Sex & Your Business Plan...and Sales

Posted by Jack Derby, Head Coach on Fri, Nov 15, 2013

It's that time of year again...

...when, just like the snow guns at Stratton in mid-November, and the family's angst over Uncle Ernie, once again, making a fool of himself at Thanksgiving, the pressure's on to submit the perfect 2014 business plan to the board or your boss by December 1st.

Which is why we wrote the book, Writing the Winning Business Plan...

  • a 75 page free download
  • a detailed blend for venture-backed startups and established businesses
  • hands-on and battle tested with both great successes and dismal failures
By early January, hopefully, we will have split the content into two books for two different audiences:  
  • startups looking for seed and Series A venture funding 
  • established companies between $10-$100m in revenues

A Few New Rules...

how to write a business planThe writing process for this upcoming revision got me to think about a few new rules for writing both business and sales plans outside the standard "must-do's" that I carry on about both in the book and in my MIT classes on business plans. All very important content (at least in my mind), and all incredibly worthless unless, of course, somebody actually reads the plan and engages with the managers who put the plan together.

Between the firm and my work at Common Angels, I probably "read" 500 "business plans" a year.  Some are tomes of 25 text-driven pages with carefully crafted financials and tables, while others are poorly pasted together pitch decks with 10 badly done slides.  The best are created by highly experienced CFOs, like Mike McEachern at Brainshark, Ken Goldman at Black Duck Software and Dennis Hanson at Steinway, who take on the added responsibility of being the business plan czars at thier companies since they have both a top-down and bottoms-up view of their businesses. Those that are created by first time entrepreneurs, are generally okay for outlining the concept at least to the point where the reader can decide whether it's worth his or her time to engage in a follow up call.

But all of this assumes that someone "reads" the document that you've laboriously poured your heart, soul and money into.  In my own case, the act of "reading" might consist of sitting down in my office early on Saturday morning and going through the details. Other times, I might be in front of the TV watching the game and waiting for the commercials to do a quick flip-through.  In the summer, I'm headed to the beach most weekends with a bag holding 5 or 10 plans that I've printed out because I'm not going to bring my electronic toys anywhere near the sun and water anymore.  At the end of any of these processes-the thorough read or the quick flip through-all I'm trying to do is make a judgment as to which ones I am going to take the time to follow up with in a longer call.

So, in addition to all of the 75 pages of the ideas and tips in our ebook, what is most important for you to think about is that your business or sales plan needs to personally and emotionally grab the reader's attention.  Pull them up from their comfortable chair, shake them around a bit and shout out..."Keep reading!", "Don't you dare put me down!"

Sex sells...

Amp up your business plan.  Not with actual sexual comments and inappropriate pictures, of course, but think about what would excite your reader?  What could you do with the content of your business plan that would provoke the reader to take an immediate action?  To get the reader to engage emotionally?  To have them think with both the right and the left sides of their brain?

What could you do in the imaging, the coloration and the presentation formats of your text and PPT docs that would be be more alluring and have more appeal to look further? There's a reason that Victoria Secret is a $6 billion corporate powerhouse with $1 billion in net income, and that their annual pre-Christmas runway show typically overwhelms numerous website capacities.

Think about how might your media look more like a Mercedes or Porsche ad rather than one for a Ford Focus?



Tell Me a Story...

I love to read books, and especially spy and mystery novels.  They make me comfortable because they take me on a journey carefully threading me through their complex story lines with a declared beginning, a middle and a conclusive...and hopefully exciting end.   You need to do the same with your business plan on two different planes:
First, begin with general, but exciting information about this large opportunity.  That might be data about the size and the velocity of your exciting market.  It might be a clear definition about the dramatic, but still emerging need in your market that you've seen before anyone else. Whatever the opening, you need to get the reader immediately engaged in a straight line that takes from a short beginning to all of the great content in the middle and then shows the conclusive opportunity at the end such that they are going to contact you immediately in order to learn more.
Second, give them examples.  Introduce personas as typical users.  Put a face to the buyer and the decision maker at a customer.  Tell a story about how a customer will become incredibly successful because they have worked with your company or bought from your sales team.  Engage your reader!

Be Yourself...

At the end of this process, as a reader, whether I'm a banker, a potential investor, perhaps a customer and certainly a manager new to the team, this business plan document tells a story not only about the structure of the business, but about you, the head of Sales, or you, the head of your company. The business plan must be absolutely reflective of you as a person and as a team manager.  In order to be able to do that, you need to be yourself and not a nameless, third party person.   Be human in your business plan.  Be real to the point that I, as a reader, can't wait to finish this novel, pick up the phone and give you a call.

Which does remind me of an important tip.  Make sure that you put your cell phone number and your email address everywhere throughout the plan. I can't tell you how many times, I've become engaged in a document and then had to go searching for the writer's contact info.


Good writing...and Selling!


 Jack Derby 

 Head Coach

Linked In and Sales


Tufts Marketing
Each semester at Tufts, over a period of 13 weeks, I engage 30-35 students in a unique, hands-on, tools-based experience of preparing them for the real world of business in general and specifically the complexities of working in today's environment of Marketing and Sales.

Which leads me to look for 6 new companies each semester. 

Right now, I'm taking applications for the spring, 2014 semester.  If you're interested, please email me at, and I will send you an overview of what's involved and instructions.  Last June, we had 32 companies request information, and we accepted 6.  A truly unique opportunity for both your company and our students.


The 2014 Sales Management Boot Camp:  April 6th-8th

Sales Management Boot Camp

Click HERE for information about our next Sales Management Boot Camp.

  • Perfectly timed for new sales management skills for 2014
  • Focused on you and what it takes to enable your team
  • Process, tools, tactics, and technology in a Sales 2.0 world
  • Only 30 managers are accepted
  • Always sold out so register early!










Tags: sales coaching, Sales Management Best Practices, sales enablement, how to write a business plan, sales boot camps