If there is one department that is traditionally pushed to its very limits, it’s sales. No matter how well a company may be doing, you can always close more deals and get better numbers. One of the best ways to get more sales and better performance from your sales team is to find better ways to manage it. Here’s how you can do just that.
Hire coachable sales reps
When you hire for sales roles, choosing the right person can be incredibly challenging. Naturally, you’ll gravitate toward hiring candidates with the best demonstrated past results, but those folks are not always the best hires. Although you want to hire great performers, hiring people who are coachable and willing to learn and adapt is even more important. Otherwise, you may be stuck with reps who will only do things in their own way.
According to Recruitment.com, there are six tell-tale signs that a job candidate is coachable:
- Desire to become better at what they do.
- Faith in themselves and the product or service being sold.
- Commitment to doing the best job possible.
- Self-awareness, including understanding their strengths and weaknesses and identifying areas for improvement.
- Willingness to learn, both from formal sources such as courses and books, as well as from feedback by managers, colleagues, and customers.
- Openness to hearing feedback from their managers and customers.
In essence, a coachable sales rep is one who recognizes their strengths but is still open to learning and adopting new ways to improve their performance.
To this end, watch out for these two major things. First, pay attention to their feedback when you’re presenting a novel idea. Ideally, you want someone who’s curious and finds new ideas to be exciting opportunities to do their job more effectively instead of discarding them right off the bat.
Second, watch for behavioral changes after suggesting a new way to get work done. Watch their face to see whether they’re trying to stifle a grimace or willingly accepting your instructions. Also, focus on their body language: posture, gestures, eye contact and other physical behaviors. They should appear calm and ready to act instead of visibly resisting your advice. By paying careful attention to these behaviors, you can ensure you’re getting sales reps who will roll with the punches as your organization grows and changes.
Set goals that are high but attainable
The best way to push your sales team further is to set the right kind of goals. For example, if they usually do 50 sales per month, set your monthly goal to 65. That way, you’re setting a goal that is higher than their current performance, but, at the same time, manageable under the right conditions.
You’ve probably heard that sales goals should be SMART, which is an acronym meaning Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. I want to focus on the A in that acronym because setting attainable goals can often prove to be a challenge. How do you know what an attainable goal looks like?
First, determine your past performance. Even if you’ve been in business for just a year, that’s 12 months that you can base your predictions on. See how much your team has been selling, how well you’re retaining your current customers, and think about what you can reliably predict for the future. If you experienced stable growth, you can usually make good predictions for the future.
If you look at your historic data and you see 5 percent annual growth in sales, it would be unreasonable to expect 20 percent growth in the present year. Keep in mind here that you shouldn’t focus as much on annual targets. As the recent coronavirus pandemic has shown, wild fluctuations can occur within one year, so stick to monthly goals instead. These allow for more flexibility on your part.
Second, assess your current sales team. If a small number of your reps are missing their current targets, the problem likely lies with the reps. If most of your sales team is missing their goals, however, the problem is unrealistic goals. If your sales team is consistently struggling to meet your current goals across the board, you’re probably expecting an unreasonable return. If so, there is no point in setting them even higher because the team will continue to miss them.
If you’re struggling with missed sales goals, you have a couple of options. You may consider replacing some of the sales team after evaluating their performance. If everyone is at the top of their game, though, you might hire new people to meet sales targets, provided that your cashflow allows it. Your overall objective here is to make sure that you’re setting reasonable but ambitious goals for your team and putting them in a position to succeed. You don’t want to reward a rep who consistently misses reasonable goals, but you also don’t want to overwork your team, leading to burnout and high turnover.
Another crucial aspect of setting goals is gauging current demand. Evaluate whether the market has a need for your product before setting any goals. For example, due to the coronavirus pandemic, there is an increased demand for remote working tools and e-commerce products. Always factor in current market trends to make sure you’re setting good sales targets.
Automate the right kind of tasks
In today’s world of sales, automation really is a wonderful thing. Almost every sales task can be automated, from cold outreach to getting your contracts signed. The problem is, some aspects of sales really need a human touch, and it’s up to you to find out where an app or other digital tool can’t do the job of an experienced sales professional.
To figure out what parts of your process to automate, the first thing you should do is ask your reps to figure out what takes up the most of their time. One effective way to do this is to simply have your team measure how much time each part of their job takes to see which tasks are draining it the most. For example, you may find that you’re losing a lot of time by entering data, which means that you need a new and better CRM. So, what you choose to automate will depend completely on your individual business and sales processes.
The second step is actually tracking the time, which may seem complex at first, though it’s actually pretty straightforward. Using a time tracking app, your sales team should log the time they spend on different tasks for a certain time period, say, for example, one month. After that month is up, you’ll see trends in terms of tasks that take up too much of the team’s time but bring little to no return on investment. These should be either automated or delegated.
You should follow some general rules on what not to automate, however. For example, sales calls, demos, and customer support issues should all be handled by a real human. A sales or customer support professional should handle everything that involves interaction with your customers rather than a bot or a script.
Recognize your team’s differences
Although every sales professional has the ultimate goal of selling the company’s product, not all of them do it in the same way. Due to differences in their character, learning styles, and coaching preferences, they’ll find a host of different ways to do the same job. Recognize these differences instead of forcing all of your sales team into the same mold.
For example, one of your sales team members might be able to do amazing things through email, whereas another one is a great closer on the phone. Moreover, some will perform great under pressure with tight deadlines and high sales goals, but others may need room to breathe to do their best work. Although you should have the same goals across your team, make sure that you account for individual differences when assessing their performance.
Although you may have a certain way of doing things, it’s far better to give your reps freedom in choosing the way they get their results. They will feel appreciated and your sales numbers will look great, making it a win-win situation.
Have your sales and marketing team in tight cooperation
If your sales team is missing their KPIs, one of the major reasons could be that they are completely unaligned with the marketing team. Make sure that the two departments often have meetings together so that they are informed about each other’s activities.
Although having frequent all-team meetings with both sales and marketing can be impractical, make sure to have at least one monthly meeting where both teams are present. Another neat way to bring them together is to create a joint email address where sales and marketing teams can get the same materials. You should also make sure that the two teams attend events together. Not only is this a great team-building opportunity, but the two departments can learn from each other as well.
Another useful way of connecting the two teams is to instruct the marketing department to create assets that the sales team can use to close the sale sooner and more efficiently. Think top-, middle-, and bottom-funnel content: blogs, videos, webinars, e-books, lead magnets, and so on. In the process of creating these assets, both teams will learn from each other and everyone will benefit.
As you can see, improving your sales team’s performance does not require any major investments in time or money. All it takes is a good look at your team, analyzing their strengths and weaknesses and supporting them as they do their best work.