James Carbary

Founder at Sweet Fish Media

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A 10-Part Sales Development Action Plan for Sales Leaders

James Carbary

Founder at Sweet Fish Media

Full Profile »

We have all heard the old proverb “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime” right? 

Well, the same is true for you as a sales leader. Teach your salespeople how to sell, and your business will be fed for a lifetime.

One of the most common misconceptions about sales is that it emulates the negative vibe of car salesmen. Pushy, sleazy, and inauthentic. 

While this may be true for some experiences,*cough* car sales *cough*, oftentimes salespeople will become the unsung hero of your business. 

These unsung heroes are led by fearless sales leaders who are intentional, inspiring, and imaginative. Typically forward-thinking, there is a sales development action plan in place outlining individual, short and long-term goals.

Before I keep going, let me explain what a sales development action plan is and why you need one. 

What is a sales development action plan? A sales development action plan is a holistic overview of how your business will achieve its goals utilizing sales strategies, storytelling, and customizable pricing for clients. 

In this article, I will be breaking down a 10-part sales development action plan that can be applied to any business model. 

These 10 parts are:

  1. Needs Discovery
  2. Map the Buyer’s Journey
  3. Roleplays
  4. Ideal Customer Profile 
  5. Craft the Narrative 
  6. Sales Processes 101
  7. Pricing Strategy Customization
  8. Codified Career Growth Plan 
  9. Optimize and Automate
  10. Morale. Morale. Morale!

Dig up some worms, grab your rod, and tie a new hook on, because it’s time to learn how to fish. 🙂

This sales development action plan is about to rock your world. 

  1. Needs Discovery – Let’s talk.

Bad. Don’t be like this:

I have seen this mistake all too often. Picture this, you are sitting in a meeting and the salesperson is droning on about them, their company, and their products. You are irritated, you are tired, and at this point you want them to leave. 

Why is that? Well, it is because they never asked about you, your business, or what you do.

Sales leaders, is this how you want your potential customers to feel? No! 

This is why it is critical to understand needs discovery and talk to as many customers as possible.

What was Missing:

Needs discovery allows you to do three things:

  1. Ask questions
  2. Talk less
  3. Uncover needs

Simple enough right? Let’s paint a new picture. 

Good. Be like this:

You are sitting in a meeting and the salesperson starts asking you thought probing questions

  • Describe your current business model. 
  • What challenges do you currently face? 
  • How has COVID-19 affected your sales? 
  • How would sales be impacted if your B2B podcast saw increased engagement? 

By the end of the meeting, you are excited, uncovered hidden needs within your business, and possibly have a new partner moving forward. 

See how the narrative changes for potential customers when your salespeople understand needs discovery? Now imagine if all of them went out into the industry and talked to people. Magic would happen. Sales would increase and insights about what customers need would flow into your business. 

2. Map the Buyer’s Journey – How did you get here?

Sales is full of engagement from salespeople to customers, but what happens when a customer reaches out to you? Oh how the tables have turned! While we can only wish for this to happen more often (*ahem* or engage in more demand generation instead of lead generation), one thing we can do to understand our customers more is map the buyer journey. 

We think it looks like this:

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When in reality, it looks like this:

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It’s clear from the wonderful pieces of artwork above, that being a buyer isn’t easy. Sometimes it can be an emotional roller coaster that leaves its riders feeling confused. This journey typically comes after a needs discovery moment. Buyers recognize they have a need and are suddenly in the market for someone or something to fix it. 

This is where you come in like a knight in shining armor! 

If you are able to map out this journey, you will have a clear overview of what stage your buyers are in and where you can step in to be their final purchase. By having this critical sales development knowledge, you save buyers time, alleviate their stress, and save the day.

3. Roleplays? Roleplay!

At this point, you have to be asking yourself “Okay Belal, but how can I support the development of my salespeople? They have only had to hit the phones since working here.” This is a common question and the answer to this is roleplays. 

No, I’m not talking about roleplaying at a renaissance festival, more so as a buyer and seller. Here is what you do:

  1. Schedule 1-on-1 roleplay meetings with your salespeople 
  2. Assign product or service to prepare material on
  3. Record the meeting and set a timer
  4. Act as a buyer for the salesperson utilizing a persona listed below:   
    • Driver
    • Amiable 
    • Expressive 
    • Analytical
  5. During the meeting, utilize a sales rubric and write feedback based on the following:
    • Rapport Building
    • Key Decision Maker
    • Agenda Statement
    • Needs Identification
    • Presentation
    • Overcoming Objections
    • Trial Closes
    • Close
    • Communication 
    • Time
  6. Go through presentation strengths and areas of improvement with seller

By going through these 6 steps, you gain priceless knowledge on your salespeople’s styles, presentation skills, and areas of improvement. Then, you are able to track their progress as they continue through their sales development training with you, the team, and good ole real-world experience. 

4. Ideal Customer Profile – What is their worldview?

Worldview? Belal, why do I care what their worldview is?

Well, this is important to your customers… and you! 

As a sales leader, understanding a customer’s worldview means you can look through their eyes and see the values, beliefs, and opinions that shape the decisions they make. This is the holy grail of anyone hungry to sell. Why? 

Because you can better understand how your product or service can fit the needs of customers to a level competitors will not be able to comprehend. 

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Source: Giphy https://gph.is/g/4Lxgdg0

You don’t want to set out to alter their worldview, rather complement it with what you have.

Imagine this:

You are a company that sells children’s books manufactured with recycled materials in a carbon-neutral factory. 

  • Company A) At Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Target, and Walmart on the shelf like every other book
  • Company B) With the knowledge you have about customer worldviews, you are at big-name stores marketed as sustainable, and also at eco-friendly boutiques, Whole Foods, and coffee shops.

Which would you choose?

5. Craft the Narrative 

You are a storyteller. Your salespeople are storytellers. Your company tells a story. It is now a part of your sales development action plan to impeccably craft and share its story.

These are all questions you should be asking your team and your business:

  • Where did we come from? 
  • Why do we do what we do? 
  • Who do we serve? 
  • Where do we want to go? 

Once you gather all the answers, it is time to build a narrative that will hopefully outlast you! 

Your narrative will form and spread by:

  1. Taking shape in writing, audio, or video.
  2. Being seen in presentations, websites, or lobbies. 
  3. Being told by employees, strangers or leaders.

Your narrative will always answer:

  1. The Past: where you are from
  2. The Present: what you are now
  3. The Future: where you want to go 

So why do you want this in your action plan? 

Internally, employees can be inspired by playing a role in something they believe in that’s much bigger than themselves. Google is a great example of this. Everyone walks around with a pinwheel hat and calls themselves “Googlers.”

Externally, there is potential to attract individuals who are able to sympathize or even empathize with the story, image, and future ideas of the company. Tesla is a great example of this. The buy-in and love for Elon Musk is uncanny. 

Make yourself the sidekick not the hero!

This is the best thing you can do for your narrative.  Everyone makes themselves the Hero.  


It’s human nature. We all experience our stories from our own eyes in first person. Your customers are no different. They view themselves as heroes.

You can imagine yourself as:

  • The wise sage offering hard-earned wisdom to the hero on his quest
  • The blacksmith equipping the hero with sword and shield to vanquish his enemy
  • The tagalong sidekick who always has the hero’s back.

Your customer is the Hero. More “heroes” will “come to your blacksmithery” or “venture to the sage’s chambers” if you do that. (In other words, you’ll get more sales.)

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Source: giphy https://gph.is/1sCRjyo

6. Sales Processes 101

The goal for Sales Processes 101: Prototype to fail and build the sales process based on the Ideal Customer Profile. 

The goal for Sales Processes 101: Prototype to Fail


Did…. did I just write the F word? 

Yes! Failure is where we learn the most about us as leaders, our business model, and where we can do better. 

When you prototype to fail, you are in the early stages of failing, and you are able to: 

  • Fail in a safe place 
  • Gain feedback 
  • Revise

You may be up to Sales Process Version #32489 by the end of it, but by then you will have a sales process that is customer-centric, lean, and insightful. How you may ask? MAGIC.

Actually, predictive measures utilizing qualitative and quantitative data collected from customers, but in layman’s terms, MAGIC. 

This is why it is so important to work the ideal customer profile into your sales processes! You will be able to see where in the process customers have hesitation, adjust, and keep the sale moving forward. 

The insights collected from data leading to predictions can prove to be invaluable when modeling for the future and responding to the present. 

7. Pricing strategy customization

When was the last time you read a Terms & Service Agreement when applying for a credit card? 

I’ll answer, never. 

So what makes you think buyers want to read the stiff and confusing jargon for your pricing?

I’ll answer again, they don’t!

One of the best things you can do within this sales development action plan is to take action in making a customizable pricing strategy that uses the buyer’s language. Sales leaders around the globe are rejoicing as I mention this. A customizable pricing strategy means you are able to meet the buyers where they are. For example, you own a company called Smurf CRM’s that is geared towards small-medium size business and small-medium size enterprises. Below are the packages:

Monthly Packages 

Basic – Free

Advanced – $4.99 per employee 

Platinum – $7.99 per employee 

Monthly Add-ons

Sweet Fish Media – $3.99 per employee 

Skype for Business $1.99 per employee 

There is a price point for everyone with the option to customize where needs are discovered and able to be met. Not to mention the language is clear and easy to understand! 

8. Codified Career Growth Plan 

For getting this far in the journey with me, do I have a treat for you! I made this for you. 

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Ta-da! It is an SDR/DBR Career Growth Plan for you and your employees! Read the whole thing and you’ll see SDR Levels along with their Requirements for Promotion.

The need for a positive career trajectory, plans for growth, and opportunities have become critical in the job market today. More and more Millenials are owning who they are, their worth, and leveraging opportunities around them. 

If your company lags or does not have open opportunities available for upward mobility, talent will go elsewhere.

Would you want to risk high potential employees leaving because there is no room for growth within the company? No! Let’s talk about how to prevent that from happening. 

  1. Career Growth Plans – By utilizing career growth plans such as the one Belal so graciously provided, sales leaders are able to sit down with employees to track where they are and where they can go. 
  2. Consistent Conversations – Have regular feedback sessions and reviews quarterly to continue the conversation about what opportunities are available or will be in the future.

9. Optimize and automate – Have a killer technology stack

Technology stacks are friends. Not food. 

We embrace technology here! It is a gift and makes life as a salesperson infinitely easier to manage. Here is me trying to list my personal technology stack that mirrors your sales peoples: 

  • Cell Phone
  • Laptop
  • Email
  • Text
  • Call 
  • Zoom

Now, this has me thinking. How as a business can we have a technology stack that optimizes and automates work for our salespeople? Well, the first thing to do would be to identify areas you may be able to automate or dare I say it, needs discovery! 

Luckily, I did that for you. Check out a few of these tools to add to your stack that would support your sales development action plan goals and help your bottom line:

10. Morale. Morale. Morale!

Last, but certainly not least, morale. One of the most important areas of business and this sales development action plan. Why? Because if you don’t have happy employees, you don’t have happy customers and that means an unhappy sales leader!

We don’t want that here! As a sales leader, we want the sun shining, birds chirping and team morale as high as can be! Let’s talk tactics to keep the team boosted and spirits up. Truly, it’s the little things!

  1. Positive reinforcement – Pavlov saw it first with the dogs! The same is true with your salespeople, reward those who are doing exceptional work. Whether it be praise, positive feedback, or something monetary, show them you are invested in their success. 
  2. Keep it fun – Whether it be a friendly competition, whacky Wednesday or casual Friday, try to foster an environment where your team is able to let out their inner child at work. The results may surprise you! *Sweet Fish Media is not responsible for the excessive fun, record-breaking results and wide smiles you may see*
  3. Understand your employees – Sounds easy enough right? Wrong. While you may have a team of salespeople, try to understand each one on an individual level. 


By now you have either read this entire article or skipped to the end for this lovely summary. Either way, let’s recap together! 

Sales Development Action Plan Steps

  1. Needs Discovery – Understand your customers’ pain points by asking questions, practicing active listening, and talking less. 
  2. Map the Buyers Journey – Doing this will provide a clear overview of what stage your buyers are in and where you can step in to be their final purchase.
  3. Roleplays – As DJ Khalid says, this is the key to success in training your sales team.
  4. Ideal Customer Profile – You don’t want to set out to alter their worldview, rather complement it with your product or service.
  5. Craft the Narrative – You are a storyteller, what is your story? Crafting a narrative will help you find the story of you and your company, thus increasing buy-in from customers.
  6. Sales Processes 101 – Prototype to fail and build the sales process based on the Ideal Customer Profile. Yes, I said fail!
  7. Pricing Strategy Customization – Make a customizable pricing strategy that uses the buyer’s language and meets them where they are financially. 
  8. Codified Career Growth Plan – Click here for a surprise. 
  9. Optimize and Automate – Technology stacks are friends. Not food. Embrace the various CRM, Prospecting, and team tools! They will make your life so much easier.
  10. Morale. Morale. Morale! – Scroll up, you’ll see the genius. 

With this Sales Development Action plan, you are able to set goals for your business, measure success, and motivate your sales team more than ever before.

Resources mentioned in this episode:

You can find this interview, and many more, by subscribing to the B2B Growth Show on Apple Podcasts, on our website, or on Spotify.