What Is a Sales Plan?

D. Nelson

A sales plan is any strategy that can help a business to target and sell to potential clients. These plans are normally developed by sales executives and managers who are responsible for gathering market research and developing an image for a product or service and composing a pitch that can make a product most desirable for a potential client. Elements included in a sales plan may include the identification of potential sales accounts, profiles of accounts, and strategies for reaching and selling to potential clients.

A sales plan would help a car salesman develop a strategy to target customers and generate sales.
A sales plan would help a car salesman develop a strategy to target customers and generate sales.

An executive who is developing a sales plan normally begins by identifying a customer base for a product or service. This is normally performed with the help of market research. Market research is the practice of gathering data that can assist sales managers in determining which kinds of people may have interest in a product, how much they might be willing to pay, and which features they could find most useful.

Market research data informs a sales manager's choices in terms of which clients to pursue. Once a list of clients has been compiled in a sales plan, a manager might then begin by researching each individual company. Often included in a strategic sales plan are the names of contacts that can provide access to a client or an organization's buyers, as well as phone numbers, addresses, and email addresses. A manager may also need to document helpful notes regarding when a client prefers to be contacted and which contact method is most preferable.

Research included in a sales plan may also describe which features or benefits appeal most to a client. For example, if a sales professional sells business process software, he or she might find that a particular client has need for smoother communication between departments. With this in mind, a salesperson might approach the client in question by highlighting communication features of software.

As in most business operations, competitor activity can help to determine how a business functions. A sales strategy might feature information regarding pricing and key features of products offered by rival organizations. Depending on context, a sales professional can decide that the best strategy is to prove that his or her products feature similar benefits that are even more effective. He or she could also decide to focus on bonus features that a rival does not have. In either instance, a sales plan should detail how a business can prove that their products have greater potential than those of competitors.

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