Let’s talk sales plan from thriving sales strategy.
“I can sell anything; just give me a product!”
In sales, we all heard that phrase, we all know that self-proclaimed magician that think his charming personality and few tricks sell. Sadly, it’s not true anymore. You need a lot more than a salesperson with a trick up his sleeve.
A strategy and careful planning are essential in realizing your sales goals.
What do you need to create a perfect sales plan and nail all of your sale goals? How can you prepare a sales strategy plan that is bullet-proof?
If you don’t already have a sales strategy plan, this article can provide a basic understanding of creating a sales plan. It can guide you with three foundations on which you can build and improve.
Do you have a sales plan already? Hold your horses and don’t jump right in yet. Assess your ideas, did you consider not only technicalities but also the philosophy of sales?
Three foundations of sales plan
Three pillars hold every good sales plan. Any of those pillars combined and adjusted with other can help you achieve your sales goals.
You need a good sales team, trained in the art of selling and supported by science. That’s all. Know your basics and create a good sales plan — one that is going to leave your competitors far behind.
Emotions in sales
We are all people, cliché, I know. Still, we tend to forget that even though we go to space, build skyscrapers, and push boundaries of human understanding of the universe – our brains didn’t change that much.
As social animals govern by emotions, we make our decision based on affection, not objective facts. That’s why it is crucial to take that into account when creating a sales plan.
Which personality traits and social skills make you a better salesperson?
Optimism – helps to deal with sales daily life: objections and frustration. Positive attitude protects sales rep from taking objections personally and allows to work through them to turn that NO into YES. Pessimistic by nature or unhappy people tend to hang on to failures, which make them unable to deal with rejections in a productive way.
According to a study conducted at UCLA 84% communication over the phone is vocal, and only 16% is verbal. With that number in mind think about the smile. People over the phone can not only recognize if someone is smiling, but they can also judge sincerity and degree of that smile.
So is your sales team a happy bunch? Do they smile to achieve their sales goals and realize your sales plan? Did you consider their positive attitude when creating your sales plan?
Persistence – sales work in a timeframe, like any human contact. Your sales team need to follow up on calls, attend meetings and present demo. There is no place for setbacks, procrastination. Some customers prefer face-to-face meeting instead of calls or email. You have to address that.
Is your sales team able to push a pitch without appearing to be aggressive or overbearing? Do they follow up on calls and meetings? Are they e-mail people or comfortable with face to face interaction? Those are an important question to answer when creating your sales plan.
Empathy – ability to understand and experience other person feeling and point of view can be crucial for your sales team skill set. In sales, it’s listening, not talking that sells. By actively listening your sales team has the opportunity to show interest, gain additional feedback and build a lasting relationship.
How to listen actively?
- Focus on the customer
- Send positive signals like nodding, smiling, affirming in a nonverbal way that you are listening
- Paraphrase to get a better understanding and clear any miscommunication
- Ask open-ended questions
- Lean towards, the slant of head
Is your sales team able to actively listen? Are they interested in what your customer has to say?
Training to build long-lasting relationships with customers is how you create a sales plan that takes human nature into account.
It’s crucial to remember we create sales plans for people and with people in mind.
Goal oriented – Sales are all about goals, monthly goals, yearly goals. Although the process of selling is important, your sales team need to be goal-driven.
The goal has to be tailored to your company but also your sales team. Too big is going to be discouraging, to small might prove unchallenging.
Interior sense of control – people come in two flavors, those who are responsible for their action and those who look for others to blame. The first type is more likely to take control over their actions and realize goals; the second is not as effective at being accountable.
When sales planning, first evaluate your sales team emotions and attitudes. Are those people able to realize your company sales goals?
Art of sales
Before you are going to conquer the world with your sales plan, make sure your sales team is well trained in the art of selling. This concept is a mix of communication and negotiation skills combined with knowledge about customers and product. Like a beautiful painting, the art of sales requires training and talent.
Communication skills – to say they are crucial for the sales team to realize your sales strategy is pretty obvious. You can’t sell a product without demonstrating it’s features or value. Also, you have to be responsive to customer needs.
Presenting product – sales team need to be able to show the product, and its features in a clear way.
Actively listening – communication is not one-directional, to work correctly it has to go both ways.
Handling demanding customers – talking with the happy customer is easy, it’s when they are unhappy those communication skills become handy.
Relationship with customers – sales process is not only about the one-time deal. You need to make a long-lasting relationship with the customer. Small talk, follow up calls show that you genuinely care about your clients.
Talking with strangers – cold calls and meeting require the ability to speak confidently with strangers.
Inside team communication – getting along with colleagues ensures excellent working atmosphere and information flow.
To ensure your sales plan goes according to schedule, check your sales team communication skills in those areas.
Knowledge – for successful sales plan, sales team need to be knowledgeable in three areas: customers, product/service and company. Knowledge about the product goes without saying. Learning about customers, their habits and needs are crucial to develop a prosperous sales strategy. Salespeople need to be also aware of your company goal and values.
There are two types of knowledge you can pass to your sales team to ensure your sales plan is a success.
- Know-what – facts about your product, features, strong and weak points, applications for customers needs.
- Know-how – skills, experience, emotional resistance, and intelligence allows dealing with customers under pressure of time and goals.
Sadly, during training, the sales team gets only know what type of knowledge. I can’t stress hard enough how vital it is to pass know how too.
Negotiation skills – negotiation in sales are not simple YES or NO. That is a wrong approach. Negotiation is the subtle art of getting what you want, by offering something to another party. There must be value in your offer, and it works in set margins.
To accomplish your sales plan look for salespeople that can:
- Be prepared for negotiation
- Establish bottom line
- Talk with the decision maker
- Show value
- Offer alternatives to cash discount
- The gain value in exchange for a discount
- Walk away
There is always a pressure to close a deal. Sales are not charity, it is a business, and has to create value. You can generate more revenue through good negotiation. One shot deals are no longer a thing.
Building relationship skills – look for empathic people, focused on the needs of others, that enjoy human to human connection. It can’t be indeed faked. Either you take a genuine interest in other person needs and business or you just a lousy salesperson.
- Have a conversation, not a pitch
- Seek feedback
- Listen and add value
- Help customer, make their life easier
- Respond accordingly to customer problems
Time for building and maintaining a relationship should be included in your sales plan. Take that as an investment in future sales and opportunities for your sales team.
Educational background/training – in sales, everything changes; trends, customer needs, products. It’s great for your sales strategy if your team has an educational background in sales. Psychology can come handy too.
However, constant training is most crucial for realizing your sales plan. Training keeps know-what knowledge updated, it also helps develop skills and experience in the know-how of sales.
Do you offer boot camps for your new employees? Is there a regular training program in your company? Sure, training employees can cost, but it’s valuable effort to give a considerable boost to your sales plan. Do you know how to manage your sales team?
Science of sales
You have a great sales team; they are perfect for the job. How are you going to evaluate that?
In the modern technology world, it’s easier than ever before. Excel spreadsheets, CRM, applications for tracking time, AI algorithms. There are many tools to choose from to ensure the success of your sales plan.
Evaluate – put in place methods to collect data, from customers information and profile, sales number to costs. It can be a simple Excel spreadsheet if you are running a small operation or CRM system. Don’t look at numbers as taxpayer necessity; they have critical information for you.
Some of the data is generated by the sales process, invoices, customer information, etc. Although you can reach to other methods and collect data by:
- Surveys – ask directly for feedback from customers or employees.
- Competitions – competitions are a popular thing on social media now, use them to collect additional customer information.
- Online research – research your customers and competitors on social media, like LinkedIn.
This process might be costly at first, but it’s money well spent. It will help you manage your business year after year.
Determine KPI – key performance indicators are metrics that keep your sales plan in check. Diversify and choose parameters for the sales process, sales team, and customers. All those aspects add up to your company performance indicators.
Check out that example of KPI.
- Sales target
- Sales growth
- Average profit margin
- Average purchase
- Monthly calls/meeting/demo per rep
- Sales per rep
- Lead to sales conversion ratio
- Retention and churns
- Employee turnover
- Customer satisfaction
Choosing different KPI ensures that your company is evaluating all goals in a sales plan. Which should include customer satisfaction. It’s a mistake to focus only on sales metrics. They are important for sure. Although knowledge about employee turnover or customer satisfaction can make a huge difference.
Gather feedback – your customers and your employees can be a great source of data. However, don’t forget about your competitors, what did they do? Keep an eye on the market, follow trends and essential events. Make and maintain connections with key customers and competitors.
- You can gather feedback before, during and after contact with the customer.
- Check social media and forums for reviews and opinion. Follow Quora and Reddit for the question about your product.
- Use Live Chat and Call Centers to be in touch with customers
- Provide dedicated feedback forms
- Call your customers to ask for feedback, not only to sell
- Use polls in social media channels
- Monitor social media and website for your competitors
- Create and maintain online communities
- Display positive feedback
- Check your NPS, compare with competitors
- Prepare in-house anonymous surveys for employees
Improve – when you have all the data, from customers, your employees and company data, it’s time to make adjustments. Making tweaks is crucial. Nothing is set in stone, and even the best sales plan will need some improvements.
Establishing a time frame for evaluation and improvements is a great idea. It can be six months or one year, depending on the type of sales in your company.
Cut back an unnecessary cost, check which operation generate more cost than value. Assess if you need to keep them running.
Make your goals possible. Your sales team did it best, but you didn’t reach your sales goals? Make sure they are possible to achieve in a given timeframe.
Grow, look for new ideas and opportunities – don’t settle!
Creating a sales plan is crucial to the success of your company, not only it helps to establish a goal, create a customer profile, it also provides valuable insight into your sales team operation.
Sales plan provides replicable and measurable ways to achieve your sales goals.
So how to create a sales plan that is going to be bullet-proof? What are the basics of a sales plan strategy?
Emotion, art, and science of sales, those are foundations.
Consider your sales team attitude, happy; optimistic people sell more. People that can listen and are goal-oriented sell more effectively. They also build long-lasting relationships with customers.
Make sure your sales team is well trained in the art of sales. What does it mean? They have extensive knowledge about product, communication and negotiation skills and build relationships like a pro.
Evaluate your sales plan and improve when needed. Put right metrics in place to ensure you meet all your sales goals.
Taking those three pillars into account will make sales planning pleasurable and productive.