By the end of 2020, the sales team at Adobe reached $11.6 billion in SaaS revenue alone. But how did they do it?
Would you believe they got there by saying to every sales rep, “Just do whatever you think is best”?
Of course not. Selling without a clear strategy is basically gambling. Unless you’re counting cards, your odds of winning a gamble like that depend entirely on luck. Without a solid sales plan, your odds of reaching your business goals are about the same.
Sales operations are complex machines. Every part of your sales department has a role to play in your success. A sales plan will help you take advantage of every resource available, focus your time on the most productive efforts and motivate your team toward achieving bigger goals. In other words, if you ever want to see your business grow, a sales plan is a necessary part of that growth process.
If thinking about this has you overwhelmed with designing your process, creating personas, choosing a CRM, deciding on metrics, call scripts,and what kind of bagels to serve in the office break room on Wednesdays—RELAX. We’ve identified the 5 key elements of a successful sales plan and a few tips on making it work well. With this in mind, you can focus on creating a well-oiled sales machine and start reaching new, ambitious revenue targets.
Think of a sales plan like a standard operating process for your sales department. If sales is the output function of your machine, your sales plan is the code. It tells your machine how to operate so that it produces more of that desired output (sales).
In other words, a sales plan is a document that outlines goals for the sales department and specific actions required from your team to reach those goals. Not only does this help you form effective processes, but it provides a direction for company growth with individual goals for each team member.
In the daily hustle of activities at a growing SaaS company, it’s easy to lose sight of the bigger picture. However, sales teams don’t generate staggering amounts of revenue by aiming at nothing. A sales plan ensures that the goals of the sales department align with the daily objectives of everyone else involved.
While each sales team will have a unique approach to the target market, there are 5 core sections to consider when developing an effective sales plan. Keep in mind that creating a sales plan won’t always be perfectly straightforward. You may need to decide on some larger department goals, lay out your key resources and strategies, then circle back to set goals for each key player.
Before doing anything else, set the overall goals for your sales department. What can your sales plan help you achieve first?
Most likely, your first goal will be a specific revenue target. It could also take other forms depending on how your company operates (e.g. number of customers, the acquisition of another company, reaching a certain market cap, etc.).
Start by breaking this down into smaller goals. If your immediate goal is to reach $100 million in annual revenue by next year, what steps do you need to take to get there? Thinking in terms of small achievements builds morale and helps you remain diligent in your work.
Make sure these goals are measurable and time bound. Great sales plans set clear benchmarks for larger goals, so that you can keep track of your progress over time. It’s a good idea to review your progress at least every month or quarter.
Consider also how you will measure your success and track your progress. What kind of KPIs will determine if you have truly met your benchmarks? What kind of technology or reporting software will make this process more accurate, accessible, and automated to hold you and your team accountable?
You want to be able to understand and communicate your success metrics to the rest of the department. It helps to gain deeper insights from the data you collect. That could mean creating a dedicated role for this task or investing in better tracking software.
Once you have an idea for the direction of your department, decide what each role needs to contribute toward your success. Start thinking about KPIs like sales quotas and activity metrics.
If you already have some metrics in place or in the back of your mind, what are they? How can you better define them for you and the rest of your team?
To get started, you first need to know what your department is capable of doing already. On your sales team, each position has a specific function, whether that be qualifying leads, closing deals, renewing subscriptions, or various other helpful tasks. The metrics you set for each role will hold each person accountable to the bigger mission.
For example, you might say that each rep has a sales quota of $1k per month. You may also structure the goal by number of deals closed or pipeline value. It all depends on how many reps you have and at what capacity you expect them to perform. Keep in mind that employee goals should be achievable yet challenging. Goals that are too difficult to achieve will cause burnout. Goals that are too easy are often not rewarding enough to pursue.
However you do it, it’s important to clearly define success for each role in your department and figure out how you will keep track of those metrics for review.
Just like laying out all of the ingredients for a recipe, taking time to define the key roles in your sales team (and beyond) will help you know what you’re working with. Your team members are your key ingredients for success, and you want to be sure that you have everything necessary to do your job well.
Start by defining the responsibilities of each role and make sure those roles are filled by the right people. Connect each key position to the specific goals you want to meet and make sure that all required tasks are covered by someone.
Typically, SaaS companies have a team of SDRs (Sales Development Reps) to qualify leads and a team of AEs (Account Executives) to close deals. Account managers are usually responsible for customer success. Sales managers are responsible for managing a team that’s usually composed of all 3 of these roles. Define responsibilities for all of these positions and so on for every role that is relevant in your department.
Doing this helps you know if you are spread too thin in a certain area or if you have too many people focusing on one part of the plan. You may find an area of activity that doesn’t have enough attention. Some employees may be overburdened by a task that requires more work than they can reasonably handle. In that case, you may need to hire more people or split up responsibility to take pressure off of that role.
It’s also a good idea to account for what motivates your employees to succeed in their roles. This might be commissions, increased autonomy or something else. Plan for how you will motivate your team toward better performance in their daily workflows.
To do this, you might build a performance incentive program. While this can take many forms, most sales teams offer commissions based on deals closed or the value of each qualified lead.
Sales operations can’t run on documentation and strategy alone. In order for your plan to work, you need to be wise about what resources are available and the most effective way to use them. Mainly, you’ll need to utilize your budget, sales technology and marketing material to achieve your goals.
If you haven’t already done this, you’ll need to document your spending capacity as a department. What will you need to fund your team? What portion of the budget can you invest in better resources?
To understand the budgets, it’s best to do a full cost analysis of your sales strategy. How much does it cost to acquire each new lead? How much do you pay each employee/sales role? Account for the percentage of wages you pay out in commissions and how that is related to each new lead opportunity or closed deal.
Pay attention to how much each customer is worth. In other words, consider how much spendable revenue each new subscription provides.
Obviously, budgets are more complex than what these questions would help you discover. The point is that your financial resources fuel your success in a variety of ways. You need to consider how budget impacts each part of your sales plan and how you can leverage that as a resource to help your team perform well.
Every sales team should have an array of software programs that aid in the sales process. While you may not have everything you need just yet, your sales plan should outline the tools you will use to stay connected and efficiently execute your sales process every day.
Typically, there are 3 categories of sales tools that are necessary for any team to succeed.
When deciding what tools you will use in your sales plan, make sure you detail any standard operating procedures (SOPs) and best practices for each platform. Teach your employees the best ways to work with their pipeline, send emails, create personas and engage with leads via different channels.
While marketing is different from sales in many ways, the two departments often work together. Think of how your marketing team attracts your best leads and align your sales process with those same strategies.
Any marketing content you can provide to your sales team will help your reps engage their prospects more effectively. Make these resources available so that your reps can study the most important selling points of your product and how the material speaks to the target audience.
In the software industry, demos are a huge part of converting leads into paying customers. As part of your sales plan, be sure to define the key features you want to highlight in your product demos and decide how demo material can best be used in your sales process.
While the spray-and-pray method of high volume outreach may work some of the time, it isn’t a very efficient strategy. Instead, long-lasting companies tend to focus most of their efforts on their ideal customers. That’s why defining your target market is a tremendously important part of your sales plan.
To be clear, it’s not just about reaching more people. It’s about reaching more of the right people. Your target market is a unique group, and while you may have competitors in the same market, your own angle should be unique.
Leverage your CRM and create detailed audience personas that depict not only who your audience members are but what they want and where you can reach them. This requires more than just a demographic analysis. You want to understand the values, challenges, desires and concerns of your target audience. How can you reach them and speak directly to their needs? What are they really looking for in a software solution that your product can provide?
Creating these personas will help your sales reps form deeper connections with prospects and inform your sales process overall.
By this point, it may seem like your sales plan is nothing but a list of goals and resources with no real plan of action. That’s because the driving force of your entire operation is your sales process. This is where you start to define your specific sales techniques and how your reps will carry out the job (selling your product).
Why is a sales process important? Think of it this way— the less time your reps have to spend thinking about what to do, the more time they can spend connecting with prospects. You want them to start the work day with a clear strategy. This way, reps can simply sit down and start working without wondering how best to achieve results.
You can accomplish a lot of this through your training and onboarding process. Training your reps to follow proven sequences, techniques, and playbooks will give them a practical way to implement your sales process.
You also want them to learn how to qualify leads correctly. The most effective way to do this is by using the BANT qualification model. This stands for Budget, Authority, Need, and Timeline. Your reps can implement this qualification process by asking the following questions for each lead:
While your strategy may vary, the core of your sales process is built on your sales philosophy.
Forget the old school telemarketer sales tactics. Rather than always trying to close a deal at any cost, the most effective salespeople focus on helping their prospects make the decision that is best for their needs. That’s why our mindset of Clarity > Closing® is something we are proud to instill in each one of our members. It produces much better results than always shoving your prospect toward closing.
If this seems like a lot, you’re not alone. The process of creating a solid sales plan involves a lot of heavy mental work, strategy, resource planning and collaboration. Refining the entire process can take weeks or even months. Even then, you may need to make revisions, and that’s okay. Here are a few tips for documenting your sales plan so that it becomes an established part of your business.
Although we’ve laid out the 5 key parts of a sales plan in this specific order, you don’t have to finish one section before moving on to the next. In fact, it’s probably best if you jump back and forth between sections.
You may need to have multiple brainstorming and editing sessions with your team until you get it right. Part of one section will likely inform another. Sketch out the plan until you get it right.
For the most part, it’s best if your entire department has access to your sales plan in some form. While not everyone needs to know the intimate details of your budget (things like salaries need to be kept private), reps should be able to easily access the parts of your plan that inform their daily process.
Making your plan accessible also keeps everyone on track with the larger goal of the team and how you plan to achieve that goal together. Stagnation happens when reps feel disconnected from the larger company mission or when they feel they aren’t progressing in any legitimate direction. For this reason, it’s important to strive for transparency when it comes to your sales goals. Influence a team-based mindset and individual progress by making the sales plan a central part of each rep’s experience at your company.
While a base of daily operations is a must, it’s all too common to find unexpected errors or more room for improvement after a plan is set in motion. If your plan doesn’t work out right away, or if the goals change after a few months, don’t sweat it. Allow your plan to evolve with your team and your business goals.
As you gain more insight from employee performance data, potential changes in your audience dynamic, and other areas where your sales plan may be making an impact, feel free to make improvements to your sales plan as you see fit. You may also want to employ short term strategies to boost sales or implement an incentive program during a particularly hard quarter.
The sooner you allow your team to be flexible and open your mind to new ways you can achieve your goals, the sooner you will reach your target. Then once you reach that target, update your sales plan to shoot for the next one, the next one, and so on for as far as you and your team are willing to go.
A sales team without a solid plan is like a football team without a playbook (but maybe a little worse). Making hundreds of aimless phone calls and sending out mass email campaigns to strangers won’t always get you where you want to go.
Don’t leave your revenue stream up to chance. Your sales plan can define the proven strategies and techniques that will help you achieve your loftiest sales goals.
However, even the most solid and proven sales plan will fall completely flat without the right people on board to execute it. Strategy and process are important, but it’s the quality of your sales reps that drives the whole machine. You need to make sure you bring in the best quality sales reps possible to increase your odds of success.
Take the pressure off of finding the right people for the job by hiring a Prehired member this quarter. Fill your SDR pipeline with a curated list of candidates that have been vetted for their Attitude, Aptitude, Accountability, and Ambition.
We train our members in our research-backed Science-Based Sales® curriculum, after which many have gone on to become top-performing reps at a number of different SaaS companies. The best part? They're supported by the Prehired community for life. Find out how you can start interviewing the best candidates in the industry by becoming a Prehired partner.
Learn about the most important qualities of high performing salespeople and how to develop those traits through practice, technique, and education.