How to create a strategic sales plan? In other words, how do you create an effective strategic sales plan for your startup?
Sales are the fundamental lifeblood of all businesses. Without sales, there is no business. While this may be optimized for gaining users and market share in some early-stage startups, the purpose of a business is to conduct commercial activity. To sell things, bring in revenues, and turn a profit.
You need to be driving traction from day one of your startup. You need to prove that you can push for consistent, and speedy growth. While there are some exceptions, by your Series A round, investors will often want to see the makings of strong and sustainable revenue streams.
Generating sales, doing it consistently, being able to scale, and getting the unit economics right in order to be able to be profitable requires thought, strategy, and a real plan.
The Ultimate Guide To Pitch Decks
Here are the steps and items for how to create a strategic sales plan that works, and will help get you funded. You may use this whether you are just building your initial business plan before launching your startup, and regularly throughout your business journey to boost sales, or get back on track and secure the funding you need to grow.
Keep in mind that in fundraising, storytelling is everything. In this regard, for a winning pitch deck to help you here, take a look at the template created by Silicon Valley legend, Peter Thiel (see it here) that I recently covered. Thiel was the first angel investor in Facebook with a $500K check that turned into more than $1 billion in cash.
Remember to unlock the pitch deck template that is being used by founders around the world to raise millions below.
Know Your Goals & Objectives
What is it that you want and need from this sales plan? What does it need to achieve for you?
You may zoom out to how big you desire and need this company to be in terms of revenues, profits, and value. Eventually, you will need a sales plan that can facilitate this. You need a path there, or this is going to be a dead end.
Of course, you are not going to do it all at once. So, you will at least have different scales of your sales plan and system on the way. It is wise to review and create a new sales plan each year. So, that it is fresh, relevant, and effective.
Be sure you are clear about the goals and objectives this plan needs to accomplish within this time frame. As well as being viable for the longer term.
In the early days, you may rely on more guerilla-style marketing and sales tactics. Things that may not scale. Though, before long, you need to make that leap to a systemized sales process that can deliver predictable results.
See How I Can Help You With Your Fundraising Efforts
See How I Can Help You With Your Fundraising Efforts
Audit & Evaluation
Start by evaluating and auditing what you have so far.
Even if you just have a website, one or two social channels, or a basic online store, you want to take a new look at this.
How many sales do you have? Where is the bulk of those sales and profits coming from? How much are you paying per lead and closed sale? Then what is the lifetime customer value of those sales? This all gives you a baseline to build on.
What is broken? Are there obvious glitches or failures in your current assets and processes?
Through this step, you will understand what is working, what is not working, and where you are, versus where you want to be.
You will also build a list of items that need to be fixed, or which can be optimized to produce more profitable results.
Competition Analysis & SWOT Analysis
Now get serious about fresh and thorough market research.
Unless you know your market, you are doomed to fail. It is mind-boggling how many wannabe entrepreneurs rush into something without realizing their ‘genius’ new idea is already being done by a dozen other companies. That’s a surefire way to fail hard, and not in a good way. As well as to lose all of your credibility with potential investors and talent.
You can buy research, commission new research, or do your own.
Know who the major players are. The big incumbents. As well as the other startups at various stages.
Who are they, and what are they doing well? What are they not doing well? Where are the gaps? What can you do better to serve customers?
One of the most powerful things that you can do at this stage is simply to get out there and talk to as many customers as possible. Augment this by talking to other current and failed business owners, advisors, and investors. Get as much clarity as you can.
After this, you can then perform a far more accurate SWOT Analysis of your own business.
This evaluates the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. Where are you stronger and have advantages over competitors? Where are they stronger, and you are vulnerable? What are those opportunities in the market they are missing, and you can seize on? What could kill your business?
Creating A Strategic Marketing & Sales Plan
Now that you have most of your background data together, it is time to learn how to create a strategic sales plan.
Target Market & Customers
Begin with identifying and detailing who your ideal and target customers are. You need this for yourself, your marketing team, and to include in your pitch deck for fundraising.
Which customers are this plan designed to sell to? Be as detailed as possible. What is the customer avatar? Where are they? What drives them to buy? What is their customer journey?
Without this, you simply cannot create a sales plan that will work.
The better you and your team know your customer, the more effective your marketing and sales, the higher your conversion rates, and the better the ROI on all your efforts, for you and your investors.
Now that you know your customers, the opportunities, and your position in the market, you can identify the marketing and sales channels that will be a part of this plan.
Focus is important. As an early-stage or pre-revenue startup, you need to be very careful about spreading yourself too thin. You need your budget to be effective in producing results so that you can keep going, and hopefully keep on growing.
At the same time, it is very risky to put all of your eggs in one basket. Especially as a newer entrepreneur or business, and if you are not personally a market expert.
For example, if you throw all of your budget and resources into Facebook Ads, and don’t get it right, or they change their rules and algorithms next week, you can lose everything. You’ll be going out of business.
Having three to five channels in your mix can help you optimize. It will help create more consistency in your sales, as well as improved conversions, and customer retention.
All channels rotate in effectiveness. Just as businesses, industries, and the economy have their own cycles.
Some potential channels to explore may include:
- Outdoor advertising
- In-person outbound sales
- Email marketing
- Content marketing
- Social media
- Paid online ads
- Partnerships and collaborations
- Leveraging existing platforms and marketplaces
- Retail storefronts
- Direct mail
Sales Cycle & Business Model Design
What is the process? How is this model going to work?
How are you going to go from advertising and marketing to converting prospects into sales, and bringing the money back in, so that you can reinvest?
Be sure that you understand all of the steps in your sales cycle and funnels. Only then can you accurately understand your needs, budget appropriately, and create reliable financial forecasts for your internal use, and fundraising for your business.
Understand the time frames involved. Including follow-up and retargeting, and the time to get from a yes to money back in the bank.
In addition to having created a brand style guide, you can now begin to rough out some initial campaign concepts. It’s one of the most critical steps for how to create a strategic sales plan.
For example, some of the slogans, taglines, and deals you will use to begin pulling in those customers and sales.
It can be wise to plan out your campaigns to account for the seasons and seasonal activity changes in your industry. Consistency is important. Yet, you also want to leave room in your budget and publishing calendar to take advantage of unique opportunities and trends that pop up.
You will feed all of this to your marketing and sales team to expand on.
Do not just copy your competitors and incumbents. Unless you have worked inside their organizations, you don’t really know what is working for them or not, and how profitable it is. You might see them talking about Facebook ads.
They could be losing a million dollars a month on those, and be about to go bankrupt because of them. The same goes for sales processes.
Just because other SaaS companies or businesses are doing demos or webinars does not mean it is the best choice.
All of this needs to be specifically designed and optimized for your specific business and unique customers.
Even as you’re reading up on how to create a strategic sales plan, you might want to learn about what is a marketing strategy. An effective marketing and advertising plan can lead up to successful sales.
Marketing Assets & Materials Needed
Now you know what you need and want to do, it is time to break down what you’ll need to put all of this in place and make it happen.
Be detailed in listing out your needs so that nothing is left out in your time frame or budget.
This may include building or fixing and optimizing your website, online store, online profiles, and pitch deck in order to increase conversions and raise the capital to fund all of this.
It may include designing all of the graphics and writing all of the content for ads, advertorials, press, blogs, and automated follow-up messages. Don’t forget any software you need. Such as a strong CRM, access to lead data, email marketing services, etc.
Then, also create the sales scripts to equip your team to effectively sell, convert, and bring back customers.
You cannot do it all alone. So, what are your hiring and team needs?
Just as you want the best technologist and business experts on your team to help you succeed and win this space, you also need the best marketing, advertising, and sales talent you can find. Without them, everything else is meaningless. Unless you get top talent in your industry, you will always be at a compounding disadvantage to your competitors.
So, what graphic designers, copywriters, and salespeople will you need? Who will be your CMO to run it all? In fact, who will be the expert you task with pulling this sales plan together?
Growth & Scale
How will you consistently grow and scale this plan?
Be sure you have budgeted to be able to keep up these campaigns for three to six months in order to go big and long enough to get results. If you are in enterprise sales, then you may need to budget for one to two years before closing a sale and getting paid.
Plan how much you will reinvest in scaling your marketing and sales team as that money comes in.
Next Action Steps
Now that you’ve pulled your plan altogether, you need to simplify and get focused on executing it.
There are going to be a lot of pieces to this, and many small tasks on your to-do list. Delegate all of this out.
Begin with a very short one to the five-bullet point list of the most important next steps, in order. This may start with hiring a CMO or marketing plan architect if you don’t have one on board yet. And, that’s how to create a strategic sales plan and implement it.
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