How to Improve Sales Performance: 23 Ways to Empower Your Team
A list of techniques you can implement to improve sales execution
It’s no secret that sales can be a tough gig.
With long hours, high pressure, and constant rejection, it’s easy to see why so many salespeople struggle to hit their targets (or burn out completely).
But it doesn’t have to be this way.
Yes, sales is a tough job, but there are plenty of things you can do to help your team succeed.
In this article, we’ll share:
- A step-by-step plan for diagnosing and measuring sales performance
- The biggest roadblocks to revenue faced by sales teams
- Practical, actionable tips for building out (or refining) a winning sales process
Let’s jump in.
What is sales performance?
Sales performance is the measure of how effective a sales team is in achieving its objectives. It’s typically represented as a number, either in terms of revenue generated or new deals closed.
But that’s obviously the simple answer. There are hundreds, if not thousands of factors that contribute to a sales team’s ability to hit their goals.
And those factors will vary depending on your company, the product, the market, your team, and your sales processes.
Other factors include:
- The number of sales reps
- The quality of leads
- The effectiveness of the sales process
- The compensation plan
- The training and development program
- The sales tools and technology used
All of these factors (and more) will contribute to the overall performance of your sales team.
That’s why it’s so important to have a clear understanding of what’s going wrong on your sales team. Only then can you start to put together a plan to improve performance.
Factors that hurt or hinder sales performance
There are a number of factors that can negatively impact sales performance. Here are some of the most common:
Lack of clarity on objectives and expectations – As Zig Ziglar said, “If you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it every time.” Sales reps don’t like to be micromanaged, but many organizations whiplash in the other direction and give their sales force zero direction whatsoever. This is a recipe for chaos and regularly missing quotas.
Ineffective sales processes – A good sales process is the foundation upon which all successful sales teams are built. A sales process is a repeatable set of steps that a sales rep takes to take a prospective customer from initial engagement all the way through to close. It’s the roadmap that tells reps what steps they need to take to close a deal. If your process is ineffective (or nonexistent), it will be very difficult for your team to hit their targets.
Lack of adequate training and development – Most sales reps are not born salespeople. They need to be trained and developed in order to be successful. This process starts with onboarding and should continue throughout their tenure with the company. If you don’t invest in training and development, you can’t expect your team to perform at a high level.
Poorly designed compensation plans – Compensation is a huge driver of sales performance. If reps don’t feel like they’re being fairly compensated for their efforts, it will be very difficult to motivate them to do their best work. In addition, compensation plans should be designed in such a way that they align with the company’s objectives. If reps are incentivized to sell products that the company doesn’t want to move, it will ultimately hurt performance.
Ineffective sales tools and technology – Sales technology has come a long way in recent years. There are now tools available to help with every step of the sales process, from lead generation and prospecting all the way through to closing and customer success. If your reps are using outdated tools or tools that don’t fit their needs, it will be very difficult for them to perform at a high level.
Poorly qualified leads – One of the most common complaints from sales reps is that they’re being given bad leads to work on. This is a huge problem and can have a major impact on sales performance. If your leads are bad, it doesn’t matter how good your sales reps are, they’re not going to be able to close deals. To fix this, organizations need to go further up the funnel (often to the marketing department) and diagnose how to better qualify leads before they hit reps’ inboxes.
Unrealistic quotas – Quotas are another major driver of sales performance. If reps feel like their quotas are too high, it will be very difficult to motivate them. In addition, if quotas are set without taking into account historical data and other factors, they’re likely to be unattainable. This will lead to frustration and low morale among the sales team.
RELATED POST: Sales Forecasting Process: A Step by Step Guide
Poorly managed pipeline – The sales pipeline is the lifeblood of any sales organization. It’s what tells reps which deals they should be working on and when they’re likely to close. If the pipeline is poorly managed, it will be very difficult for reps to hit their quotas. In addition, a messy pipeline makes it very difficult to forecast future sales.
As an example of how digital solutions can help here, our Sales AI platform helps focus reps on the right tasks by dynamically qualifying and scoring each opportunity based on its likelihood of closing.
Lack of adequate customer data – In order to sell effectively, sales reps need to have a good understanding of their customers. This means having access to relevant data and customer intelligence. If this information is not readily available, it will be very difficult for reps to do their jobs properly.
To automate this, we’ve created the Accent Manage platform to automatically capture all seller-buyer activity data. Emails, calls, meetings, and texts are intelligently detected and mapped to the right accounts and opportunities.
Lack of sales enablement – Sales enablement is all about providing reps with the resources they need to be successful. This includes things like training, content, and technology. If reps don’t feel like they’re getting the resources they need to do their jobs well, it will be very difficult for them to perform at a high level.
The step-by-step guide to improving sales performance
1. Define what good sales performance looks like for your organization
The first step in improving sales performance is to define what good sales performance looks like for your organization. This may seem like a simple task (just “sell more,” right?) but it’s actually quite difficult. There are a lot of different factors that go into sales performance, and each organization is different.
Some questions you may want to ask yourself include:
- How much revenue do we need to generate to cover costs and grow?
- What is our average deal size?
- How many deals do we need to close per quarter to reach our revenue goals?
- What is our close rate?
- How long does the sales cycle typically last?
Answering these seemingly simple questions may be tougher than you think, especially if you haven’t been tracking your sales performance up to this point. But simply conducting this exercise will likely proceed a lot of lightbulb moments concerning how you can improve your sales system.
Once you have a good understanding of what good sales performance looks like for your organization, you can start to put together a plan for how to get there.
2. Assess your current sales performance
Once you’ve answered the above questions, it’s time to take a step back and assess your current sales performance. This will give you a good starting point for measuring your progress as you implement changes
Some key performance indicators (KPIs) you’ll want to track are:
- Average deal size
- Close rate
- Number of deals closed per quarter
- Sales cycle length
- Customer churn rate
- Gross margin
- Quota attainment rate
- Pipeline coverage (sum of all your sales opportunities compared with your revenue target)
These are just a few of the most important sales performance metrics. You may also want to track other measures that are specific to your business or industry.
If you want to automate tracking these metrics (and we certainly recommend you do), check out our suite of sales enablement software platforms that can do all this heavy lifting for you (plus a lot more).
3. Measure and build a KPI baseline
Now that you know what good sales performance looks like for your organization, and you’ve taken stock of where you are today, it’s time to start measuring progress. This begins with setting up a system to track KPIs in real time.
There are a few different ways you can do this, but we recommend using a sales enablement platform. These platforms are designed specifically for tracking sales performance, and they can automate a lot of the manual work that goes into measuring KPIs.
Once you have a system in place, it’s time to establish a baseline. This is simply a matter of taking your current sales numbers and plugging them into your tracking system. From there, you’ll be able to track progress over time and see how your changes are impacting sales performance.
4. Find the root causes of poor sales performance
Now that you’ve assessed your current sales performance and set up a KPI baseline, it’s time to put each phase of the sales process under a microscope.
This can be a difficult and time-consuming process (and you may ruffle some feathers), but it’s essential if you want to make lasting improvements to your revenue-generation machine.
Some common root causes of poor sales performance include:
Lack of understanding of the buyer’s pain points – If your reps don’t fully understand the buyer’s pain points, they’ll have a hard time selling them on your solution. Make sure you provide your reps with extensive training not just on your product, but on the specific solution it delivers to your customers.
Lack of clarity around the buyer’s journey – If reps don’t have a clear understanding of the buyer’s journey, they’ll likely struggle to close deals. To say it differently, you don’t use top-of-funnel tactics on bottom-of-funnel leads, and vice versa. Make sure everyone on your team understands the different stages of the journey and what needs to happen at each stage.
If you need help here, check out Accent Sell, which integrates with your CRM and visualizes the buying journey for each of your opportunities.
Lack of good leads – It’s tough to close deals if you don’t have any good leads to start with. Make sure your lead generation process is up to snuff and that reps are regularly given a steady stream of high-quality leads.
This may include implementing a lead qualification policy that ensures only suitable prospects land on the desks of your sales reps, thus saving them time.
Ineffective sales processes – A lot of organizations have sales processes that simply don’t work. The process is either too vague, unrealistic, or simply not followed by the team. If your process is ineffective, it will be very difficult for reps to close deals. Take a close look at your process and make sure it’s actually helping your team sell more.
Lack of training/coaching – If reps don’t receive adequate training and coaching, they’ll likely struggle to perform at a high level. Make sure everyone on your team has the resources they need to succeed.
These are just a few of the most common root causes of poor sales performance. Once you’ve identified the primary issues affecting your team, you can start to put together a plan for how to fix them.
5. Create a plan to improve sales performance
Once you’ve identified the primary issues affecting your team’s sales performance, it’s time to put together a plan for how to fix them.
This will likely involve making changes to your sales process, providing more training and coaching for your reps, and implementing new tools and technologies.
Here are 23 specific things you can do to improve sales performance.
23 practical ways to improve sales performance
Audit your sales activities
Goals break down into milestones. Milestones break down into individual actions. In other words, everything starts with how your reps structure their days.
Are they engaging in activities that are likely to lead to closed deals? Or are they spinning their wheels on tasks that don’t move the needle?
The only way to know for sure is to audit their sales activities. This involves sitting down with each rep and reviewing their daily/weekly schedule.
Of course, that’s the manual, time-consuming way. And while we do recommend conducting regular one-on-one meetings with your staff, monitoring their activities is better suited to an automated platform.
For example, Accent Manage, our sales management platform, gives leaders at-a-glance reports of rep activity (emails, calls, demos, meetings, etc.).
Analyze the efficacy of sales activities
Once you have a clear picture of what your reps are actually doing, it’s time to analyze the efficacy of those activities.
In other words, are the activities they’re engaging in actually leading to closed deals?
To find out, look at their win/loss rate. If they’re closing a high percentage of their deals, that’s a good sign they’re doing something right. If they’re losing more deals than they’re winning, that’s a red flag.
You can also look at their pipeline health. Are their deals moving through the pipeline at a reasonable rate? Or are they stagnating?
Again, if you’re using a sales management platform, this analysis is automated. For example, with Accent Manage, you can see which reps are closing the most deals and which ones have the healthiest pipelines.
This data can help you identify which reps are struggling and why. And it gives you a starting point for putting together a plan to improve their performance.
Identify particular strengths and weaknesses in your team
Once you have a good understanding of your team’s sales activities and performance, you can better identify particular strengths and weaknesses.
Do some reps excel at prospecting but struggle with closing? Do others have difficulty moving deals through the pipeline?
Identifying these specific areas of weakness is critical for putting together an effective training and development plan.
It’s also important for setting the right expectations with your reps. If you have a rep who’s great at prospecting but not so great at closing, it might not make sense to expect them to close as many deals as a rep who’s stronger in that area.
The key is to focus on each rep’s individual strengths and weaknesses and help them develop a plan for how to improve in the areas where they’re weakest.
Again, a sales management platform can be a valuable tool here. For example, with Accent Manage, you can see which reps are struggling in specific areas and provide them with targeted training and coaching.
Implement software tools and technologies
I remember someone telling me a story of when email was first introduced to a major financial institution. All of the employees wondered how they’d stay employed (with all the free time they’d now have).
Turns out, the exact opposite happened. Redundant, tedious tasks (like paper-based communication) were eliminated, but they were no less busy. If anything, they were busier, because they realized the potential of being freed up to focus on high-level tasks.
This is what sales enablement and automation tools do for your team. They free sales reps up to do what they do best: sell.
In today’s world, there are myriad software tools and technologies available to help sales reps be more effective.
From CRM platforms to SDR automation tools, there’s no shortage of options. And while it’s impossible to implement every tool out there, it is important to provide your reps with the resources they need to be successful.
To find out what tools your reps need, start by asking them. What would make their job easier? What tools do they wish they had access to?
You can also look at your sales process and identify areas where automation would be helpful. For example, if you’re still using manual methods for tracking leads and opportunities, that’s a good place to start.
There are also a number of sales intelligence tools available that can help reps research their prospects and find the information they need to close deals.
The bottom line is, there’s no shortage of sales enablement tools out there. And the more you can automate and streamline your reps’ workflows, the more effective they’ll be.
Hire the right people
This may seem like an obvious one, but it’s worth mentioning. The sales reps you hire have a direct impact on the performance of your team.
That’s why it’s so important to take the time to find the right people. When you’re hiring, look for candidates who are not only knowledgeable and experienced, but also coachable and eager to learn.
It’s also important to make sure that your reps are a good fit for your company culture. If they’re not, they’re likely to be unhappy and less engaged, which will impact their performance.
The best way to find the right people is to work with a reputable sales staffing agency. They can help you identify candidates with the right skills and personality for your team.
A good sales staffing agency will also handle all of the screening and interviewing for you, so you can be sure that you’re only meeting with the most qualified candidates.
Develop repeatable, scalable SOPs
One of the best ways to improve sales performance is to develop repeatable, scalable SOPs (standard operating procedures).
SOPs provide a step-by-step guide for how to do things, so there’s no guesswork involved. They also help to ensure that everyone on your team is doing things the same way.
This is especially important when you’re scaling your business. As you add new reps, you need to be sure that they’re all following the same process. Otherwise, you’ll end up with a lot of variation in the way things are done, which can impact sales performance.
To develop SOPs, start by documenting the way things are currently done. What steps do your reps take to complete a task? Once you have that documented, you can start to look for ways to streamline and improve the process.
Once you have your SOPs developed, it’s important to train your team on them and make sure they’re being followed. You can do this by conducting regular audits and offering incentives for compliance.
Invest in training and development
Once you’ve hired the right people, it’s important to invest in their development. The best way to do this is to provide them with ongoing training and development opportunities.
The goal here is to help your reps continuously improve their skills and knowledge so that they can be more effective in their roles.
One way to do this is to create a sales training program. This can be either an in-person or online program that covers the basics of selling, from prospecting to closing.
It’s also important to provide ongoing coaching and feedback. This can be done either one-on-one or in group settings. The key is to help your reps identify their strengths and weaknesses so that they can continue to improve.
Finally, make sure to provide opportunities for professional development. This could include attending sales conferences or taking courses on topics like sales strategy and prospecting.
By investing in your reps’ development, you’re not only helping them improve their skills, but you’re also showing them that you’re invested in their success.
Set clear goals and expectations
If you want your team to be successful, you need to set clear goals and expectations. Your reps should know exactly what’s expected of them and how their performance will be measured.
It’s also important to make sure that your goals are realistic and achievable. If they’re not, you’re setting your team up for failure.
Finally, make sure to keep track of your reps’ progress towards their goals. This will help you identify any areas where they may be struggling and need additional support.
Experiment with multiple sales methodologies until you find one that works
There’s no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to sales methodologies. What works for one team may not work for another.
That’s why it’s important to experiment with multiple sales methodologies until you find one that works for your team.
There are a number of different sales methodologies out there, so it may take some trial and error to find the right one. But once you do, you’ll see a significant improvement in sales performance.
Some popular sales methodologies include:
- Solution selling
- Consultative selling
- Value selling
- Challenger sale
- Inbound marketing
Take the time to experiment with different sales methodologies until you find one that works for your team. It’ll be worth the effort in the long run.
Organize, track, and analyze your sales content
If you want your team to be successful, you need to have a system in place for organizing, tracking, and analyzing your sales content.
Your sales content includes everything from your website and social media posts to your presentations and proposal templates.
Organizing your content will help you save time and ensure that your reps always have the most up-to-date and relevant information at their fingertips.
Tracking your content will help you see what’s working and what’s not. This is important for making decisions about what to keep and what to ditch.
And finally, analyzing your content will help you understand what’s resonating with your audience and why. This information can be used to make your content even more effective.
We built our sales content management platform, Accent Connect, to do just that (and a lot more). With it, you can centralize, manage, deliver, collaborate on, and measure the efficacy of all your sales content from any device.
Establish a strong forecasting plan
If you want to improve your sales performance, you need to establish a strong forecasting plan. This will help you set realistic expectations and track your reps’ progress towards their goals.
Your forecasting plan should take into account a number of factors, including:
- The size of your sales team
- The average deal size
- Your win rate
- The length of your sales cycle
By taking all of these factors into account, you’ll be able to create a more accurate forecast. And that will help you make better decisions about how to allocate resources and support your reps.
This is a huge topic, so check out our dedicated post on forecasting here.
Improving sales performance is a complex challenge. But by following the tips in this post, you’ll be well on your way to success.
Remember, the key is to focus on your reps’ development, experiment with different sales methodologies, organize and track your sales content, and establish a strong forecasting plan.
If you do all of these things, you’ll see a significant improvement in sales performance.
And if you want to learn more about how Accent Technologies partners with businesses to empower their sales teams and drive exceptional sales performance, reach out for a live demo today.
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