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10 Strategies to Improve Sales Performance When Your Team Is Struggling

Growth. Gains. Synergy. Low hanging fruit. Expansion. Market share. Development. Value add. Did we miss any other business buzzwords?

Last we checked, these phrases are a dime a dozen and have little meaning without a strategy behind them. What is growth if you have no destination nor a path to get there?

This sentiment is true for most teams, but especially your sales team. If there is no goal, the efforts of your team may seem Sisyphean. With no way to track success or progress, sales performance and motivation may lag.

As with any team, having goals provides direction, motivation, and even a little healthy competition (and we all know sales folks can be a bit competitive!).

What Are Sales Team Goals?

Much like sales buzzwords, blogs on goal setting and the importance of goals are also a dime a dozen. In fact, a Google search for “goal setting” turns up over 1 billion results, which is about half as many burgers as McDonald’s sells in a year.

Why the comparison? Demand. There’s no shortage of blogs on goals out there because the demand is high. Regardless of a person’s role, job, or task, goal setting is essential. It’s how we stay motivated, keep aligned with teammates, and track progress. 

It should come as no surprise then that setting goals for your sales team is essential. Not only do they provide focus, but when properly mapped out, they can be broken down into smaller tasks that will help your team stay motivated.

Climbers don’t start at the base of Everest and go straight to the top (though that’s their goal). There are camps along the way that allow them to build confidence, celebrate small wins, and quite literally see their progress. The same should be true for sales goals.

Without the right objectives in place, your team will struggle to stay motivated and lack a clear direction. This leads to an underperforming sales team. 

Common Causes of Bad Sales Performance 

A bad quarter is a bad quarter. A good sales manager looks at the bad quarter and analyzes what went wrong, what was preventable, and initiates solutions to the problems that your team can fix.

Missing business goals, however, can be a bit like looking at a cloud filled sky – everyone sees something different. It’s much easier for everyone to see the same thing if we name it, if we identify it, and if we’re all looking for the same things.

That’s not to say we should be so tunnel visioned as to assume that there are a limited number of causes to a problem, but typically, bad sales performance can be attributed to a few things.

1. Wrong Person, Wrong Role 

Sales is tough. It takes the right person in the right role to be successful. There’s a lot of self-motivation and drive, a thick skin (rejection does happen), a competitive mindset, and often a passion for the industry or the product.

Sometimes a person just isn’t the right fit for the role and though that’s sometimes hard to say and harder to hear, sometimes it’s just the truth.

2. Lack of Skills 

A lot of folks out there erroneously believe sales is a game of luck and odds. Eventually, you will get a yes. While that’s partially true, if you’ve ever worked with a really talented salesperson, you know sales is more than a game of chance.

Sales takes skills, both hard and soft. From prospecting to relationship building, a good salesperson will make it all look easy, but it’s not.

Similarly, as noted above, being self-motivated and driven are essential to sales and while you can teach, train, and nurture some of that, some of it is also innate.

3. No Mentoring, Coaching, or Training

When it comes to cold calling, it’s true that anyone can pick up the phone, but what happens when someone answers? What happens when you follow up on a lead? How do you get leads?

Again, good salespeople make the job look easy, but there’s a lot of training and coaching involved and, much like the manager of a sports team, that job falls on a manager. Providing a team with a mentor and/or a coach is vital and when just starting out, a lot of salespeople realize that’s missing.

They’re looking for guidance and advice. When things go south, how can they ensure that doesn’t happen on the next call?

4. Failure to Understand the Industry, Product, or Service

While sales itself is a skill and many salespeople switch industries during their career, transferring sales skills from one product to another and understanding the product or service being sold is vital.

Again, this comes back to training. During the onboarding process, ample time should be spent shadowing other salespeople and providing new team members with all the info and resources they need to understand the market. Further, it’s vital to understand that this is an ongoing process as your business grows and adds new products or services.

5 Strategies to Help Hit Your Sales Team Goals

There are a wide variety of reasons a sales team might miss goals. Some may be performance issues (either team or leadership) and some may be attributable to market fluctuations or unexpected challenges (like say a pandemic).

However, if you’re staying on top of KPIs and sales metrics, heading shortfalls off at the proverbial pass should be possible, especially if you employ a few of these strategies.

1. Build and Engage Your Sales Team.

It’s no secret in management circles that investment in your team and their engagement in your business and goals improves productivity. Create a strong employee engagement strategy that gets your reps excited about hitting their goals.

2. Get Buy-In on Goals.

One of the best ways to engage your team and ensure they’re invested in your goals is to include them in their development. If your team has some say in what goals you’re trying to hit, they’ll be more motivated to achieve them.

3. Coach and Train. 

From one-on-one coaching that addresses individual weaknesses to ongoing trainings and learning to support overall team initiatives, sales teams who see continuous learning and development as vital to their jobs see more success.

It’s that simple. Not only does it hone existing skills, but it can also introduce new skills and tools for your team to employ.

4. Provide Feedback and Acknowledge Wins.

Here at BZ, when the sales team wins, we all win. When they share a success, we all share a success (complete with party parrots and applause in our Slack channel).

So it’s important to acknowledge and recognize wins; the cheers and appreciation are a motivator for sure. The same goes for other feedback. When offered in a constructive way, feedback acknowledges the effort, growth, and investment an employee has in meeting goals.

Making sure you’re touching base with your team regularly to provide feedback and celebrate builds a team mentality and reaps rewards.

5. Utilize Up-to-Date Technology and Strategies.

Tech exists to make our lives easier and, most of the time, it’s successful. There’s no reason why your team shouldn’t be using the latest technology to automate and simplify tasks.

The same goes for strategies. Even sales experts refine their strategies and introduce new techniques to their toolbox. Relying only on outbound sales, for example, doesn’t take advantage of the opportunities that inbound marketing can offer.

5 Strategies to Address Underperformance in a Sales Team

So you’ve met as a team, you’ve collaborated on and set unified goals, provided a mentor, instituted training programs, ensured your tech stack is supporting your team, analyzed strategies, and still you’ve got either team members or a full sales team underperforming.

No doubt this can be frustrating, especially when you’re doing so much right, but there’s still more you can do.

1. Data Doesn't Lie — Look at Relevant Sales Metrics.

Sometimes things like metrics and KPIs can get lost in the bucket of buzzwords and, if we’re honest, sometimes we don’t check them until we notice a problem.

So first things first, be proactive. Checking your sales dashboards regularly is a key component of staying on top of sales performance.

That said, before you can address the problem, you need to know where your team or where an individual is faltering. A few places you can look to start to identify the root cause:

  • Call records: Are all leads being followed? Is the funnel empty?
  • Contact points: How and where is your sales team making contact? Are there follow-ups on those contact points? Is there lead nurturing?
  • Lead-to-close ratio: The funnel is full, leads are coming in via inbound and outbound strategies, but you need to get back to the fundamentals of closing.
  • Current account contact: How much time is the rep spending on existing clients or prospecting for new clients?
  • Call times: How much time is your rep spending on calls? It’s easy to get caught up talking to a prospective client, but they’ve also got to know when to move on.
  • Follow-up times: Once contact is made via an inbound sales strategy, is your team following up? How quickly does that follow up happen?

2. Work With Individuals, Not Just the Team.

There are two factors at work here. The first is that not everyone feels connected to team goals, especially when they’re lofty or long term (or the person is new or new to the team).

The second is that long term goals don’t work for a lot of people unless they’re broken down into small, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timely (S.M.A.R.T.) goals that provide steps along the way. You don’t think you can climb a mountain until you see the stairs.

Good sales managers know that to improve individual sales performance you have to work with individuals. It seems pretty simple and straightforward (a bit obvious), but it’s very easy to lose the individuals when so much of the work and the goals are driven by the team. This is where one-on-one time and coaching becomes very important.

3. Revisit Your Products or Services and Your Customers.

As noted above, one of the reasons sales performance lags is a failure to really understand the product or service your company offers.

During a team member’s onboarding, even if that person is moving from a different department, you should include time spent reviewing, using, demoing, and getting really familiar with the product they're selling. This helps your sales team develop authority and trust with prospective clients pretty quickly.

Next, create, introduce, explore, or refresh buyer personas. Your marketing team is using them (hopefully) pretty heavily in their work and that means, hopefully, that your inbound leads fall into one of those personas.

Understanding both the personas and their buyer’s journey means your sales team will have a better understanding of the pain points, challenges, and goals of their customers. It’s easy to see how and why that’d be beneficial in the sales process. Much like knowledge of your business, knowledge of your customer’s experience builds trust.

4. Analyze Communication and Time Management Skills.

As noted earlier, sales isn’t easy. There are a lot of skills, both soft and hard, that going into being successful.

One of the first skills, and one that we don’t often teach in school or elsewhere, is time management. If you’re checking metrics and KPIs, you might discover that the team member’s sales performance is suffering because they’re just not using time wisely.

That doesn’t mean they’re wasting time playing games on their phone, on social media, or socializing in the office (though those can be culprits). It simply means they’re not using time effectively. Again, that can be as simple as staying on calls too long.

 

Speaking of calls, take a look at their communication skills. Communication is a big umbrella when it comes to sales and can mean anything, including tone (being too pushy or too much of a pushover), not spending the appropriate amount of time communicating with prospects, failing to follow up in a timely manner, not taking notes regarding prospects and getting information incorrect, the language used in emails or on the phone, and more.

It’s important to monitor how your sales team is communicating with prospects and it’s likely that, if you’re observing your team communicate in meetings and elsewhere, you’ll have an idea that this might be the issue.

5. Create SOPs.

Not to throw another buzzword at you, but standard operating procedures (S.O.P.) exist for a reason. They outline and, provided they’re not too complex, streamline the sales process from prospecting and qualifying leads to nurturing and closing.

Have some of your top performers assist in creating SOPs for your sales team as they can identify the most effective and efficient methods and strategies with your product or service.

Early on, new team members may need the framework and once they get in a rhythm and feel more comfortable, they can start adding in a bit more of a personal touch. However, in the beginning stages of a sales career or with your team, these guidelines can be invaluable in helping a salesperson be successful.

Improve Sales Performance to Crush Your Growth Goals

One of the best things you can do for your business and for your sales team is keep a close eye on performance, even when it’s going well. When you’re hitting all your goals, you want to ensure you can duplicate those successes.

And, when you’re not? Well, you want to make sure you can see rain clouds before the storm hits.

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Jennifer Brown

Jennifer Brown

Originally from the Northeast with stints in a wide variety of places, I moved to Florida just over 2 years ago, and recently joined the Bluleadz team. I’ve been passionate about storytelling since before I could hold a pen or pencil and earned my MFA in Fiction from BGSU. When I’m not writing or reading, I’m likely outside with my dogs, playing tennis, running, or enjoying the amazing Tampa Bay Area.