Planning for Sales Success – A Framework for Developing a Sales Plan Strategy and Tactics

Selling success requires solid knowledge of the markets in which you are selling, understanding how your products and services can help your customers succeed, the ability express the value of your product or service to your customers (product/service know-how), and good sales skills. This includes the ability to listen to prospects, build trust, and present solutions.

Sales training and literature often overlook the importance of strategic thinking. It allows you to create a sales plan, identify the appropriate tactics to implement it, and then develop an actionable plan that will help you achieve your sales goals within a specified time frame.

Let’s examine the basics of creating and implementing an effective sales strategy. Let’s start by explaining what “strategy” is. Strategy describes how you will gain a competitive advantage in the markets that you sell to. An effective strategy is one that takes into account the needs and trends of the markets you sell to and how your competitors respond to them. Your market knowledge, the development of new products, your cost advantage, proximity to major markets and other capabilities may be key factors in your strategy. Your people may have a competitive advantage as well – better customer service, better technical support after sales or extensive product and industry knowledge.

Many times, your competitive advantage comes from combining several of the capabilities. After you have completed your research on determining your business strengths, you can start to develop your sales strategy. You should also consider personal competitive advantages. These include long-standing customer relationships and experience in a particular territory. A strong sales strategy must always include both organizational and personal benefits.

Once you have mastered all of these competitive advantages, start thinking about how they relate and can be integrated into your daily sales activities. These advantages will be integrated into your selling activities. Next, you need to organize these thoughts in a paragraph. This will allow you to answer the question: Why should a prospect choose me over a competitor? This is the basis of your sales strategy.

The next step after answering this question is to look at your sales goals over a set time period, such as the next quarter or six months, or even an annual basis. Your sales goals should be clear and clearly defined. For example, annual sales revenue, percentage gross margin, new accounts opened, etc. Let’s now link these numeric goals to our strategy using the competitive advantage statement that we created. How can the competitive advantage statement contribute to our numerical goals? Once you’ve done your research and identified your strengths, there are some ideas that might come to your mind. This is where we need to tie those thoughts together into a series actionable tactics – our implementation plan. Implementation plans must be actionable. This means that we have identified clear steps that will help us sell more. These steps or actions should be under your control. You can initiate them yourself and not depend on anyone else.

A good example of a tactic and action is to attempt to make an appointment with VP Manufacturing at a key prospect company, whose manufacturing plants align well the distribution network for your product as shown in your competitive advantages outline.

These actions are also given a timeline so you can track your progress over weeks, months, and correlate it with your quantified sales goals for the corresponding time period (quarters or full years).

You can identify the best way to identify action steps by looking at individual prospects. These are companies that are either key prospects or customers. The current situation of each prospect, key customer, or target should be evaluated in light of the competitive advantages you have and the sales strategy that you have developed. Each target prospect should have a unique set of action items. Not all of your competitive benefits will be relevant to every prospect. Every prospect and customer is different. Once you have identified your actions, create realistic timelines to get them completed. Be realistic with your time estimate, but push yourself to achieve your goals.

The Plan of Work is a tool that can be extremely helpful in helping you plan your sales activities, monitor progress and measure achievement. I refer to it as a structured “to-do” list which I create on a weekly basis. The Plan of Work is simply a list of actions items that you believe can be completed within the next week for each prospect or account. It is intended to provide a visual outline of the priorities that you wish to address and the goals you hope to achieve during the week. It helps you to manage your selling time, and sets some concrete goals for the next week. Do not worry if there are too many or too little actions that you need to take. As you gain experience and time, you’ll become better at creating a reasonable estimate. The unexpected problems that every person encounters can often disrupt the best plans. This is why it is important to have a priority list of things that will keep everyone on track throughout the week.

Remember that the business world is constantly changing. As such, assumptions can prove to be wrong and industries can change rapidly. Also, even the most current information can become outdated over time. Review your overall strategy, actions plans, and failures on a monthly basis. Be ready to adjust as necessary.

We are a team of professionals with each having two decades of experience in start-ups, sales, marketing, finance, HR, large scale project and profit centre management and running mature cross functional operations. At we are big believers that knowledge transfer is critical to our industry’s evolution. We love to share our experiences and learnings through our online resources.

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