Contributors from members of the Copper team
Sales performance isn’t about selling more, it’s about selling more efficiently. Here are three steps to improve sales performance for long-term growth.
Every sales manager dreams of having a team comprised of confident, results-driven reps behind them.
You want to crush quotas, surpass goals, and sell far beyond expectations and just sales effectiveness. But unfortunately, this doesn’t always happen. And when it does, it can be fleeting.
Sales performance and great sales productivity for many teams seems to move in ebbs and flows. One quarter is strong and the next your team is struggling to even meet the lowest expectations. This kind of inconsistency can make it difficult for your company to grow, causing issues with forecasting and budgeting.
It’s your sales team’s responsibility to keep consistent sales––and continuous sales growth––in order for the business to run efficiently. However, as a sales manager, it’s your responsibility to create an environment where your team can thrive and find ways to improve sales performance.
No matter where your team currently falls in regard to their sales productivity goals, there is always room to do better. Here are a few tips you and your team can use to increase performance and keep consistent sales growth for your organization.
1. Evaluate and improve your current sales process.
An efficient sales process feeds performance. When your sales process is properly established, leads will flow through the purchasing funnel with ease. However, when your sales process isn’t functioning the way it should, it can hold your entire team back.
Your sales process should provide a step-by-step guide that any sales rep can follow to convert a lead. This typically includes seven different stages for sales effectiveness:
- Prospecting: Generating and identifying leads, including those found through online research, events, referrals, etc.
- Connecting: Reaching out to leads through email, phone, or social media.
- Qualifying: Identifying which leads are most likely to move forward through the sales process.
- Presenting: Providing a full pitch to qualified leads, whether online or in person.
- Handling objections: Listening to lead concerns and questions and providing appropriate information and education.
- Closing: Officially converting your lead into a customer.
- Getting referrals: Connecting with customers to obtain new business opportunities.
Speed up the process.
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If even your top performers are struggling to meet their quotas, chances are there’s a problem with your sales process. Identifying gaps and building a system that continuously finds, nurtures, and converts leads should be your first step to improving overall sales performance.
Identify leaks and bottlenecks.
The ideal sales process should move each prospect through the pipeline at a rhythmic pace. If there is a leak or bottleneck, leads and prospects get stuck or fall out of the funnel before converting.
You can find these weak points by identifying where your conversion rate is the lowest or where leads and prospects seem to be spending a disproportionate amount of time. Take a look at historical data through reports to find these trends.
Look for key changes or strategy shifts that may influence your reports. For example, if you’ve changed up your process recently and suddenly have a new leak in your funnel, identify what might be driving the new loss of leads.
Here's a quick look at how to manage leads in a CRM using Copper as an example:
However, this doesn’t mean you should ignore long-term data just because you’ve changed your sales process. Looking at old reports can help you find process steps that have been historically beneficial for converting leads––allowing you to re-introduce these phases to your reformed sales process.
Copper’s pipeline summary report breaks down your number of wins at each stage of the sales process.
If you’re using a CRM like Copper, you should have detailed pipeline reporting that lets you see which stage of the sales funnel you’re losing the most deals at. This cuts the guesswork, allowing you to find and resolve issues faster––boosting sales performance quickly.
Know your buyer’s journey.
So, you’ve identified where your sales process is missing the mark. Now it’s time to understand why.
Your sales process should run parallel to the buyer’s journey. Each phase of the sales process needs to coincide with a stage in the customer’s decision process. A basic buyer’s journey is comprised of four steps: awareness, consideration, purchase, and renewal.
Take a look at your sales process and the buyer’s journey side-by-side. Each piece of content, point of connection, or conversation you have with a lead or prospect should efficiently move the buyer from one phase to the next. It should answer questions, provide education, and pique their interest.
Ask yourself these questions:
- What is my audience looking for at each stage of the buyer’s journey?
- Am I providing them with the content they need?
- Are there any steps you’re missing in the sales process?
- Do I have steps that might not be necessary?
- Are all my sales process steps in the right order?
- What additional content or communication can you provide your buyers to make it easier to move to the next phase?
Tailor each part of the sales process to match the needs of the buyer wherever they are in the buyer’s journey. Focus on creating content that provides unique value that will push them to the next phase, making it easier for your sales team to perform.
Talk to your team.
Your sales team might be underperforming because the process you’ve established doesn’t meet their needs. Because the sales process outlines step-by-step how a rep should do their job, you need to be sure it works with each individual.
Consult your sales team and encourage each individual to give feedback. Listen to their ideas, challenges, and areas that they think are successful. Couple this information with your buyer’s journey to create a balanced process that fits both the seller and the prospect.
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2. Establish and track your most important sales metrics.
Strong sales performance can be subjective. A great month for one rep might be a slow month for another. In order to improve performance, you first need to know what that means to your team and your company as a whole.
When many sales reps think about improving performance, they probably focus on selling more. But improving performance should be about improving the quality of a sale––not the quantity.
High-quality, long-term customer relationships (here are some tips for that) often create buyers who spend more money and purchase more frequently. They also reduce acquisition costs so your team can save time and money without reducing the bottom line.
Sales data and metrics allow you to measure the quality of a lead, prospect, or customer. Tracking the right sales metrics can allow your team to create more targeted goals, measure their success in reaching those objectives, and identify outliers that may influence sales.
Here’s a brief rundown of how to find and track your most important sales metrics.
Use sales tracking software, like a CRM.
In order to have data to work with, you need to implement software that can keep all your transactions in one place. If you already have a tracking system in place, you’re one step ahead of the game.
But you want to go deeper than just keeping an eye on how many deals you’ve closed. While each little communication or outreach may seem insignificant on its own, a comprehensive look at your sales process can help you find areas you need to improve.
A CRM is one of the best tools you can use for tracking sales. Because a CRM hosts everything from your first communication with a lead onward, you don’t need to worry about missing any important information. Everything is already in one place, waiting for you to pull the reports you need.
Your CRM captures information including where leads were collected, where they are in your pipeline, and how much money they’ve spent––just to start. These insights allow you to then keep track of how your best customers are acquired, where prospects may be getting stuck, and how close you are to reaching your monetary goals.
CRMs also allow organizations to modify tags, processes, and goals so you can track what is important to you. The freedom to easily adjust, add, or remove information can provide you with the data you need to track your progress, regardless of what that looks like.
Copper automatically generates reports based on sales performance history, giving you an updated overview of where you stand.
Adding tracking software to your sales process should be your very first step in evaluating key sales metrics for improving performance.
Identify key sales goals.
In an ideal world, you’d track each and every sales metric you can. Unfortunately, even with automated reporting, you could spend days trying to make sense of so many different numbers. For the sake of efficiency, you want to identify the metrics that are most important to your sales goals.
Of course, this means you need to clearly establish what those goals are.
Start with your overall company goals. Identify what your organization is trying to accomplish in the month, quarter, or year ahead, then outline how sales can help make those goals a reality.
Establish how much money your team will need to earn to support the organization, how many sales that would require, and the ideal amount of those sales.
Break down your goals to be as specific as possible. Assign deadlines and expectations, but make each goal realistic and achievable. While you might have pretty large sales dreams, don’t set your team up for failure by overestimating their capabilities.
Connect your goals to sales metrics.
Now that you’ve collected the right data and done your research, it’s time to find the sales metrics that best measure progress towards your goals.
Some metrics will be obvious. For example, if your main goal is to increase the number of repeat customers you have, you’ll want to focus on tracking your retention rate. However, digging a little bit deeper to make metrics more specific can help you discover more accurate data to further improve sales performance.
Here are some ideas (and extended guides) on some of the most popular sales metrics to track and how you can appropriately use them to boost performance:
- Use Customer Lifetime Value to determine the amount of revenue a specific customer brings to your organization, allowing you to see if you’re targeting the right audience.
- Find Monthly Recurring Revenue to forecast future financials and assess your monthly retention, giving you a benchmark for growth.
- Sales Velocity breaks down how long it takes to close specific opportunities, helping you measure the impact of different changes to your strategy.
Here are more resources to find the right sales metrics to track for your business:
3. Prioritize leading––not managing.
After spending so much time evaluating your sales processes and identifying key sales metrics, it’s easy to look at selling like an algorithm. If each sales rep follows the same pattern to a T, you’ll close deals––right?
Unfortunately, this really isn’t the case.
While it’s helpful to have guidelines and goals to keep sales reps moving in the right direction, each individual will excel in their own way. As a sales manager, you need to give them the tools and freedom to find their own rhythm.
At the end of the day, selling is a relationship-based process. If your sales reps are forced into a strategic box that feels unnatural to them, you’re only stifling their growth.
The same goes for your customers. If they don’t follow the clearcut process you’ve established, reps need to have the freedom to switch things up to accommodate their leads and prospects.
For sales managers, this means prioritizing leadership over management. Here are a few ways you can do that.
Provide continuous training.
When you onboard a new hire, they probably spend a decent chunk (if not all) of their time learning how to sell as efficiently as possible. Fully immersing new reps in your processes, expectations, and tools can set them up for immediate success––but then what?
Training shouldn’t be limited to the onboarding process. Each rep, regardless of seniority or performance, should receive continuous education to learn new techniques and boost confidence.
Getting sales reps familiar with different scenarios or customers can equip them with the tools they need to tackle unexpected problems without needing a step-by-step playbook to tell them what to do.
Continuous sales training should be a balance of in-person workshops, one-on-one conversations, and microlearning, such as online webinars or quizzes. Using different training techniques can keep sales reps engaged.
Encourage high-performers to coach and mentor.
Depending on the size of your team, it can be complicated to efficiently lead each individual. Recruiting some of your top performers to take on some coaching or mentorship roles can disperse some of the pressure and ensure each rep is getting the unique attention they need to perform well.
Coaching and mentoring also gives your high performing sales reps a confidence boost and allows them to learn new skills. Taking on a leadership role gets them more invested in the organization, as well as the success of other team members.
Recruit the best.
Learn all about sales recruiting, from hiring to setting compensation, with this handbook.
Make culture a focal point.
If you’re only measuring sales performance by tracking metrics or evaluating how closely your process was followed, you could contribute to sales burnout. Instead, focus on developing and maintaining a high-performance sales culture that encourages and motivates reps to do better.
A positive sales culture includes:
- A common vision that resonates with the sales team’s personal values and goals.
- The ability to embrace change and education.
- Transparency between all sales reps and levels.
- Collaboration, coaching, and knowledge sharing that stresses the importance of working as a team.
- Healthy competition that encourages each rep to continuously push themselves.
- A reward system for outstanding performance and accountability when expectations aren’t met.
Every sales team will be different, so culture will also vary between organizations. While you want to put effort into cultivating a high-performing culture for your sales team, you also want it to happen as organically as possible. Allow your reps to lead the way, but nudge them in the right direction.
Improving sales performance is an investment––not a quick fix.
When you’re under pressure to improve sales, you want solutions that can boost results immediately. While you can certainly find a quick hack to close a fast deal, you’ll end up in the same situation next month unless you fix the root of the problem and look for ways to improve sales performance.
Efficiently and sustainably improving sales performance comes down to ensuring your team has the right tools, education, and encouragement to work to their best abilities––no matter what that looks like for them.
Let’s do a quick recap on how you can improve sales team performance:
- Evaluate your sales process and how it compares to the buyer’s journey. Look for leaks and bottlenecks, as well as areas of disconnect within your team.
- Implement sales tracking software to develop a data-driven approach to sales performance. Measure key sales metrics that relate to your overall company goals.
- Prioritize team leadership over process managing. Use continuous education, mentorships, and a positive sales culture to encourage confidence and capability within each team member.
Optimizing sales performance is an investment in your processes, team, and customers. When you include everyone’s needs into your processes, goals, and culture, you’ll create a winning atmosphere with sustainable growth.