As a sales manager, hitting quota is crucial. It generates revenue, boosts morale and is overall good for your sales team.
But this can get challenging especially when the market itself is in turmoil as is the case now(it’s 2023 at the time of this writing), budgets are being cut and hiring new salespeople isn’t a possibility.
In such a case there are 2 ways to increase sales numbers,
- Generate more leads- You would either need marketing or your SDR to push this.
- Improve per sales rep productivity, to push overall team productivity.
We did touch upon some parts of it in our article here.
While lead generation would require a whole another article and significant time investment, improving sales rep productivity is something we start working on immediately.
In this article, we try to briefly explain this process that you can follow to help your sales team improve their individual performance.
1. Set clear goals
The very first step to improve sales performance is to figure out what success would look like to you, your team and your boss.
This means not only getting buy-in from your managers or management team but also from your sales team. Since they would be the ones who would have to follow the process and ultimately show results.
Essentially, create specific, measurable and achievable goals aligned with business objectives.
Having said that, just setting goals and communicating these to your sales team members doesn't work.
What sales managers should do is take into consideration organizational goals, consider your sales team capacity and then set goals on both sales and improvement.
Here are the steps you can follow to set goals for your sales team,
- Identify key performance indicators (KPIs)
Determine the KPIs that are most important for your business. These could be revenue, number of deals closed, conversion rates, or other metrics that are relevant to your business.
- Analyze past performance
Look at past sales data to identify areas where your team is performing well and areas where they need improvement. This will help you set realistic goals and expectations.
- Set specific goals
Make sure your goals are specific and tailored to each salesperson. For example, instead of setting a goal to "increase sales," set a goal to "increase sales by 10% in the next quarter."
- Make goals measurable
Use metrics to track progress towards goals. This helps salespeople see their progress and stay motivated. Revenue or deals closed are the final metric that should be measured but also look at metrics like number of demos delivered, Demos to Opportunity conversion and pipeline value.
- Ensure goals are achievable
One thing you should definitely be vary of is setting up unrealistic goals. Unrealistic goals can lead to frustration and demotivation. Make sure goals are achievable and challenging.
For example, don’t put in the goal of 3X improvement in sales numbers without having a lead engine that can deliver a similar increase in leads for your sales team to reach out.
Based on past performance a sales manager can set this target at 1.3X of the past achievement.
- Communicate goals clearly
Ensure salespeople understand what's expected of them and how their performance will be measured. Provide regular updates on progress towards goals.
- Revisit goals regularly
Goals should be adjusted as necessary based on changing business objectives or performance. Regularly revisit goals and make adjustments as needed.
A good example is 2023 where the market is volatile and companies are looking at reducing cost, expecting your team to double their performance in this market based on what you decided in 2022 doesn’t make sense.
2. Analyze your sales process
Once you have decided on the goal of the performance improvement plan which usually would align with your sales team’s revenue goals.
The next step is to find out what in your current sales process can be optimized.
Since we are looking to improve sales performance, a very good way to start is to look at how the team and individual sales rep do sales now.
Identify key activities that your sales reps follow to close a deal this can include things like contact sourcing, company research, emails, cold calls and demos. Find areas of struggle and provide resources.
The idea here is to identify sales people within your team who will most benefit from this program and push these team members from average to better and from low to average in terms of performance.
Here are a few steps you can follow, do remember that this needs to be done for each individual sales rep or group of sales reps grouped based on their performance.
Since each member might need help with different aspect of the sales process.
- Use Map out the sales process
You can start by mapping out the sales process from lead generation to deal close, identifying each step along the way.
- Identify key activities
Next, you will identify the key activities that salespeople need to perform at each step in the process. For example, lead generation might involve cold calling, email campaigns, and social media outreach.
- Analyze each activity
For each activity, you will analyze the performance data to determine which activities are most effective and which need improvement. For example, you might find that social media outreach generates a high volume of leads but a low conversion rate.
- Determine bottlenecks
You will also identify bottlenecks in the sales process, such as a long sales cycle or a lack of follow-up with leads.
- Identify areas for improvement
Based on the analysis, you will identify areas where the sales process could be improved. For example, you might recommend that salespeople focus more on follow-up with leads and less on social media outreach.
3. Provide coaching and training
Once you understand which salespeople and what process needs to be improved the next step is to actually work on improving this.
In times where budgets are tight and hiring is limited, one way to improve processes is via coaching and training.
There are multiple ways to do this but I personally prefer using call recordings and processes followed by top performers to optimize processes.
If you have access to recording and transcription software, I suggest using that to coach your salespeople.
You can find more details on how you could coach your sales team here.
4. Track performance against targets
Once you provide coaching and implement the new process the next step is to see what the outcome was. This can only be done by looking at what has been achieved vs the goals set.
Monitor progress and use data to find areas for improvement. Provide resources and support.
- Use performance tracking features:
Use sales performance tracking features to monitor your salespeople's progress against their targets. These features include dashboards and reports that give you real-time insights into your team's performance.
- Identify areas for improvement:
Use the performance tracking data to identify areas where your team is falling short. This can help you provide additional support and resources to help salespeople get back on track.
- Provide regular feedback:
Use coaching initiatives and scorecards to provide regular feedback to salespeople on their performance. This can help them stay motivated and focused on their targets.
- Adjust targets as necessary:
Targets should be adjusted as necessary based on changing business objectives or performance. Regularly revisit targets and make adjustments as needed to ensure that your sales team is on track to hit their quota.
- Celebrate successes:
When salespeople hit their targets, celebrate their successes and acknowledge their hard work. This can boost morale and foster a sense of achievement among your team.
5. Use data-driven insights
This is not the next step but as a sales manager especially when tools are available it makes sense to base most of your decisions on data.
I believe a small introduction is in order since you would be using data in almost of the steps in this article.
By analyzing sales data and performance metrics, sales managers can make informed decisions and drive impactful changes in their sales approach. Here's how you can utilize data-driven insights to optimize their sales strategy:
- Identify trends and patterns:
By examining sales data, managers can identify trends and patterns that reveal important insights about customer behavior, preferences, and buying patterns. This information enables sales managers to align their sales strategy with customer needs and make strategic adjustments to maximize sales opportunities.
- Track performance metrics:
Sales managers can leverage data to track key performance metrics such as conversion rates, win rates, average deal size, and sales cycle length. Monitoring these metrics allows managers to identify areas of improvement, pinpoint bottlenecks in the sales process, and allocate resources effectively to drive better results.
- Identify high-performing strategies:
Analyzing data helps sales managers identify the strategies and tactics that consistently lead to success. By understanding what works best, managers can reinforce and replicate these winning approaches across the sales team, boosting overall performance and quota attainment.
- Identify underperforming areas:
Data-driven insights also shed light on areas where the sales team may be underperforming. Managers can identify specific challenges or weaknesses that hinder sales success and develop targeted training programs or coaching sessions to address these gaps. Data-driven insights provide actionable information to help salespeople improve their skills and overcome obstacles.
- Enhance forecasting accuracy:
Sales managers can leverage data analytics to improve their forecasting accuracy. By examining historical data and analyzing trends, managers can make more accurate predictions about future sales performance, enabling better resource allocation and goal setting.
- Adapt and iterate:
Data-driven insights enable sales managers to adapt their sales strategy based on real-time feedback. By monitoring and analyzing sales data regularly, managers can quickly identify shifts in market dynamics, customer preferences, or competitor strategies. This allows them to make agile adjustments to their sales approach, ensuring continued success in a dynamic business environment.
Though not comprehensive this article I believe would give you at least an ounce of insight on what you as a sales manager could do to improve sales performance especially when you are low on budget.