What Is A Sales Plan? For Product Based Businesses
Whether it's getting a robust number of wholesale accounts under your belt, accessing retail buyers or finding a new International distributor for you product, creating a sales plan is the first step and "best kept secret" to the age old question - how do I scale up a product-based business...
What is a sales plan ?
In short, a sales plan is a strategic route map that details all the ways you will generate your b2b leads and close them into formal orders for your business.
It captures who your target retailers, international distributors or wholesale accounts will be and how you will work towards winning those sales during a set time period. It's the detail of "how" you will build important industry relationships and realise your business vision.
The core idea of a sales plan can be understood with my 5 simple tips to help you get started:
1. A Sales Plan defines your targets
- What sales number do you want to hit by the end of the year?
- How many units of products will you have to sell to meet that target?
- Where, exactly will those unit sales come from? Which accounts? which retailers, which marketplace platforms?
- ...and how many units from each of those accounts?
Let's get specific.
Start off by identifying exactly what it is you want your business to achieve as a total volumes figure this year.
Next start capturing into an excel a list of who your "ideal" retailers are and who the other major accounts could be - i.e. where do you want your product to be listed in an ideal world? Which retailers? Which countries?
We see it time and time again with my business coaching clients getting so overwhelmed with all their ecommerce direct to consumer tasks, busy peddling hard to create social media "noise", driving traffic and wasting money on expensive ads and seo... that they "forget" to prioritise the ONE thing that will be game-changing to their business. Eyeballs....
These large retailers, boutiques, distributors and marketplaces ALREADY have your exact customers on their list ready and willing to buy... they have the footfall, the access and the eyeballs that you don't yet have...so we just need to get your products infront of them!
To get a different result, we have to DO different things.
Dream big here... get a mix of those dream aspirational retailers and some smaller, more realistic boutiques down on your list.
2. Spot strategies that fit your market
There are so many different types of sales strategies for your product business growth - you can focus on specialty retail stores and by-pass the major retailers completely, or you can be online only or rapidly scale using international distributors. The options for your product-based business are endless.
However, it’s vital you find a sales strategy that is the perfect match for the business model you have and the business you REALLY want to build.
With a sales plan, it forces you to get clear on this. As you create your sales plan, you have to identify target accounts to pursue and this will help shape exactly what needs to be done and when.
For example you may find that you start working your way through your sales plan "ideal targets" list and spot a trend in the number of German retailers who are saying yes to seeing product samples and stocking your product!
If so, then we can use this information to hone our sales strategy. You'll go find out more about whats happening in that specific market, why its working so well and how you can expand your presence even further.
3. Driving sales activity volumes = success
Once you’ve identified the overall strategy you are aiming for e.g. "target boutique retailers in UK", it’s time to focus on tactics and pure volumes of activity.
This is all about HOW you’re going to reach your market effectively and recording your daily efforts against this sales account plan.
- Which retailers / accounts will you contact this week?
- How many calls / appointments will you make ?
- How exactly will you introduce your brand and product range?
- Which sales messages are working on the intro? and which aren't?
- Have you sent a trade catalogue? Pricing / Line sheet?
- Which accounts will you follow up with this week (e.g. contacts from last week)?
- Who will you send samples to this week?
- What is their likely first trial order size ?
- When does it need to be shipped?
We must relentlessly DO THE WORK. There is no way around it, we have to move our feet! Show up, make the calls, send the product catalogues and follow up and ask for feedback. It takes time and effort to build these important relationships. Start now.
4. Focuses you on profitability and cost to serve
Sales is vanity, profit is sanity.
Having a successful business isn't as simple as acquiring lots of retail accounts - what if none of them make you any real money! Use your sales plan to ask important questions such as:
- How much am I willing to spend to acquire and support this account?
- Should we spend money flying out to the UAE to secure the relationship and get this new distributor account started?
- or ...How much extra promotional spend will this major retail account expect from us to make this sales channel a success?
For example, Walmart marketplace expect retailers to support with a bear minimum of $1000 per month in promotional spend for their products listed. This makes the profitability of this retailer account a different proposition and depending on your current product margins you may not be ready to scale using this account yet.
Knowing exactly how much you are prepared to invest upfront to gain access to a retail account and the cost to serve the new sales accounts you are acquiring is paramount to a successful sales plan and to your overall business.
5. Tracks performance of the sales team
Your sales plan will be the single source of truth for you and your team.
It will capture everything you need in one place so that when you share your growth plans with other people, they can also understand the practical steps required, the retailers you want to target and the sales unit volumes you will be working towards to build up your b2b customer base.
A structured sales plan will force a daily discipline for your sales team - where they are recording their outreach activities, capturing the number of follow ups they've done today, plus updating the exact account and relationship status.
This will enable you, as product-based business owner to track the success and evaluate the performance of your sales team daily. You will know what they are working on, who they are targeting, what conversations they are having, and crucially where they are getting stuck. This is "gold" if you’re focused on improving sales year on year to scale your business.
Make It Happen In Your Business
Your sales plan will be completely unique to your business.
It is the vital tool used to focus you and your teams energy on the only activities which really matter - driving product sales!
Without the discipline and accountability of a sales plan, as a ultra busy business owner you will most likely end up "working on sales" only when you remember to, after you've done social, created content, dealt with your manufacturer, sorted customer service, packed a few boxes.. the list goes on...
.. if you don't have a dedicated sales team, for most founders this important work becomes adhoc at best, rather than making it a central habit - a core part of your business building routine.
So it's time to commit - decide to either make time each day to do your sales account work, or delegate this vitally important work out to someone who will. Your business will not grow without complete focus on sales activity. Someone has to do this work. Who is doing the sales work today, right now, in your business?
- If you would like our help with your lead generation and sales outreach for product based businesses, please get in touch to talk to a member of our team, to see if we'd be a good fit.
- Just remember, when it comes to lead generation and pursuing new sales accounts, not everything always goes according to plan. Meeting hurdles or challenges along the way is normal - you will get a lot of "no's" before you get "yes's" but this is all part of the learning process. Each time, you will learn something about how to pitch your brand, what works for your major accounts and what doesn't.
- Listen to the feedback you are getting from retailers, and distributors - please don't ignore it thinking you know better - particularly when it comes to feedback on your product / market fit (ie. does someone actually want to buy your product) and price (are you priced perfectly for your ideal customer). These industry players have deep experience in your market and with your customer. Their comments will be based on what they've seen first hand at the tills and experienced as results.
- If feedback from major accounts are all consistently telling you the customer won't buy your product / at that price, make sure you truly understand why this is, ask them to share more information on what it is about your product that needs to specifically change and go do your own research to dig deeper into the issue and validate these findings.
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