Sales Team Performance Lagging? You Need a Sales Process Improvement Plan:
When sales slip below expectations month after month, you might be tempted to hire a new team. Before taking that costly, time-consuming route, step back to examine whether other factors — misdirected prospect targeting, unclear goals, imprecise operations, lack of education, and more — might be contributing factors.
The good news is that most sales organizations can enhance sales performance by implementing a sales process improvement plan grounded in these seven strategies:
1. Understand Where You Are
Before taking any corrective measures, you’ll need to understand where you stand in key sales process and performance areas. Not sure where to start? Take our free Sales Agility Assessment. The SAA is a great starting point for understanding how to increase sales. You can use the unique report to develop and implement the remaining steps in the sales process improvement plan.
2. Define Your Target Market
This fundamental exercise will immediately set you apart from others in your marketplace, and ultimately enhance sales performance. 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. If you are in the rarified air of those who truly know who their best customers and prospects are, you have an instant and profitable competitive advantage!
How can you begin defining your strongest prospects to tap into this powerful advantage? Create unique personas, so that you can clearly identify your target audience. Understanding common traits of existing customers is a good place to start when identifying your “ideal” customers (so you can sell the right things to the right people at the right times – and in the right way)!
What is essential to know about your ideal customers?
- What do your potential buyers do for a living? What is the actual role of decision-makers and ultimate buyers?
- What are their challenges? In particular, how does their current product or solution buyer fall short in making their lives easier?
- What do they value? Quality? Service? Low prices? A solid and quantifiable return on investment?
- Where do they get news and information, specifically when it comes to learning more about products and services like yours?
Of course, there are many other considerations, specific to your market and the solutions you offer. So, as you explore this more fully, be as specific as you can be based on your current customers or the people you believe would find value in your offering.
Feeling stuck as you begin this exercise? Look at who your competitors market to. Analyze their marketing methods and monitor their social media engagements. But remember that if your ideal targets are the same as theirs, your solutions must be stronger, clearer, and well-differentiated. And if your competitors market to a strong base of existing and loyal customers, you’ll be asking those customers to change allegiances (and that can be a tough sell).
One of the most important aspects of creating accurate buyer personas is sharing and discussing them with your team. You will then be able to collectively identify solutions for selling. Which untapped personas could become inbound leads? How should you communicate with these people? Which prospects would tend to buy the most or become repeat customers based on what you already do? Use your answers to reframe your sales approach and communications. This will enhance sales performance by empowering you to sell more effectively and efficiently.
3. Set Clear Sales Goals and Objectives
Simply put, if you don’t know where you’re going, you could end up anywhere – and almost certainly in the wrong place. To give your sales team the direction it needs, document and live by your goals. Make them SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely. Only then can you begin to construct actionable sales team performance objectives.
For example, imagine you set a quarterly sales team goal to increase annual sales by 15%. Your objectives might include having everyone spend an hour a day prospecting for new clients or meeting with five current customers each week to explore cross-selling and upselling opportunities.
As your goals and objectives 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 accordingly.
- Do your salespeople have the resources and training needed to achieve the goals? Even the best employees will struggle 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 better-defined.
Using a comprehensive, but not overwhelming, set of goals and objectives will keep you on course for sales success!
4. Develop a Sales Action Plan
Now you can develop your sales action plan. This further breaks down goals and objectives into mini benchmarks. Don’t worry about constructing a formal document; as long as your sales action plan makes sense to everyone who will use it, it’s good to go. (Sales Xceleration has sales plan checklist template to get you started.)
As you create touchstones for your sales action plan, be specific and realistic. Use historical data to guide your activity planning. That way, you won’t be aiming for unattainable numbers. These kinds of unrealistic stretch goals can quickly demotivate your team members.
Instead, backtrack from lofty dreams for how to increase sales 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 over $5,500 every day. Is that doable? Or will it frustrate everyone as you slide away from the target because you ignored practical hurdles and realistic numbers?
Implementing a sales process improvement plan by establishing actionable goals, objectives, and a sales plan can help turn around an underperforming team AND make it easier to onboard, mentor, and assess sales team members.
5. Invest in a CRM System Everyone Can Use
Well-developed Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platforms track your activities, giving you a clear overview of customer interactions, proposals, orders, and more from a single dashboard. Robust CRMs even empower you to track activities against your sales action plan metrics.
Unfortunately, too many sales teams falter in their adoption and usage of a CRM because they forget — or don’t appreciate — its importance. Often, critical data like lead sources, account information, past purchases, and marketing statistics are stored in multiple places. Other sales organizations buy CRM software but do not find as much value, because they never train their people on how to use it or customize it to their own internal language.
If you are ready to enhance sales performance, utilizing and optimizing a Customer Relationship Management system is an important step in the process.
6. Measure and Modify
To foster a world-class sales team, your CRM system should become a rich repository of meaningful data on every customer or prospect. And every staff member should enter that data in a timely manner. This will enable better measurement and reporting of key performance indicators aligned with your sales plan, objectives, and goals. More importantly, this will empower better sales process decisions.
For instance, some businesses overutilize historical or “lagging” indicators on customer acquisition costs, customer churn, average deal size, and lead-to-sale conversion percentages. But lagging indicators can’t be changed, so you must also look at leading indicators — those metrics that indicate what might happen in the future. Many sales managers monitor leading indicators daily to quickly pivot when issues arise. In any event, the right mix of leading and lagging indicators should be a key part of your sales process improvement plan.
7. Empower Your Employees with High-Level Sales Leadership Training
Not everyone on your sales team has a leadership title — but each sales team member should think and act like a leader. According to Sales Xceleration research, regular sales leadership training helps improve performance and confidence so much that 96% of sales managers say it’s essential. Unfortunately, only 20% of companies train their frontline and higher-up sales teammates.
Joining that 20% can give your sales organization a distinct competitive advantage by enabling your sales talent to understand – and act on – everything from corporate organizational structure and general sales processes to data interpretation and strategic planning.
Relying on occasional lunch-and-learns won’t make a dent in sales team knowledge, or your efforts to enhance sales performance. You need to make regular sales training an integral and expected part of your operation. Otherwise, sales team performance can stagnate even for top team producers. Accentuating their skill sets can help their confidence rise, energy soar, and motivation skyrocket. And such positive vibes will spread throughout the department.
Rather than relying on internal training alone, 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.
The Bottom Line:
If you’re worried about the state of your sales team and its production, you’re not alone. But by executing these seven ways to enhance sales performance, your team can understand how to increase sales and profits – and put your organization on the path to market leadership.
To learn more about this and other resources and solutions powered by Sales Xceleration, reach out to an Advisor today, or contact us at 844.874.7253.