Q: Can you get me started on formulating a 2001 sales plan for my business?

A: Here's a four-month sales and marketing plan to jump start your business for the new year. Keep in mind, the entire focus of a sales plan is to generate business. So each month, I've listed prospecting ideas to help you achieve your goal. Hopefully these first four months will encourage you to create your own ideas for the rest of the year.

January: Get The Word Out
Prepare an inexpensive one-page sheet that describes, in a nutshell, the benefits of your business. A black-and-white piece with one color is effective, for example, black, white and red. Your one sheet-page can be scanned and sent over the Internet, mailed to prospects or delivered door-to-door. Offer something free to entice the reader to call you. Include a customer response section with a place for a name, phone number, e-mail address and so on.

Sample copy to include: Money-back guarantee if you ACT today. Offer good for 30 days. Free demonstration every Tuesday at (grocery store, hair salon) or at (your Web site).

Spend two hours each day three days a week for inundating the marketplace with your one-page sheet.

February: Love a Past Customer
Is your customer list up-to-date? If several months have passed since new customer names have been inputted, get your database current. Then send a letter to them. Thank them for doing business with you, and ask for referrals.

Sample themes for the letter: You have a stake in my success. I want to make you look good. Let me prove myself to one of your associates or friends.

Spend 90 minutes every day working on your past customer campaign.

March: Sponsor an Event
This can be inexpensive. Go to your local Children's Hospital or any local nonprofit group that's well-respected and say you'd like to sponsor a fundraiser-a 10K run, a fashion show, a bingo party at the local church or a "souper supper" to feed the homeless. With the right charity on board, you'll be able to enlist lots of volunteers. When anyone asks what's in it for you and your company, always respond with: "Good rumors. We build our reputation by word-of-mouth."

Sample themes: The Spring Fling Fashion Show, Spring Into Shape 10K run, a St. Patrick's Day bingo at your local church hall.

Spend two hours a day for three weeks prior to the event preparing. Pick the right volunteers and cut your work load in half. Your volunteers could be potential future customers, too.

April: Buy A Booth
Would your business benefit if you attended a particular trade show in your area? Buy a booth and plan ways to attract prospects. Food and beverage are always a good incentive-free samples. You don't need the biggest or most expensive booth. Shoot for a good traffic area. If you can get an attendance list ahead of time, you can send out invitations. Arrange for another person to be at your booth with you, then you can work the territory. Circulate.

Sample invitations or printed matter (not too much copy): Don't pass up the best opportunity of this convention. Stop by booth # 67 for this convention's best-kept secret. (Use mystery and secrets to seduce the prospect.)

Spend at least one hour per day for two weeks preparing for the trade show.

Now it's your turn to work on the other eight months. Remember, in order for your sales plan to become profitable, each month must contain specific prospecting activities such as cold-calling and warm-calling past customers, in-person calls to your territory and participating in local business network activities.

Danielle Kennedy is an authority on selling, developing a peak performance attitude and winning customers for life. Call her at (800) 848-8070 or visit www.daniellekennedy.com for information on consulting for your business.


The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author, not of Entrepreneur.com. All answers are intended to be general in nature, without regard to specific geographical areas or circumstances, and should only be relied upon after consulting an appropriate expert, such as an attorney or accountant.