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How to Build an Actionable Sales Plan [VIDEO]

Want to grow your business? Then you need the right sales plan. Watch this video to learn how to reach your revenue and profitability goals. Then, download the action plan template and get growing.

A few weeks ago, Ascend partnered with our local Chamber of Commerce and presented a workshop on How to Build an Actionable Sales Plan. Watch the full presentation below. Then download your own action plan template.

 Actionable Sales Plan


When we first started Ascend back in 2015, we set aggressive revenue goals. We were fired up, ready to hit the ground running, and we busted our tails to win a lot of new business. We took on any project that came along, and any client that came along, and we were extremely busy.

But unfortunately we didn't turn a profit. We were surprised because we were super busy, so one would think we should be making money.

We had to do some soul searching to figure out why we had so much work yet no profits.

The first thing we did was evaluate our existing clients. We categorized them in terms of which ones were the most profitable and which were the most enjoyable to work with, and usually those went hand in hand. And then we categorized our projects along the same lines. With this insight, we were able to develop a list of characteristics for our ideal clients.

Really what this strategy is is the development of buyer personas. Being an inbound marketing agency, this is what we get our clients to do all the time, but we had to take some time to build our agency to understand really what our buyers personas were before we could define them. That's taking these lessons from the first year that we had to learn the hard way and figure out, okay, who do we really want to go after now, which clients are not a good fit, which ones are costing us the most money, which ones don't really value what we do and which ones do?

From that we were able to come up with a set of buyer personas. We have one that might be a small or mid-size business owner. Maybe he is owner of a law firm. We have one that is a marketing manager of a larger company. And we have several others from there. But there's some resources out there. If you look at buyer persons in Google, there's some templates and things like that, that you can go through this exercise to identify the demographics, the behavior patterns, the motivations, et cetera, that make up the audience that you're trying to target.

That was a very useful exercise for us, not just because it helped us define who we wanted to target, but it also helped us define who we didn't want to target. In terms of our service offerings, we realized, "Hey, we've taken on a lot of projects." We have basically two types of work that we do. We have project based work and retainer based work. The projects are like one time website designs, et cetera. And the retainer based work is like when a company hires us to be pretty much what their marketing department would do.

While the projects were okay, that wasn't the most fruitful kind of work that we had on both ends. The clients that had us on a retainer tended to do a lot better, tended to be a lot happier because they were getting the long-term results that they wanted to see. Whereas the projects tended to drag on maybe longer than they needed to.

So just being able to identify maybe we need to focus more on our retainers versus projects. Maybe if we do take on projects, we only need to do this type or at this financial level for it to make sense for us. This is the kind of soul searching before you build any sales plan that I think any organization should do, just to make sure that you have the right service offering or the right product offering and that you have ... that you're targeting it to the right people.

One thing we did after we developed these buyer personas is we developed smart goals. This outlines what smart goals are. We're going to go through an example in just a minute. The first year I think we set some loose revenue goals. It's like we want to make x amount of money the first year. But that really just didn't even scratch the surface of what we needed to think about as a business, as an organization.

When we developed our sales plan for the next year, we started to develop smart goals, and there's specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time bound. And not only did we develop smart goals for our revenue projections, but we developed other smart goals that maybe didn't relate to revenue, but that would help the organization really be a better organization as a whole.

This is like a little worksheet. I can email this to anybody who is interested in it. I didn't bring a printout of it today. But this is a good outline for you to determine how to create a smart goal. What we're going to do right now is just go through a quick example of a smart goal. This is not a smart goal. This is a really bad generic goal. We're going to take this and work some magic and turn it into a smart goal.

Let's say every business wants to increase revenue. That's a start. But how can we be more specific about that? Like how much do you want to increase your revenue by? Let's say $18,000. And then how are we going to measure that? Well, if each of our clients brings in an average of $3,600, then we need to bring in five. That's how we're going to measure them.

How are we going to achieve that? Well, you know to work backwards, we know that we generally need to bring in about 50 leads, and then five of those will turn into customers. That's how many leads we're going to have to talk to, and that's achievable. We can do that.

Why is this relevant? Why do we need to increase revenue? This seems like a silly question, but you need to reflect on this with any goal that you set. And then for this is to improve cash flow and profitability. And then time bound. We want to achieve our revenue goals in Q2. Set yourself a deadline for these smart goals, when you're going to achieve them.

We put all that together. Our smart goal is this: to improve cashflow and profitability we will add $18,000 and build revenue to our business in the second quarter by acquiring five new clients. To acquire five new clients we will talk to 50 new leads by attending two networking events per week in Valdosta during April, May, and June. I know it's kind of a long drawn out run-on sentence, but you get the idea of what you need to do, why you need to do it, and how you need to get there when you look at this.

As we were crafting our sales plan, we took our smart goals and we filled out a template that looks just like this. We outlined our priorities in terms of how much revenue we wanted to generate, which new hires we wanted to bring on, which types of service offerings we would start to push or promote. We identified who we're going to sell to, so that's why we're talking about our buyer personas, whether that's a certain type of business or a certain age group, et cetera.

Who is going to be responsible for this? Who's going to sell? I sell probably the most for Ascend, but I have a lot of support with Steven and Gretchen and even the team at Nexxtep chipping in to help as well. So it doesn't all have to fall on you. You can delegate certain aspects of the sales process or the sales role to your co-workers, and I recommend you do that when you can because if most of us in this room are business owners, then it can hard to make time for sales in addition to everything else that you're doing.

Then looking at our 12 month sales goals, this is kind of where we get to the time bound aspect. How many new deals do we need to bring in? How big are those deals needing to be? And then how we're going to get there? What activities are we going to generate to get there?

A little bit later in this presentation I'm going to go through this template with an example that is filled out. But just to kind of break down some of the aspects of this, going back to the previous slide, this 30 to 90 days milestones and quick wins, this is more of a tactical piece of your sales plan. But I think it's very important to have to some quick wins because it's such a good motivator. If you know that you have some deals coming down the pipeline that you can close that can generate some momentum and some confidence in your team, try to focus in on those within the first few months of initiating your sales plan. It might be running a special sale or a promotion to just generate some more quick revenue. While this is not like a long-term strategy by any means, it's important to keep the fire going and keep that momentum up really throughout your sales process.

One thing that you do when you're setting smart goals is that you work backwards to define the path that you want to take. We talked a little bit earlier about defining our buyer personas and our ideal clients, et cetera. So one of the things that we identified is that some of our best clients came from a directory listing that we have on the HubSpot partner agency website, which we wouldn't have thought of that, but then when we were doing our backwards math,it turned out to be the case. So if you have a good source of customers or leads, make sure you're doing everything you can to maximize that.

Because we had this listing and it wasn't really fleshed out. We didn't have a lot of tags or information about what we do. So we really filled that out, trying to get reviews from our clients and beef it up a little bit. And since then we've generated more leads from that source. That's just an example of kind of working backwards and seeing where you can go or where you should go.

Then activity metrics. This is different for every organization, but with working backwards you sort of begin to identify, okay, how many leads do I need to get to this many customers? Okay, well how many phone calls do I need to make to get that many leads? How many networking events do I need to go to to get that many leads? These are outline those activities and figure out a game plan to get there.

And then you have to hold yourself accountable. For us, that meant we use the CRM, and we measure all of these things in our CRM, so we know how many leads are coming in, how many of those are turning into opportunities and closing as customers. And then taking it a step back even from that, we can see what level of activity do we need to have to get there, how many emails do we need to send, how many emails are we sending, how many notes are we making on customers or meetings do we have, et cetera.

Just a note on this. This is a CRM that we use. It's the HubSpot CRM, and it's free. If you guys are an organization where it makes sense to have a database of your customers, I would highly recommend this one. It's free so you've got nothing to lose.

All right, and then finally of course we've got to measure our revenue metrics. We've got to make sure that we're hitting our revenue goals and keeping that in some kind of a system, whether that is your accounting system or your CRM, et cetera.

We also I think a very important note, we sit down with our CFO at least once a quarter to review our financials and make sure that we are on the right track to remain profitable and to hit our revenue goals. And I think any business needs to have a good accountant, whether that is somebody internal to your organization or if it's somebody who is the CPA that you hire, and meet with him on a regular basis and try to get an understanding of the cost that you're incurring and what it's going to take for you to become more profitable and how much you need to sell to get to your goals. That was really one of the most insightful things for us, was to get a true understanding of the cost that we have, of the overhead, and the value of our services, and then be able to put together some more realistic projections from there.

Now we're going to put it all together. This is an example, a completely fictional example that we're going to talk about with the sales plan, Diego's Barkber Shop. And this is, I got to give credit to Steven on this one. He came up with this logo and concept in about 20 minutes this morning, so really good job on that. And that cute little dog is actually Gretchen's dog. She didn't know that we were going to do this. I'm sure she's really excited now.

This is an example sales plan with Diego's Grooming or Diego's Barkber Shop. It's a little hard to read. I can see that from here. But let's say that our top priorities for Diego's is to increase revenues by $50,000, and we want to hire one new part-time groomer, we want to hire a receptionist to handle appointments and payments, and we want to purchase more grooming equipment. Those are our big priorities at Diego's.

How are we going to get there? How many new customers do we need to get? By the way, I don't know anything necessarily about grooming shop, so I may be way off with these numbers and everything, but this is just an example so. Let's say we need to get seven new customers a month and the average customer is going to spend $50 a month to get to that $50,000 increase.

Additionally, we want to be sure to promote that we accommodate large dogs. That's something that ... some low hanging fruit that we're not capitalizing on right now. Moving in to who we sell to, we're going to be targeting mostly young professionals and retirees. These folks consider their pets as family members. I know that Gretchen does.

And then what is our approach going to be? Our grooming salon, we just need to, we need to generate more awareness. That's our big push for this year because we've only gotten or we've gotten most of our business so far out of referrals, so we want to make sure that more people know about us. So we're going to start a social media strategy. We're going to start putting out more video content so people can see the cute animals that we groom and maybe some before and after pictures and things like that.

Then looking at activity metrics. We want to generate 60 grooming appointments and 20 bath appointments per month. We want to attend at least one networking even per week. We want to ask for five referrals from customers every week. And then we want to make sure that we're being super responsive to our website inquiries and try to get all those in within 15 minutes.

And then for our quick wins, we want to implement a formal referral program, and then sign up 10 customers for a theoretical loyalty program. That is Diego's Barkber Shop. I think great things are in store for them.