As a sales leader, driving sales performance is a daily concern.
With changing economy and competition growing by the day, sales and revenue managers want to improve sales team productivity, streamline the sales process, and deliver on their goals.
However, finding the time, resources, and trustworthy advice to chart your path forward can be difficult. You can’t do everything, of course, but you can do some things.
This post looks at the most common sales challenges and trends and some actionable steps to boost sales performance.
What is sales performance?
Sales performance measures and evaluates how well a sales team or sales rep achieves their goals. It determines how effectively and efficiently a sales process generates revenue and drives business growth.
How to improve sales performance
To improve sales performance, you need strategic planning, skill development, effective management, and continuous improvement. Here are some steps and strategies to take note of.
1. Set clear sales goals
It’s worth checking with your sales team “What’s their top priority?”
If they cannot provide a clear answer, or it doesn’t align with your business goals, you need to spend more time setting and communicating clear goals.
Your sales team can’t perform optimally if they don’t know what to focus on. The best goals are ambitious but also attainable, motivating but within reach. They’re specific and clear enough to avoid confusion and misunderstandings in your sales process.
Look at your sales team’s current performance to determine if their goals are accurate and achievable. When 10 to 20% of salespeople miss goals, their performance is a key concern. But when most salespeople miss, the problem lies in your goals.
When goals aren’t possible, your reps feel deflated as they prepare to report progress. They might even feel like they’re set up to fail.
On the other hand, if your sales goals are too easy, there’s no motivation or urgency to take the extra steps and close deals. Every salesperson is different and has unique motivators, but most share the goal-oriented mindset that got them into sales in the first place.
Make sure you’re nurturing that side by being as clear and strategic as possible.
If you’re not sure how best to modify or set up your goals for success, here are a few examples to compare against:
- Grow revenue from clients with 500+ employees by 5% within the quarter.
- Schedule 25 demos this quarter.
- Send 50 cold emails per week.
- Bring in $50,000 in new sales this month.
- Close 5 deals this month with revenue over $10,000 each.
Have a good mix of different business goals but avoid setting too many goals or doing everything at once. Your goals should support your organization’s vision and ability to track leading and lagging indicators.
2. Make your sales process on point
Sales are dynamic. Your sales process needs to adapt to the ever-changing customer needs and sales landscape.
New technology, deeper customer insights, evolving buying journeys, and shifting economic conditions will make you constantly reevaluate your sales processes to meet changing demands.
“With the sheer number of competitors offering any specific SaaS solution, running a strong sales process is more important than ever.”
HubSpot Sales Manager
Manos continues, “When sales reps push for a close, without having executive buy-in and a clear ROI, more deals will be lost to ‘no decision,’ and timelines will push.”
That doesn’t mean completely overhauling but optimizing your sales operations. An optimized, clearly defined sales process is a roadmap for reps to consistently close deals. It speeds up onboarding and training new hires. A well-documented sales process that anyone can reference anytime comes in handy.
Formalize your existing processes
When designing your sales process, determine who is accountable for each step (owner) and who provides input (stakeholder). At what milestones and checkpoints do sales reps receive input and feedback from leaders? Be sure to observe these and their frequency.
Even if you don’t currently have a set process, there are likely steps your employees are already taking. Discover the key milestones and commonalities by gathering data from your team members.
Identify areas of improvement
Once you have your process outlined, look for gaps and bottlenecks. Here are some questions to ask:
- Where in the sales cycle do prospects drop out?
- Are there any stages you could expedite or where more content could move a prospect forward?
- What are the most inefficient activities for sales reps?
- Are there ways to get to a demo earlier?
Pick a few areas to act on quickly. Don’t forget to explore time-consuming but high-impact improvement areas too. If you only make the fastest changes, you might miss other opportunities. Below are some action items to include in your sales process.
- Upgrade your demo booking software for a faster and smoother experience.
- Emphasize CRM updates and dedicate a month where everyone prioritizes keeping records up to date and detailed.
- Identify content pieces that benefit your sales process and work with the marketing team to create them.
3. Invest in sales enablement content
Content is a powerful, yet often underutilized, tool for driving sales (and marketing!) results. Suppose your company hasn’t clearly defined your customer journey and hasn’t created content to support each stage. You could miss out on opportunities to improve sales performance.
Competitors move fast and won’t miss a chance to create sales content that speaks to your customers. You need to stay a step ahead.
Equip your sales reps with empowering content to close deals and provide prospects with useful, on-brand information. In an ideal world, your marketing team collaborates with your sales team, and knowledge is shared freely. When these teams work in silos, chaos ensues, so align them well.
Create an extensive library of educational, transactional, and loyalty-building content to support the sales cycle. Here are some examples of sales enablement content types.
- Educational content (e.g., a blog post) used early in the sales cycle when your prospects navigate their challenges and potential solutions.
- When they become aware of the solution, they may search your website for product information, specifications, and comparable items.
- Next, they’ll likely look at content designed to close a sale, such as case studies and pricing information.
- Converting customers also need onboarding support, and as they grow, you’ll reuse educational content.
This process isn’t always linear, and the steps can differ based on your customer’s needs.
What exactly is considered sales enablement content?
Here’s a good starter list:
- Case studies
- Gated, insightful whitepapers
- High-value ebooks
- Blog posts
- Calculators and pricing guides
- Outreach email templates
- Sell sheets and one-pagers
- Presentations and sales decks
- Client testimonials
- Demo follow-up materials
Your content should also be easy to access and share. The best case study or whitepaper can’t help your sales performance unless it reaches prospects.
4. Use sales automation to your advantage
Many proponents of sales automation will tell you to automate as much as you can. So much of the workday is spent on non-selling activities. Every non-selling activity is time you can spend with a prospect or actively reach out to a new one.
Think manually entering CRM data and managing back-and-forth appointment calls, routing leads, and scheduling internal meetings – time-consuming and hectic.
Many sales automation software and tools can streamline sales operations and save time instead.
- Use CRM software to automatically initiate sales activities for better data hygiene, up-to-date records, and greater visibility into your sales process.
- Build custom workflows based on your prospects’ actions with workflow automation software.
- Use email marketing software to automate emailing with the right email addresses and send messages within set deadlines.
- Record and transcribe sales calls with sales transcription software. Analyze conversations and identify competitor mentions and feature requests.
This is far from the complete list of sales automation options, but a glimpse of what’s possible.
5. Hire the right salespeople
Rush hiring or not taking the time to understand sales reps’ experience and approach can harm your sales performance.
A BrightHire survey found that a single account manager mis-hire can cost a company $100,000, not to mention the time spent onboarding and training them.
Unfortunately, you’re up against high turnover simply due to the nature of the sales industry, with annual sales turnover estimated at 25% to 30%. Consider these simple measures to avoid hiring mistakes and frequent attrition.
- Implement a competency-based hiring process.
- Look for AE with similar experience in your industry or similar industries.
- Look beyond the resume and assess both hard and soft skills.
- Call their references and run background checks.
- Explain your organizational structure and why the role is critical to your business.
- Make sure they understand your business and encourage them to ask questions to know the expectations.
Evaluating candidates comes down to various factors, not just whether or not they’re a good culture fit. HBR created this chart to show the impact of observing your prospect’s behavior and other considerations.
Source: Harvard Business Review
When in doubt, be more thorough about what a candidate can contribute. Ask them specifically about common sales scenarios your company sees every day. You’ll learn more about how well they handle sales calls and take swift action.
6. Provide ongoing training and coaching
Learnings never end. Sales reps require constant coaching and training as consumer behaviors shift, spending ebbs and flows, and new competitors enter. Without a mentoring relationship or planned coaching, you can’t really improve your sales reps’ performance.
Salespeople who don’t have continuous learnings or training opportunities can feel stuck. Everyone on your team strives for the same thing: growth. Sharing insights and lessons learned can empower everyone involved and open your team up to new ideas.
How to begin coaching your sales team:
- Analyze sales pitches and share successful interactions of what worked well.
- Set a unique monthly or quarterly focus based on areas reps could improve so they only tackle one goal at a time.
- Schedule regular one-on-ones and sales calls to encourage accountability.
- Make it easy to share failures and successes.
- Focus on the salesperson’s personal and professional well-being.
7. Track the right sales metrics
You can only improve what you measure. If you don’t track key performance indicators (KPIs), how would you know if your sales efforts are making an impact?
To improve sales performance, track these three key sales metrics:
- Company-wide sales metrics: How well are you meeting the company’s sales and growth goals? Think of high-level metrics like annual recurring revenue (ARR).
- Sales function KPIs: Track close rates, sales cycle length, and average deal size.
- Individual and team performance metrics: Are your AEs achieving their quotas and personal goals on a monthly and quarterly basis? Think about the number of booked demos and productivity metrics.
Tracking the right metrics helps avoid delving into superficial metrics or analytics that don’t tell you anything about your sales’ health. Stay focused. Don’t feel compelled to follow absolutely everything there is.
Here’s a quick recap of how to improve your sales performance and put the ideas into practice:
- Set clear goals for your sales team
- Optimize your sales process
- Invest in great sales content
- Use sales automation tools
- Hire the right salespeople
- Provide ongoing sales coaching
- Track key sales metrics
Don’t know where to start? Pick one of these steps with the greatest impact, which would help you see results faster. What can you do today to move your sales team in the right direction? Do that first. Then refine, refine, refine.
Involve your sales team at every step. Ask for input and feedback along the way. Simply asking, “What works?” and “What could be better?” can do wonders for your sales performance.
Help your sales team close deals efficiently. Learn how sales enablement can make selling easier.