture of our current situation, we then determine the goals we are aiming to achieve. For example, if we have a target of X amount for new sales acquisitions and considering the limitations of our current resources, we anticipate achieving only X minus Y.

To bridge this gap, we identify how many additional resources are required and determine the timeframe. This involves considering factors like training, ramp-up periods, handovers, and the time it takes for a person to become productive.

Taking into account this timeframe, we need to answer two crucial questions: 

  • First, how many additional resources are needed?
  • Second, how much time is required to reach the planned target?

This is basically what our sales plan entails. 

How to Start a Sales Plan from Scratch?

If we have to do it all over again, we would do the back calculations starting from what is the goal of the organization?

We would clearly state the goals for the end of the year and where we want the organization to be. With these goals in mind, we would work backwards from our current position, which might be starting from scratch in some areas. We will then figure out how many people and resources we need to reach those goals.

Considering the time it takes to hire, train, and get everyone working well, I’d create a realistic timeline. This plan would include the time needed for each step and a buffer to handle unexpected challenges. Having some extra time is crucial, especially if a few people leave at the same time. So, we would focus on building a stronger plan to handle sudden departures without messing up our ability to meet targets.

For instance, if two or three people were to leave simultaneously, we lack individuals to take over their roles. We won’t be in a comfortable position where we can confidently say, “No problem, we’ll still be able to achieve our targets.” That’s why we prefer to approach this by keeping our goals in mind.

All in all, the plan would involve working backwards carefully, connecting the plan with the organization’s main goals, and adding flexibility to deal with surprises and changes in staff smoothly.

What are the must-haves for a sales plan?

There are a few major things that we take into account. It’s important to be aware of your both quarterly and annual targets. And you must have a clear understanding of the budget at your disposal. Alongside, understanding the timelines set by the management for achieving specific goals. Lastly, having an efficient team to help you execute the plan well. 

Best Practices for Creating a Sales Plan?

While we wouldn’t claim there is a best plan, as each plan may provide different outcomes and room for improvement. However, there are essential aspects to consider based on the standards you’ve set. 

Reflecting on successful plans can serve as a baseline for improvement.

To explain, instead of just focusing on targets, it is beneficial to divide and strategically plan how each team or team component will contribute. Consider the performance timeline for each team member. 

For example, a fresher may require more time to reach a certain productivity level compared to an experienced individual.

We break down the sales plan into three main components:

– Hiring

– Goal setting

– Execution

By concurrently managing these aspects, the process becomes more seamless. Often, there are challenges too, when attention shifts sequentially from hiring to training and then to productivity. To maintain a steady flow in sales planning, these components should ideally progress simultaneously.

In an ideal sales plan, hiring, training, and execution occur concurrently. If hiring is ongoing, training should also be in progress, with a team dedicated to each aspect.

That is the ideal sales plan that we would want to reach.

Mistakes to Avoid in a Sales Plan

Now, speaking of mistakes to avoid in a sales plan from our experience, we wouldn’t categorize it as a mistake, but rather an experiment we initiated.

We decided to hire a larger batch at once, believing that bringing in less experienced or inexperienced individuals would prove more advantageous. At that time, around 80% of the team comprised fresh members. 

The lack of experience became evident when we were trying to convert the customers. This was leading to a need for extensive guidance from senior team members and managers, which ended up consuming a significant amount of our bandwidth.

From this experience, we learned the importance of maintaining a balanced mix of experienced individuals who can efficiently handle tasks and a group of fresh minds eager to gain experience. So, while it wasn’t a mistake, per se, it served as a valuable lesson after experiencing challenges.

Positive Results that came from our Sales plan?

In the past, our approach to sales planning and performance monitoring was disorganised. It created the need for a systematic solution approach to enhance our projections and forecasting. A significant milestone achieved last year was the establishment of highly effective forecasting and projections plans for both PDR (Publisher Development Representative) and PDMs (Publisher Development Manager).

We began with the basics, creating a comprehensive sheet containing essential information. Over time, we progressed to semi-automation, integrating data from the CRM while the team contributed the remaining information. 

By the end of last year, we successfully transitioned to a fully automated system. This allows us to track real-time updates on forecasting and project progress. Through this, we are now able to have a clear overview not only for the performing team but also for managers and leadership.

The automated system enables us to stay informed about the team’s dynamics, identify areas that need attention, and swiftly address any gaps.  This hands-on approach has proven to be highly effective for us.

Final Words

There is no single aspect in sales planning, there are several of them, which we need to take into account. Each aspect holds significant importance, and neglecting any part can adversely affect the overall effectiveness of the sales plan. It’s not just about ensuring team productivity; every aspect requires careful consideration.

By assigning due importance to every element of sales planning, we can establish a sales department or team that functions seamlessly, starting from ground zero and progressing towards productivity and tangible results. Comprehensive attention to each part is the key to building a fully functional and successful sales team.


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