November 22, 2021

Written by

Collective[i] Team

  • Posted in
  • Sales Activity Tracking
  • Sales Activity Plan

What are the 7 steps to creating a sales plan?

For organizations looking to drive revenue through stronger processes backed by data, the importance of sales planning can’t be overstated. Without having a clear plan in place, it’s tough to know exactly what’s working, what’s not, and — most important — how well the sales process empowers sales reps to move deals through the sales pipeline, hit quota, and beat your sales forecast.

A basic sales planning process consists of seven steps:

  1. Assess the current state of sales
  2. Define the objective(s) of the plan
  3. Determine the obstacles to success
  4. Identify strengths and assets
  5. Outline an ideal sales process
  6. Pinpoint needs and wants
  7. Implement, monitor, and adjust

Each of these steps presents unique opportunities to improve sales activities, processes, and outcomes. This blog will offer an overview of each step, plus tips to maximize each one’s gains.

Step 1: Assess the current state of sales

To make a sales activity plan, the first step is assessing the current state of the sales and lead-nurturing processes as well as evaluating sales performance metrics. The more granular and data-backed this process is, the better.

Tips:

  • When assessing sales, aim for a balance between looking at the cold, hard numbers and getting feedback from the sales team responsible for the results. A well-rounded analysis includes both quantitative sales activities (e.g., time spent per lead, close rate) and qualitative sales activities (e.g., contacting new prospects, brand awareness).
  • When discussing the state of sales, be as realistic as possible (without going full gloom and doom). This is not the time to be ambivalent or make excuses. If salespeople are struggling, acknowledging the issue is the first step toward improvement.

Step 2: Define the objective(s) for the plan

For a sales activity plan to be successful, it needs to be built around one or more clear, identifiable objectives. This helps with the planning process by limiting the focus to one or more specific goals, leaving less room for interpretation in terms of strategic direction.

Tips:

  • Consider crowd-sourcing ideas for the objective(s). Ask sales reps what they think would be good areas to focus on — they’re the ones expected to execute the plan, after all.
  • Set goals with the SMART framework in mind. This means objectives should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-based.
  • Consider performance objectives (qualify 25% more leads, for example) as well as more strategic objectives, like modernizing the sales process with tools enabled with artificial intelligence (AI) — such as Collective[i]’s Intelligent InsightsTM, which can create automated, optimized to-do lists that help sales reps keep prospects moving through the pipeline.

Step 3: Determine the obstacles to success

The greatest plan in the world won’t get much traction if it runs into one unforeseen barrier after another. When the team is unable to execute the plan, both revenue and reps’ confidence suffers. No one wants their success to be hindered by obstacles that are out of their control.

Tips:

  • While it is important to encourage unfiltered feedback from the team, it’s also important to maintain a constructive mindset throughout this discussion. Acknowledge frustrations, but don’t let the conversation devolve into a complaint marathon with finger-pointing and resentment — focus on asking what can be done to overcome the obstacles.
  • When making promises to the team (e.g., saying you’ll address specific obstacles), make sure you’ll be able to follow through.

Step 4: Identify strengths and assets

The more a sales team is in tune with what’s working well, the better equipped it is to leverage the best resources that further its objectives. Use competitive analysis to highlight and build off of those capabilities or assets that serve to differentiate the brand. Those assets may include technology and software as well as people and their skill sets.

Tips:

  • Keep the sales plan’s objective(s) from Step 2 in mind while discussing strengths and assets. Ideally, there will be a clear connection in how the organization’s strengths correlate with the stated objectives.
  • Similarly, it’s worth revisiting the obstacles from Step 3 to focus on overcoming the obstacles that pose the greatest ongoing challenges to the stated objectives.

Step 5: Outline an ideal sales process

This is where the first four steps in the sales planning process come together, creating a new and improved sales process based on the sales objectives, strengths and weaknesses of the existing processes, identified obstacles, and organizational strengths or differentiators of the business. Outline the ideal sales process in detail by writing it down or capturing it digitally. Remember that the plan isn’t producing the desired business outcomes, it can be updated as needed.

Tips:

  • While a single, high-level process is a nice concept, the reality is that sales processes are often nuanced and complex — meaning multiple versions or variations of the plan may be necessary based on segmentation by product or service, customer size or type, or any number of factors.
  • Incorporating tools such as C[i] RecommendsTM into the sales process can add a layer of AI-enabled insight to help sellers more efficiently move deals through any stage of the pipeline.

Step 6: Pinpoint needs and wants

Identify what it’s going to take to turn the ideal sales activity plan into a workable process. Gathering and incorporating ideas from the team is essential here, not just from a practical standpoint (to gain a more complete picture) but also from a morale standpoint. Companies that actively solicit feedback and input from their salespeople empower them.

Tips:

  • Don’t rush this step. Make sure to really capture what’s on reps’ mind, asking follow-up questions as needed.
  • Consider other areas of the organization that may be impacted by the sales activity plan and identify any additional needs. For example, if the plan relies on certain sales support activities, run the plan by the teams that will be offering the sales support or will be otherwise impacted and take into account their feedback.
  • Think big, especially when discussing crucial capabilities like better data management. New tools are constantly hitting the market, so it’s well worth a sales leader’s time to investigate various solutions — C[i]’s Intelligent WriteBackTM, for example, automates data capture to save time and eliminate human error from the equation.

Step 7: Implement, monitor, and adjust

At this point, with the pieces in place for a complete sales activity plan, it’s time to put it to practice with the final sales planning process steps. It’s worth noting that implementing the plan is not like flipping a switch. While the teams adjust to the new sales activity plan, continue to elicit their feedback.

Tips:

  • Keep channels of communication open in order to fine-tune operations and drive desirable outcomes.
  • C[i’s] Predictive PipelinesTM provides sales leaders with insight into where their team is focused, with on-demand pipeline inspection capabilities and health assessments — even recommending coaching opportunities when appropriate.

Learn more about how Collective[i]’s tools augment classic sales planning activities with the power of AI, and get in touch when you’re ready to learn more.

Explore Collective[i]

On no, we ran into an issue submitting this form. Please ensure each field was filled out correctly and resubmit.

If this problem persists, please reach out to us and we will be more than happy to follow-up from there.

We’ll be in touch soon

In the meantime, explore Collective[i] and find answers to frequently asked questions.