Sales activities plan

What is the importance of sales planning? Simply put, strategic sales planning removes the guesswork from sales. An effective sales activities plan will outline repeatable steps for finding and winning new business. It takes sales activity tracking to another level by aligning sales activities with the company’s goals and objectives, providing strategic direction, defining different business units’ responsibilities, and benchmarking progress.

Read more below.

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Sales activities plan

When it comes to achieving sales and revenue operations goals, flying blind is risky. Creating a well-thought-out sales activities plan is a crucial step companies can take to provide a framework for creating, progressing, and closing sales opportunities.

What is the importance of sales planning? Simply put, strategic sales planning removes the guesswork from sales. An effective sales activities plan will outline repeatable steps for finding and winning new business. It takes sales activity tracking to another level by aligning sales activities with the company’s goals and objectives, providing strategic direction, defining different business units’ responsibilities, and benchmarking progress.

This blog will cover what should go into a sales plan and introduce how to create a sales plan in seven steps.

Sales activities plan content: the basics

The exact content of a sales activities plan will vary from company to company, as there are many types of sales planning — but there are some key elements that any plan should account for, which can be addressed in seven steps.

What are the 7 steps to creating a sales plan?

  1. Defining the company’s mission and objectives
  2. Assigning sales team roles and responsibilities
  3. Identifying target customers and customer segments
  4. Developing strategies and tactics
  5. Researching tools and resources
  6. Setting success metrics
  7. Considering the budget

Let’s break down these components piece by piece.

Creating a sales activities plan (in seven steps)

1. Defining the mission and objectives

The foundation of a sales activity plan, like the foundation of any company, is its mission. In short, the mission defines who the company is and why it exists.

Collective[i]’s mission, for example, is “to bring intelligence and prosperity to our clients” with the belief that “extraordinary teams solve extraordinary problems.” A solid (and specific) mission should help inform the decisions that will need to be made throughout the sales planning process.

Sales planning objectives are targets to achieve that which will advance the brand’s mission and drive revenue. When setting objectives, it’s best to consider historical data as well as future sales projections. A reliable framework to keep in mind when setting goals is to set SMART objectives: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-based. In other words, set specific, measurable, achievable goals that are relevant to the mission and assigned to a timeframe or deadline.

Consider gathering input and ideas from a diverse range of employees. See how they feel about the company’s current mission, assuming they are familiar with it. Remember that a mission should be more than just a statement on a website — it should become part of the culture. If developing a new mission is on the table, road-testing a few ideas internally can help define a mission that everyone can get behind.

2. Assigning sales team roles and responsibilities

For a sales team to run like a well-oiled machine, team members need specific roles and responsibilities and a clear understanding of how other teams or team members will operate.

A company should use business objectives, key performance indicators (KPIs), and other guidelines or metrics to outline what is expected from sales team members. It should also use them to detail what other teams (marketing, for example) may be expected to contribute.

It’s not enough to simply tell people what they should be doing; consider how agents or teams will be held accountable for their contributions. Especially early on, try to gather feedback from the team as it works toward its goals, in order to identify what’s working and what’s holding the team back. Then, thoughtful adjustments (to processes, specific goals, or both) can be made if necessary.

Keep the “why” in mind. Particularly if significant changes are going to impact how sales agents go about their daily work, be prepared to explain why things are changing. When people understand why they’re being asked to do something specific, or in a specific way, they’re more likely to be receptive.

3. Identifying target customers

A company should research its customer base to identify its target market(s). Then it can tailor outreach to each target market through segmentation.

There are multiple ways to approach customer segmentation. For example, a company may segment its customers based on which products or services they buy, where they are in the buying process (e.g., exploring solutions or showing an express interest in buying), whether they are a new or returning customer, or even where they are geographically located (sales territory).

How a company segments its customers and chooses which group to target will naturally evolve over time, so it should plan on periodically revisiting its approach to help ensure that messaging and other strategies stay relevant in driving business.

Collective[i]’s IntelligenceTM network leverages artificial intelligence (AI) to uncover knowledge about how specific buyers buy, and companies can take advantage of it so their strategies and tactics can be properly aligned with the customer’s journey.

4. Developing strategies and tactics

This step is where the planning and research of previous steps is turned into actions, such as developing prospecting strategies that align with specific customer segments or buying patterns.

While they are often used synonymously, strategies and tactics are different, though related. Strategies represent overall goals and work over the long term to acquire new customers and grow new business. Tactics are the day-to-day methods of achieving the strategy. Strategies and tactics should be aligned but don’t always need to be one-to-one. For example, multiple teams may share a common strategy for growing business, but the tactics different teams will use to achieve the strategy may vary.

Think of tactics as an action plan for sales strategy. Tactics should be as specific as possible so that a company can measure how well the tactics match the strategy, and reevaluate them as needed. Creating a sales activities plan is not a onetime exercise — it is a vital and ongoing process.

Tools such as Collective[i]’s Intelligent InsightsTM and C[i] RecommendsTM can eliminate a lot of the guesswork in creating an effective sales strategy. C[i] RecommendsTM helps identify and recommend the sales activities that are most likely to impact customer outcomes, and Intelligent InsightsTM takes this analysis a step further by itemizing a daily to-do list to guide sales toward the next and best actions to take to close deals.

5. Researching tools and resources

As strategies and tactics are developed, be sure to consider what types of tools and resources will be necessary to accomplish the plan’s goals. This step may involve auditing current tools and resources to identify gaps or specific tools that could be improved.

A CRM provides a starting point. A good CRM will help the sales team to better know and understand its customers and how to maintain relationships. Look for a CRM that will meet the needs of sales agents who need to access and understand customer data. If nothing else, this is a good time to evaluate your current CRM to ensure that it will continue to meet the business’s needs.

A CRM populated with incomplete or untrustworthy data is a poor foundation on which to build strategy, so the choice to adopt a CRM solution should not be taken lightly. C[i]’s Intelligent WriteBackTM can enhance CRM data by automating the data-capturing process to collect relevant information from the tools sellers use. Providing clean, enriched data to sellers is one of the most impactful decisions a leader can make in empowering seller success.

Other forms of enablement, aka the act of providing sales teams with the support they need to succeed, include training programs, product documentation, scripts or playbooks, and so on.

Some tools and resources can enhance the workflow and logistics of communicating with prospects, customers, or other stakeholders. Video conferencing software (e.g., Zoom) provides a convenient option for collaboration and communication, and scheduling or calendar software (e.g., Calendly) can make the process of scheduling meetings much more user-friendly, eliminating the back-and-forth that can come with scheduling even a simple meeting. Some tools, such as Collective[i]’s Virtual DealRoomsTM, are exceptionally well-suited for the increasingly complex business environment. Virtual DealRoomsTM offers a digital space where every member of the selling team can review buyer activity to coordinate timely and effective responses together.

In acquiring new tools or resources, prioritize big-ticket items like a CRM first, then research additional tools that will “play nice” with the selected solution.

6. Setting success metrics

For a well-rounded understanding of how the sales plan is working, consider tracking a mix of metrics. Being aware of diverse performance metrics and tracking them enables a company to see how one team’s work may impact (or be impacted by) another team’s work.

General sales metrics that give a whole-business picture of revenue and growth include:

  • Total revenue
  • Average revenue per product or per customer
  • New vs. existing customer revenue
  • Year-over-year revenue
  • Win rate

More granular sales activity and productivity metrics that quantify specific sales activities and paint a picture of how sales reps’ time is spent include:

  • Calls made, meetings scheduled, or conversions
  • Percentage of time spent selling

Sales pipeline and lead generation metrics that help put sales activities into perspective include:

  • Sales cycle length
  • Qualified leads and lead response time
  • Open and closed opportunities (by month or quarter)
  • Average contract value (ACV)
  • Win rates and conversion rates

Especially for sales teams, metrics and milestones need to be absolutely clear. “Make a minimum of 40 prospecting calls per week,” for example, is much more specific (and less open to interpretation) than “focus on making more prospecting calls.” It’s much easier to gauge success with the “40 prospecting calls” objective (either 40 prospecting calls were made, or they weren’t) than the “more prospecting calls” version.

When developing success metrics, a company will find value in talking to the sales team to understand its specific challenges. Doing so will help not only ensure strategies and tactics are appropriate and reasonable but also generate buy-in by giving the team a voice.

Several tools on the market can strengthen sales forecasting and provide enhanced insight into the pipeline. C[i]’s Intelligent ForecastTM, for example, provides automated, daily, adaptive forecasting. The platform leverages AI to save time and remove human error from the process. Predictive PipelinesTM empowers sales managers to review and share critical pipeline information in order to align sales activities and even recommend coaching opportunities for sellers.

7. Considering the budget

While it should not be the only focus of the sales activities plan, the budget will always be a factor. Understanding the budget considerations underlying the previous items in this list will help in justifying the outlined sales plan.

Start by articulating the costs required to implement the sales plan. This would include the manpower cost (salaries, commissions, and bonuses) as well as potential investments into sales training programs, tools, and resources. The costs attached to other tools and resources — such as a CRM — also need to be taken into account if they are vital to the plan’s success. Then, compare the list of costs to sales forecasts in order to balance the budget.

If the budget is going to be tight, prioritize the items that will produce quick gains or form the foundation for further steps of the sales plan. Be prepared to justify big-ticket requests in case there is pushback.

Creating an effective sales activities plan is time well spent for companies of any size that want to build a framework for aligning sales tactics with their larger brand strategy, defining team members’ roles and responsibilities, setting and tracking the metrics that impact revenue, and more.

Collective[i] offers a number of tools that leverage AI to help leaders make sound, data-backed decisions through each of the sales planning process steps. Contact us to get started with Collective[i].

Work together, win together

Request an invitation to join IntelligenceTM, the world’s first global network of sales professionals.

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.