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A well-crafted sales plan highlights the importance of defining key goals, selecting target verticals, and identifying strategic accounts. This article shares insights to guide sales managers and sales professionals in leveraging intelligence, creating decision-maker personas, and building partnerships, while also emphasizing the significance of a personalized marketing plan to enhance their brand and drive long-term success.


When I think of a day in the life of a top sales manager, there’s a common theme. They invest their time in the right sales activities for their team. This focus becomes even more important, because many times they are balancing business development and sales management along with client delivery.

How can you know what steps will move you forward faster, help you build strategic relationships, and accelerate sales results? Having the right sales plan will help you get there.

Key Goals and Milestones to Include in a Sales Plan

The first step I always advise during sales consulting on sales plans is to start by developing a list of your key business goals and milestones. Some specific categories can help keep you focused on what you want to accomplish this year and beyond, including:

  • Vision
  • Revenue
  • Profit
  • New Client Growth
  • Current Client Growth
  • Game Changer Goal

Think about what you want your team to accomplish for the year and write it down in three or four sentences. What does your book of business or territory look like at the end of the year? What are a few of the things that you want to accomplish? What are your revenue goals in these key verticals, service lines, and product categories?

Lastly, what’s your game changer goal that stretches you, one that can make a huge difference in your sales team’s success this year? Putting all this on paper will provide the strategic snapshot of what you want your book of business or territory to look like at year end.

Select Verticals to Target

Selecting focus verticals can help accelerate revenue growth. Think of it as selecting a major and then some minors. Verticalization offers significant benefits, even if you have a predefined territory, a predefined book of business, or a predefined service line.

The requirements of business development and client service can be better balanced, especially for those of us that are selling or developing business as we’re doing delivery, if we can hone in on a major and a minor vertical. Just getting traction in one vertical could be your runway to spin off into other verticals if you choose.

Some questions sales managers need to ask themselves when targeting verticals:

  • In looking at your client set today, where do you see vertical majors and minors?
    • (Example: healthcare may be your major; home health or nursing facilities may be your minors.)
  • In which verticals have you already established expertise?
  • What verticals do you have a passion for or an interest in going deeper into?
  • What verticals will have the greatest opportunities over the next 1 – 3 years?

Identify Target Accounts

What are the top 20 accounts or clients per vertical that you want to build relationships in? Ideally, this is also tracked in your CRM.

Target accounts per major and minor.

Using myself as an example, professional services is my major, and I have three minors– public accounting, insurance, and technology.

Intelligence Verticals

Intelligence is the deep information that we gather through research on our top prospects and clients, and also within our verticals.

  • Trends
  • Leadership Vision
  • Challenges
  • Key Initiatives
  • Fiscal Year Goals

What are the trends that will be affecting your majors and minors over the next year or the next three years that you need to pay attention to? What are some of the challenges that this vertical is going to come up against? How can you help your clients and prospects solve those problems with the services and solutions that you provide?

This list is something you can adapt at the account level to help you gather intelligence in a single place. It helps you think strategically as a sales manager and understand how you can help your sales reps move prospects business forward.

A modern seller or a modern sales manager is someone who’s recognized as a differentiator in their prospects’ or clients’ business, and the value of what they sell isn’t recognized without them as part of the equation.

You and your team’s expertise are a significant part of the sales and business development. Investing time in these questions at the vertical level and then at the account level is going to help elevate you in the eyes of your prospects or clients.

Create Decision Maker Personas

For each major and minor, you may have unique decision-maker personas. The next step in your planning process is to compile and analyze them.


  • What is the decision maker measured on?
  • What are the key challenges facing this decision maker?
  • What is happening inside his/her firm / company?
  • What will make change difficult?
  • What motivates this decision maker?

Do you have captured in a single place the personas of all of your decision makers? I like to think of it as creative writing, but it is truth telling about what is on the mind of your key decision makers. It helps you envision them, empathize with them and ultimately align your expertise to the challenges they’re trying to solve.

Form Partnerships/Alliances

What are your key partnerships and key alliances that you need to build to accelerate growth in each major or minor?

These may be through industry associations, business partners, centers of influence, research organizations, and more. The key is to determine the partnerships and alliances that are the best fit for your plan. Then ascertain where you can commit to an investment, whether that investment is financial or time or a combination of both.

Personal High-level Marketing Plan

Your firm or company may have a marketing strategy, but do you have a sales manager strategy that goes along with it? In my book, The Modern Seller, I talk quite a bit about ambassadors. One of the things that make ambassadors stand out is building longer term loyalty and lifetime value.

To be able to rise above and have a personal brand that’s unique. Having your own personal leadership brand can tie to your verticals and help elevate how well known you are in the marketplace.

What I have here are key areas for you to consider in your personal marketing plan. Choose the ones that align best with your natural skills.

  • Social Media
  • Campaigns
  • Webinars
  • Events/Forums
  • Thought Leadership Content
  • Website Blogging & Guest Blogging
  • Guest Podcasting
  • Awards

For a deeper dive on how to build your sales manager plan, watch my webinar with The Sales Experts Channel. It’s available on demand.

Create Stronger Sales Plans

Don’t let your competition get an advantage. My sales consulting and sales advisory programs can help. If you want to know how to create a sales plan that truly ignites sales, let’s talk. Contact me to schedule time for a discovery conversation.

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