The Sales Manager’s Guide to Strategic Planning

Have you ever felt like your sales team is doing an okay job, but you know they could be doing better? Or, alternatively, perhaps you’re second-guessing some of your hiring decisions — could you have found a rep who would’ve sold more?

Fortunately (it’s a good thing, we promise), this may be due less to the people you’ve hired and more to the guidance you’ve provided.

For instance, if you’ve previously handed your salespeople a list of potential customers and sent them on their way with “You’ve got this!” ringing in their ears, you might actually be inhibiting your team’s growth potential.

On the other hand, if you provide them with a strategic sales plan that clearly outlines the company’s goals — and a thoughtfully laid out system to get there — you can expect your salespeople to impress.

Here, let’s dive into what a strategic sales plan is, plus how to make one for your own team.

What is a strategic plan?

If sales is a journey, your strategic plan is the roadmap you’ll provide your team to help them reach their destination. It is one of the most important activities you will ever do as a sales manager because, without it, your sales team will have no direction and no instruction manual to follow in order to achieve their targets.

This roadmap allows the company to focus on long-term revenue through both the retention of existing customers and the acquisition of new customers. They are often created with investors and shareholders in mind.

What are the benefits of creating a strategic plan?

A strategic plan is essential because if none exists, your sales reps are left to their own devices, making uneducated decisions based on the information they have in the moment. Without knowledge of the company’s long-term goals, you can’t blame your reps for falling short — they’re just working with what they have.

By creating (and following) a strategic plan, you:

  • Create a “North star” for your business by establishing a sense of direction
  • Allow your organization to be proactive instead of reactive
  • Make your team more efficient and productive
  • Increase profitability
  • Provide baseline expectations your team needs to meet when/if your team hits unexpected challenges

The Elements of a Strategic Plan

This document is sometimes created quarterly, but more often yearly, and it includes several different elements. By answering these questions, you’ll be able to create a robust strategic sales plan for your business. You don’t have to do this alone. Instead, I’d urge you to collaborate with some of your top salespeople, who likely have unique insights to offer.

What did your business look like last year?

Before you can decide where you’re going, you need to know where you’ve been. A few things to look at (though not all!):

  • How much was sold?
  • Who on your team closed sales?
  • Who were the customers that purchased?
  • Will they be back for repeat business?
  • How long is your sales cycle?
  • Which clients took up the most time vs who had the highest revenue?

What does the market look like?

This includes information about your specific industry and the other companies playing in the same arena. Has anything changed from past years?

What is your value proposition?

What makes your product the right solution for prospects’ problems? What makes your company different than all the others who offer similar products or services? Now is a great time to do a SWOT Analysis to determine your:

  • Strengths
  • Weaknesses
  • Opportunities
  • Threats

Be honest. Sugar-coating this exercise won’t help you grow.

Who are you selling to?

This includes your target market as well as your buyer personas. Your answers from the prior year question will come in handy here. Knowing who buys your product is important. Knowing who takes up 80% of your time and only brings in 20% of your revenue is gold. Your buyer persona will tell you who your ideal client is, and who you should stay away from.

How much do you need to make?

What are your target revenue goals for the year? For the quarter?

How are you reaching them?

These are the strategies and tactics you will use to connect with your customers. They include:

  • Marketing tactics to attract new customers
  • Ways to grow existing accounts or bring back old customers
  • Methods for leveraging existing customers for referrals

Your sales process should be noted here, as well as the prices you charge and any planned promotions.

Who is on your team?

Outline the structure of your team and clearly communicate who is responsible for what — and by when.

What resources exist?

What tools will your team have access to in order to reach their revenue goals. What type of support will they receive from you, other departments, and outside sources?

Keep in mind that even after the company’s strategic plan is created, you will need to work with your individual salespeople to determine how they will meet their individual goals and create a clear plan for them to follow with check-ins and key performance indicators along the way. This will include:

  • Their individual revenue goals
  • How many sales that represents
  • How many calls it typically takes to close those sales
  • How much time they should spend on sales calls
  • How to work with existing clients and past clients to increase their purchases and give referrals

Strategic Sales Templates and Examples

Like most things in business, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel or start from scratch when there are wonderful examples to model your strategic plans after. Once you find one that fits your industry and your company’s structure, you can tweak it to meet all of your needs.

Here are a few examples to review:

  • A one page strategic plan
  • SWOT Exercise
  • Sales Strategy Blueprint
  • Sales Plan

If you want your sales team and your business to thrive, creating an annual strategic sales plan is the best action you can take. With a specific destination and a clear path to get there, your salespeople will have the tools they need to succeed.