5 Strategies for Improving Sales Performance

Sales Team Lagging? Take 5 Steps to Boost Everyone’s Performance

When your business’s sales seem to fall further away from expectations month after month, you might be tempted to hire a new team. Before taking that costly, time-consuming route, however, step back to examine whether other factors — misdirected marketing, imprecise operations, lack of education — might have something to do with your issues.

Common sales problems can often be fixed without resorting to drastic measures.

To help get your numbers back on track so you can start meeting — and hopefully exceeding — revenue targets, adopt the following strategies. That way, you can position your team to stop falling behind and begin making serious ground without losing someone who could turn out to be your top producer.

  1. Define your target market.

Every company has a core customer base made up of the people who get the most benefit from its products or services. However, you need to go beyond just knowing clients’ names. You need to build out their personas and clearly identify your target audience.

Where to start? Ask yourself what your potential buyers do for a living — the actual role of the people who would buy from you. Can you name their probable challenges and shared values? Where do they get their news and other information? Be as specific as you can be based on your current customers or the people you believe would find value in your offering. Many teams begin to thrive after they generate and share buyer persona templates with other key stakeholders to inform their future decision-making.

This exercise might seem basic, but it will immediately set you apart from others in your marketplace. According to data mined by Sales Xceleration, only 16% of businesses conduct this type of market research, and just over half enjoy the advantages of defining their strongest prospects. Why risk targeting the wrong people and running in circles? You’ll only continue to struggle, which won’t improve morale or numbers.

As you get involved in this process, curb the natural desire to add everyone on earth to your prospective buyer list. No company can be all things to all people. Even McDonald’s knows different people respond uniquely to its various menu items, and the company sells to each persona a little differently. If you only have three or four distinctive personas after going through this exercise, you’re doing fine. Quality is more important than quantity, particularly if you’re thinking realistically.

Feeling stuck as you pull together these target audience profiles? Analyze your competitors to jump-start your creative brainstorming. Figure out who their customers are by investigating their marketing or conducting a little social media monitoring. Who are they prospecting? You’ll want to steer clear of those specific personas unless you feel you can compete — and win — on some differentiating point.

Never be afraid to dig deep into a niche target audience market. It’s better to narrow your focus (and limit marketing dollars) than to take a spray-and-pray approach. Remember, you’ll still be open to working with anyone who wants your offering. You’ll just do less mindless running around by pinpointing your best bets.

Once you have your buyer personas in place, hold a team meeting to discuss what you see. What will be the wisest ways to communicate with these people? Which personas have you not tapped into that could become inbound leads? Which would tend to buy the most or become repeat customers based on what you already do? Use your answers to reframe the way you speak with prospective buyers during future engagements.

  1. Set clear sales goals and objectives.

Imagine jumping onto a bus with all your sales team members and directing the driver to just “drop us off wherever.” You could end up anywhere. You wouldn’t really be able to plan any outcomes; you would just have to be happy with the result.

In business, you can’t afford to have that type of cavalier attitude in terms of your sales department’s direction. You need to strive to write out and live by your goals. Ideally, those goals should be SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely. As soon as you have your clearly stated goals, you can begin to construct objectives. After all, goals are the big-picture items. Objectives are the to-do tasks needed to make the goals happen.

Say, for example, that you give your sales team the goal of increasing annual sales by 15% by the end of the quarter. Your objectives would need to support the goal in a doable way, such as having everyone spend an hour a day prospecting for new clients or meeting with five current customers each week to explore cross-sell and upsell opportunities.

As your goals and objectives begin to take shape, ask yourself a few additional questions.

  • Are the objectives aligned with the goal and the bigger corporate mission and vision? If not, adjust them accordingly.
  • Do your salespeople have the resources and training needed to make your department’s goals come true? Even amazing employees will post disappointing results without access to the right tools and knowledge.
  • How will you know when an objective has been met? If you aren’t sure, it’s probably too nebulous and needs to be more well-defined.

Having a comprehensive, but not overwhelming, set of goals and objectives will make life easier for you and your team. Keep these items handy because you’ll continually refer to them to keep everyone focused on the destination.

  1. Develop a robust sales action plan.

Armed with your goals and objectives, you can now develop a sales action plan to identify the steps you’ll take to crush all your expectations. Your sales action plan to-dos are the baby steps and mini-benchmarks that you’ll use to ensure you’re closing in on your goals. Don’t worry about using flowery language or constructing a formal document. As long as your sales action plan makes sense to everyone, it’s good to go. Sales Xceleration has ready-made sales plan checklist templates online to springboard and streamline your efforts.

As you create touchstones for your sales action plan, be specific and highly realistic. If you have historical data, look through it to guide your activity planning. That way, you won’t be aiming for pie-in-the-sky numbers that have no way of coming true. Setting up stretch goals that aren’t obtainable is a fast way to demotivate everyone on your payroll.

Instead, backtrack from lofty dreams to contemplate what would need to happen for them to come true. It’s thrilling to say that you want to add $500,000 in sales in the third quarter. But Q3 has about 90 days (and significantly fewer business ones), which means you’ll need to average a little more than $5,500 every day. Is that doable? Or will it frustrate everyone as you begin to slide away from the target because you ignored some practical hurdles, such as that you only average $1,500 a day now?

Spending just a few hours establishing doable goals, objectives, and a sales plan can help turn around an underperforming team. Additionally, you can use your new documents to onboard personnel, not to mention guide mentoring and performance review sessions.

  1. Invest in a CRM system that everyone can use.

You need a customer relationship management system to manage your company’s customer and prospect relationships and interactions. Well-developed CRM platforms track your activities, giving you a clear overview of customer interactions, proposals, orders, and more from a single dashboard. With the best CRMs, you can even track activities against your sales action plan metrics.

Countless sales teams fall short on their CRM system commitment and training because they forget — or don’t know — the importance of CRM for sales. Plenty of them store critical data like lead sources, account information, past purchases, and marketing statistics in multiple places. Sometimes, those places are old-fashioned filing cabinets and storage boxes! Others buy CRM software but never train their people on how to use it or customize it to their own internal language.

If you want to foster a world-class sales team, your CRM system should become a full-fledged repository of everything related to every customer or prospect. And every staff member should responsibly enter data, as expected. That way, everyone will be informed and empowered to make better decisions. You’ll also want to generate records routinely. Each report should address key performance indicators aligned with your sales plan, objectives, and goals.

For instance, some businesses like to keep a solid eye on lagging customer acquisition costs, customer churn, average deal size, and lead-to-sale conversion percentages. Lagging indicators have already happened. Consequently, they can’t be changed, so you must also look at leading indicators — those metrics that give you an indication of what might happen in the future. In fact, many sales managers monitor leading indicators daily to predict what’s likely to happen and pivot quickly when issues arise.

Want another reason to install a CRM system sooner rather than later? You’ll build and maintain stronger customer relationships. That’s a huge upside to embracing a CRM platform, even if the upfront investment is higher than expected.

  1. Educate your employees with high-level sales leadership training.

Not everyone on your sales team has a leadership title — but everyone on your sales team should think and act like a leader. Regular sales leadership training helps improve performance and confidence to such a degree that 96% of sales managers say it’s essential, according to Sales Xceleration research. Yet only 20% of companies train their frontline and higher-up sales teammates.

Why the disconnect? There’s no straightforward answer. However, you don’t have to be like the 80% of organizations that don’t educate their people. Instead, give your sales talent the ability to better understand everything from corporate organizational structure and general sales process to data interpretation and strategic planning.

You’ll need to exercise patience as you watch your team evolve. It takes years of experience to build effective sales teams. Occasional lunch-and-learns won’t make a dent. You have to make sales training an integral, expected part of your team dynamics. Otherwise, even team members who seem to be doing well may be stunted. Helping them build their skill sets can cause their motivation to skyrocket, energy to soar, and confidence to rise. And those positive vibes will spread throughout the rest of the department.

If your group is suffering from sales execution fumbles, training will help. But rather than taking on this task internally, outsource the responsibility to an objective sales leader. Outsourced sales consultants can identify breaches and inconsistencies that insiders miss. They have decades of experience to understand the core issue. This way, you don’t spend your sales training budget treating the symptoms, rather than the core problem.

Best of all, they aren’t consumed by day-to-day operations like a VP of sales or sales director would be. This allows them to freely focus on the task at hand: propelling your CRM-armed sales team to deliver more dependable results aligned with customer personas, corporate goals, team objectives, and an all-inclusive sales action plan.

Ready to Take Your Sales Team Up a Notch … or 10?

Some people may suggest that sales is an art form — but the numbers don’t lie. Sales involves as much science and formula as it does creativity and soft skills. Here’s the good news: The ins and outs of selling individually and as a team can be learned. You just need the right systems in place to give every employee the chance to succeed.

If you’re worried about the state of your sales team and its production, you’re not alone. Many business and sales leaders don’t understand why their teams aren’t performing as desired, not to mention how to help sales talent overcome snags.

Want some insights customized to your specific situation? Take the Sales Xceleration Sales Agility Assessment to begin your journey to more impressive, predictable, and wow-worthy sales outcomes. Or give us a call to talk about realizing your corporate sales goals.