Figuring out how to get more customers can be a daunting task for small business owners who oversee everything on their own without a big team to help. If you’ve been running your small business for a while, and you’re looking to grow beyond your normal level and don’t know where to start, your first step may be building a sales plan for your enterprise.

When you’re first starting out, you find your first customers through your network, through friends and others who you already know. You’re able to get off the ground and get things in place to serve these clients fairly easily.

If this brings in enough income to replace your former salary, or is generally enough for you to live on and take a vacation, it can be easy to stay in this place without building a sales plan — until you decide you want to grow your business. 

You know how to operate and deliver; now, you need to figure out how to sell.

This article is focused on service businesses, like the one I run called Choose Your Metric, which offers bookkeeping and controller services to small businesses in growth mode.

The following steps can help you put together a simple plan that will have you off to the races and increasing your sales over the next year.

Step 1: Set a Sales Target 

Setting a sales target also sets your mindset. It gives you a direction and a compass when deciding how to spend your time. 

When setting a dollar figure sales goal for next year, there are a couple of ways to do it. 

Depending on your business category and how you fared during 2020 given the pandemic, you may or may not want to use this year as a baseline for next year.

I’d suggest looking at the last the three years and asking yourself what feels possible and what feels slightly out of reach. It can be a good idea to make this a stretch goal if that is motivating to you. If your sales are $150K or less, consider if growing 25 percent, 50 percent, or more is right for you.

Start Your Free Trial with P2P Today

Put This Into Action:

  • What were your sales for 2018 and 2019? What are they projected to be for 2020?
  • What do you want your sales to be for 2021?

Step 2: Analyze Your Existing Customers to Find Your New Ones

You want to grow your business with the right customers.

When evaluating your existing client base, use the 80/20 rule to help you identify which clients represent your ideal client. It’s common for 20 percent of your clients to be your favorites; that’s where you make the most money and do the least work.

What makes this true about your customers? Make a list of their attributes so you can narrow down exactly who you want your new customers to be and know where to find them.

Put This Into Action:

  • Use this free template to document your ideal client’s attributes and their journey so you can figure out where your mission and pitch intersect with them.

Step 3: Identify Referral Sources and Cultivate Relationships

Now that you’ve figured out who you want to bring in the door, think about what other services these clients use and who you know that is already selling to them.

For example, my controller services clients are also using the services of CPAs, lawyers, insurance brokers, and payroll companies.

I know a handful of professionals in these other service-based businesses who I can work with to generate leads for my business.

Start Your Free Trial with P2P Today

Put This Into Action:

  • Write down a list of at least five people you know who offer services to the exact same clients you’re looking to serve.
  • Reach out to them and have a networking meeting to devise a plan to share leads.

Step 4: Get the Leads and Follow Up

Once you start generating a list of leads, manage the process. Figure out your follow-up plan based on your style and personality.

Make sure you follow up with each lead at least four times in the first 10 days. Everyone is busy these days, so it may take a few times to catch them.

Put This Into Action:

Step 5: Ask for Client Referrals and Cultivate More Relationships

Another source of leads that you can attract are those from your existing customers. Let them know you’re looking for new customers just like them and if they know anyone to please send them your way. 

Put This Into Action:

  • Make a list of customers you can ask for referrals from and set a date to do so. 

Start Your Free Trial with P2P Today

Step 6: Close Deals

Once you’ve got the leads in a conversation, make them an offer they cannot refuse. I’m specifically talking about your ideal clients, not just any lead. 

There are two specific attributes you need to understand more than anything else about your target client: 

  1.  What gives them a sense of urgency?
  2. What is their biggest pain point standing in their way? 

If you know these two pieces of information, you can sell! Make sure your offer revolves around their urgency and a solution to their biggest pain point at a price they cannot refuse. 

Put This Into Action:

  • Answer questions 1 and 2 here based on an experience you’ve already had closing business in the past. What made it easy? What can you replicate again?

Step 7: Track Your Progress

As you start the new year, track the sales you make against the goal you’re setting now.

Remember the goal is a target. You’ll more likely overshoot it or miss it, but that isn't the point.

The point of the goal is to make sure you’re going in the right direction and have a strategy in place to get you there.

Put This Into Action:

  • Create a spreadsheet or use your accounting system to track your sales against your plan. Review it once a month.

Step 8: Refine Your Sales Plan

Make changes along the way. Every day you learn something new. Incorporate these findings over time towards building a sales plan that's stronger and more finely tuned.

It can be useful to think about your plan in terms of quarters. There may be something you want to add to the next quarter’s plan that you just learned. The more you practice this like with anything, the better you’ll get at it. 

If you do these steps over and over every year, the sky is the limit. 

Belinda DiGiambattista is a serial entrepreneur, business coach, and outsourced financial controller, and can be found at

Start Your Free Trial with P2P Today