How to Improve Your Sales Team (3 Steps for Upleveling Performance)

Mary Grothe is the CEO of Sales BQ®. She is a sales keynote speaker and her professional career is focused on helping companies drive growth.
  • March 18, 2020

Is your sales team falling short of their revenue goal? Common problem.

Don’t rush to hire an expensive sales trainer or fire all your non-performers. In this article, I’m going to show you how to improve your sales team with an effective 3-step process.

How to Improve Your Sales Team Performance

Before you start assessing each individual sales team member or invest thousands of dollars into a sales training program, you should look into all facets of what might be prohibiting your sales growth.

Revenue growth is impacted by everyone’s part of the customer journey. Sales can’t perform without support and quality results from the marketing team. And sales shouldn’t necessarily be penalized if customer success or customer onboarding loses a new sale, putting the sales rep in a chargeback position.

To improve your sales team performance, you need to assess

  1. Infrastructure
  2. Talent
  3. Execution

Let’s dig in.

Step 1: Assessing the Infrastructure

improve your sales team infrastructure

Start with auditing your infrastructure for revenue growth. Shadow, observe, and evaluate both the people and the processes of the marketing, sales, and customer success departments to determine your revenue growth gaps.

For guidance on where to start with an audit and what to look for, download this free template (opt-in required).

The main components of your audit should focus on:

  • The tech stack that supports the entire customer journey
  • The compensation model for marketing, sales, and customer success
  • The step-by-step process and methodology for how work is completed
  • And of course, tracking data and measurements for the most critical metrics, key performance indicators, and key results areas

By the end of your audit, you should be able to answer critical questions to help you identify the gap between your current state and your desired future state. Be aware, if you want to know how to improve your sales team, this is key.

7 questions for identifying performance gaps

1. Does our current tech stack automate as much of the revenue generation process as possible or are we knowingly asking team members to manually do work that could be automated because of cost or other reasons?

2. Does our compensation model only penalize the sales team for lack of performance or does our compensation model incentivize performance and results from the marketing and customer success departments as well?

3. Is our marketing and sales process aligned with our customer journey? Have we identified our ideal customer profile, are we speaking to them in our messaging and communicating how we solve their problems, resulting in urgency and desire to buy from us instead of our competitors?

4. Do we know where our prospects fall out of the funnel and can we pinpoint how to increase engagement and conversion rates from engagement to closed business?

5. Do we have the right roles internally to segment and support all stages of the revenue generation cycle or are we expecting our sales team to build their own prospect database, generate their own leads, qualify prospects, demo our product or service, close them, and support the relationship ongoing?

6. Do we have a culture of high-performance, accountability, transparency, and proactive communication? Do we encourage professional development, mentorship, and career progression?

7. Do we have the right people in the right roles? What does our historical data say about each person’s ability to perform in their role? Are they consistent in both the leading and lagging indicators required for their role or do we need to make a change?

Step 2: Assessing Your Talent

assessing your sales talent

Once you’ve audited your infrastructure and historical data, begin to benchmark your sales reps and sales managers against the metrics that measure their effectiveness. Then determine what individual learning and development plans are required to boost their performance in their role.

The benchmarks should include their historical leading and lagging KPIs and other important data — but they should also include a subjective in-person analysis.

Shadow each team member in their environment. Watch how they set up their day, prioritize, manage their time, handle urgent situations, prepare for sales meetings, execute the sales meetings, follow-through and follow-up on their sales meetings, and achieve results.

You want to improve your sales team’s performance in three areas:

  • IQ skills such as product knowledge and industry knowledge
  • EQ skills such as emotional self-awareness, empathy, and assertiveness
  • BQ skills such as mental mindset, preparedness, and consistent effective execution of all tasks required to achieve performance

Once you’ve measured their effectiveness, prepare individual learning and development plans for each sales team member. Communicate the plan with each team member and gain buy-in. Then set a timeline and anticipated results.

Provide group and individual training and coaching. Pair team members with internal mentors. And encourage them to read books and take outside training courses that align with their areas for improvement.

RELATED: How to Set Effective Sales Goals for Your Sales Team

For non-performers, a well-written and mutually agreed upon 30-day Performance Improvement Plan (PIP) can help communicate the urgency of improvement. Backing up a PIP with a plan to help a rep succeed goes a long way.

Be aware, though, there are no shortcuts. If someone should be fired, developing a PIP to cover your tush isn’t respectful. You’re better off just letting them go, depending on your state’s at-will employment labor laws.

If you find that you need to increase headcount or replace a team member, create a recruiting roadmap.

1. Develop your ideal candidate matrix for each role, a job description, and a compelling job ad that accurately describes expectations and requirements for the role, as well as highlights why you’re a great company to work for.

2. Use internal or external recruiting partners to directly source sales talent. Be wary of interviewing an unemployed salesperson or one who is actively seeking a new role. Unfortunately, the majority of those candidates have a reason why they’re not successful that they’ll typically mask or hide during the interview process. Don’t let their past company’s problem become your problem.

3. Follow our propriety hiring methodology, RPAC, to avoid placing the wrong candidate.

  • Role Match
  • Proven Prior Achievement
  • Acumen
  • Culture Fit

4. Be clear and communicate your recruiting process and timeline with candidates, don’t delay or take too long or you will lose them to other offers, and expect a counter from their current employer (that’s when you know you found a top sales rep!)

RELATED: How to Manage a Sales Team

Step 3: Assessing the Execution of Sales

assessing the execution of sales

Before implementing your learning and development plans or ramping up a new hire, learn what motivates each team member.

Develop a plan to promote high performance — which will increase as you motivate your team.

To do this effectively, you may also need to adjust the culture within your organization. A high-performing sales culture is shaped by the CEO, sales manager, or Head of Sales, for larger organizations.

High-performing sales organizations have cultures that consist of:

  • Constant feedback loops
  • Proactive communication
  • Praise and recognition
  • Fair and incentivizing compensation and awards
  • No mercy for negativity, trash-talking, nay-sayers, and consistent under-performance
  • Self-accountability and guided-autonomy
  • Passion, enthusiasm, and pride for consistently doing good work and achieving results
  • A desire to win, fueled by hating to lose
  • Respect, integrity, and mentorship

The manager of the sales team sets the tone. If you let one person get away with one undesirable behavior even just one time, you’ve opened the door to that behavior. You’ve accepted it.

RELATED: 7 Sales Team Motivation Strategies That Cost You Nothing

Be cautious and consistent in your enforcement of policies, accountability, and performance. Don’t make concessions for a salesperson. understand how damaging it could be for the entire culture.

When bringing in sales trainers, first combine the results from your performance audit and poll your team so you can choose the most pressing topics that need to be covered.

From a former top sales rep’s perspective, I hated when I had to sit through hours of sales training that didn’t pertain to me, or when the trainer didn’t understand my industry or my buyer.

Do your homework when it comes to choosing sales trainers. They’re an expensive investment if you don’t create a plan for maximizing results before, during, and after working with them.

Work with them before training to ensure they understand what problem you’re trying to solve by bringing them in and teach them the industry-specific terms and nuances they need to know in order to gain respect from your team.

Lastly, get enforcement tools from them. They should leave you with worksheets, management coaching sheets, links to the recorded sessions, future management reinforcement training, or other options.

The goal? To avoid a costly one-and-done training event… you know, the kind where you checked the box, did sales training, but nothing improved.

As I mentioned above, if you need to let someone go, don’t wait. There is no reason to keep around non-performers who have been given a chance to succeed yet proved they can’t be successful in your environment. Your team will thank you.

You CAN Improve Your Sales Team

I’ve just shown you how to improve your sales team on three levels: infrastructure, talent, and execution. Using this 3-step process, you can find the exact issues that are holding you back and find creative ways to solve those issues.

Remember this…

You must take an honest look at where you are as compared to where you want to be. Sometimes the improvements you need to make will hurt your revenue in the short-term, but if you take the hit, you can set yourself up for future success.

Fortunately, if you follow my process for how to improve your sales team, you’ll likely see better performance and higher revenue within a few months.

So what are you waiting for?

Mary Grothe is the CEO of Sales BQ®. She is a sales keynote speaker and her professional career is focused on helping companies drive growth.

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