Most people are familiar with a marketing plan, a document that describes how you intend to generate sales leads and turn them into potential customers. A sales plan (aka sales campaign plan) is different: it provides a roadmap for an individual sales effort.

Sales plans are overkill when selling to smallish companies with simple decision-making processes. However, if you're selling to large companies that have complex decision-making and purchasing processes, a sales plan is essential because:

  1. It helps you keep track of the sales effort, so that you're not relying upon memory alone, which can be faulty, especially if you're juggling multiple sales efforts.
  2. It enlists your primary contact or sponsor in the customer organization in your sales process, thereby increasing the likelihood that a sale will take place.
  3. It documents the timeline by which the decision-making and buying process will take place, so that you don't end up wondering "what's going on?"

A comprehensive sales plan has five sections:

  1. Requirements. A brief description of the problem that the customer needs to solve or the opportunity that the customer is not currently able to realize.
  2. Solution. A brief description of the agreed-upon solution that will solve the customer problem or realized the opportunity.
  3. Stakeholders. The names, positions, roles and contact information of everybody in the customer organization must either approve or can block the sale.
  4. The Decision Process. A step-by-step description of how the customer organization will make the decision to buy, with specific dates for each milestone.
  5. The Purchasing Process. A step-by step description of how the customer organization will pay for, and accept delivery of, the solution after purchase.


In my 2011 book, How To Say It: Business to Business Selling, I provided a detailed example of a sales plan. Below is an improved version, based upon what I've learned since then.

Note: As you can see from the example below, a sales plan need not be (nor should it be) a tome. Keep it short and sweet, and update it as you go along. 

1. Requirements

Microsemi offers a variety of embedded devices, including eight-bit microcontrollers; specialty memory products such as electrically erasable programmable read-only memories; and code-hopping devices used in keyless locks, garage door openers, and smart cards. Its chips are used by tens of thousands of customers in the automotive, computing, consumer, industrial, medical, and networking markets.

Microsemi is experiencing significant quality problems due to their outsourcing of supply chain to rural China. They need a convenient way to accumulate test results on components in order to identify problems before they ripple through the supply chain, creating bad runs at their final assembly plants. Preliminary estimates are that this problem is costing them $2 million a year, roughly 1 percent of their $200 million a year revenue stream.

2. Solution

Our silver-level supply chain report module, along with customizations to make sure that it can draw data from their existing ERP system. Estimated cost is $1 million, which will provide an ROI within six months.

3. Stakeholders

The following people will need to be fully committed in order for a purchase to take place:

  1. Terry Moon, VP of Manufacturing. Responsible for the problem and has the most stake in fixing it. He's well regarded in the company, but not seen as a power player, which is why this hasn't been addressed sooner. [phone, email]
  2. Mikel Kallima, CIO. Holds the budget for all IT purchases. Will need to be brought on board or he can block the sale. [phone, email]
  3. Will Jorryn, CFO. Insists on signing off on any purchase greater than $500k. [phone, email]
  4. Brasen Rangle, Director of Supply Chain Logistics. He's my initial contact and source. He reports to Terry. He'll be responsible for training personnel on the new system, so he needs to be in the loop. [phone, email]
  5. Skip Karsen, Engineer Emeritus. He's the architect of the ERP customization and usually against "foreign" additions to his system. He may present a problem and will need to be won over to this approach. [phone, email]

4. The Decision-Making Process

Problem recognition. The problem is widely recognized inside the manufacturing group, which has been complaining about it for years. However, top management has been focused on stock growth. I will need to raise the priority of this problem by meeting with Kallima and his team.

  1. Define economic consequences. We will need a confirmation that the estimates are correct. To do this, I'll need to work with Moon, who will be able to set me up with Jorryn in order to confirm the numbers. Expected date of completion: xx/xx/xx
  2. Commit funding. At this point, Moon will need to sponsor me to a meeting of the steering committee to present the results of the previous two stages, along with a draft solution. Prior to that, I'll need to set up meetings between Rangle, Skip, and our engineers to confirm feasibility. Expected date of completion: xx/xx/xx
  3. Define decision criteria. The company seldom writes official RFPs, so we'll be able to move forward with a letter of intention. This should be joint-authored by Moon, Rangel, Kallima, and Karsen. Expected date of completion: xx/xx/xx
  4. Evaluate alternatives. Karsen will probably want to confirm that their current ERP vendor lacks this capability and make certain that there's not a better approach. I'll need to give a presentation to an evaluation team (unclear at this point who will be on the team). Expected date of completion: xx/xx/xx
  5. Select vendor solution. Assuming we are the selected vendor, we'll work through the details and move forward with the installation. Expected date of completion: xx/xx/xx

5. The Purchasing Process

Once consensus is reached, Moon will write an official request to Kallima, enclosing our sales proposal. Expected date of completion: xx/xx/xx

Once the request is signed off on by Kallima, Jorryn will free up funds, which can be paid out according to a PO from our offices. Expected data of completion: xx/xx/xx