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How to Create a Sales Plan: Template + Examples

Meredith Hart

Published: December 05, 2022

Do you have a sales plan? Entrepreneurs, sales executives, and sales managers all benefit from writing sales plans — whether for their business, department, or team. You must know where you're going before you can hit your key targets, and from there, you must break down the strategies and tactics you'll use to do it.

Sales team creating a sales plan for the upcoming quarter

All of this information can be included in a sales plan (and more). Read on to learn how to draft a sales plan that's right for your organization.

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In this post, we'll cover:

How to Write a Sales Plan

Tips for creating an effective sales plan, sales plan examples.

What is a sales plan?

A sales plan lays out your objectives, high-level tactics, target audience, and potential obstacles. It's like a traditional business plan but focuses specifically on your sales strategy. A business plan lays out your goals — a sales plan describes exactly how you'll make those happen.

Sales plans often include information about the business' target customers, revenue goals, team structure, and the strategies and resources necessary for achieving its targets.

Free Sales Plan Template

Tell us a little about yourself below to gain access:, what are the goals of an effective sales plan.

The purpose of your company's sales plan is to:

Communicate your company's goals and objectives.

Provide strategic direction., outline roles and responsibilities., monitor your sales team's progress..

You can't expect your sales team to work well if they don't know your company's goals and objectives. It is necessary to make sure the goals are clear and realistic. As they change over time, ensure you regularly communicate your strategy to the entire team.

A sales strategy is vital to selling your products or services. To execute your plan, your company needs to provide direction. Should your employees focus on email conversions versus social media conversions this quarter? Are you boosting your efforts on LinkedIn instead of Facebook? Your business needs to provide your team with guidance to be effective.

Your company's sales plan should outline the roles and responsibilities for your sales team and leadership. The benefits of this include efficient task delegation, improved collaboration, overlap reduction, and increased accountability.

Your sales team is the driving force behind your strategy. If they do well, so does the company. Unfortunately, the alternative is also correct. Monitoring your team's progress on organizational goals allows you to manage your objectives. It ensures you have the people and tools in place to be successful.

Sales Planning Process

One thing to keep in mind, though, is that sales planning doesn't just encompass the creation of a sales plan document. For that document to be more than something that gathers dust on the bookshelf, a high-level strategy is required.

You should:

Step 1: Gather sales data and search for trends.

To plan for the present and future, your company needs to look to the past. What did sales look like during the previous year? What about the last five years? Using this information can help you identify trends in your industry. While it's not foolproof, it helps establish a foundation for your sales planning process.

Step 2: Define your objectives.

How do you know your business is doing well if you have no goals? As you can tell from its placement on this list, defining your goals and objectives is one of the first steps you should take in your sales planning process. Once you have them defined, you can move forward with executing them.

Step 3: Determine metrics for success.

Every business is different. One thing we can all agree on is that you need metrics for success. These metrics are key performance indicators (KPIs). What are you going to use to determine if your business is successful? KPIs differ based on your medium, but standard metrics are gross profit margins, return on investment (ROI), daily web traffic users, conversion rate, and more.

Step 4: Assess the current situation.

How is your business fairing right now? This information is relevant to determining how your current situation holds up to the goals and objectives you set during step two. What are your roadblocks? What are your strengths? Create a list of the obstacles hindering your success. Identify the assets you can use as an advantage. These factors will guide you as you build your sales plan.

Step 5: Start sales forecasting.

Sales forecasting is an in-depth report that predicts what a salesperson, team, or company will sell weekly, monthly, quarterly, or annually. While it is finicky, it can help your company make better decisions when hiring, budgeting, prospecting, and setting goals.

After the COVID-19 pandemic, economics has become less predictable. Claire Fenton , the owner of StrActGro — a professional training and coaching company — states, "Many economic forecasters won't predict beyond three months at a time." This makes sales forecasting difficult. However, there are tools at your disposal to create accurate sales forecasts .

Step 6: Identify gaps.

When identifying gaps in your business, consider what your company needs now and what you might need in the future. First, identify the skills you feel your employees need to reach your goal. Second, evaluate the skills of your current employees. Once you have this information, you can train employees or hire new ones to fill the gaps.

Step 7: Ideate new initiatives.

Many industry trends are cyclical. They phase in and out of "style." As you build your sales plan, ideate new initiatives based on opportunities you may have passed on in previous years. If your business exclusively focused on word-of-mouth and social media marketing in the past, consider adding webinars or special promotions to your plan.

Step 8: Involve stakeholders.

Stakeholders are individuals, groups, or organizations with a vested interest in your company. They are typically investors, employees, or customers and often have deciding power in your business. Towards the end of your sales planning process, involve stakeholders from departments that affect your outcomes, such as marketing and product. It leads to an efficient and actionable sales planning process.

Step 9: Outline action items.

Once you have implemented this strategy to create your sales planning process, the final step is outlining your action items. Using your company's capacity and quota numbers, build a list of steps that take you through the sales process. Examples of action items are writing a sales call script, identifying industry competitors, or strategizing new incentives or perks.

One thing to keep in mind is that sales planning shouldn't end with creating the document.

You'll want to reiterate this process every year to maintain your organization's sales excellence.

Now that you're committed to the sales planning process, let's dive into the written execution component of sales planning.

Featured Resource: Sales Plan Template

HubSpot's Sales Plan Template: 10 Section Prompts for Outlining Your Sales Plan

Ready to write your own plan? Download HubSpot's Free Sales Plan Template to get started.

What Goes in a Sales Plan Template?

A typical sales plan includes the following sections:

Target Customers

Revenue targets, strategies and tactics, pricing and promotions, deadlines and dris, team structure, market conditions.

Your target customers are who your company aims to serve with its products and services. They're the individuals most likely to buy your products. Target customers are created by dividing your target market into smaller, more focused groups through divisions based on geography, behavior, demography, and more.

Target revenue is how much money your company aims to bring in during a given time. You can measure revenue targets by determining a growth percentage to add to the previous year, estimating revenue based on employee capacity, or summing up the sales quota from your team.

Strategies and tactics are specific actions your team will take to reach revenue targets. You might consider using social media to generate leads. Your company could also turn to associates to ask for referrals. Instead of focusing all your efforts on new clients, a sales strategy could be keeping up with past clients or customers. These are avenues to explore when building a sales plan.

Pricing and promotions typically hold the most interest for customers. It documents your offering's price and any upcoming promotions for converting customers. A free trial is a popular promotional tactic that companies like Amazon and Hulu use to entice customers to buy in once the free session is over. Be mindful and intentional with your pricing and promotions. Your company must find the middle ground between making a profit and looking appealing to your target customers.

Deadlines and Directly Responsible Individuals (DRIs) outline any critical dates for deliverables and list who is accountable for their completion. There are many moving parts to a business. Creating a timeline and assigning responsibility to each task is necessary to keep your company running successfully.

Your team structure often depends on the size of your company. Smaller businesses tend to have a small team, and it can potentially exacerbate issues with overlap and confusion. As your company grows, you will need to hire new employees. The more employees you have, the harder it can be to manage these different members. Your sales plan needs to outline the members of your team and what their specific role is to provide clarity.

The people on your team are the most influential tool for implementing your sales plan, but to do so, they need resources. These are the tools your team will use to reach revenue targets. Your company could use project management resources like Monday or Asana to keep track of deadlines. Programs like Adobe Photoshop and Canva are resources for designing graphics to send to prospects. While your team is essential, their function becomes obsolete without the tools to do their job.

Market conditions are pertinent information about your industry and its competitive landscape. What's trending? Where are customers losing interest? Have there been any competitors gaining traction in the industry, and why? The way your market is fairing should guide how you approach your sales plan.

Now let's walk through how to write a sales plan. Don't forget to follow along with HubSpot's free Sales Plan Template to make the most of this blog post.

Create a mission statement. Define your team's roles and responsibilities. Identify your target market. Outline your tools, software, and resources. Analyze your position in your industry. Plan your marketing strategy. Develop your prospecting strategy. Create an action plan. List your goals. Set your budget.

1. Create a mission statement.

Begin your sales plan by stating your company mission and vision statements, and write up a brief history of the business. This will provide background information as the plan drills down into specific details.

2. Define your team's roles and responsibilities.

Next, describe who is on your team and what their roles are. Perhaps you manage five salespeople and work closely with a sales enablement professional and a sales ops specialist.

If you're planning on adding headcount, include the number of employees, their job titles, and when you're planning to bring them on the team.

3. Identify your target market.

Whether you're writing your first sales plan or your 15th, knowing your target demographic is crucial. What do your best customers look like? Do they all belong to a specific industry? Exceed a certain size? Struggle with the same challenge?

Keep in mind you might have different buyer personas for different products. For example, HubSpot's salespeople might primarily sell marketing software to CMOs and sales software to sales directors.

This section of your sales plan can also change dramatically over time as your solution and strategy evolve and you adjust product-market fit. In the very beginning, when your product was in its infancy, and your prices were low, you may have found success selling to startups. Now that the product is far more robust and you've raised the price, mid-market companies are likely a better fit. That's why it's important to review and update your personas consistently.

4. Outline your tools, software, and resources.

You should also include a description of your resources. Which CRM software do you plan on using? Do you have a budget for sales contests and incentives?

This is where you'll lay out which tools your salespeople should use to succeed in their jobs (e.g., training, documentation , sales enablement tools, etc.).

5. Analyze your position in your industry.

Now, name your competitors. Explain how your products compare, where theirs are stronger than yours, and vice versa. In addition, discuss their pricing versus yours.

You should also discuss market trends. If you're a SaaS company, you should note what vertical-specific software is becoming more popular. If you sell ads, mention the rise in programmatic mobile advertising. Try to predict how these changes will influence your business.

6. Plan your marketing strategy.

In this section, describe your pricing and any promotions you're planning on running. What key actions will you take to increase brand awareness and generate leads? Note the impact on sales.

Here's a mock version:

7. Develop your prospecting strategy.

How will your sales team qualify the leads generated by your marketing strategy? Don't forget to include the criteria prospects should meet before sales reps reach out.

And identify which inbound and outbound sales methods your team will use to close more deals.

8. Create an action plan.

Once you've outlined where you want to go, you must figure out how you'll get there. This section summarizes your game plan for hitting your revenue targets.

Here are a few examples:

A. Objective: Increase referral rates by 30% this quarter

B. Objective: Acquire 20 Enterprise logos

9. List your goals.

Most sales goals are revenue-based. For example, you might set a total target of $10 million in annual recurring revenue (ARR).

Alternatively, you can set a volume goal. That could be 100 new customers or 450 sales. Make sure your objective is realistic; otherwise, your entire sales plan will be largely useless.

Factor in your product's price, total addressable market (TAM), market penetration, and resources (including your sales headcount and marketing support).

Your goal should also be closely tied to your high-level business goals. For example, suppose the company is trying to move upmarket . In that case, your goal might be "Acquire 20 Enterprise logos" rather than "Sell X in new business" (because the latter will encourage you to solely chase deals rather than focus on the right type of customers).

Of course, you'll probably have more than one goal. Identify the most important, then rank the rest by priority.

If you have territories, assign a sub-goal to each. That will make it easier to identify over- and under-performers.

Lay out your timeline too. Having regular benchmarks lets you know if you're on track, ahead, or behind in meeting your targets.

Suppose your sales goal for the first quarter of the year is selling $30,000. Based on last year's performance, you know January and February sales are slower than March.

With that in mind, your timeline is:

You should also write in the DRIs if applicable. For example, maybe Rep Carol's January quota is $5,000. Rep Shane, who's still ramping, has a $3,000 monthly quota. On a smaller team, this exercise helps people avoid replicating each other's work and shifting blame around if targets aren't met.

10. Set your budget.

Describe the costs associated with hitting your sales goals. That usually includes:

Compare the sales plan budget to your sales forecast for accurate budgeting.

If you want to take your plan to the next level, read on to learn some tips for creating a highly effective sales plan.

We've gone over what you should include in a sales plan, including some examples and mockups.

Learn some tips and tricks for creating a sales plan that helps you hit target numbers and exceed your higher-ups' expectations.

You can create a few different types of sales plans for your organization. Here are some examples.

30-60-90-Day Sales Plan


Download Now: Free Sales Training Template

This general sales plan is defined not by theme but by time frame. You'll create three goals: one for the 30-day mark, another for the 60-day mark, and the last for the 90-day mark. You can choose to focus on quotas or reduce customer churn by a certain percentage.

Consider this plan if you're new to the role since you can use it to track your progress during your first ninety days . A 30-60-90 day plan can also be useful for a new business that's still figuring out its sales goals.

Peggy Ratcliff McKee, an executive career coach at Career Confidential, describes the 90-day plan as "a great starting point… [where] you may end up speeding up your goals or extending them depending on the specific needs of your new company."

Marketing-Alignment Sales Plan


In many ways, a traditional sales plan is already aligned with marketing. Still, you can create a marketing-alignment sales plan if your organization has not yet aligned both of these departments.

The plan's focus will be on establishing ideal customer profiles and buyer personas and aligning marketing's messaging with sales' product pitch. A strong marketing-sales alignment ensures everyone within your organization is on the same page and reduces miscommunication down the line.

Business Development Strategic Sales Plan


Download Now: Free Strategic Business Planning Template

A strategic sales plan for business development will focus on attracting new business to your company by networking with other companies, sponsoring events, and doing outreach. In your sales plan, you'll want to choose the right KPIs that best reflect performance for these specific outreach channels.

Business development is imperative for long-term success because it will help your organization better understand your industry's competitive landscape and strategize on how to stand out. Plus, it ensures that everyone at your company is working toward a common goal.

Market Expansion Plan


Download Now: Free Marketing Plan Template

A market expansion plan outlines a task list and target metrics when expanding into a new market or territory. This type of sales plan is specifically concerned with addressing a target market in a new geographical area.

You'll typically take into account distribution costs and, if applicable, time zone differences between your sales representatives and target buyers, as well as other logistical factors.

New Product Sales Plan


If you're launching a new product, create a sales plan specifically to generate revenue from the new launch. It'll be crucial to carry out competitive analysis, determine a sales strategy, strengthen your brand positioning, and secure channel partners if you're shifting to a channel sales model.

Strategic Sales Plan Examples

If you're in need of some more inspiration, take a look at these sales plan examples.

1. Sales Plan Template by HubSpot

hubspot sales plan template

We've created a sales plan template that outlines the key elements of a sales plan. This template will walk you through each of the steps to write a sales plan of your own.

Our plan allows you to easily communicate to your organization what your goals are, how you'll accomplish them, and what support you need.

2. Sample Sales Plan by BestTemplates

Sample Sales Plan Template example: BestTemplates

A sales plan doesn't need to be hundreds of pages long. Try consolidating your sales plan to a page or two. This template is an excellent example of making it short and sweet while still communicating the most important elements of the plan.

In landscape mode, this strategic sales plan includes a channel, expected costs and sales, distribution strategy, and key performance indicators in an easy-to-read grid layout.

5. Online Sales Plan Maker Map by Venngage

sales action plan example: Venngage with colored bars for each category

We love 30-60-90 day plans because it allows you to set a realistic pace for accomplishing your goals, whether they are short- or long-term.

This sales plan does some of the work for you by outlining tasks related to your sales goals. You can check off boxes as you complete each item to ensure you're creating a sound sales strategy.

10. Microsoft Word Sales Plan Template from TemplateLab

sales plan example: TemplateLab with colored sections for goal, action step, party responsible, and date

Look ahead at your sales strategies for the next 90 days using this sample sales plan. In this document, you'll be able to break your sales plan down into phases, tasks, and key questions for your sales goals. The final section is a mind map for your sales process and pipeline strategies, which is especially great for brainstorming.

Create a Sales Plan that Grows with Your Business

There's no one-size-fits-all sales plan. The only wrong way to use a sales plan is to write it at the start of the year or quarter and never touch it again. You should periodically review and update it as time goes on to ensure you're focused and on track. By continuously improving on your plan, you can ensure your company generates revenue more effectively than it ever did in the past.

Editor's note: This post was originally published in December 2019 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

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How to Build a Sales Strategy Plan for Your Business

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Building and developing a sales strategy plan is arguably the most crucial activity your business will engage in. Whether focused on B2B sales strategy, inbound, outbound, small-to-medium business (SMB) or enterprise, the company needs a dependable source of income to survive.

The key to achieving dependable revenue is in tying specific sales activity to solid, thoughtful, and data-backed objectives formed with the company’s long-term goals in mind.  

While proponents of the adage  stop planning, start doing  have a point in case (no sales strategy plan succeeds without execution) I would argue it’s akin to the famous idiom  shoot first, ask questions later.   

Without a sales strategy plan in place, sales reps and directors make decisions based on what is in front of them at that given time. Not because they’re careless or foolish, but rather unaware of the company’s long-term goals. As a result, it becomes challenging to tie sales activity to specific data-backed objectives.     

So, to create dependable, long-lasting growth throughout the business, sales directors need a strategy. And that, ladies and gents, starts with a solid sales strategy plan.

What is a sales strategy plan?

A sales strategy plan is a company’s roadmap for securing dependable, long-term revenue through the retention and acquisition of new and existing customers. 

They typically encompass everything from specific tactics, market strategy, processes, objectives, forecasting, budgeting, and timeline. Also, plans vary in length, often spanning over a year, maybe two, with an added focus to each fiscal quarter.       

Most businesses’ sales strategy plans are top-down, with revenue targets commonly stipulated by investors, shareholders, and other C-Level executives with a vested financial interest in the company. These are either achieved through the increase of revenue, reduction in expenses, or a combination of both.     

How to develop a sales strategy plan

As I just mentioned, its those at the top that generally implement sales strategy plans. Someone decides on an arbitrary revenue or growth figure based on external factors, divides the number evenly amongst sales territories, and hits the trigger button. 

The problem with this approach is that it’s far too simplistic . It fails to take into account which markets and territories could support the most growth, the continually evolving customer journey, competitors, market maturity, etc.

Consequently, these poorly-planned strategies lose traction over time, create confusion amongst the sales team, and fail to achieve their overall objectives.

So, to build a successful sales strategy plan directors should follow this five-stage sales strategy plan template:  

SWOT Analysis

Setting goals

Customer centricity.

Every company starts and ends with its customers. Period. This is why how you hold your customers, or the customer experience you want to create, is the driving force behind all sales strategy plans. 

While customer experience isn’t exclusively a sales issue, we inevitably find ourselves communicating with them daily as they build their primary relationships with our brand. 

Therefore, the experience they have with the sales team shapes their opinion of the company, and in extension, how they share that experience with their peers or through social networks, either good or bad.

As a result, customer experience is critical to the success of the sales strategy plan, forcing sales teams to think about:

What I’m trying to say is, before engaging in budget talks, sales forecasting , and annual sales objectives, the entire organization and sales team need to put the customer at the heart of everything. They need to take an outside-in approach to the sales plan and consider what kind of experience they’d like to create. 

Corporate alignment

The sales team is responsible for executing the corporate strategy. Sure, marketing, customer success, and other internal and external communication programs play a part in creating awareness around the brand, but it’s sales that get the job done.

It’s important to note that this means more than just hitting target revenue. Senior executives are concerned about market positioning, maturity, customer perception, and what they stand for as a brand. As a result, they will have various goals other than pure revenue, such as:

The “big picture” enterprise goals must be taken into consideration when building a sales strategy plan. If not, the entire future of the organization is put in jeopardy.

Let me give you an example.

Imagine you are given an annual target revenue of $99m at a company with three primary service plans. 

The first represents your traditional business model, the one your sales team has sold for years. It’s a maturing market, and your company has a solid reputation and an established client base.

The second service plan is an ambitious entry into a new vertical and market segment. It’s a potentially lucrative gamble being a relatively unexplored segment, but the sales team lacks experience and reputation. 

The third and final service plan requires expansion into a new sales territory . Again, this is an unexplored ground that senior executives have earmarked for potential in the future.

As the sales director, you have two options to hit your target revenue of $99m. You could:

If it were you, what option would you choose? Option 1 or Option 2?

Hopefully, you avoided the potential trap of Option 1. 

While it may bring you short-term success (your target is to hit $99m after all), the long-term future of the company is at risk. Investments made within these new divisions that widen the organization’s revenue plan may be forced to scale back or shut down completely, severely impacting the company’s long-term growth strategy. 

Another critical step in building a sales strategy plan is SWOT analysis . This tactic is handy when assessing the challenges your organization faces when venturing into a new market or under pressure from increasing competition, by looking at a company’s:


By analyzing each of these areas, businesses can build on their strengths, mitigate their weaknesses, uncover new opportunities while blunting the various threats that may crop up down the line.

So how do you undertake a SWOT analysis?

First of all, you will need to allocate an hour, maybe two, to gather a diverse group of colleagues (both internal and external if possible) as well as company leadership. This diversity is critical in providing differing perspectives on each of the four points of your SWOT analysis.

Once you’ve gathered everybody, I recommend handing out a pad of sticky notes and asking each person to come up with five separate points for each quadrant. Doing this exercise first gives every member of the team a voice while reducing the pressure of “group think.”

To help in your analysis mull over some of the following questions: 

Once you’ve completed this exercise, you should end up with a prioritized list of points up for debate amongst the leadership group. You can then convert these points to real-time strategy and add actionable objectives to the sales strategy plan.

Go-to-Customer Strategy

This section of the sales strategy plans focuses on how, as an organization, you can most effectively reach your target customer base.

Figuring out the pros and cons, risks, and costs to all the possible routes to your customers is an extremely time-consuming, complex task. Sales directors must look at:

Each route also has its subset of implementations, such as SDRs, territory account management, product specialists, outsourced lead scoring, the primary account managers…the list is truly endless!

What’s more, the go-to-customer strategy is a continually evolving process that needs constant revision to match real-time market changes.

Fortunately for us, sales author David Brock came up with three questions to help analyze core issues within the customer-go-to strategy:

So let’s start by answering our first question. 

To do that, we need to know who our customers are. Now, this doesn’t include everyone; you need to identify your company’s “ sweet spot .” What is your company the absolute best at doing in the world, and who benefits from it?

As soon as we begin to move away from that sweet spot, the quicker the win rate plummets and the costlier the sales cycle becomes.

To answer the second question, we need to look at our customer’s buying process. How do they initiate contact with the business? Is the first touch online, or through outreach via the outside sales team? How do they want to buy from us? 

The simplest and easiest way to find out is by asking your customers. 

Finally, after settling on the customer’s preferred method or process of engagement, how can we achieve this with the lowest cost/risk? The most economic risk deployment model is rarely the cheapest, so strike a balance between both customer and budget allowance.

Now that we’ve taken an in-depth look at our organizational objectives, market positioning, customers, and devised a go-to strategy, it’s time to put this all together with some actionable goals.

Setting  goals for sales reps  is mandatory. Not only as necessary incentives that push them to the limit, but also for keeping their activity aligned to overall business objectives.

This is why all sales goals should follow the SMART principle:


The more specific you can be when setting sales goals, the more likely your team is to hit them. 

Their primary goal is probably to increase revenue. So instead of giving them an arbitrary figure, ask yourself how much would you like to increase revenue? By when? Why? And How? The more specific you can be, the better.

To evaluate your field sales team’s progress, asses them against some form of quantitative yardstick. If not, how can we know they’re on track or, more importantly, if they are falling short, how we can interject and provide the necessary support?

When setting goals, directors need to toe a fine line between ambition and reality. Yes, we want ambitious objectives that force our reps to go above and beyond what’s expected, but on the flip side, set them too high, and it has the opposite effect – demoralizing and alienating the team from management.

Find that sweet spot somewhere in the middle, and you’ll find your reps much more driven to carry out your sales strategy plan.

The sales goals directors and managers set have to be tied to a relevant, quantitative objective. It goes back to the point I made earlier regarding corporate alignment. If the sales strategy plan fails to execute the bigger picture set out by the company executives, then its future success and longevity are put in jeopardy.

Let’s take a look at a quick example.

Imagine our corporate team tasks us with increasing market share by 20% over the next financial year. 

As sales directors, we must decide on the most cost-effective yet risk-averse strategy to achieve that goal. One option would be to increase our Share of Wallet by  boosting customer retention  figures or reducing churn. 

Now, an actionable sales objective for our reps would be to improve our customer satisfaction ranking, or in other words, where a customer places us against our competitors in loyalty and satisfaction.

Setting relevant sales goals


Finally, our sales goals need an expiry date. If sales reps believe they have all year to hit their objectives, then where’s the incentive? Again, it will need to be achievable as I alluded to earlier, but with just enough stick to get things moving at the business end of the quarter.

Well, I hope that’s given you a head start when developing your next sales strategy plan! Just remember, there is no one-size-fits-all sales plan. Customize the sales strategy plan template provided to fit your needs, those of the organization, and their goals. 

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Adolfo Masagué

Sales Manager of DAS Insurance

How to Build a Perfect Sales Strategy [Updated with Infographic]

business development sales strategy plan

What goes into a sales strategy ?

That answer could change from year to year and even month to month.

As marketing and sales methods grow and evolve, Google algorithms shift, new social media platforms get unveiled, and emergent tech changes how we live our lives, the world of marketing and sales must change as well.

You may look at your current sales strategy and see a dozen ways you could tweak it. You want it to be as good as possible, after all. Even more so, you want to make sure it is perfect.

How do you go about introducing a successful sales strategy ?

You can start with this article as a first step. It will act as a comprehensive resource for building your own effective sales strategies .

As you read, you’ll learn the types of sales strategies you might use and the elements of a solid sales plan that may be a good fit for your business.

We’ll even give you tips and advice of the best practices of creating your own successful sales strategies , including with CRM software .

Let’s get started. But first let’s check out an infographic that explains the basics of sales strategy :

sales strategy infographic

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</p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /> <p><strong>Please include attribution to EngageBay with this graphic.</strong></p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /> <p><a href=’https://www.engagebay.com/blog/sales-strategy/’><img src=’https://www.engagebay.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/sales-strategy-infographic.png’ alt=’Sales Strategy Infographic’ width=’1200′ border=’0′ /></a></p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /> <p>

Table of Contents

What Is a Sales Strategy?

Before we can talk about the best practices that might go into your sales strategy , we want to clearly define what sales strategies are.

Here is a sales strategy definition.

A sales strategy is the method your sales team utilizes to convert customers and make sales. Such a strategy might differ from company to company, but often not very drastically.

Examples of these sales strategies include adjusting your polices on account management or altering your closing techniques.

You may also adapt sales pitches and presentations, in-person pitching, or cold calling into your repertoire of sales strategies .

You can also break down your sales planning into four basic steps or stages:

What Is a Sales Strategy

Image courtesy of HubSpot

Types of Sales Strategies

Next, let’s talk about the types of sales strategies . To appeal to as many types of leads as possible, you might use an outbound or inbound strategy. Here’s more info about both types of sales strategies .

Outbound Strategies

The first of the sales strategies involves the use of outbound sales. We’ve talked about the difference between outbound and inbound marketing before on this blog, and a similar premise works in sales.

If you’re following outbound sales strategies , then you’re the one doing all the work and initiating.

Cold calling is the primary example of outbound sales. With cold calling, you dial the number of a lead you’ve never spoken to before.

This person has never talked to you either, so there’s certainly some inherent risk. You have no idea how interested if at all, the lead is in your company’s products and services.

Still, it’s an integral part of your strategy since it can deliver results. Otherwise, salespeople wouldn’t do it anymore.

According to ResourcefulSelling , within the last year, a large percentage of buyers (69 percent) were willing to talk on the phone with new salespeople.

cold calling

Image courtesy of ResourcefulSelling

You’ll always come across stats and articles from salespeople and marketers saying cold calling is dead. That’s probably because it’s more convenient to stick to that belief because cold calling can be so uncomfortable.

As a salesperson, you’re on the phone enough, so you will get used to it.

Inbound Strategies

The next of the sales strategies you might employ for more sales is inbound selling. Instead of cold calling, with an inbound strategy, you have both warm and hot calling.

Warm calling is sort of more in the outbound category, but it’s often labeled as inbound sales, so we’ll stick with that as well.

With a warm call, you’re still the one making the initial contact (hence why it’s like an outbound strategy). Instead of picking up the phone and talking to a total stranger, though, you email that stranger first.

You often have a brief message exchange, a little back and forth, but not much. Through email outreach, you identified that the lead may have an interest or need for your products/services.

Thus, you decide to move things along and speak to them on the phone. In some cases, they even scheduled a call with you via email.

With a warm call, the lead is already more receptive. You’re not taking time out of their busy day to try to sell to them like you are with a cold call.

That’s good since that strategy isn’t very appreciated a lot of the time. A lead you’re warm calling wants to hear from you. They’re expecting it.

You want to give them the information they seek in this call. For instance, maybe they have questions about product specs or pricing.

Answer those questions as best you can over the phone and then make sure to follow up with yet another email. If you don’t convince the lead to buy over the phone on your initial sales conversations, then maybe that follow-up message will.

The best of the best in terms of inbound sales are hot sales calls. You don’t have to do much if any legwork this time around; it all comes down to the lead.

That’s truly what inbound sales are. You put your message out, the lead sees it, and then they reach out to you.

Hot sales calls often occur after a lead has poked around your social media, your website, or your landing pages . They know a bit about you and may be ready to buy right away if you’re lucky.

Even if they’re not quite eager to make a purchase, they may be on the verge. They just need more info and convincing from you first.

Developing a Sales Strategy

Review the numbers, make customer avatars, do a swot review, make your market plan, plan your goals for revenue, have a growth timeline, deploy the strategy.

Okay, so you know more about outbound versus inbound selling, but the question remains: how to develop a successful sales strategy ?

There are seven steps or pillars you should follow to begin implementing effective sales strategies for your own business.

Without clear data in front of you, it’s hard to say how good your best sales strategies or methods already are and where you could stand to improve them.

Evaluate the buying process. Who bought from you? What did they buy? How much? Was it a one-time purchase or did this customer become a regular? Who are your top buying customers and will they continue to buy this year and into the next?

Look into your sales teams as well. Who sold the most and how often? How well did your team do overall? Who brought in the most repeat business?

You may find that you undersold, failing to crack your revenue goals. This happens, and it’s likely why you have decided to seek out a new strategy for more sales.

It’s not anything to be ashamed of. It’s just an indicator that it’s time to revise, such as with the new strategy you’re about to build.

According to sales resource Alice Heiman, LLC, repeat clients drive most of our business. The company says that a portion of these repeat clients (20 percent) will account for most of our revenue (80 percent).

That’s why it’s important to look into your numbers and stats before you ever sit down and revise your selling strategies or create an entirely new one. You must be able to identify these very valuable customers of yours.

Can you find the magic 20 percent that bought from you the most often? These existing customers typically have the briefest sales cycles since they know just what they want.

They also tend to not need a whole lot of influence to make a purchase.

Once you can identify these existing customers, you want to sit down and study their buyer personas and behavior.

Chances are, even though they’re your most valuable customers, they don’t all behave the exact same way.

Good. That’s what you want.

Next, you need to make customer avatars or profiles of each of these valuable purchasing customers. These become your measuring stick in which to assess each new incoming lead and potential customer.

You can also sort leads and prospects based on their shopping behaviors into these avatars. It then becomes easier to sell to them, increasing your chances of closing the deal .

When making your customer avatar, you don’t only want to take buyer personas and behavior into account. Yes, it’s an important metric, but far from the only one worth using.

You also want to have as much information as possible to create your customer avatar or profile. This avatar should be like a real person, except it’s actually an amalgamation of several people.

You need to know the general age range, marital status, job title, and lifestyle of each avatar. You should also identify their problems or pain points. This way, you can find ways to overcome them.

Here’s a pretty good template you can use as you craft your customer avatars.

customer avatar

Image courtesy of 30 Leads 30 Days

Once you’ve created a handful of avatars or profiles, pass them along to your fellow sales reps. The next time they identify someone who meets the criteria of the avatar, it becomes easier to sell to this person.

Take a look at your company and determine where you are now versus where you’d like to be in the future. What’s the likelihood of bringing in new customers?

How prepared are you for more customer demand? How many current accounts do you have that you could grow?

To answer those questions, you’ll have to do a SWOT review or SWOT analysis. SWOT is an abbreviation for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.


Image courtesy of Business-to-you.com

When reviewing your company’s strengths, keep these points in mind:

Next, move on to your weaknesses, weighing the following qualities:

As you move on to O for opportunities, think carefully about this:

Completing your SWOT review, assess the threats to your company in the following way:

A SWOT review won’t do you any good if you’re not completely honest. It’s easy to flub over the weaknesses and threats part and play up your strengths and opportunities.

However, if you’re not realistic in your assessment, then you might as well skip this whole step.

After finishing with your SWOT review, you can move onto your market strategy or plan. Stay in that introspective mindset, asking yourself more honest questions about the present and future of your business.

For instance, what methods can you use to get your current accounts growing even further? Could you start a referral system if you don’t already have one?

What kind of revenue do you expect to make from these accounts along with the products and services you already sell? What about expanding to other, unchartered territories?

Could you make more money with them by selling them your current products/services? How much money?

Answering the above questions will allow you to create realistic goals for your sales company.

While it’s always nice to chase lofty dreams of very high revenue, if that’s not attainable, then you’re wasting the time and effort of each member of your sales team.

Review all the information you have to this point to decide what the appropriate sales quotas should be like.

business development sales strategy plan

You also want to create a timeline for the growth of your sales teams. You might mark this by how many new products/services they sold or how many new markets they reached.

You could focus more on the conversion rate as your main metric.

Once you know where to position your company, you can let loose with your sales strategy and test it out.

You should have drawn out a functional sales funnel for the members of your sales teams to follow.

They should have specific, targeted markets to chase after with clear goals in mind.

That doesn’t mean there won’t be some hiccups along the way. With a clearly mapped out plan, though, it’s easy to overcome most hurdles and meet your goals left and right.

What Is the Difference Between a Sales Process and an Inbound Sales Strategy?

Earlier, we discussed inbound sales. To recap, this inbound strategy involves both warm and hot calling. With warm calling, you email with a lead first before speaking to them on the phone.

In instances of hot calling, the lead reaches out to you via phone with no scheduled consultation beforehand.

How does this differ from a sales process ? To answer that question, we have to clearly delineate between such a process and a sales methodology .

Let’s start with the sales process . A sales process is like the map your sales teams follow to guide a lead through the customer journey and sales pipeline, converting them in the process.

Such a process often differs from your business to that of your competitors and even your competitor’s competitors.

Sometimes you may change up this process somewhat if you introduce a new product or service.

The sales process influences the types of prospects you need. That’s an important distinction to make.

You should not start your sales strategy by searching for potential customers and then let them shape your sales processes .

Make your sales process first and allow that to influence the leads you work with.

Okay, so that’s a sales process . What about a sales methodology ?

Well, if the sales process involves the entire customer journey from beginning to end, then the sales methodology is just a piece of that pie.

It zeroes in on a particular part of the sales process .

Here are some examples of sales methodologies your company might use with explanations of each:

The Elements of a Sales Strategy Plan

Creating sales goals, crafting your perfect customer profile, mapping the customer journey, establishing your competitive advantage, making your sales and marketing strategy, putting forth your action plan.

It’s time now to build a great sales strategy plan . While we’ve provided a lot of great information thus far, you may wonder what the best way to begin with such a plan could be.

We’ve created a sample sales plan you can follow, so watch this section closely.

Your sales action plan should have seven steps, give or take. Let’s dive into these seven steps now.

No sales action plan is complete without goals. You need actionable sales targets your sales teams can work towards and eventually achieve.

As we’ve said, you need to keep a realistic view when making these goals.

Some goals you might focus on include:

Next, you must budget for your upcoming new strategy. This is an internal company budget and should account for your operational tools, the size of your team, and your business overhead.

You may adjust this budget throughout the life of your sales campaign or leave it as is.

We already provided a sales plan example of how to make an ideal profile of your customer’s, earlier in this article.

You may make more than one persona or customer avatar; in fact, you should, as it assists the sales team in selling to more than one type of person.

Speaking of sales strategy examples , here’s what a customer journey might look like for your company:

The next part of your strategy for sales involves your competitive advantage. Namely, what is yours? To determine where your competitive advantage may lie, think of factors like the following:

Sales and marketing teams go together like peanut butter and jelly. Now’s the time to involve your marketing team as you create a workable sales and marketing strategy .

The marketers at your company may use traditional media, email marketing, or social media to promote your products and services.

With all those gears set into motion, you need an action plan as well. This allows you to execute certain elements of your sales strategy at specific times to leverage your company for success.

An action plan also ensures you’re meeting your goals as projected.

business development sales strategy plan

How to Create a Sales Strategy Using CRM Software

Begin with lead scoring, sort your sales documents, begin your sales campaign, improve and learn with reports.

What if you use a customer relationship management or CRM software? For instance, there’s the sales CRM offered at EngageBay, your all-in-one sales and marketing suite.

Could you combine this CRM with the sales strategies we’ve discussed thus far?

It’s absolutely possible to link your CRM to your strategic sales plan . In fact, we’d recommend it. Here are our preferred methods for marrying CRM to your sales strategy .

First, you want to kick things off with lead scoring. This is something we’ve talked about many times on both the blog and even in this article. You assign a lead a score based on their behavior.

Their scores can be positive if they do things like subscribe to a newsletter or make a purchase. You may have to deduct points for abandoned carts and the like.

With EngageBay’s lead scoring , you can gauge both the interest levels and the fit quality of all leads that come your way.

You may review whether the lead communicates with sales reps, if they click links, whether they visit your sites, and if they open emails to qualify or disqualify them.

You want all relevant sales documents in one convenient place. These docs include your object management templates, sales templates, emails, sales scripts, and more.

With CRM, you can view and track these sales documents on all sorts of devices, from smartphones to laptops, tablets, and desktop computers.

You’re now ready to launch your sales campaign. With CRM like that at EngageBay, the handy workflows will allow you to automate certain elements of your strategy and implement others when necessary.

With your sales campaign live, you’ll want to track every last result. Did your strategy increase your sales, add new customers, and convert more leads?

The analytics reports a CRM like EngageBay’s can generate, give you clear-cut results you can use for future campaigns.

Whether your strategy needs some minor tweaking or a major overhaul, knowing that all starts with analytics reporting.

A sales strategy converts customers and increases revenue, so it’s not exactly something you can afford to get wrong.

With the information presented in this detailed guide, it’s possible for you to revise and even rewrite your own sales strategies for more success within your company. Good luck!

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Joe Pope

Your business development strategy can be key to the success or failure of your firm. In this post, we’ll explore how to create a strategy and associated plan that can propel an individual, a practice or an entire firm to new levels of growth and profitability.

Business Development Defined

Business development (BD) is the process that is used to identify, nurture and acquire new clients and business opportunities to drive growth and profitability. A business development strategy is a document that describes the strategy you will use to accomplish that goal.

The scope of business development can be wide ranging and vary a lot from organization to organization. Consider the model of how professional services organizations get new business shown in Figure 1.

business development funnel

Figure 1: The three stages of the business development funnel

The first two stages of the model, Attracting Prospects and Build Engagement, are traditional marketing functions. The final stage, Turning Opportunities into Clients, is a traditional sales function. In the traditional role, business development would be looking for new channels of distribution or marketing partners.

But roles are changing and naming conventions evolve. In today’s world many firms refer to the entire marketing and sales process as business development. I know, it can be confusing. So let’s sort it out a bit.

Business Development vs. Marketing

Marketing is the process of determining which products and services you will offer to which target audiences, at what price. It also addresses how you will position and promote your firm and it’s offerings in the competitive marketplace. The result of all this activity should be an increasing awareness of your firm among your target audience — and a stronger flow of qualified leads and opportunities.

Free Download: Getting Back in the Game: A Playbook to Help Professional Services Firms Win Under “The New Normal”

Historically, business development has been a subset of the marketing function that was focused on acquiring new marketing or distribution relationships and channels. While this role still exists in many companies, the business development title has become interchangeable with many marketing and sales functions.  

Business Development vs. Sales

Sales is the task of converting leads or opportunities into new clients. Business development is a broader term that encompasses many activities beyond the sales function. And while there is some overlap, most traditional BD roles are only lightly involved in closing new clients.  

Business development is often confused with sales. This is not too surprising because many people who are clearly in sales have taken to using the title of Business Developer . Presumably this is done because the organization believes that the BD designation avoids some possible stigma associated with sales.

Nowhere is this practice more prevalent than in professional services. Accountants, lawyers and strategy consultants do not want to be seen as “pushy sales people.” This titular bias is firmly rooted despite the fact that developing new business is an important role of most senior members of professional services firms.

Since so many clients want to meet and get to know the professionals they will be working with, the Seller-doer role is well established in many firms. The preference for Seller-doers also tends to discourage firms from fielding a full-time sales force.

As an alternative approach to leveraging fee-earners’ time, some firms have one or more Business Developers on staff. In the professional services context, these folks are often involved in lead generation and qualification, as well as supporting the Seller-doers in their efforts to close new clients. In other organizational contexts, this role might be thought of as a sales support role.

The result of this confusing picture is that many professional services firms call sales “business development” and make it part of every senior professional’s role. They may also include some marketing functions, such as lead generation and lead nurturing, into the professional’s BD responsibilities.

It is this expanded role, where business development encompasses the full range of lead generation, nurturing and sales tasks, which we will concentrate on in this post.

See also: Heller Consulting Case Story

Business Development Examples

To be clear on what this role entails, let’s consider this business development example:

Bethany is the Director of Business Development at a fictional mid-sized architecture firm. She is not an architect herself. Nor is she involved with any aspect of delivering the projects that the firm has signed. Instead, her role is exclusively focused on signing new business for her firm—with either new clients or existing ones. 

For new clients, Bethany spends much of her time responding to RFPs, communicating directly with inbound leads generated by the marketing/sales enablement team, and nurturing potential clients that she met at a recent industry conference. Bethany also collaborates with the marketing team in the development of new materials she needs to sell to new accounts.

When it comes to existing accounts, Bethany also has a role. She meets monthly with delivery teams to understand whether current client projects are on scope or if change orders are needed. Moreover, she maintains a relationship with key stakeholders of her firm’s clients. If another opportunity for more work opens, she knows that her relationship with the client is an important component to that potential deal.

In this example, Bethany is the primary driver of business development but that does not mean she is doing this alone. Imagine she has a colleague Greg who is a lead architect at the firm. While Greg’s first focus is delivering for his clients, business development—and even marketing—should still be a part of his professional life. Perhaps Greg attends an industry conference with Bethany, he as a speaker and expert and her as the primary networker. The business development dynamic should not end with Bethany and should permeate the whole organization.

In this business development example, you can see that the range of roles and responsibilities is wide. This is why it is essential for business development to not be ad hoc, but done strategically. Let’s talk about that now.

Strategic Business Development

Not all business development is of equal impact. In fact a lot of the activities of many professionals are very opportunistic and tactical in nature.This is especially true with many seller-doers. 

Caught between the pressures of client work and an urgent need for new business they cast about for something quick and easy that will produce short term results. Of course this is no real strategy at all.

Strategic business development is the alignment of business development processes and procedures with your firm’s strategic business goals. The role of strategic business development is to acquire ideal clients for your highest priority services using brand promises that you can deliver upon.

 Deciding which targets to pursue and strategies to employ to develop new business is actually a high stakes decision. A good strategy, well implemented, can drive high levels of growth and profitability. A faulty strategy can stymie growth and frustrate valuable talent.

Yet many firms falter at this critical step. They rely on habit, anecdotes and fads — or worse still, “this is how we have always done it.” In a later section we’ll cover how to develop your strategic business development plan. But first we’ll cover some of the strategies that may go into that plan.

Top Business Development Strategies

Let’s look at some of the most common business development strategies and how they stack up with today’s buyers .

Networking is probably the most universally used business development strategy. It’s built on the theory that professional services buying decisions are rooted in relationships, and the best way to develop new relationships is through face-to-face networking.

It certainly is true that many relationships do develop in that way. And if you are networking with your target audience, you can develop new business. But there are limitations. Today’s buyers are very time pressured, and networking is time consuming. It can be very expensive, if you consider travel and time away from the office.

Newer digital networking techniques can help on the cost and time front. But even social media requires an investment of time and attention.

The close relative of networking, referrals are often seen as the mechanism that turns networking and client satisfaction into new business. You establish a relationship, and that person refers new business to you. Satisfied clients do the same.

Clearly, referrals do happen, and many firms get most or all of their business from them. But referrals are passive. They rely on your clients and contacts to identify good prospects for your services and make a referral at the right time.

The problem is referral sources often do not know the full range of how you can help a client. So many referrals are poorly matched to your capabilities. Other well-matched referrals go unmade because your referral source fails to recognize a great prospect when they see one. Finally, many prospects that might be good clients rule out your firm before even talking with you. One recent study puts the number at over 50%.

Importantly, there are new digital strategies that can accelerate referrals. Making your specific expertise more visible is the key. This allows people to make better referrals and increases your referral base beyond clients and a few business contacts.

Learn More: Referral Marketing Course

Sponsorships and Advertising

Can you develop new business directly by sponsoring events and advertising? It would solve a lot of problems if it works. No more trying to get time from fully utilized billable professionals.

Unfortunately, the results on this front are not very encouraging. Studies have shown that traditional advertising is actually associated with slower growth. Only when advertising is combined with other techniques, such as speaking at an event, do these techniques bear fruit.

The most promising advertising strategy seems to be well-targeted digital advertising. This allows firms to get their messages and offers in front of the right people at a lower cost.

Outbound Telephone and Mail

Professional services firms have been using phone calls and mail to directly target potential clients for decades. Target the right firms and roles with a relevant message and you would expect to find new opportunities that can be developed into clients.

There are a couple of key challenges with these strategies. First they are relatively expensive, so they need to be just right to be effective. Second, if you don’t catch the prospect at the right time, your offer may have no appeal relevance — and consequently, no impact on business development.

The key is to have a very appealing offer delivered to a very qualified and responsive list. It’s not easy to get this combination right.

Thought Leadership and Content Marketing

Here, the strategy is to make your expertise visible to potential buyers and referral sources. This is accomplished through writing, speaking or publishing content that demonstrates your expertise and how it can be applied to solve client problems.

Books, articles and speaking engagements have long been staples of professional services business development strategy. Many high visibility experts have built their practices and firms upon this strategy. It often takes a good part of a career to execute this approach.

But changing times and technology have reshaped this strategy. With the onset of digital communication it is now easier and much faster to establish your expertise with a target market. Search engines have leveled the playing field so that relatively unknown individuals and firms can become known even outside their physical region. Webinars have democratized public speaking, and blogs and websites give every firm a 24/7 presence. Add in video and social media and the budding expert can access a vastly expanded marketplace.

But these developments also open firms to much greater competition as well. You may find yourself competing with specialists whom you were never aware of. The impact is to raise the stakes on your business development strategy.

Combined Strategies

It is common to combine different business development strategies. For example, networking and referrals are frequently used together. And on one level, a combined strategy makes perfect sense. The strength of one strategy can shore up the weakness of another.

But there is a hidden danger. For a strategy to perform at its peak, it must be fully implemented. There is a danger that by attempting to execute too many different strategies you will never completely implement any of them.

Good intentions, no matter how ambitious, are of little real business development value. Under-investment, lack of follow through and inconsistent effort are the bane of effective business development.

It is far more effective to fully implement a simple strategy than to dabble in a complex one. Fewer elements, competently implemented, produce better results.

Next, we turn our attention to the tactics used to implement a high-level strategy. But first there is a bit of confusion to clear up.

Business Development Strategy Vs. Tactics

The line between strategy and tactics is not always clear. For example, you can think of networking as an overall business development strategy or as a tactic to enhance the impact of a thought leadership strategy. Confusing to be sure.

From our perspective, the distinction is around focus and intent. If networking is your business development strategy all your focus should be on making the networking more effective and efficient. You will select tactics that are aimed at making networking more powerful or easier. You may try out another marketing technique and drop it if it does not help you implement your networking strategy.

On the other hand, if networking is simply one of many tactics, your decision to use it will depend on whether it supports your larger strategy. Tactics and techniques can be tested and easily changed. Strategy, on the other hand, is a considered choice and does not change from day to day or week to week.

10 Most Effective Business Development Tactics

Which business development tactics are most effective? To find out, we recently conducted a study that looked at over 1000 professional services firms. The research identified those firms that were growing at greater than a 20% compound annual growth rate over a three-year period.

These High Growth firms were compared to firms in the same industry that did not grow over the same time period. We then examined which business development tactics were employed by each group and which provided the most impact.

The result is a list of the ten most impactful tactics employed by the High Growth firms:

There are a couple of key observations about these growth tactics. First, these techniques can be employed in service of different business development strategies. For example number seven on the list, speaking at targeted conferences or events, can easily support a networking or a thought leadership strategy.

The other observation is that the top tactics include a mix of both digital and traditional techniques. As we will see when we develop your plan, having a healthy mix of digital and traditional techniques tends to increase the impact of your strategy.

Business Development Skills

Now that we have identified the key business development strategies and tactics, it is time to consider the business development skills your team will need. Business development skills require a broad range of technical skills but there are some that make a difference.

When the Hinge Research Institute studied marketing and business development skills in our annual High Growth Study , we found that the firms who grow faster have a skill advantage within their marketing and business development teams.

business development sales strategy plan

Let’s dive into the top three skills from this list. 

The number one business development skill high growth firms enjoy are strong project management skills. And for experienced business development specialists, this makes good sense. Staying organized, accurately tracking business development activity, and managing accounts are essential for building and maintaining strong business relationships. Activities like the proposal development see business development team resources manage and produce a strong proposal quickly, including the right stakeholders, and without sacrificing quality.

The next most important skill is simplifying complex concepts. In business development conversations, it is vital that team members are strong communicators of your firm’s service offerings and capabilities. Those who are able to take a comlex scope of work and communicate it in a way that a potential buyer can understand. Speaking in industry jargon or overly complicated charts is a fast way to see a business lead become unresponsive. Therefore, it is no surprise to see that the fastest growing professional services firms have an advantage in communicating complex information in a way that buyers understand.

The third most important business development skill is face-to-face networking. Despite the hiatus of many in-person events, high growth firms still reported that strong networking skills are a top skill enjoyed by their firms. Strong face-to-face networking skills are as much of an art as it is a science. While some can be more charismatic than others, everyone can prepare their teams with the resources and plan they need to succeed in a networking environment.

Review the other business development and marketing skills in the figure above and determine which skills your team should aim to develop. Strategy development for planning your business development plan, research for understanding the competitive landscape and industry trends, and social media prowess all play an important role in business development, too. Developing these skills should be a key priority of your business development team.

How to Create Your Strategic Business Development Plan

A Business Development Plan is a document that outlines how you implement your business development strategy. It can be a plan for an individual, a practice or the firm as a whole. Its scope covers both the marketing and sales functions, as they are so intertwined in most professional services firms.

Here are the key steps to develop and document your plan.

Define your target audience

Who are you trying to attract as new clients? Focus on your “best-fit” clients, not all possible prospects. It is most effective to focus on a narrow target audience. But don’t go so narrow that you can’t achieve your business goals.

Research their issues, buying behavior and your competitors

The more you know about your target audience the better equipped you will be to attract their attention and communicate how you can help them. What are their key business issues? Is your expertise relevant to those issues? Where do they look for advice and inspiration? What is the competitive environment like? How do you stack up?

Identify your competitive advantage

What makes you different? Why is that better for your target client? Are you the most cost-effective alternative, or the industry’s leading expert? This “positioning” as it is often called, needs to be true, provable and relevant to the prospect at the time they are choosing which firm to work with. Be sure to document this positioning, as you will use it over and over again as you develop your messages and marketing tools.

Choose your overall business development strategy

Pick the broad strategy or strategies to reach, engage and convert your prospects. You can start with the list of top strategies provided above. Which strategy fits with the needs and preferences of your target audiences? Which ones best convey your competitive advantage? For example, if you are competing because you have superior industry expertise, a thought leadership/content marketing strategy will likely serve you well.

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Choose your business development tactics

A great place to start is the list of the most effective tactics we provided above. Make sure that each technique you select fits your target audience and strategy. Remember, it’s not about your personal preferences or familiarity with a tactic. It’s about what works with the audience.

Also, you will need to balance your choices in two important ways: First, you will need tactics that address each stage of the business development pipeline shown in Figure 1. Some techniques work great for gaining visibility but do not address longer-term nurturing. You need to cover the full funnel.

Second, you need a good balance between digital and traditional techniques (Figure 2). Your research should inform this choice. Be careful about assumptions. Just because you don’t use social media doesn’t mean that a portion of your prospects don’t use it to check you out.

Online and Traditional Marketing

Figure 2. Online and offline marketing techniques

When, how often, which conferences, what topics? Now is the time to settle on the details that turn a broad strategy into a specific plan. Many plans include a content or marketing calendar that lays out the specifics, week by week. If that is too much detail for you, at least document what you will be doing and how often. You will need these details to monitor the implementation of your plan.

Specify how you will monitor implementation and impact

Often overlooked, these important considerations often spell the difference between success and failure. Unimplemented strategies don’t work. Keep track of what you do, and when. This will both motivate action and provide a great starting place as you troubleshoot your strategy. Also monitor and record the impacts you see. The most obvious affect will be how much new business you closed. But you should also monitor new leads or new contacts, at the bare minimum. Finally, don’t neglect important process outcomes such as referrals, new names added to your list and downloads of content that expose prospects and referral sources to your expertise.

If you follow these steps you will end up with a documented business development strategy and a concrete plan to implement and optimize it.


How Hinge Can Help

Hinge, a global leader in professional services branding and marketing, helps firms grow faster and become more profitable. Our research-based strategies are designed to be  implemented.  In fact, our groundbreaking  Visible Firm ®  program  combines strategy, implementation, training and more.

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