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How To: Build an Effective Revenue Plan to Achieve Your Business Goals

9 min

How To: Build an Effective Revenue Plan to Achieve Your Business Goals


Chapter 1


Chapter 2

Step 1: Identify Your Revenue Goal

Chapter 3

Step 2: Analyze Past Performance to Define Benchmarks

Chapter 4

Step 3: Apply Benchmarks to Your Revenue Target

Chapter 5

Step 4: Allocate Your Resources

Chapter 6

Step 5: Build a Ramp-Up Plan

Chapter 7

Leverage AI for Watertight Revenue Operating Plans

Table of Contents

Chapter 1


Selling and marketing are harder than ever. Old-school tactics are pushing modern buyers away, leaving revenue teams frustrated, inefficient, and unable to compete. In No Forms. No Spam. No Cold Calls, Latané Conant delivers the recipe for scalable, repeatable, data-driven sales and marketing strategies that work today.

In this How-To, we provide a practical, tactical dive into some of the strategies outlined in Chapter 4. 

In her book No Forms. No Spam. No Cold Calls, 6sense CMO Latané Conant outlines her vision for a revolution in sales and marketing. But revolutions aren’t achieved without strong planning and the willingness to adapt. And few things require better planning — and a willingness to adapt — than a company’s revenue plan.

A revenue plan is a framework for how a company expects to make money. A great revenue plan starts with and responds to data.

As Conant writes, “I like to call it a revenue operating model (rather than a revenue model), because this isn’t a set-it-and-forget-it endeavor. What you’re creating is a living, breathing plan. You make assumptions and you operate against those assumptions. So as you learn more and assumptions change, your plan has to adapt accordingly.”

This process begins with a hard look at past performance. Don’t worry if you can’t immediately fill in every metric we’ll soon be discussing. You may have gaps that will need to be filled in with best guesses or industry benchmarks.

The goal is to create a starting point — and this How-To can help.

Meet ‘ACME Corp.’

To properly illustrate how you might apply these insights to your own business, we’ll periodically shine a spotlight on the activities of “ACME Corp.”, a fictitious company that’s presently creating its own revenue operating model.

Since ACME exists solely as an example for our story, it doesn’t much matter what industry ACME is in, or what industries it serves, or how many people it employs. Its purpose is to simply illustrate how choices can affect its pipeline targets and revenue growth. (Put another way: It’s all about the money, honey.)

Five Steps to Creating a Revenue Plan

Sales processes differ from company to company, as do revenue models. For our purposes, ACME’s revenue operating model is based on an account-based sales funnel. However, the principles we’ll see ACME use can apply to any company’s plan.

We’ve divided this process into five key stages; we’ll provide how-to steps to take for each stage, They are:

  • Identify your revenue goal
  • Analyze past performance to define benchmarks
  • Apply benchmarks to your revenue target
  • Allocate your resources
  • Build a ramp-up plan

Chapter 2

Step 1: Identify Your Revenue Goal

Our entire process starts off with a deceptively simple question: What’s your revenue goal? It might be based on:

  • A percentage increase of last year’s performance
  • Hitting a revenue number you define, such as $100M in annual recurring revenue (ARR), or
  • Achieving a revenue goal defined by your CEO and board

In any case, unless you’re a brand-new company, your revenue goal is your target end-of-year ARR, minus existing customer revenue and pipeline.

Example: How ACME Determines Its Revenue Goal

As we mentioned earlier, we’ll turn our attention to the fictitious ACME Corp. to highlight how a company like yours might approach its revenue operating plan.

In the case of ACME’s revenue goal, the company’s CEO wants to increase its revenue by over 50% this year … so she sets a goal of $25 million net-new ARR for the year.

With the revenue goal set, ACME’s revenue leaders must determine whether they can realistically hit it with their existing resources. (More on this later.)

This means the next step in the process is looking back at its historical sales performance.

Chapter 3

Step 2: Analyze Past Performance to Define Benchmarks

The basis of any revenue plan is to:

  • Know the revenue number you need to hit
  • Determine what you need to achieve at each stage of the buying journey to get there

Thanks to Step 1, you have your organization’s revenue goal. To understand what you need to achieve at each stage of the buying journey, you need benchmarks around likely performance. This should be based on your historical data, or if you don’t have any — external benchmarking.

If you’re using historical performance, to ensure your metrics are meaningful, you should analyze data that spans your typical sales cycle. This could range from three months for transactional deals, and up to 18 months for long deals.

Your team should be interrogating the data to discover key benchmarks for sales cycles, conversion rates, and average deal sizes. To give you an idea of how to approach this task, let’s see how ACME Corp. is doing it.

How ACME Defined Its Benchmarks

As we learned above, ACME has its revenue goal of $25 million net-new ARR. However, it still needs benchmarks around each stage of the buying journey to map out how the revenue team can achieve that.

ACME assesses historical data that spans its average deal cycle of six months, looking back to analyze past sales cycles, conversion rates, and average deal sizes to create metrics for each stage of their buying journey.

Account-Based Buying Journey Stages

By looking at the typical account-based buying journey, you can define the stages where you’ll need metrics to benchmark your performance. Here are the account-based metrics your team can review historical data for:

  • Number of accounts in the Target Account List (TAL)
  • Number of accounts in TAL that are in-market
  • What % of accounts reached by marketing engaged with ads or content?
  • What % reached the Awareness & Consideration stage?
  • What % became a SQL or 6QA (aka a 6sense-Qualified Account)
  • What % accepted a meeting with a BDR?
  • What % booked a meeting with an account executive?
  • What % became qualified pipeline?
  • What % signed a deal?
  • Average deal size
  • Time between each stage (and overall sales cycle)
  • Know the revenue number you need to hit
  • Determine what you need to achieve at each stage of the buying journey to get there

As we’ll see in the next step, you don’t need metrics for every single stage … but the more benchmarks you have, the more accurate your revenue operating plan will be.

Chapter 4

Step 3: Apply Benchmarks to Your Revenue Target

Knowing your sales cycle, deal size, and average conversion rate from engaged accounts enables you to start making predictions and a basic plan. Say, for example, your:

  • Average deal size is $200,000
  • Conversion rate from engaged account to customer is 10%
  • Sales cycle is six months

Since 1-in-10 engaged accounts are expected to sign a deal, we can assume that an engaged account has an average value of $20,000 in six months.

But you can go beyond these basic benchmarks to dive deeper and look at what numbers to expect at each stage of the buying journey. Here’s how ACME did it.

How ACME Applied Its Data to Plot a Plan

Once ACME uncovered the historic data for conversion at each buying stage, it became a math exercise to determine how many accounts ACME needed at each buying stage in order to achieve its revenue goal of $25 million.

Analysis of ACME’s past data revealed:

  • It had been effectively reaching 80% of its In-Market Ideal Customer Profile (IICP) with marketing messages
  • Of those, 30% began conducting serious research
  • Of those, 15% became a 6sense Qualified Account (6QA) / sales qualified lead
  • Of those, 75% booked a BDR meeting
  • Of those, 40% booked a meeting with an AE
  • Of those, 75% began exploring the solution, validation, and negotiating
  • Of those, 50% signed a deal

ACME’s Past Performance

With its IICP of 75,000 accounts, that came to 303.75 deals — or roughly $15.2 million in revenue. That’s about $10 million short of ACME’s new revenue goal.

So how could the company hit $25 million? Its leaders ran the math in reverse to see what it would take.

Calculating ACME’s New Targets

Without making any changes or improvements to its marketing and sales process, ACME needed the equivalent of roughly 123,000 in-market accounts, 4,430 6QAs, or 3,330 BDR meetings to hit its new revenue goal. 

With an understanding of these numbers, ACME’s next step was working out whether it had the resources to handle the volume.

Chapter 5

Step 4: Allocate Your Resources

While it’s a mistake to forget seasonality and assume a linear progression of revenue generation throughout the year, dividing planned activities by days, weeks, or months helps to generate a ballpark figure for resource allocation.

You can map your targets against your current resources to better understand how far current team sizes and budget will get you towards your revenue goal.  

Mapping ACME’s Resource Allocation

As seen in the chart above, to hit its $25 million goal, ACME must book 3,333 BDR meetings. The team mapped this against approximately 260 business days in a year (in the U.S.) to reveal a target of almost 13 meetings a day. 

ACME then examined past BDR performance and workload to assess whether its current headcount of two full-time BDRs could handle the volume, or if it was time to grow the team. ACME applied the same logic across its revenue team to estimate headcount. Could three AEs cover five initial calls a day, plus many follow-up conversations with buyers? 

Increasing the revenue target by 66% was always going to require investment. But by breaking down the numbers and understanding how quickly engaged prospects convert into qualified sales opportunities, ACME could start to map out how much of an investment it needed to make in people, and where to make it. 

Calculating Required Marketing Budget 

Alongside headcount, your marketing team should look at how much budget you used to reach your previous goals. You can then divide your budget by a key measurement metric, e.g. a 6QA or SQL, to understand your marketing spend to reach this goal. 

This is an important step to tie marketing back to revenue and helps you project future outputs in light of targets or budgetary changes. Here’s how it looked for ACME.

ACME’s Marketing Performance

With last year’s budget of $1 million, Acme’s marketing team generated 2,700 6QAs (or alternately, SQLs). To get the cost per 6QA, they divided the budget by the number of 6QAs generated, equalling $370. (6QA could be replaced by another metric of choice, using the same formula.)

So what would happen as ACME attempted to ramp up its revenue? To plan for this year’s budget, ACME multiplied the cost per 6QA by the new target of 4,432, giving a proposed budget of close to $1,640,000.  

By also examining the cost per channel from last year, ACME’s CMO then mapped out the budget by channel to assess whether they had the resources to hit the new targets.

The resource allocation exercise unsurprisingly showed ACME would need more investment to hit its higher targets, so the revenue team set about building a ramp-up plan to reach its new goals.

Chapter 6

Step 5: Build a Ramp-Up Plan

Before investing heavily in new headcount and huge budgets, you must ensure you’re getting the most from your current investment. Efficient growth doesn’t come solely from increased demand. It comes from increasing conversion rates, too. 

The law of diminishing returns means bettering conversion metrics at any stage in the funnel drives out-sized growth vs increasing activities. 

How ACME Plans to Ramp Up 

For example, looking at ACME’s past performance, a 1% increase in conversion between the Awareness and Consideration stage to 6QA would mean 180 more 6QAs. Following the metrics further down the funnel, that meant 20 more deals, and $1 million more revenue. Not bad at all.

So ACME’s revenue leaders went back further, to the very top of the cascade of their conversion percentages, and the total number of in-market accounts they were attempting to reach. 

The team agreed to tighten their targeting to IICP — which means going after accounts that are ready to buy and therefore most likely to close first. 

Using this targeted approach, ACME can increase conversion at every stage of the funnel, driving efficient growth. By honing its focus on the accounts most likely to purchase, ACME has improved its chances of winning deals more efficiently.

As revenues lift and more resources free-up for growth, ACME can look to widen its Target Account List (TAL), which will add more IICP prospects to its funnel … and bring in more opportunities for additional sales reps to work. 

By combining this more targeted approach with an increase in activities, ACME expects to smash its revenue goal. 

Chapter 7

Leverage AI for Watertight Revenue Operating Plans

Following this How-To guide and ACME’s lead gives you a framework for your own revenue operating plan. But it’s by no means perfect — this plan is susceptible to human error, diminishing returns, seasonality, and threats.

To build a watertight plan, companies are turning to AI to help identify the best accounts, and accounts that are in-market. The AI does the hard work for you, gathering data from across business units to get a complete picture of customers and prospects. 

This robust data can then be effortlessly combined with past and present performance, alongside trends, seasonality, and threats to create real-time forecasts that can accurately predict future pipeline and inform your revenue operating plan. 

Learn More in Our ‘No Forms. No Spam. No Cold Calls’ Resource Center

Interested in learning more about taking your sales and marketing effort to the next level by uncovering and targeting the accounts most likely to buy? Visit our Resource Center to find more How-To’s like this one inspired from the pages of Conant’s book.

All of 6sense’s proceeds from book sales go to GoodSense, the charitable arm of 6sense whose mission is to do our part for our community and beyond.

No Forms.
No Spam.
No Cold Calls.