A small-business sales plan requires more than reviewing historical numbers, setting goals and developing sales materials. To maximize sales, you’ll first need to start with a marketing strategy, developing a clear understanding of the market’s needs, your target customers, product development, pricing strategy and distribution channels. Developing a sales plan that isn’t based on marketing strategies and tactics will restrict your sales potential and potentially doom your company.
Review your marketing plan if you have one. If not, discuss the following aspects of your business: marketplace needs, customer profile, your current position or brand, pricing strategy and distribution channels. Use this discussion to modify your product or service, if necessary, to maximize sales and to set or refine your pricing strategy.
Compare your products and services by sales volume and profit margins. Determine if you make most of your money from lower sales of high-margin items, higher sales of lower-margin items or a combination of these factors.
Look at your territories to learn where you are selling the most and where you have the most growth potential. Identify geographic locations that are under performing and need to be dropped or given more attention.
Review the following distribution channels to determine which you should keep, add or drop: retail stores, catalogs, websites, phone solicitations, in-person sales, direct-response advertising, value-added reseller, dealers, sales reps. Consider the impact of selling different products, lines or services through different distribution channels.
Set a budget for public relations, promotions and advertising. Tie your budget to sales to allow for an increase in marketing efforts when sales are strong, and to trigger a review when sales are slow.
Create public relations, promotions and advertising plans that will support your sales efforts. Include a detailed advertising media plan that includes a list of media you will use, an ad schedule and an analysis of the message your campaign will send to the marketplace to ensure it will dovetail with your other sales efforts.
Create sales training materials for those selling and distributing your product or service. Include detailed information on the product, methods for targeting and qualifying prospects, key highlights that should be stressed to potential customers, answers to possible customer objections, comparisons of competitors and order-taking and fulfilling procedures. Prepare detailed scripts for phone salespeople, including answers to common questions.
Present your public relations, promotions and advertising plans to your salespeople so they may understand what is supporting their efforts and respond to customer comments, which may result from these campaigns.
Set goals for person-to-person sales, including those performed by sales reps, telemarketers, resellers and dealers. Review previous sales to set realistic goals. Advise salespeople of any changes you have made to your price, position or distribution. Set different goals based on margins and sales locales to encourage more sales of high-margin items and growth in low-sales areas. Create a bonus and commission structure to encourage sales staff, including differentiated rewards by profit margin and target areas to reach goals in those areas.
Create monthly or quarterly goals to allow you to monitor and track your sales and make adjustments where necessary. Track your sales to determine if they are keeping pace with your goals. Adjust your marketing techniques to address problem areas and opportunities.