Ways to Improve Sales Performance

by: Luke Kreitner August 1, 2018

When it comes to poor sales performance, the “why?” is always easier to understand than the “how?” In this piece, we do the heavy lifting for you. Here are four ways to improve sales performance and sales strategies.

  • Keep only your top and middle performers to increase sales.

    Have you ever heard of the 20-60-20 rule? It’s a theory that suggests the 20% of your sales team are high achievers, the core 60% are average, and the bottom 20% are consistently undershooting quotas. Only two have a place on the sales team, but each can maximize sales performance:

    • The top-tier: These are your organization’s top performers, and they will always be your stars. Retain the talent of these top performers with exclusive non-monetary rewards such as incentive travel.
    • The middle majority makes up your sales team’s core, but have average performance. These sales reps may lack the skills or motivation to exceed sales goals, but possess the greatest potential to grow. Motivate and educate your sales core with training and a rewards program.
    • The chronic underperformers: Sometimes sales reps aren’t right for the role. If training, coaching and incentivizing fail to motivate some members of your sales team, you’ve found your bottom 20%. It’s time to cut the cord. Keeping unmotivated sales reps on the team costs more than money can measure: easily-avoidable mistakes, missed opportunities, wasted time, damaged credibility, lower team morale and productivity and more.
  • Perform a leadership check to make sure the drop in sales motivation isn’t a management issue.

    Every locked room mystery starts with those closest to the crime. In the case of poor sales performance, that hunt begins with leadership. That’s you.

    No matter what you’re the leader of, the responsibilities of those working under you ultimately become your own when sales goals or quotas aren’t met. It’s a sales leader’s job to identify performance blunders, and address them before more damage is done. But where should you start?

    The short answers – with communication and accountability. Sometimes sales reps promise contracts, and sales managers forget to follow up. Other times management creates policies that negatively impact the sales team. Either way, chances to communicate, to hold each other accountable lose steam.

    Create a unified front with meetings between sales and management and align goals in a way that makes working together seamless. Depending on your organization’s unique sales pain points, a leadership check could uncover a need to clarify expectations to reps. Or, if reps are promising to deliver on deals that never close, ride with them on sales calls to better assess the costs and benefits of continuing to court that prospect.

  • Train and coach your sales team on sales strategies that work.

    A well-trained sales team means more sales opportunities for your business. Their product knowledge and ability to communicate its value proposition can make or break a sale. So when poor sales performance strikes, consider revamping training and coaching efforts to clean up the mess. Read the table below for step-by-step directions on how to train and coach your sales team the right way.

    Steps

    What to do

    Warnings

    Results

    1. Define the sales process.
    • Base the process on 80% of your successful sales.
    • Onboard a CRM that matches your sales process.
    • Try to limit the process to 5 steps or less.
    • Don’t forget to receive feedback on the process.
    Sales reps have a specific roadmap leading them from prospect to closed deal.
    2. Talk with your reps and initiate coaching.
    • Ride-along with reps on calls or daily tasks.
    • Discuss their needs.
    • Collect common questions and concerns.
    • Gather as much information as possible, but don’t stay here too long.
    Including reps on team-wide decisions boosts their trust with your company, and potentially raises motivation.
    3. Develop specific tools for sales reps and their needs.
    • Create a script based on the most successful sales.
    • Define best practices.
    • Like the sales process, tools should be based on successful sales.
    Specificity goes hand-in-hand with clarity. With a more defined process, mistakes become rare and lost sales become even rarer.
    4. Launch your sales training program.
    • Push for sales training in-person and online (this way, reps can refresh knowledge on their own time, too).
    • Avoid a training marathon (reps could forget information).
    Training sellers ensures that they understand the product, their role, industry news and the sales funnel.
    5. Watch your incentive program for 90 days.
    • Record and measure changes in your team – especially those in your initial 60 and 20%.
    • Don’t miss opportunities to document the program’s progress on your middle 60%.
    This gives you time to fine tune the training to your team, its goals and management’s needs.
    6. Make the cut.
    • Release reps with little to no improvement – these reps are your lower 20%.
    • If cycling out happens right before a quota close, consider the quota relief for leadership.
    For team: increased morale, productivity and drive to succeed.

    For leadership: bump in sales growth and more predictable results.

    Research shows that, when sales performance slumps, the driving force behind sudden improvements are training and coaching. In fact, companies that combine training and coaching see an 88% bump in productivity, and only a 23% jump with using training alone.

  • Follow up often to beat sales goals and quotas.

    Successful sales rely on following up both on time and frequently. While sales professionals dream of contracts closing soon after discovery, it’s rare that any deal closes on the second, third or even fourth follow up. Follow up, however, isn’t just a game of longevity. It’s a matter of speed, too.

    According to a Harvard Business Review study on lead response times, “…sales reps that contacted leads within 1 hour were seven times more likely to have a meaningful conversation with a decision maker.” Continual follow up is crucial to making sales, but the lack of follow up tracking and documentation make it easier from sales reps to drop the ball.

    The solution to dropped follow up opportunities is aligning your team’s sales process with the right CRM. Along each step of the sales process, your CRM solution focuses on the manual labor, relieving your sales reps from tedious tasks. Automation lets sales reps focus on the bigger picture (your sales goals) and you as management can maximize accountability.

  • Take strategic actions, and poor sales performance is temporary.

    Poor sales performance is an age-old problem that visits every sales team. But by keeping your top and core performers, improving your leadership, developing better sales training and following up frequently, your days of watching sales opportunities pass are numbered.

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About Luke Kreitner

Luke Kreitner is the VP of Sales at Incentive Solutions, an Atlanta-based incentive company that specializes in helping B2B businesses accelerate growth, increase sales, motivate channel partners and retain B2B customers.