4 Smart Ways to Put an End to Poor Sales Performance

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Maybe it's your process that's holding your sales team back. Or maybe you don’t have good enough visibility into your sales metrics and analytics. Perhaps your sales agents aren’t being properly motivated on an ongoing basis, and it keeps them from meeting and surpassing their goals. Whatever the case is for your department, these proven methods will help modern sales leaders move the needle on ROI and motivate their teams to achieve better sales performance.

1. Enhance Your Sales Coaching Program

If you want to end poor sales performance among your sales staff, you must commit to enhancing your sales coaching program. This is an ongoing process that doesn’t start and end with reps’ initial training and onboarding to your company. It’s actually quite the contrary — sales coaching is an ongoing dialogue between sales reps and their management that helps them understand what they’re doing right, see what they could be doing better and make a plan to put these improvements in place.

When managers are coaching their sales reps, they should focus on specific ways in which they can make improvements in their sales cycle in order to boost poor sales performance. Scott Edinger of Forbes writes: “As much as I encourage leaders to always focus on the bigger picture, there is a time, and that time is during coaching, to focus on the practical, tactical elements of how you need to execute.” Sit side by side with your sales staff and review their specific successes and shortcomings together in order to develop a plan for improvement.

Edinger of Forbes also points out the importance of managers asking their sales reps what they need from them in order to be successful. He says that “the best coaches work with their people to understand the current issues and jointly diagnose what is working and what is not as they develop an action plan to achieve sales objectives.” Sales reps need to know their managers are open to their questions and are partners with them in their success. Always encourage your reps to seek additional support from their managers when needed.

2. Commit to Tracking Your Metrics Better

Your sales teams will never be able to turn around poor sales performance if they don’t have a very clear picture of where their sales currently are. This picture is obtained through closely tracking and analyzing sales metrics. As Dave Lavinsky of Entrepreneur points out, “knowing your metrics is critical to sales growth.” Of course, the sales revenue per rep is always an important metric, but there are many more data points that can help reveal insights into the sales process and improve poor sales performance.

Cobhan Phillipson of Docurated provides a list of seven sales performance metrics that you should be tracking:

  1. Amount of time your reps spend selling

  2. Lead response time

  3. How much your reps are using marketing collateral

  4. Opportunity win rate

  5. Average deal size

  6. Sales cycle metrics

  7. Cost of sales to revenue ratio

This sounds like a lot to keep track of, but today’s sales performance software suites make this process fairly straightforward. Make it mandatory that your sales reps and managers are all diligent about updating their sales progress in the system on a daily basis, and you will have a wealth of data from which to mine in order to implement improved processes in your company.

3. Keep Your Sales Teams Motivated

Just like all human beings, your sales reps are far less likely to excel at the task before them if they don’t have proper motivation. For some people, this motivation could simply be becoming a better salesperson than they were last quarter or last year. Managers can help this happen through consistent coaching and tracking metrics.

But for many other people, motivation needs to come from the outside. This could be a friendly competition among sales reps or the prospect of a raise, promotion or other incentive. Sara Angeles of Business News Daily writes: “To effectively motivate sales teams, business owners and sales managers need to create a fun, goal-oriented culture that both encourages friendly competition and recognizes how reps want to be rewarded.” Angeles goes on to say that money is not the only — and often not even the best — motivation for sales reps. She offers several creative ways to keep reps motivated, including:

  • Setting up a fantasy sports-style game for sales performance

  • Giving reps fun outlets in the office like a ping pong table or yoga classes

  • Involving spouses and families in sales goals by rewarding the whole family with a fun, relaxing trip

  • Taking the team out for drinks on Friday afternoons

Thomas Steenburgh of the Harvard Business Review suggests that companies use a multifaceted approach to sales compensation and rewarding. Doing so increases the odds that your sales compensation plan will motivate the greatest number of sales reps to improve poor sales performance. Steenburgh says: “Accounting for individual differences raises the odds that a compensation plan will stimulate the performance of all types of salespeople.” He points out the importance of making sure you design a motivation plan that accounts for your star performers, middle-of-the-pack salespeople and those who are falling behind. Steenburgh goes on to explain how “Sales compensation plans that take into account the different needs of different salespeople—and that are based on real evidence rather than assumptions—will ensure that your sales department gets a significantly higher return on its investments.” Take the time to understand what drives your individual sales reps and then strive to design a compensation package that is diverse enough to motivate everyone.

4. Get Better at Anticipating Your Customers’ Needs

Improving poor sales performance starts with closing more sales — and upselling and cross-selling to current customers is a great way to do just that. Think about it: you already have a foot in the door with your current customers and they already trust you to provide your services to them. You have spoken with your customers at length about their business challenges, so ideally you are even starting to anticipate some challenges that may come up for them in the future based on other clients in their industry.

Carmine Gallo of Forbes says that “brands and individuals who offer radically superior customer service stand out because they anticipate unexpressed needs or wishes.” To improve sales performance, you should strive to get better at anticipating your current customers’ needs so you can develop and market the appropriate solution to them before they even think about researching your competitors.

The old adage couldn’t be more true: necessity is the mother of invention. By anticipating your customers’ future needs and inventing the just-right solution, you’ll stay ahead of your competition. John H. Dean of Selling Power explains: “Always assume your prospects will buy only what they need. How can you convince them of that need? Emphasize the features of your product or service that reduce costs and solve problems for the customer.” Develop new products or adapt existing solutions to fit your customers’ ever-evolving needs.

Improving Poor Sales Performance Starts With Leadership

If your company’s sales performance is less than stellar, it’s time for you to revamp your process from the top down. Make sure your management team has a consistent coaching model in place that they use to help their reps make specific improvements. Require your managers and sales reps alike to update your sales tracking system on a daily basis so that you have a clear line of sight into what is happening in the trenches. Then, make sure you modify your processes to turn around poor sales performance that these metrics may reveal.  

Keep your sales teams motivated to hit their individual and team sales goals through creative compensation models that offer a variety of incentive types to motivate different workers. Take the time to get to know and understand your current customers and their business challenges so you can develop and offer them solutions that meet their needs. If you don’t have the capacity to do that, then explore other options that may not be in-house.

If you get your whole team involved and inspired to help your company boost poor sales performance, you’re sure to see improvements within your teams and your bottom line.

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RDI Corporation was founded in 1978 and is headquartered in Blue Ash, Ohio. We provide precise business solutions through a fully integrated outsourcing model and our clients ranged from mid-sized corporations to distinguished Fortune 500 companies.