What is Lean sales? – Create a Sales Plan!

Continuing from my last blog…

In order to pursue customers you need to define how you will seek new customers, how you will win them over and how to retain them. A sales plan is the best way to create a clear communication of how you will do this in your company. This plan should build on the strengths of your products/services and the people in your company.

In my earlier blog “Sales role in Sales and Operation Planning (Demand Planning)” I talk about what is needed as output from the plan and who to collaborate with. Essentially you need to take the following steps. Set a budget -> Set a strategy -> Connect budget to Strategy and decide how to make it happen (sales plan). You need to describe how your sales team will work towards your goal and how you operationally will measure if the goal is being achieved.

I have listed some models I find useful for creating a Sales Plan:

PEST (Political, Economic, Socio-Cultural and Technological)

Using the tool is a 4 stage process:

  1. You brainstorm the relevant factors that apply to you, using the prompts below.
  2. You identify the information that applies to these factors.
  3. You draw conclusions from this information.
  4. Use your conclusions in your SWOT analysis.

The important point is to move from the second step to the third step: it is sterile just to describe factors without thinking through what they mean. However, be careful not to assume that your analysis is perfect: use it as a starting point, and test your conclusions against the reality you experience.

PEST Analysis is a useful tool for understanding the ‘big picture’ of the environment in which you are operating, and for thinking about the opportunities and threats that lie within it. By understanding your environment, you can take advantage of the opportunities and minimize the threats.

PEST is a mnemonic standing for Political, Economic, Social and Technological. These headings are used firstly to brainstorm the characteristics of a country or region and, from this, draw conclusions as to the significant forces of change operating within it.

This provides the context within which more detailed planning can take place, so that you can take full advantage of the opportunities that present themselves.

SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats)

SWOT Analysis is a simple but useful framework for analyzing your organization’s strengths and weaknesses, and the opportunities and threats that you face. It helps you focus on your strengths, minimize threats, and take the greatest possible advantage of opportunities available to you.

Strength and Weakness are an internal focus, whereas Opportunities and Threats are external.

SWOT Analysis can be used to “kick off” strategy formulation, or in a more sophisticated way as a serious strategy tool. You can also use it to get an understanding of your competitors, which can give you the insights you need to craft a coherent and successful competitive position.

When carrying out your SWOT Analysis, be realistic and rigorous. Apply it at the right level, and supplement it with other option-generation tools where appropriate.

KANO model

Kano Model Analysis is a useful technique for deciding which features you want to include in a product or service. It helps you break away from a profit-minimizing mindset that says you’ve got to have as many features as possible in a product, and helps you think more subtly about the features you include.

To use Kano Model Analysis, follow these steps:

  1. Brainstorm all of the possible features and attributes of your product or service, and everything you can do to please your customers.
  2. Classify these as “Threshold”, “Performance”, “Excitement” and “Not Relevant”.
  3. Make sure your product or service has all appropriate Threshold Attributes. If necessary, cut out Performance Attributes so that you can get these – you’re going nowhere fast if these aren’t present.
  4. Where possible, cut out attributes that are “Not Relevant”.
  5. Look at the Excitement Attributes, and think how you can build some of these into your product or service. Again if necessary, cut some Performance Attributes, so that you can “afford” your Excitement Attribute.
  6. Select appropriate Performance Attributes so that you can deliver a product or service at a price the customer is prepared to pay, while still maintaining a good profit margin.


Where possible, get your customers to do the classification for you. Partly this will keep you close to your market, but partly it will keep you and even the most out-of-touch people in your company up-to-date with people’s changing expectations.

Also, make sure when you choose customers who are typical of the market you want to sell to.


When setting goals the goal should always be:

Relevant Helps the employee understand how the expectation fits with the company’s/department’s goals.
Understandable Makes the goal clear to the employee. May need to be restated in different language or the employee’s own words
Measurable Describes the results for which the employee will be accountable. Usually stated in terms of quantifiable criteria.
Beliveable Goal must be stated in a way that it is relevant and credible
Achievable Goal is realistic

Get started!

The year has started, the race is on! Sit down and put a plan together! If you as a manager don’t know what needs to be done, you can be sure no one else has a clue either. Bring your team on board to help if you are stuck. If they get a clear understanding of the budget, your strategic thoughts on what customers to approach and what products to promote, they should be able to give you some good advice. Using the tools I have mentioned or other tools you are familiar with you will have a good structure for keeping the information structured/understandable and also help you ask the right questions.