What is a Sales Plan? How to Create + Examples (2024)

To create your annual plan for the year and make sure it can adapt to change, gather all your sales data into one place. Then, study how much your people can sell (based on historical data) and set targets (and incentives) that will make your goal a reality. Use technology that can update all your plan data in real-time, so you can measure the impact of change and adjust to stay on track.

Ready to create your plan? Here’s how to take it one step at a time.

1. Connect plan data with your CRM

It’s important to build your plan in customer relationship management (CRM) software. When you have all your sales data in one place, updated in real-time, you have visibility into changes that put your targets at risk.

It’s also a time-saver. Without this single source of truth, you’d be spending weeks manually pulling in data from different systems to understand what went wrong. With every passing day, the gap between your plan and your reality would widen.

Imagine that you begin an enterprise sales push with 50 sellers in January, but two quit in March. A CRM can send you an alert that you’re under target. That real-time data is critical if you want to adjust your plan quickly to stay on track.

If your organization does not currently have a CRM, look for one that uses AI, pulls in data from any source, integrates with your other systems, and helps automate repeatable business functions. If you already use a CRM, take a comprehensive look at your sales efforts by ensuring all sales and customer data is connected.

2. Understand your team’s capacity (how much they can sell)

Using your CRM data, take a look at capacity — or much revenue you predict your team can sell during the coming year. To calculate capacity, look at all metrics that affect sales output — including hiring data, a review of quotas and targets, and historical sales rep performance data — to predict future sales.

Using the example above, you might determine that based on the previous year’s performance, each seller, on average, can bring in $120,000 worth of revenue. However, now that you’re down two sellers, you’re short $240,000 in your capacity.

3. Work with stakeholders across the organization

A sales plan drives the direction of the entire organization, so it should represent the goals and input of all stakeholders. In addition to sales and finance, customer success, product teams, finance, and marketing should also be included in the process. If only the sales department is included in crafting the draft, then you run the risk of the CFO showing up with a half-billion-dollar plan, the CEO a billion-dollar plan, and the head of sales with a quarter-billion-dollar plan.

4. Measure the gap between your reality and your dream

Now that you understand the reality of who’s under your roof — and how much you think your team can sell — determine the gap between your revenue predictions and your revenue targets.

For example, imagine your target from the long-range plan is to hit $6 million in ACV this year. With a $240,000 drop in your capacity, as we showed above, you’ll need to figure out how you can still meet the goal.

5. Find the actions to fill the gap and reach your goal

It’s time to write your plan to achieve your targets. Begin with the backbone — your team — and outline what’s expected (quotas), what the rewards are (compensation), how to organize customers (segments), and how to assign the reps (territories).

Then, to close the gap and hit your targets, create “what if” scenarios to test the impact of different possible actions. The guideposts here should be cost savings and efficiency — how to hit your target by making the most of what you have. What if you hire two more people? (Straightforward, sure, but hardly cost-effective.) What if you assign your highest performers to more lucrative territories? What if you create an enablement program that trains your sellers in a strategic industry?

In the example above, you’re trying to find a way to add $240,000 to your capacity without adding cost. One of the scenarios you tested shows that a new enablement program might do the trick because training your sellers to sell more effectively can help you close more and bigger deals. This can be your Plan A. But since it will require investing in a new enablement program, you might want to come up with a Plan B as well that doesn’t require additional budget. For example, you might propose increasing each seller’s quota.

6. Present your proposed actions to leadership and execute

Make your case to leadership to gain approval on your proposed best action. Show them the data in your plan to demonstrate why your proposed solution will hit your targets and be cost-effective at the same time.

You might make the case for Plan A: investing in a new enablement program. If leadership balks because of cost, then it’s time to roll out Plan B: increase each seller’s quota instead. Sales reps might protest at first, but you can reframe it as an opportunity to make more money.

You’re in sales, remember? Finding the positive spin is what you do.

7. Keep adjusting and stay on target even as market conditions change

Change will come — whether from outside forces (a disruption in your customer base) or inside forces (a pivot in your product roadmap). The mindset shift is to take your plan down from the shelf, dust it off, and reimagine it as a living, breathing thing. It’s something you adjust continually throughout the year — with your sights pinned to your goal.

What is a Sales Plan? How to Create + Examples (2024)

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