Today you’ll learn how to prepare a sales plan. It’s a simple process to help you learn a lot about the business you’d be talking to, find the pain points and weak spots in their current sales system, and prepare a specific, valuable offer that you can sell the client on.
One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to approach a client without preparation. With enough experience, you might get a successful sale here and there, but it would be more of a gamble. You want to maximise your chance for success.
With the right plan and preparation, you’ll feel more confident. You’ll have better control over the process, and make an impression of someone who’s a professional and who pays attention. That will help you a lot to close way more deals.
The sales plan we’re covering today consists of 3 sections:
- Business and niche research.
- Sales path / Sales system.
- Questions and outcomes.
Let’s start with the first part – the research.
1. Business and niche research
First, you’ll start by doing some research. Before you move any further, you need to get a broader context of the business you’ll be speaking to.
Start with gathering information about the business itself: what they do, what they sell, who their target audience is.
Take a look at their online presence. Start with their website. Take a look at their products and services, their background and story, their staff if they have ‘about us’ page. Look for things they specialise in, ways they provide value, things they are probably proud of.
Then move to their social media channels – Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and so on. Do they have these? What and how often do they post? How do they engage with their community? Can you see particular people tagged in the photos? Who are they, what’s their role in the business?
Try Googling the name of the company and seeing what comes up. Look for news mentions and blog articles, recent events, contests, conferences or prizes. Who’s writing about them and why?
Do they have listings with reviews like Google My Business or Yelp? What are their customers saying? Are the reviews good or bad?
If the company is big enough, you can try searching for it on LinkedIn. How many employees do they have? How long have they been on the market? Who is the founder or the CEO? Do they have other CXOs (Chief Officers) like the Chief Marketing Officer or the Chief Sales Officer? This might be the people you’ll be talking to later.
The next phase of your sales plan research is niche research. Use Google, Yelp or other business listings and look for their competitors:
- Who they are;
- Who their customers are;
- In what way they are similar, and how they differ;
- How much they charge.
No business exists in a vacuum, you want to know the context of their market. Where do they fit into the marketplace? Are they relatively small or large? Are they a new company or an established one?
What marketing and sales activities can you see that the competition is doing? These would be for example:
- Google Ads;
- social media profiles;
- building email lists on their websites;
- lead magnets like free presentations, samples, consultations;
- sales reps that they’re hiring;
- sales directly through their website (e-commerce);
- automated client onboarding through a questionnaire form;
You want to get a feeling about what is happening in the industry. Knowing competitors are doing could help your potential client as well.
Take a while and think about the reasons your prospect would trust you. You want to make a list of similar companies that you’ve helped or problems that you’ve solved, and they might have. Look for your connections with other business in their niche, a mutual friend or a network you’re both members of.
There’s a full post on finding trust points with other businesses with a detailed guide. You can find it here: how to improve your web design sales by earning trust.
2. Sales Path / Sales System
After you’ve done your research, the second part of the plan focuses on the current sales system of the business. How do they get sales today? It’s gonna be a lot of guesswork for you, so don’t worry if you get confused or you lack certainty. Your main goal is to get a feeling of what they might be doing now and then look for the strong and weak areas of that. Just play a detective and try to uncover as much as possible.
You’ve already gathered some of the information needed in the research phase. Use that as the starting point.
Do they advertise online? Is their site ranking high in terms of SEO? Are they active on social media? If not, chances are they do all their marketing and advertising offline. This would mean they probably have a team of sales reps. Look at their contact page and about us page. Do they have a separate sales email address (e.g. email@example.com)? What do their reviews say? What are the most common complaints? Do they respond to the reviews? If so, what do they say?
Take all that information and map that out as a whole. Determine the role of specific parts of the system and how it all works together. Look for areas for improvement. Remember that the website is a part of a bigger system, so you want to look at things in context. Try and think how people get on the site, what do they expect to find or learn there and what action they are expected to take after they leave the website – whether it’s calling the business, sending an email, requesting a demo, and so on.
Your goal is to come with as many ideas on how to improve their numbers as possible.
3. Questions and outcomes
The third and last stage is the preparation for the meeting itself.
During the meeting, you want to verify and expand what you’ve learned during the previous stages. You’ll start with general questions and proceed with digging deeper. Then you’ll wrap all that up and come up with a precise and specific plan for how you can help the prospect improve their sales system.
Write down general questions you can ask about their business. At the very beginning of the meeting, you want to build rapport, confirm your findings from the research stage, and learn about the things you’ve missed. These could be questions like:
Your website says you’re hiring sales representatives. Is it the primary way you’re selling your services right now?
- I’ve seen that your business is focused on selling X, Y and Z. What else do you offer to your customers?
- It seems you’re focused on B2B sales and your target client is a small company in the steel industry. Who else do you serve?
- It seems your biggest direct competitor is ACME Inc. Who else do you compete with locally and globally?
This shows that you’re prepared and speeds the whole process up. You already know a lot, so after a few general questions, you can quickly move into looking for their challenges.
Every business wants to improve sales – either in terms of the amount or quality of incoming leads. You want to investigate things that you’ve identified as weak or potentially weak in their sales system.
Prepare several direct questions about their sales system:
- How do you get new customers at the moment?
- Besides the sales representatives, what are the other ways that you find new customers?
- Who are the customers you’d like to get more of?
- What’s holding you back from getting more sales?
- How does your current website help you with your sales process?
- What’s your competition already doing that is working for them in terms of sales?
You’re looking for challenges, problems that you can solve and provide lots of value this way.
BIG problems and business impact
Once you’ve identified some problems, you want to dig deeper. Write down more detailed questions to ask about the things you’ll have uncovered by this point. Your goal is to dig deeper this time.
- What does the surface problem really cause in terms of business impact?
- I’ve heard you have problems finding more medium-sized companies from the steel industry. Where does that problem come from?
- What does that mean for your business?
- How is that holding you back in other areas?
- How does that impact your sales goals for the year?
- What have you tried to attract clients like these?
- How would your typical business day change if you had more clients like that?
- What will happen if you don’t get it fixed?
You want to dig deep and map out the desired future state. Picture two separate images: where they are now and where they want to be. The value you will provide will be the bridge between these two places.
Goals and desired outcomes
By this point, you’ll have a lot of information about how the business operates, where they are, what challenges do they face, and where they want to be. Make a lot of notes about the desired future state and the value it would bring to the business.
- I’ve heard that you want to hit your sales goals to expand your business to a new location next year.
- Lack of new sales is holding you back from hiring more people and keeping up the quality you provide – your customers started complaining about that.
- It takes a lot of time for your sales reps to close a prospective client. They spend a lot of time switching back and forth, educating current leads instead of looking for new opportunities.
- It seems it would be valuable for your company if your website could get you more leads, educate them and help you hit your sales goals this quarter.
- If we achieve this, you will be able to open two more offices, hire 5 more sales reps and increase your sales by 30% next year.
Wrap that up and say you’re gonna prepare a plan for them on how to fix these issues and build a more efficient sales system for their business. It’s a crucial stage. Everything else feeds into this part. You want to sell them on the plan and the desired future state. If you’ve done everything correctly, this will be a great, logical plan that makes a lot of sense for you, the business owner and other decision-makers.
Sales plan – a tool for shrewd salesmen
If you’re going to have a sales meeting or a sales call, you don’t want to go unprepared. You want to have clear goals, a clear sales plan that will help you. You want to show you’ve done your homework. Nothing is more discouraging to a business owner than a salesperson who shows fake interest but starts with asking “what does your business do?”.
With proper preparation, the meetings will go smoother, you’ll feel more confident, and the business owner will see that you really care.
What other activities do you do before having a sales meeting? Let us know below the YouTube video and see you next week!
Read other articles in the 1K Challenge series now:
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- Why do most web designers struggle to make sales?
- How to improve your web design sales 1000% by earning trust.
- How to find the perfect web design client.
- A simple 6-step process to land portfolio clients.
- When should I work for free as a web designer
- Confused people don’t buy – how to control a sale in 3 steps.