In the words of that famous race car driver, Mario Andretti, “If everything is under control, you’re going too slow.”
True sales professionals are always looking for ways to deliver greater results in a shorter period of time, and with the help of enlightened sales coaching, a lot of progress can be made in short order. At the end of the day, though, success will be a function of the sales professional’s attitude, goals, and a willingness to be held accountable to those goals.
Sales is becoming more competitive in every sector, so all sales professionals have to step up their game. Studies show that as much as 50 percent of deals go to the first vendor to respond, and reps who make contact within one hour are 60 times more likely to get the business. It also has been demonstrated that it takes at least five follow-up calls to convert a prospect. Meanwhile, 44 percent of reps give up after one call.
Thankfully, there are plenty of strategies for improving sales performance. Here are nine ways to refocus your own sales efforts with a goal of improving your organization’s results:
1. Start with Good Sales Managers
A strong sales team needs a good coach, so be sure you have a sales manager who is willing to engage and challenge the sales reps, including identifying weaknesses. Ninety-six percent of world-class sales teams report they are more effective because sales management is more accountable, and 93 percent say sales management is responsible for helping sales reps capitalize on opportunities.
2. Sales Coaching Improves Sales Performance
It also has been shown that effective sales coaching increases sales closing rates by 17 percent and decreases the number of expired deals by 63 percent. Whether you outsource sales coaching or make it part of your sales manager’s job description, effective coaching will improve sales performance.
3. Focus on Quality, Not Quantity
Too often, sales reps tend to be activity-driven, promoting busyness over focused efforts. Sales reps tend to “stir the ocean” hunting for prospects without a plan, rather than building strategic relationships and focusing their efforts on building a better-qualified pipeline.
4. Embrace Technology
Leverage technology to become more efficient. In building your pipeline, for example, use analytics to validate the quality of your prospects and increase the likelihood you will close a deal. Use the company’s CRM system to your advantage, tracking the history of prospects and customers. Use the web and other resources to learn all you can about your prospects’ pain points and preferences so you can propose more compelling solutions.
5. Measure and Analyze Everything
Use metrics to improve sales performance. Measure everything from closing rates to deal size to how many opportunities are leaking from your pipeline. More importantly, look for patterns that reveal weaknesses in your sales process or other areas that need improvement.
6. Be Systematic in Building Your Pipeline
Ensuring that you have a healthy pipeline is just as important as closing deals. Put qualitative effort into your pipeline to get better results. For example, be systematic in making cold calls, implementing them as part of a sales plan. Measure call volume and conversion rates, and see what times of day are most effective. Be highly personalized in your sales calls, learning as much about prospects in advance as you can and addressing their specific needs when you contact them.
7. Work Your Prospects and Be Consistent
It takes multiple touches to generate a viable sales lead, and that’s before you make the above-referenced five or more follow-up calls to convert that lead into a customer. Throughout the process you need to be careful and consistent in nurturing those contacts. Establish a protocol for lead development and customer contact, including how often to send emails or make phone calls, and the kind of content you want to share in each interaction. Being consistent makes your sales process easier, and it primes the pump, because as prospects become more familiar with you and what you have to offer, they become more comfortable committing to a business relationship.
8. Practice Effective Time Management
With sales quotas, proposal deadlines and an ever-present pressure to perform, time is always short. That is why you need to use your time wisely. Establish goals and action steps for reaching each of them, and then quantitatively track your progress toward those goals. How many calls did you make today? How many deals did you close, and how much was each worth, both to your organization and to you personally? How many new leads did you find? If you can manage to capture one additional hour of productivity each day, you are guaranteed six additional productive weeks each year. What are the seven most important things you need to accomplish tomorrow? And how many of last night’s list of seven To Do items did you accomplish today?
9. Attitude is Everything
Perhaps more than in any other profession, having a positive attitude in sales is essential. Conquer your fear of failure, and develop habits of persistence, resilience, and confidence. Also celebrate your wins with the team. You should enjoy the challenges of your job and, remember, your attitude is totally up to you.
These are just some of the strategies that can help you improve sales performance. Bottom line, your best plan is to have a plan. Successful sales are the result of hard work and methodical processes. If you develop a sales playbook and diligently apply the process, then your sales performance will undoubtedly improve. Measuring performance will tell you where the process needs to be fine-tuned; however, without first setting a methodical approach, you’ll just be shooting in the dark.