While sales teams are largely responsible for transitioning average buyers into loyal, recurring customers, many aren’t yet equipped to serve the modern buyer. Data from Sales Xceleration’s Sales Agility Assessment, a 48-question evaluation that benchmarks company performance in crucial areas of sales growth on a five-point grading scale, supports this conclusion.
Our data suggests that little thought is given to the fundamental processes necessary to put sales growth strategies in place. In fact, many leaders often don’t realize there’s a problem with sales until growth is stagnant or declining.
According to our assessment, 76% of organizations would rate themselves as “poor” on the performance of their sales departments, while another 19% would rank themselves “below average.”
Fortunately, sales teams can always make changes to improve their performance. Our data indicates that these five areas are where sales teams are most lacking in having a Modern Sales Operating System: value propositions, sales processes, goal definitions, onboarding programs, and performance metrics.
By focusing on these critical elements, sales teams can overcome their deficiencies and thrive.
Create a Value Proposition
Companies are sending their sales teams out into the market, and 73% don’t know what makes their offerings unique. Sales reps either don’t know how to share the benefits offered by a particular product or service or why someone should buy from them. As a result, everyone on the sales team is not sharing the same value-add story. And because the value of your business applies to the entirety of your operations, everyone should know how to convey it to customers and other stakeholders, not just sales.
Remember that your value proposition will be different from your selling proposition. Your selling proposition focuses on specific aspects, characteristics, features, and traits that differentiate your product or service, such as a low cost compared to competitors, whereas your value proposition focuses on how customers will benefit from picking your product or service.
Making a promise you can keep
Your value proposition is your brand promise. It assures buyers that their purchases are worth the investment.
The foundation of any good value proposition in sales starts with whom the product or service is for and what problem it’s designed to solve. Ask yourself the following questions: What do customers care about? What do they value? How do your offerings align with what’s important to shoppers?
Clarify how customers will benefit from their purchases. If you have the numbers to back it up, throw those in as well. Facts have a way of putting things into perspective for potential customers.
It’s then a matter of identifying what sets your offerings apart from the competition. Research your competitors and keep in mind that most people don’t buy a product or service — they buy a result.
Of course, value propositions are almost never “set it and forget it” undertakings. It’s essential to perform regular reviews of the promise you’re making to buyers. Doing so ensures that it stays current with your offerings and the state of the market.
Document Your Sales Process
One consistent problem in modern businesses is the sales process. There is a misconception that standardized sales processes will somehow restrain the most effective members of a sales team. The common assumption is that “stars” shouldn’t be told how to do their jobs, leaving other sales reps without support. Without a repeatable or scalable process, this results in an unsustainable reliance on a handful of high performers.
The lack of a formal sales process also puts into question the effectiveness of new hire onboarding and training, the implementation of sales strategies, the identification of competitive issues, and the overall growth of your business. To get the best results, all members of your sales team must be kept on the same page to ensure both consistency and accountability.
Enabling scalability and consistency
Luckily, sales process documentation is fairly straightforward. It’s all about articulating the steps necessary to move buyers from awareness to consideration to purchase and finally to retention, which should be maintained to encourage business growth.
If you’ve taken the time to create a value proposition, you already know why potential customers should choose your products or services over competitors’ offerings. Once this is complete, you can turn your attention to the customer journey.
From there, formalize each step:
- Qualifying leads
- Understanding prospects’ challenges
- Tailoring a pitch
- Fielding questions and objections
- Closing a deal
- Nurturing customer relationships
The purpose of documenting the process is to establish ownership-enabling parameters for sales teams and help them understand the probability of closing the sale at each step. This level of consistency increases their chances of success and helps both sales teams and leadership get good insights on pipelines that support sales goals.
Set Goals to Establish Clear Expectations
According to our data, 57% of small and medium-sized businesses don’t have sales resources, roles, or responsibilities defined in writing. Much like the sales process itself, your expectations of your sales team should be written down and signed by your salespeople every year. Each time, make sure to clearly detail their goals and associated compensation, making sure to focus on how it all benefits them.
Additionally, it’s important not to forget that goals are rarely effective when set in a vacuum. Consult with salespeople to establish both realistic and “stretch” goals. Make sure also to discuss pathways for success. All members of the sales team should know how to achieve their goals and access the resources they need to obtain the best results.
Most importantly, you should always invest in training your sales team so they can reach their goals. Strong sales rely on strong sales teams, so it’s critical to ensure that any gaps in knowledge are filled and that the entire sales team has the opportunity to keep their skills and knowledge current. Unfortunately, 92% of the businesses we surveyed are not addressing gaps in sales competencies when discovered.
Providing the necessary direction
A formal training program is a good start. Other areas that should also be explored include the following:
- Mentorship programs. A mentorship program can be invaluable for new hires, allowing them to learn the ropes from seasoned professionals and gain much-needed insights into the prospects they’ll be calling on.
- Customization. Individualized learning is often more engaging. It also ensures that you address gaps in knowledge and skills while also providing salespeople the chance to grow at their own pace.
- Assessments. Sales organizations sometimes forget that modeling the best sales techniques and strategies can serve as the building blocks for success. Take the time to dissect the anatomy of a successful sale, identifying what worked and why.
Together with clearly defined goals and expectations, a well-developed training process can help transform sales teams into conversion machines. Trained sales teams know what success looks like and how to get there.
Initiate Onboarding Programs Immediately
Attracting and retaining talent with the necessary skills is becoming increasingly difficult, making the onboarding process more crucial. Fewer people than ever before want to go into sales, and schools no longer have programs that encourage students to enter sales careers, according to a 2021 article from The Wall Street Journal.
While the reasons for this are varied, it often starts with how new hires perceive their organizations. Good onboarding programs increase job satisfaction, so much so that research from the Brandon Hall Group found that it can improve new hire retention by as much as 82%. Salespeople run into fewer questions about the how, why, and when of the sales process, as well as their sales leaders’ expectations of them.
This research also indicates that strong onboarding processes result in productivity gains by as much as 70%. This illustrates, again, the importance of understanding the how, why, and when of the sales process. Effective onboarding improves hires’ understanding of company cultures, team dynamics, and organizational visions. This encourages greater employee engagement from day one. According to a 2023 Gallup report, this reduces the likelihood of employee turnover and absenteeism, improves customer loyalty, and increases profitability.
Getting off on the right foot
Effective onboarding for sales teams entails a preboarding process. This way, you minimize many of the mundane administrative tasks that new salespeople generally experience on their first days of employment.
Consider creating a checklist of paperwork to complete prior to the first day they walk through your doors. Do the same for any other tasks. Better yet, provide new hires with detailed day-one instructions to set expectations. You could even assign each of them a “buddy” on the sales team who can answer their questions.
Ultimately, this is designed to make the experience less stressful.
Focus Sales Performance Metrics on Leading Indicators
Sales Xceleration data shows that companies consistently fail to define, track, and update their metrics to enable performance insights. While this doesn’t mean that they operate without information, it does mean that they likely rely on processes whose success in the present may not continue into the future, whether that be in a month or a year.
To gain the advantage over the competition and truly understand where your business stands in the market, it’s essential to use leading indicators and ensure you are building a Modern Sales Operating System. These indicators vary from one organization to the next, but there are a few that are often overlooked by leadership teams:
- Willingness to refer. Customers’ willingness to refer your business can serve as an indicator of how much they value your products or services. It starts with asking.
- Customer sentiment. Customer sentiment may sound like a vanity metric, but their opinion of your brand can help you predict future behavior. This allows sales teams to better meet customers where they are. Make sure you are sending a survey. A good place to start is with a Net Promoter Score.
- Customer feedback. According to a 2023 Khoros survey, responding and resolving complaints improves customer loyalty. While this is beneficial in itself, customer input can also help reveal why people use your products or services, which can tell you a lot about the effectiveness of your sales team.
- Annual churn. Churn is a hard number to look at, especially when it begins to climb. Still, this sales performance metric can point you to areas where sales might be lacking in either the nurturing of existing relationships or the hand-off to other teams in the company.
- Average-size order growth. It’s no secret that existing customers spend more than new customers. For this reason, it’s advisable to make average-size order growth one of the most important leading indicators of your sales performance.
Sales will always be the main source of your revenue, and sales team members all play vital roles in your growth. It’s important to review your sales team’s performance, understand what your organization is doing to provide support, and ensure you have built a Modern Sales Operating System.
Take our free Sales Agility Assessment to learn where to modify your current sales processes and implement new procedures to accelerate revenue and growth.