Sales performance is the measurement of sales activity against the goals outlined in your overall plan. The simplest method of tracking performance is to establish sales goals for your team and for individual reps and then evaluate performance, either monthly or quarterly. You can then improve performance using new processes, tools, and software.
Here are 13 effective ways to improve the sales performance of your small business:
1. Create a Plan
Your sales plan is your roadmap. It lays out your team objectives, your sales process and strategies, and defines how you will measure success. Many small businesses don’t have a plan or fail to address the key elements that make a sales plan most effective, which makes it hard for them to measure and improve their overall sales performance.
How a Plan Improves Sales Performance
Most of us have a hard time finding our way to unknown locations without directions. In fact, without directions or a map, most of us would end up lost. The same thing is true about your sales plan. Your plan is your set of directions, and having an effective plan will help your team end up accomplishing your goals.
Here’s how it helps you improve your sales performance:
- It establishes and communicates the goals for your team, and explains how each team member’s role fits in accomplishing the larger objectives.
- It aligns your team so they focus on the tasks that matter.
- It defines clear measurements you can track on a week-to-week basis to ensure that you are executing sales efficiently and effectively.
Aspects to Consider
A successful sales plan will include your objectives, your strategies, and your tactics for generating revenue from both existing and new customers. Essential to any effective plan is defining how you will measure sales performance and progress.
Small business leaders need to think through their sales objectives, the process necessary to get there, and how they’re going to measure success. As you do, write down the action steps that will help you accomplish your plan. If you need help, check out our guide for writing a sales plan, which includes a free sales plan template you can use in your business.
If you already have this document, review it to make sure that it covers each of the objectives and strategies that should be included in a sales plan. If you haven’t documented your sales management strategy, then it’s probably time to set your team up for success by putting a plan in place.
2. Use a Small Business CRM
Client relationship management (CRM) software is a tool for managing leads, contacts, and opportunities as they move through your sales process. A CRM built for small businesses can help you keep track of all of the leads, deals, customers, and processes involved in your sales cycle. Some CRMs can also make your life easier by automating pieces of the sales process.
Two great options are Pipedrive and Freshsales. Pipedrive CRM is an excellent option for small businesses because it’s intuitive, provides all of the analytics you need, and reps love working with it. They also offer a free 14-day trial and pricing starts at $12 per user, per month after that.
How a CRM Improves Sales Performance
Having an effective small business CRM such as Pipedrive will improve your sales performance by helping you organize your overall sales process. It will also help your team be more efficient by managing the many moving parts that reps handle on a daily basis.
Using a CRM to manage your sales process allows you to:
- Keep track of both leads and deals, making sure nothing gets lost, and opportunities are followed up in a timely manner.
- Identify leads and deals that are most likely to become customers through lead and deal scoring and lead nurturing tools.
- Automatically generate the analytics reports that you need to understand your current sales performance and to identify where to look for improvement.
- Work cohesively with your team and use the real-time dashboard of your CRM to drive well-informed sales meetings.
- More accurately forecast sales revenue and optimize the execution of your sales plan.
Aspects to Consider
If you already have a CRM in place, we recommend reviewing whether it meets your needs and supports your team in their efforts. It might be worth comparing your current software against the best alternatives currently available to small businesses. If you don’t, take a look at some of the best CRMs for small businesses.
Once you have the right CRM in place, consider the following steps to drive sales performance:
- Review your sales plan and the key stages of your plan to make sure that they are accurately reflected in your CRM.
- Import your existing leads and customers into the CRM to help you stay on top of your existing opportunities.
- Set up the reporting tools in your CRM to give you regular analytics and feedback on your sales performance, including individual team member performance.
- Adopt the sales pipeline summary dashboard from your CRM as the default agenda for your weekly sales meetings, reviewing progress on key opportunities.
3. Use Sales Metrics
Sales metrics (sometimes referred to as sales analytics) give you the data you need to measure all aspects of your sales performance so that you can identify and focus on the right areas to improve. As leader, your job is to determine the metrics that will help your team best improve their performance and meet their goals.
How Sales Metrics Improve Sales Performance
Evaluating and deciding what metrics you will measure helps improve your sales performance by giving you insight into how well your process is working. For example, if you know that reps typically make 10 to 15 cold calls before getting an appointment, and five to eight appointments before closing a sale, you can establish a performance metric based on their activities.
Specifically, sales metrics help you:
- Monitor your progress in executing the objectives of your sales plan.
- Identify areas where you aren’t currently achieving your goals and make adjustments accordingly.
- Identify team members who may need additional support or coaching to achieve their goals.
- Identify the strengths and weaknesses of your sales pipeline so that you can focus your team on the areas for improvement that will most lead to an uptick in performance.
Aspects to Consider
If you already have metrics in place, you should review them to make sure that they cover each of the key aspects of sales performance you need to measure and improve. If you don’t, think through the key indicators that will help your team achieve its goals, and establish the measurements that will best help you improve your sales performance.
Here are a few key types of metrics that can help your sales performance management:
- Pipeline stage analytics: Gives you a picture of the opportunities you are working on, what stage they are at in the process, and for how long.
- Lead sources: Helps you understand and measure where your opportunities are coming from, e.g., whether it’s from customer referrals, online search, or paid advertising.
- Sales forecasting: Provides a forward-looking measurement of the current value of your open opportunities.
- Performance to plan: Shows you how your team members and overall sales organization are performing in relation to their designated goals.
4. Hold Regular Sales Team Meetings
Most small businesses have weekly sales meetings, but many are not sure how to make them as effective as they could be. Meetings should be focused on bringing together your team and providing them with the information, accountability, and encouragement they need to meet their sales performance goals.
How Sales Team Meetings Improve Sales Performance
Holding regular meetings improves your sales performance by keeping your team focused on their goals and objectives within your overall sales plan. It also gives everyone a chance to share best practices and challenges, as well as give managers a chance to review the status and health of the overall pipeline and provide accountability to reps.
Aspects to Consider
We recommend you put in place two types of regular sales meetings: weekly team meetings and individual meetings with each of your direct reports. Weekly meetings are focused on the overall big picture strategy and best practices while also giving sales managers time to provide important information about company initiatives and new products.
Individual one-on-one meetings should be focused on the overall health of the team member’s pipeline. They provide an opportunity to provide direction and coaching on how to evaluate which opportunities to invest in and how to overcome obstacles. They also keep reps accountable for their activities and goals. Both meetings are important to the overall health of your team and their ability to improve their sales performance.
5. Find Better Leads With Sales Intelligence
Sales intelligence includes any information or data that helps you understand prospective and existing customers better before communicating with them. There are a variety of ways to use sales intelligence in your process, including profile enrichment, lead scrubbing, and lead scoring. Each of these is designed to help reps make the best decisions about which leads to pursue and nurture.
There are many tools available that will improve your sales performance by optimizing how you receive and use sales intelligence. By bringing website leads and your CRM together, Salesforce Essentials lead form generator expedites the process of tracking and helps you stay on top of every lead and opportunity. Pricing starts at $25 per user, per month for up to 10 users. Start a 14-day free trial to begin capturing your website leads today.
How Sales Intelligence Improves Sales Performance
Making the best decisions for your team requires having the best information. Sales intelligence tools provide you with the actionable information that you need to make those decisions and help your team become more effective and efficient, focusing on the opportunities that have the best chances of becoming customers.
Using a variety of sales intelligence tools will improve your sales performance in many ways, such as:
- Helping you to better target more of your ideal customers.
- Improving your conversion rate of prospects to qualified leads.
- Understanding the needs of prospects to personalize your approach and match their needs, improving cold call and cold email conversion rates.
- Identifying which prospects are most likely to become customers by evaluating those who are qualified, interested in your product or service, and ready to engage in the sales process.
Aspects to Consider
Sales intelligence helps streamline your sales process by increasing the quality of prospects you are targeting and highlighting the highest value leads. You gain it by identifying the characteristics of the types of leads that are most likely to become customers so you can focus on similar prospects.
Fortunately, there are tools available to help you improve your sales performance with sales intelligence. From advanced analytics tools, lead generation services, and even social tools such as LinkedIn, technology has made it far easier to effectively evaluate and rate incoming opportunities and focus your efforts where they matter most.
For example, UpLead is a lead generation platform that helps your team keep their prospects’ contact information accurate and up to date. It lets you create filtered contact lists using over 50 criteria, including the prospect’s social media presence as well as the types of technology they use, and UpLead guarantees the accuracy of all contact information by verifying it at the time of purchase. Visit their website today to start your no-risk, seven-day free trial.
6. Make Smarter Cold Calls
A cold call is a phone call (or sometimes a walk-in visit) usually made by a rep to a complete stranger with the objective of qualifying them and gaining an appointment. A smarter cold call is one where you approach the prospect with both information and a plan.
How Smarter Cold Calls Improve Sales Performance
Making smarter cold calls can improve your sales performance by allowing reps to focus their efforts on the prospects that are most likely to move forward in the process. That means less wasted time and more resources spent on leads and deals that are likely to result in revenue for your business.
Aspects to Consider
Create a cold call playbook for your reps to use when contacting new prospects. Developing a process for quickly qualifying prospects and gaining appointments will help them make the best use of their time and efforts, thereby giving them the information and tools they need to convert more cold calls into appointments, and more appointments into customers.
Specifically, your playbook should include best practices on:
- Researching prospects before you pick up the phone to gather as much information as possible to best understand who you’re talking to and what matters to them.
- Creating cold call scripts for reps to follow that quickly and clearly focus on the objective for calling.
- Resisting the urge to do too much during a cold call, and instead focusing on gaining an appointment where you can start the relationship process.
There are several simple-to-use calling features that add functionality to your existing CRM. Freshdesk Contact Center is a voice-over-internet-protocol (VOIP) service that allows you to immediately add cold calls to your CRM as leads, capture information, and even record the call. Freshdesk Contact Center offers a 21-day free trial that you can use to see if it’s right for you. Visit their website to sign up today.
7. Make Use of Advanced Email Tools
Many CRMs include advanced email features that allow you to track email engagement, create automated email campaigns, and send templated sales emails. From cold emails to lead nurturing drip campaigns, email is one of the most important tools a team member uses. Today there are a variety of tools designed to enhance and supercharge your email, all of which can help your sales performance.
How Email Improves Sales Performance
Taking advantage of the email tools available through Gmail plugins, CRMs, and marketing automation can improve your sales performance by saving your team time and increasing the level of engagement between you and your contacts.
Pipedrive, for example, includes email open and link tracking, which lets you see exactly when a prospect or lead is reading the email you sent and what actions they take next. This helps you take action while the prospect is engaged.
Aspects to Consider
If you’re not already using supercharged email as part of your sales strategy, we suggest evaluating your approach to see where you can take advantage of the powerful email tools we’ve mentioned. Many CRMs include features such as email templates to simplify the process of creating emails you send on a regular basis and automated workflows that send emails in response to incoming inquiries, ensuring that leads get followed up while they’re hot.
Here are other ways you might consider using email to improve performance:
Add an Email Drip Campaign
Consider whether the CRM you’re using offers advanced email features, and how you can better take advantage of them. You might also consider whether it makes sense to add additional email marketing software such as Constant Contact, which allows you to create highly personalized drip campaigns that move your leads through the sales funnel, resulting in better-qualified leads and higher conversion rates.
Embed Video Into Email
Another effective way to optimize an email campaign to increase sales performance is by embedding videos. While it’s true you’ll increase engagement somewhat by sending out emails, businesses that use video have higher engagement rates because they are more personalized.
For example, when I worked at a business-to-business (B2B) startup, we did most of our selling over video conferencing calls, and we’d send follow-up emails with a personal video attached of what we discussed and next steps. Wistia is easy-to-use software that makes it simple to embed videos into your emails, customize them, and track who opens them and when.
8. Cultivate Customer Referrals
Customer referrals happen when an existing customer is so delighted by the solution you provide that they feel compelled to recommend you to other prospective customers like themselves. Whether they happen in-person or through online reviews and feedback, these types of referrals are by far the most valuable source of new leads that your business can receive.
How Referrals Improve Sales Performance
Trust is one of the most important criteria buyers use when making a decision, and referrals provide your business with immediate credibility because the recommendation comes from someone the customer trusts. Referrals happen when someone asks their neighbor who takes care of their lawn or who did their roof, as well as when customers read reviews about your products and services online. Both can have a significant impact on your sales performance.
Cultivating more customer referrals will improve your sales performance by:
- Generating higher-quality leads that are typically more likely to reflect the characteristics of your ideal customers.
- Making them more likely to refer other customers like themselves once they have received the service values you provided to the customer who referred them.
- Attracting loyal customers who are less price sensitive and who tend to remain customers over time, assuming you consistently serve them well.
Aspects to Consider
The most effective way to generate customer referrals is to make it easy for people to tell their friends about your business. Asking a satisfied customer if they know anyone else who would benefit from your product or service, sending follow-up emails after a sale, and asking a customer to leave a review or testimonial on your website are great ways to cultivate more referrals.
You can encourage more referrals by making sure your customers have your contact information handy so they can pass it along to others. The key is to be intentional about your approach to finding new customers through referrals. If you have a customer referral program, review it to make sure it’s generating the types of customers that fit your business. If you do not have a customer referral program, you should make it a priority to start one today.
9. Use Consultative Sales Techniques
Consultative selling is a sales technique that focuses primarily on understanding your customer’s needs and evaluating which products and services are the best fit. This process adds value to your prospective customers earlier in your sales process, and positions you as the subject matter expert, leading to trust, which can result in more closed deals. This is especially important as many customers turn to the internet for more of their purchasing decisions.
How Consultative Sales Improve Sales Performance
Using a consultative approach to sales will improve your team’s performance by enabling your reps to engage and build meaningful relationships with prospective customers ahead of your competitors. It also gives your team the opportunity to better understand the needs of both individual customers and the overall market you compete in, which means you are able to better position your products and services as a solution to their specific needs.
Aspects to Consider
If you currently use a product selling approach, consider how you can prepare your reps to engage with your prospects in more of a consultative style of selling. Look at how you currently approach prospects and evaluate areas where you can ask more questions to better qualify leads. Also, look for ways to understand their business and their needs in greater depth by engaging in needs dialogue before trying to pitch your products and services.
Consultative sales practices position your business as the expert, which increases trust and results in greater conversion rates. You’ll find that your team is able to close more deals as they are able to offer the right solutions for each customer, often upselling or selling add-on products and services as a result of the consultation process.
10. Craft an Effective Sales Pitch
A sales pitch is one of the key stages in the sales process when your rep communicates your brand solution to your prospective customer’s problem. Pitches are often supported with presentation slides to provide visual stimulus to explain key concepts and to make them more compelling and easy for your audience to engage with.
How an Effective Sales Pitch Improves Sales Performance
Having an effective sales pitch means connecting your company’s products and services with your prospect’s needs. It’s how you tell them about the benefits and value of your offering, and perfecting your pitch can often make the difference between winning and losing a sale.
Crafting an effective pitch improves your sales performance by:
- Painting a picture for your audience of how your product or service can either save them time, save them money, or make their life easier.
- Gaining further insight into your prospect’s needs, as an effective pitch stimulates healthy discussion and feedback.
- Converting more opportunities to the next stage, moving them through your sales process and turning more prospects into customers.
Aspects to Consider
Even if you already have a sales pitch, it’s worth thinking about it from your prospect’s perspective. Think about whether it answers their questions and meets the needs they’ve articulated. Ask yourself whether your pitch is memorable, easy to understand, and whether the materials you plan to leave behind are clear and support your overall message.
Here are a few things you can do to increase the effectiveness of your pitch:
- Research your audience to allow you to personalize your pitch. Know who you’re talking to, and what matters most to them. Craft your pitch accordingly.
- Develop your sales pitch presentation and leave-behind materials. Take time to write out your pitch, read through it, and then rewrite it to make it more clear and actionable. Have supporting materials professionally designed and produced to make the best impression.
- Practice the delivery of your pitch. You can even record yourself and review or ask a friend or family member to let you practice your pitch on them.
11. Prepare for Objections
A sales objection is any reason that a prospect gives you that they are either unable, or not ready, to complete a sale at that time. Some objections are large enough to do this on their own, while smaller objections can mount up and have the cumulative effect of killing an opportunity.
How Preparing for Objections Improves Sales Performance
Every salesperson encounters objections—the key is to be prepared. Overcoming sales objections effectively improves your sales performance by allowing you to handle them in a professional manner. Most objections are an indication that a prospect has additional questions or has concerns about making a buying decision. Preparing for and handling objections gives you another opportunity to move the process forward and close the deal.
Aspects to Consider
Create a playbook for your team that walks them through the steps required to effectively handle common objections. This playbook should explain how staff can overcome objections with steps that acknowledge the issue, question for clarification, and state the company’s position to make sure the objection is resolved.
A good playbook on sales objections covers the following:
- Identify the most common objections for your solution and create scripts with your best responses for each.
- Lay out detailed steps to handle any customer objection.
- Create a strategy to test your best responses to each objection with prospective customers and so they can be refined and improved over time.
- Include a plan for monitoring the reasons opportunities were lost.
12. Focus on the Customer
A business that is focused on its customers is one that is committed to learning and understanding what really matters to them, and identifies ways the business can better serve their customers’ needs. The reality is that not all customers are the same, and businesses that are intentional about understanding who they are, what their needs are, and how they can add value to what they do are the most successful.
How Focusing on the Customer Improves Sales Performance
Focusing on your customer and their unique needs gives you the opportunity to add value by solving problems and making their life easier. Whether they are an individual consumer or a business, being able to anticipate and respond to their needs and desires leads to closing more deals, which improves your overall sales performance.
Focusing on your customer helps your sales performance by:
- Providing you with a competitive advantage and allowing you to build quality relationships with prospects ahead of less nimble competitors.
- Helping you create long-term customer relationships with much higher lifetime value as well as lower costs of acquiring each sale, resulting in more profits.
- Cultivating customer referrals, which leads to more opportunities and more new customers.
Aspects to Consider
If you already have a customer experience strategy in place, review it to make sure that it still meets the needs of your ideal customer since these change over time. If you don’t have a customer experience strategy, then you should consider putting one in place.
The key actions required are:
- Understanding the needs and desires of your ideal customer and focusing your efforts on meeting these.
- Making sure that after-the-sale interactions make the customer feel as valued as they did when you were trying to win their business.
- Defining your customer’s buying cycle and understanding ways you can add value by proactively engaging them at appropriate times.
- Being intentional about creating wins with every interaction you have with your customers.
- Putting tools in place to measure and reward customer loyalty.
13. Inspire Your Sales Team
As a sales manager, one of your primary responsibilities is to resource, encourage, and inspire your team. People are naturally attracted to those who inspire them, and as a result, they perform better, which is better for the team and the overall business. Your job, as their leader, is to bring out the very best in the people around you.
How Inspiring Your Team Improves Sales Performance
People perform better when they believe they are a part of something that matters. Inspiring your team helps them to feel connected to the overall purpose and mission of your business, which motivates them to accomplish their goals. As a leader, you have the opportunity to help people perform even better by the way you encourage and challenge them as individuals and as a team.
Being an inspirational leader will improve your sales performance by:
- Motivating your team to perform their best by achieving and exceeding the expectations set for them.
- Focusing your reps on the overall mission of the team and the organization, and helping them understand their role in achieving company goals.
- Providing a positive, performance-based, self-managed work environment where each rep is clear about what is expected on them and feels supported.
- Creating a positive team spirit and a place where people want to work, which will help you to retain high-performing sales reps.
Aspects to Consider
Becoming a leader who inspires others isn’t something that happens overnight. It’s something that you grow into over time through learning, practice, and evaluation. Here are a few key actions you can take to become a more inspiring leader:
- Commit to always learning more about leadership and how to be a better leader through training such as the Sales Mastery Course from SalesPRO.
- Evaluate your personal leadership style and identify both strengths and weaknesses through assessments like StrengthsFinder, The 360 Degree Leader, and DiSC.
- Solicit honest feedback from your team about your leadership and what they need from you as a leader.
- Take the time to tailor your leadership approach on an individual basis for different members of your team, seeking to lead by influence rather than just handing down orders.
- Develop a leadership growth plan for yourself and your team with resources such as coaching services.
If you are a small business owner, one of the most important aspects of your role is to lead your business profitability. For most small businesses, the biggest single factor you can influence to improve this is your sales performance. If your sales function is operating as efficiently and effectively as it can, it will not only ensure greater profits—but also growth and a secure future for your business.
You can’t measure sales performance without a good system in place for tracking your progress and optimizing your efforts. Pipedrive is an excellent tool for small businesses since it offers a visual pipeline that helps you quickly review opportunities and progress against your goals. Visit their website to sign up for a 14-day free trial of any of their plans.