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2020 has also been a year of many changes in the sales industry. Salespeople have been facing new challenges, such as transitioning to selling completely online.
In this article, we will take a closer look at what sales teams and sales managers can do to improve their individual and team sales performance. We asked 27 sales experts to offer their expertise and tips on how to improve you and your team’s sales performance now, in 2021, and beyond.
What is Sales Performance?
Sales performance is the measurement of how successful your salespeople are at hitting their goals. It’s necessary to evaluate your sales teams’ performance on a regular basis (maybe monthly or quarterly). Performance can be improved by incorporating effective sales training, new tech tools, new processes, or a change to the processes you currently have in place (or a combination of all of these methods).
Good sales management also takes other factors into account that could be contributing to a decrease in sales and overall sales performance. It’s important to take a closer look to determine which instances your salespeople could have done more to close their deals.
Here are some ways to amplify your sales performance in 2020 and beyond:
1. Train Your Sales Team to Sell on Video
Marcus Sheridan, a highly sought-after international keynote speaker and founder of Marcus Sheridan International and IMPACT, brings up the important fact that many salespeople have been forced to start selling remotely. This can pose technical problems and affect the overall sales performance of your team.
“Here’s a frank reality: Just because someone is a good salesperson doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be naturally good with selling over video,” explains Marcus. “With so many sales reps moving to the virtual realm, the struggle has been real. But here’s the thing: a little bit of training can go a long way in helping reps become more comfortable, confident, and extremely effective on a video sales call.
“My #1 tip, by far, is to TRAIN your sales team on these skills. Don’t assume they’ll just ‘get’ it. Having worked with so many of these teams myself, I can tell you the difference it makes in the organization is transformational.”
Kurt Shaver, Chief Business Officer of Vengreso, a company specializing in virtual sales training, agrees that virtual selling is here to stay. Companies need to make sure they appropriately train their teams to set them up for success.
“My #1 tip for improving sales performance is to learn how to master video sales prospecting in this remote selling era. Things may never return to the old normal. Use video prospecting to put a face with your name and build rapport quickly to accelerate the sales cycle,” says Kurt.
2. Manage Your Time Effectively
This one should be a given, but it’s all too easy to get caught up in the weeds of your day-to-day business routine. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
“Manage your time. Have a plan when you start the day, stay focused, and disciplined on active selling motions. Successful selling is about discipline, focus, and details,” says Matt Heinz, a keynote speaker, author, and President of Heinz Marketing.
“Focus your time and efforts on revenue-generating activities. Increase revenue-generating activities and avoid activities that don’t contribute to your success.”
“E = O is the formula for success in sales. E is for Effort, and O is for Opportunity. Apply Effort that is proportional to the size of the Opportunity to ensure you have enough resources for activities that have the biggest potential benefit.”
3. Use CRM to Ensure Sales Happen in the Follow-Up
“Salespeople have been looking for ways to effectively manage their sales process since the beginning of time. Starting with clay tablets in Sumeria 10,000 years ago, we’ve evolved through Rolodexes, day-timers, contact managers, and now CRM,” says Jon Ferrara, the pioneering founder of CRM with GoldMine and CEO of Nimble, “Business success is grounded in the basics of follow up and follow-through; CRM help salespeople sell better, smarter, and faster.”
Meridith Elliott Powell, President of MotionFirst, agrees as she suggests that “a strong, well-designed, value-add follow-up strategy” is crucial to improving overall sales performance as “the sales happen in the follow-up.”
“Buyers, especially senior managers, appreciate and respect persistence and professionalism. Invest in your prospects with a multi-touch, multimedia, and multi-cycle approach.”
4. Expand Your Reach Within Your Existing Customer Base
“Focus on expanding your reach within your existing customer base,” says Amy Franko of Amy Franko Associates. “New business is exciting, but focusing on your current customers is a surefire approach to amplifying success. These are your relationship ecosystems where you already have trust and credibility.
“A next step is to create a list of your top clients and the relationships within those clients. You want as many decision-makers and influential relationships as possible on the list. From there, connect with each person on the list. Offer your unique ideas on helping their business and learn where you might be able to serve them in the future.”
5. Focus on Earning Referrals
“Earn referrals by being more helpful! The best prospect is a referral. How do you earn referrals? By creating a system to reach out to people that can give you referrals. I’ve got 100 people I try to stay in front of at least 6 times a year. I make phone calls to them. I text them. I wish them a happy birthday. I find out what they need and I help them.
“Sometimes I ask them for help too. This isn’t accidental; this is what I do in between calls, when I’m standing in line, and instead of watching TV. If your entire team focused a little more on earning and asking for referrals, imagine how great your and your team’s performance would be!”
6. Don’t Short-Sell Your Capabilities
Babette Ten Haken, Founder & President of One Millimeter Mindset™ / Sales Aerobics for Engineers®, warns against short-selling your own capabilities. She suggests that this can be avoided by focusing on a larger part of your team in your attempts to make your numbers.
“Is your post-pandemic definition of customer retention still about cross-selling and upselling to make your own numbers? Then you short sell your own and your team’s capabilities. Move customer acquisition habits one tiny millimeter beyond what’s professionally ingrained and currently comfortable.
“Some individuals on your team are more adept at not only acquiring clients but also simultaneously and strategically growing and retaining them. Is this you? Prioritize the top 40% of your team into your sales performance strategy instead of the top 20% acquirers. Create the opportunity to continuously shift the sales performance bell curve to the right.”
“Assumptions kill sales opportunities” warns Andrea Waltz, co-author of Go For No! “Assuming a prospect isn’t interested before we know the truth, a company is too advanced for our solution, or that someone isn’t interested so we don’t follow up. Remove all assumptions at every stage of the sales process. Risk getting a ‘no’ rather than letting your assumptions limit what’s really possible and giving the no to yourself.
7. Don’t Limit the Conversation with Your Buyer
“Leave your product in the car. Don’t limit the conversation by tethering it to your product. Go in empty-handed. Take a blank canvas, a couple of brushes, and your expertise to see what you can paint together with your buyers.”
Lisa Dennis, President of Knowledgence Associates, urges salespeople to think outside of the box and provide their prospects with actionable advice they can apply in 2020 and beyond.
“Audit the performance of your 2020 campaign and sales messaging before you start planning for 2021. What messaging worked the best for you in this really difficult year? Think about expanding those top performers into themes that you can build on for 2021 Q1 and Q2.
“Businesses and teams are still going to be challenged with similar market disruptions for at least the first six months. Your messaging should address next-level ideas and solutions to continue to overcome them. Instead of just beating the same pandemic, pre-election drum, evolve these themes into messaging that showcase actions, approaches, and tools that your buyers can actually use to be successful in their first half-year.”
8. Be Intentional With Your Actions
“Sell with intention. Know the results needed and act accordingly. Prepare for meetings. Be proactive. Be clear about your purpose and results. Don’t just show up. Don’t just follow up. Be intentional about your actions, your communications, and your relationships.”
“Too many salespeople are reactionary as business professionals. They don’t have a specific plan to develop specific clients, prospects, product categories, market segments, or geographies. They simply react to whatever is thrown at them on a given day. However, consistent and rapid growth comes from using your time wisely in the right opportunities, so it makes sense to know exactly what you’re doing each day – and why. A granular plan also ensures that if you get distracted (and you will), you can immediately get right back on track.”
In the spirit of being intentional, Lynn Hidy (Founder, Principal Coach, and Trainer of UpYourTeleSals LLC) believes putting in the effort up front to find an “in” with your prospect that truly resonates will benefit you in the long run.
“Put in the time, energy, and effort to create your opening statement with an open-ended question that gets people thinking differently about what you’re calling about (in prospecting, with existing customers, about deals you’re working on).”
“To improve performance you have to first identify what the goal is. Since we’re talking about sales, you might think that means a quota or a number,” states Carole. “But that’s not enough to change behaviors- which is what leads to the result. To change a behavior, you may have to change an attitude, belief, or long-held mindset. That will require a personally meaningful goal to motivate you to examine those beliefs and develop new ones.”
9. Lead with Strategy
“Lead with strategy. If you are a leader, it is your role to see the larger picture and how all the pieces need to come together to get the desired result. If you and your team are reactive, the best you can do is hope the pieces come together. If you have a strategy to follow, you can be proactive and take steps that bring the pieces together. Don’t leave your quotas to chance. Make a plan and execute to get the results you need”, says Liz Heiman of Regarding Sales, LLC.
“Selling doesn’t cause buying. Before folks become buyers, they must align all internal stakeholders, try different workarounds, and make sure any downsides of bringing in something new are addressed,” explains Sharon-Drew Morgen (inventor, New York Times best-selling author). “Only then do they become buyers.
“Salespeople ignore the first 80% of what folks do on the route to becoming buyers and instead compete for those who show up: the low-hanging fruit. First, facilitate the buying decision path that’s change focused — not buying focused — THEN sell. Otherwise, they cannot hear your pitches. People don’t want to buy anything, merely resolve a problem. Sales do NOT help them.
10. Authentically Adapt to the Virtual Selling Environment
Brynne Tillman of Social Sales Link specializes in training people and companies on utilizing LinkedIn to convert content and connections into conversations. She shared with us that there’s still a lot of salespeople that don’t get that selling virtually is still selling.
We don’t just approach somebody at an in-person event and start pitching to them. We shouldn’t do this on LinkedIn, either.
“Increasing sales performance relies a lot on adapting to the virtual selling environment, authentically. So many are trying to leverage LinkedIn for prospecting but are making the mistake of pitch-slapping! Yup – connecting and pitching at mass. This is turning people off and not converting to new business opportunities.
“The key is to be of real value, be a resource, and build relationships, the sales will come when the time is right. How do you do that? By ensuring your profile, content, and messaging:
- Resonates with your buyers
- Creates curiosity
- Teaches them something new
- Gets them thinking differently about their current state
- Leads them to your solution”
11. Make Everything About Them
Nancy Bleeke, President of Sales Pro Insider, Inc., believes that a customer-centric approach to sales is the most sure-fire way to achieve success. Listen to what she has to say about the “them approach.”
“Make everything (from how you think about selling and your clients, to your messaging, and your sales conversation) about THEM. Everything you do and say will then be relevant, interesting, and compelling for them to work with you.
The THEM focus will change how you think about and discuss value, your approach, and how to communicate, thus changing your results.”
“Your message matters. To get an appointment, you have to get their attention with a message that matters to the person you are sending it to. When doing a discovery call, your message has to be relevant to the person/people you are working to help or it doesn’t matter. When closing the deal, your message should reassure the buyer(s) that they will get results and will not regret their decision because that matters.
“When retaining customers, your message matters and should be about the results delivered and how it helped your customer win. To make your message matter, do your research and understand your buyer and how they will win.”
“Sales professionals need to make the most out of each interaction with prospects,” states MariAnne Vanella, CEO of The Vanella Group, Inc. “It’s important prospects know their challenges are understood. That is done through peer-level connections, not pitches.
12. Learn how to Better Understand and Listen to Your Customers
Max Altschuler, Vice President of Marketing for Outreach.io, understands the value of spending the time upfront to get a feel for your customer, as well as their pain points and unique business needs.
“1) The Ideal Customer Persona – what traits does your buyer have in common? Are they from a certain industry? Company size? Location?
2) What is their common pain? What do they care about?
After these questions are addressed, you can start selling. If you don’t know, start gathering feedback and providing value. Do this, and you’ll have infinitely more success without burning bridges. Buyers like to know you did the research. You’ll waste less time focused on the wrong person with the wrong message.”
“Develop strong listening skills. Learn how to ‘hear’ prospects and co-workers and encourage them to say more. It helps you and your team increase sales revenue.”
“Know who your prospect is by at least their company’s name, if not their individual name, and utilize your entire network and the team’s network to get to them quickly.”
“The biggest game-changer for sellers is becoming a Jedi Master of communication. From outreach messages, to follow up, to offers, obstacles, and negotiation, those that improve results dramatically have studied and practiced to develop a profound understanding of how to reach, engage, and compel someone with their words. The best communicator wins.”
When new challenges come our way, new solutions are formed. We hope that the insight from these heavy-hitting salespeople will help turn your 2020 around and launch your 2021 sales strategy in the right direction.