The Basics of a Sales Plan
A sales plan outlines sale goals for a cycle, as well as the steps you will take to hit those targets. The sales plan document also defines tools, high-level tactics, target customers, competitors, obstacles, among other details. A strong plan will communicate company goals to the sales team, keep everyone focused on strategy, and delineate priorities.
Using a Sales Plan Template
Finding the right sales template provides easy organization and efficiency, which frees up resources and time that can go toward reaching business goals. A template can also be a powerful communication tool for sales and marketing teams to develop and track their progress against sales targets. Depending on the nature and scope of your company, some templates can be a component of an effective business plan.
Free Sales Plan Templates
In this section, you’ll find over 15 free sales planning templates in Microsoft Excel and Word formats.
Sales Plan Template
This template allows you to plan your sales goals with the flexibility and functionality of an Excel spreadsheet. This sales plan template is divided into 12 months and separate product lines. The template includes columns for the previous year’s performance, current sales goals, and outcome. Create a yearly sales plan, and compare data over time and across products.
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Sales Leads Template
If you want to keep track of sales leads, but don’t need the full functionality of customer relationship management (CRM) software, this spreadsheet may be adequate for your business. The template has columns for detailed information about each sales lead, including contact dates and status — this allows you to keep track of communications with each customer, plan future contacts and follow-ups, and evaluate potential sales. You can also indicate lead sources on the spreadsheet to monitor your marketing efforts and track how customers are referred to your business.
Sales Tracker Template
This sales tracker template makes it easy to keep track of items sold, along with profit per item and total earned income. You can also track costs, including shipping charges and returns. This template is especially useful for a new business, online retail sales, or any small business that wants to track sales and profits.
Sales Pipeline Template
This sales pipeline template is an another alternative to CRM software and is designed with small businesses in mind, use it to keep track of contacts and estimated sales. It also provides a quarterly sales forecast, along with space to record deal status, projected closing date, and further actions. This simple template is easy to edit and serves as a management tool for your sales pipeline.
Sales and Marketing Plan Template
Creating an effective sales and marketing plan may involve market research and analysis, evaluating your competition, looking at your sales history, examining future sales projections, and more. Once you have adequate information to develop a sales plan, a template can help you organize the plan into steps that will drive sales. This sales and marketing plan template provides space for identifying your sales goal, target customers, strategies for attracting those customers, marketing tactics and messages, scheduled action steps, and results.
Sales Funnel Template
This sales funnel template provides a visual representation of the sales process, along with whatever sales data you choose to include. The template can be used as a scorecard to evaluate sales progress, and the funnel makes it easy to visualize the steps in your sales process. This free template is a simple but effective tool for reaching sales and business goals.
Sales Report Template
Track monthly, quarterly, and yearly sales activity with this free sales report template. Customize the template or use the existing columns to keep track of sales and pertinent data. This sales report template also includes a monthly forecast showing sales history and projections. Use this template to track progress, plan future goals, and create a sales report with pleasing visual design.
Sales Action Plan Template
Create a sales plan with actionable steps and a scheduled timeline. This template features sections for listing clearly defined goals, methods for measuring success, action steps, ownership for each step, and deadlines. These are all important components of a sales action plan for reducing risk and increasing the probability that you will reach your sales goals.
Download Sales Action Plan Template
What Is the Difference Between Sales Forecasting and Sales Planning?
While many people confuse the two terms, sales forecasting and sales planning are distinct concepts. A sales forecast is a future projection of sales based on business and environmental conditions, while a sales plan defines the concrete steps needed to achieve the sales forecast. You can create a sales forecast for your entire business or for a particular initiative over any period of time (examples include an economic forecast; an industry forecast; a company forecast; and a short-, medium-, or long-term forecast).
Sales plans are helpful tools when budgeting for advertising or travel costs, identifying new sales markets, planning for staffing needs, and creating a timeline to reach milestones. But a sales plan is just one piece of the business planning and management — and it relies on accurate sales forecasting. You can get free sales forecasting templates here.
Large organizations, small businesses, and startups can all equally benefit from sales planning. Sales forecasts and plans are most often used by the sales team, although marketers, executives, and even customers may interact with the documents as well.
What Is a Sales Pipeline?
A sales pipeline is a visual representation of where prospective buyers are in the sales process. A sales pipeline can quickly identify a prospect’s position in the buying journey; use that information to support them and respond to their needs appropriately.
While a specific buyer’s journey will vary based on the industry and type of products or services sold, there are three general phases of any sales pipeline:
A prospect initiates contact with a company and explains its needs.
A salesperson provides the prospect with a quote (including the product or service and price).
The prospect purchases a product or service (and thereby becomes a customer).
Use the targeted sales pipeline templates above to track potential customers’ journeys through the process.
What Is the Sales Funnel?
The sales funnel is a visual representation of the average conversion rate of potential customers and qualified leads move through the sales process. Sales teams can use the sales funnel to help understand the volume of sales, as well as the percentage of each sale that has passed through each sales process stage.
The sales pipeline represents what the seller is doing during the sales process; the sales funnel shows the sales process conversion rates. The sales funnel feeds the sales pipeline; once a lead is converted into a prospect, they move into the sales pipeline.
Benefits of Using a Sales Plan
A high-quality sales plan is one of the key parts of the sales forecasting process as well as the operational plan and the marketing strategy. When done right, a sales plan can provide the following benefits:
- Guide and contribute to business growth.
- Communicate company sales goals, objectives, and strategic direction for the sales team and leadership.
- Expose new angles based on the research performed to fill out the items on the template.
- Define needed actions during the sales cycle.
- Provide easy monitoring of sales team progress as linked to goals.
- Provide a high-level view of expenses, finances, and risks, as well as the competition and target customers.
- Improve and track performance by keeping the team focused on the strategy, priorities and achieving shared milestones.
- Inspire and motivate stakeholders.
- Help keep customers and potential customers as the focus.
- Clarify team capabilities.
- Aid in comparison of targets and results.
Best Practices for Writing a Sales Plan
While creating the sales plan, take the following steps in order to create a quality and realistic plan:
- Perform a SWOT analysis.
- Review prior periods’ performance to gather data.
- Base the targets and goals on market research and historical data.
- Verify facts and data being used.
- Break down data by different sales groups (inside sales, outside sales, etc.).
- Make sure the sales team buys in to the plan.
- Identify patterns that can help reach target customers.
- Pick a time period that makes sense for your industry.
- Ensure that the budget is supported by the research.
- Ensure that sales objectives are linked to sales goals, and that sales goals are linked to business goals.
- Break down estimated expenses to meet sales goals into groups (commissions, sales training, sales tools and resources, contest prizes, team building, travel costs, food, etc.).
- Use the SMART goals model (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound).
- Measure what you want to manage.
- Keep the plan updated throughout the sales cycle — it’s a living document.
- Keep the plan as simple as possible.
- Look for untapped market segments to target.
- Define the value proposition for potential customers.
- Map out the ideal customer journey.
Sales Plans Challenges
While a sales plan is a valuable tool, creating one does pose some challenges:
- Creating a sales plan can be very time consuming.
- Inaccurate data will skew forecasts — verify your numbers before you finalize the plan.
- It’s difficult to predict changing tastes, so forecasts may not be met.
- Rapid growth may increase the workload of the sales team, and throw off forecasts.
- Be careful not to move goalposts mid-cycle.
- Wishful thinking is easy to do, so be realistic and don’t ignore your own assumptions.
- Neglecting to consult with the sales team may prevent them from buying into the plan.
- Neglecting to get feedback from other groups can have a negative impact on the plan.
What Is Included in a Sales Plan?
The sales plan contains numerous sections that provide information to readers, and help guide decisions that will contribute to meeting sales goals.
- Mission and Executive Summary: Include a short history of the business for background.
- Team Structure: Provide a breakdown of the team by sales team, including each person’s role and capabilities. Also include plans for any future hiring.
- Target Customers: Break down the customer list into segments by products or product lines. Build a prospect list that includes referrals, renewals, upsells, and any new segments, and make sure to leverage existing customer relationships.
- Tools, Software, and Other Resources: Include a list of CRM packages or other sales tools (including training tools), and provide any relevant documentation.
- Positioning: Include competitor data, including a comparison of your products with theirs. Anticipate how market trends may impact your business.
- Marketing Strategy: Include pricing information, promotions, and any actions you have planned to increase brand awareness.
- Prospecting Strategy: List criteria for qualifying leads generated by marketing strategy.
- Action Plan: Include a list of steps needed to hit revenue and sales goals.
- Revenue and Sales Goals: Include measurable, realistic goals that support the overall business. Additionally, supply information on how performance will be measured and monitored, and be sure to base projections off historical data.
- Budget: Include estimated costs (including training, sales tools and resources, team building activities, travel, food, contest prizes, etc.). Make a case for the budget you present.
- Schedule: Provide a timeline that addresses the length of the sales cycle covered by the plan (annual, quarterly, month, etc.).
- Other Items: Consider including a performance review of the prior sales cycle, as well as market and industry conditions that may impact sales.
Improve Sales Planning with Smartsheet for Sales
Sales planning is an activitiy to gain and retain customers, meet changing market demands, and ultimately, ensure business success. While premade templates can help you get started developing your plan, you need a tool to manage all of your sales processes and operations that is accessible to your team in real time and allows you to collaborate and track sales activity across multiple reps.
Smartsheet is a work execution platform that enables enterprises and teams to get from idea to impact - fast. Top performing sales organizations rely on Smartsheet to stay on top of leads, accelerate productivity, and exceed every quota.
Use Smartsheet to build a strong opportunity pipeline, reduce risks and identify blockers, and refine your sales forecast. Improve transparency to process and procedure, optimize operations with cross-department collaboration, and accelerate team output.
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