Sales professionals have a difficult job. They have demanding quotas that are often an uphill battle, and they have to fight for prospects and deal with distrustful customers. Having said this, every business needs a reliable and skilled sales team. Sales is the cornerstone of every business – your company’s sales team performance has a major impact on your organisation’s profits and ultimate success. Contributor Charlotte Powell, Head of Design and Marketing – iPresent.
With that in mind, we’ve collated our top tips and laid out seven ideas for you that should bring a bit of life to your sales team and improve their numbers.
1. Dynamic Goals
Most salespeople work with quarterly and annual goals, all of which are quota-based. It’s a continuous cycle of stress. One week things are looking great, and the next you’re way behind where you should be.
Stress can be good for performance, but too much stress is counterproductive. Instead of focusing only on quota goals and enduring the quarterly stress cycle, why not mix it up by introducing a range of formal and informal, and fun and serious goals with various rewards? These dynamic goals could include things like: Make 10 calls before lunch; Write one piece of content per week; Follow up new leads within 24 hours; Follow up hand-raisers within an hour
Rewards don’t always have to be monetary. Show your sales team that you know them and care about them with personalised rewards like tickets to a show or game they want to see, or give them time off to spend with family. Introduce a competitive edge to these dynamic goals and get creative with the pay-off. A little silliness can go a long way to improving morale and driving performance.
2. Get the Sales Team Involved in Writing Content
Write one piece of content per week? Isn’t that marketing’s job? Yes and no. Marketing is responsible for content, but in many ways, salespeople are better placed to develop it. Salespeople sit on the front line, receiving and answering customer questions day in, day out. It is, therefore, quite probable that your sales team knows more about what customers want from content at the decision-making stage of the buying process than the marketing department does.
When you have your salespeople help develop content, you enjoy several benefits: A content library that actually answers customers’ questions’; Sales buy-in – your sales team is aware of and will hopefully use the content that is available to them; the development of your salespeople’s personal brand, establishing them as thought leaders in their field. All of these, when used correctly, contribute to increased sales.
Institute ‘Story Time’
With content in mind, don’t underestimate the value of sharing stories in-house as well as with customers. Salespeople so often work independently, but to have a successful sales team, they need to be thinking and working as a unit.
For example, creating a case study can take time. But sharing an anecdote within your department takes minutes. Encourage your sales team to share customer success stories as they hear about them. Likewise, sales success stories – where a particular argument or slide deck has worked especially well – should also be shared among the team, as should stories of failure where the learning outcomes are going to help the whole team. If a little encouragement doesn’t work, try formalising the process by setting aside time on the calendar to get together.
Align Your Organisation around the Customer Experience
The fact is, salespeople are often treated differently than other employees. They get different perks and often get away with different behaviours. However, this has to change if you’re going to improve sales performance.
Since buyers leave contacting a salesperson as late as possible, marketing is likely responsible for “first contact” with prospective customers. The transition as the sales team takes over the conversation needs to be seamless, otherwise, customers will be put off. Likewise, since customers are your best brand ambassadors, customer success has to continue to deliver the same level of service to ensure that all the customer’s expectations are met.
These three departments – marketing, sales and customer success – have to be aligned to provide a unified customer experience and make that experience the best it can possibly be. Goodbye silos; hello success.
Though employees’ day-to-day roles might be different, your company’s culture should make it clear that everyone is responsible for brand perception, sales and customer success.
5. Let Your Managers Lead
If you’re not already talking about it in your organisation, one of the big conversations to be had this year is about leadership. What does it mean to be a leader? What does that look like on a day-to-day basis? How are your sales leaders coaching and supporting your team?
Management is not the same as leadership. When it comes to sales team success, both are important. But while managers can tell you where the line is, how far you have to go and what it takes to get across it, leaders will give you the tools and encouragement you need to succeed.
Leadership skills may be innate, but they can also be learned, so if you’re not convinced your sales managers are up to the task, get them some training. If your organisation has fallen into the trap of promoting people based on their numbers rather than on their skills, it could be time for a rethink. Great salespeople do not always make great sales leaders.
6. Enforce Downtime
Successful salespeople don’t work 24/7 — they know that’s a great way to burn out. Many of us have fallen into the trap of busyness. We want to be seen to be the last to leave the office or the first to arrive — or both! But it’s known that, after a certain point, working long hours is counterproductive. We achieve less in more time. As a result, we end up stressed, exhausted and no further ahead than someone who’s working more “normal” hours.
So how can you enforce downtime? Lead from the top by not staying all hours yourself. Encourage people to enjoy their hobbies and non-work interests by, for example, subsidising their gym membership or pottery class. Make it clear that you don’t expect anyone to work weekends, and be relaxed about the time taken for healthcare appointments or to watch their kid’s ballet recital. Simple things like this can feed the worker’s perception that they don’t need to be in the office every hour of the day and that their employer recognises there is more to life than work. All these extra-curricular activities help to make salespeople more well-rounded – and more appealing to the customer.
7. If you Haven’t Already, Switch to Tablets!
Laptops are great, but for stand-up meetings, walks and talks, presentations to the board and elevator pitches, tablets are the only way to go. In terms of technology, tablets can do just about everything a salesperson would do with a laptop, but with the added benefit of total flexibility. You only need one hand to hold it – no more awkwardly balancing a laptop while you try to point to something – and it powers up almost instantly. Goodbye, spinning beachball of death.
Whether face to face, to a room, to an auditorium or online, tablets can handle every kind of sales presentation, as well as all the admin tasks that your sales team has to undertake, from email and CRM updates to booking flights, creating slide decks and more. It’s a worthwhile investment in sales success and it will cost less than upgrading your sales team to the latest laptop.
Whatever changes you make this year, don’t forget that sales is just people selling to people. While the customer has to be your focus, creating a successful sales team means recognising that your employees are equally important in the long term. Creating a positive work culture is just as relevant to quota as developing a great customer experience.