What is sales performance? Industry experts give different definitions, ranging from the number of closed deals (the most straightforward metric) to more complex concepts of how salespeople use their time to nurture leads and relationships. More and more organizations are combining ‘performance’ with ‘productivity.’ especially in sales environments where customer retention and long-term relationships are much more profitable to new one-and-done customers.
Some businesses assess that performance through conversations, time spent updating records in the CRM, and even making cold calls. No matter what your organization uses to gauge sales performance, giving your sales team the right resources and processes to get the job done is essential. Before you start implementing changes, we’ll quickly examine what buyers expect and need from sales teams in 2023. Then you can check out our list of ten tips for improving sales performance as effectively as possible to benefit your customers and sales teams.
What Buyers Need From Your Salespeople
How consumer and business customers approach the buying process changed irrevocably during COVID-19 but changed even before. More and more shoppers across every industry do more research independently.
Before they even initiate contact with a company, they probably already know a lot about the problem they’re trying to solve, potential solutions and products, and benefits that you offer (that your competitors don’t). Because of that, many traditional techniques, such as initial pitches and hard sells, aren’t going to work. Instead, buyers need to know they’ve made the right choice in reaching out to your company or continuing to speak with your sales team.
More specifically, that means they need:
- Competence: No buyer wants to catch up with a sales rep on the nature of a problem. Your sales team needs a solid grasp of common pain points that your customers experience. As importantly, sales reps must have an in-depth and accurate understanding of what your products and services can do.
- Trust: There are a lot of competitors in virtually every niche; unfortunately, some of them are bad actors, and every customer is worried about getting sold a bad deal. They need to know they can trust your organization to offer high-quality services, keep your word, and provide much more value than cost. Sales reps are more like ambassadors than sellers at this point, and they need to establish that trust without a single misstep.
- Conversational Skills: Conversational skills are the bread and butter of sales in 2023. Each rep needs to be able to put people at ease, zero in on nuanced paint points, and build rapport. Ultimately, this leads to a better customer experience and longer-lasting relationships.
- Relationships: Your organization needs customer relationships. The profitability of repeat customers is proven, and your organization has, on average, a 60-70% chance of making a new sale to an existing customer. But your customers want relationships just as much. They want a guaranteed trustworthy vendor to understand their processes and provide tailored solutions. Their procurement processes incentivize vendor relationships. All your organization has to do is prove that the relationship they want is worth maintaining.
7 Tips to Improve Sales Performance
Relationships, trust, and conversations have been the foundation of exemplary sales performance for years. But the digital-first environment of video meetings and online communications may be far out from the sales tactics that many salespeople know. Your teams may need a complete paradigm shift in how they approach customers. Alternatively, they may need a nudge and some fine-tuning. Every salesperson has different capabilities, and their training and evaluations should reflect that. We recommend focusing on individual salesperson performance to improve overall sales performance and ramp up good relationship building. Implement these tips to personalize your training efforts and give each salesperson the necessary resources to succeed.
1. Provide Objective, In-Depth Assessments
You can’t know what your salespeople need if you don’t know their current soft skills and sales capabilities baseline. Start your training initiatives with objective assessments. By establishing baseline metrics for all of your salespeople, you can better identify what should be prioritized. You can also more clearly measure growth over time and work with individuals to set growth goals that are engaging and attainable. Focus on getting both a skills baseline and a behavioral baseline.
Objective assessments allow managers and individual salespeople to see where they are, which is important when everyone is in a different starting position. You may have experienced salespeople who have an advanced understanding of conversational sales practices, and you may have experienced reps that only know cold, hard selling processes. You’ll also have a few entry-level salespeople. Holding them all to the same standards will set them up for failure, so adopt a customized approach from the outset.
2. Give Salespeople Convenient and Accessible Training Resources
Unfortunately, most organizations only have limited training potential with their current resources. A sales training manager can only hold so many one-on-ones and give so much feedback. They may also need to familiarize themselves with modern buyer preferences and needs. Ultimately, this scarcity means your teams aren’t getting the frequent, high-value training that can make a difference in their performance.
Instead of relying on interactive, instructor-led training, switch to AI-powered training exercises and simulations. This removes the bottleneck of having one (or even a few) training professionals in your organization. Instead, the right program and training curriculum allows sales reps to access the resources whenever they need help or have a slow moment.
3. Prioritize Soft Skills
As we mentioned, buyers can already do all the product research they need. Because of that, soft skills, not technical information, are essential assets sales reps can bring to the table. Good communication, active listening, empathy, and emotional intelligence will make a sales call memorable and helpful for buyers.
These skills aren’t intuitive, natural talents — far from it. Every sales rep can easily practice and grow their competencies in these and other soft skills. But the critical word there is ‘practice.’ They need simulations and exercise tailored explicitly to letting them practice the skills, receive feedback, and then try again.
4. Incentivize Ongoing Training and Improvement
Why should employees put time and effort into improving their skills if there’s no reason to? If your organization emphasizes training and performance improvement, sales reps need to buy in. You can remove disincentives and increase positive incentives by:
- Providing time throughout the work week for training. This shouldn’t be pushed to an employee’s time or added to an existing workload.
- Recognize and reward effort. Make completing training sequences part of an employee performance review, and provide positive recognition. This is vital for time investment (to reward employees who frequently engage in self-led training) and progress (to reward employees who are gaining new skills).
5. Incorporate AI Wherever Possible
Artificial intelligence (AI) is a versatile tool that can handle high-volume tasks that employees can’t. It can even manage functions that were never an option previously. For example, you can have each of your sales reps complete personalized, curated courses that an AI selects for them based on their initial skills assessment. AI-enabled simulations can make real-time suggestions, assess employees across dozens or hundreds of metrics, and more.
Properly configured, AI tools also offer a guarantee of objective assessment. This can eliminate bias and even resolve concerns about a training manager’s off day seriously affecting a sales rep’s performance review.
6. Put the Reins in Each Salesperson’s Hands
Individualized learning tools are the key to authentic engagement and practical training. Have you ever sat in a training seminar filled with dozens of people, each one with a different knowledge level? The advanced sellers were bored and dismissive; the new ones were overwhelmed; anyone with questions either derailed the training or had to go without answers. It’s a bad practice.
However, one-on-one training with another human isn’t the answer, either.
Instead, modern sales training software allows everyone on the team to complete training at their own pace and convenience. If sales calls wrap up early for the afternoon, a rep can complete a course or three. If they’re stuck on a particular communication issue, they can get personalized exercises that focus on what they want to learn. This doesn’t just result in more effective learning — it makes salespeople much more likely to enjoy it.
7. Stay on Top of Your Team’s Progress
As an organizational leader, you need insight into how each rep’s performance is improving and how that’s weighing into overall sales performance. Instead of relying on a slow drop of subjective training assessments and quarterly performance reviews, you can use software to gauge growth, engagement, and capabilities. Modern sales training software empowers leaders with a dashboard and reports for objective progress and completion measurements. You’ll instantly know which reps are trying to improve their skills and who have the right skills for any new role or account.
Implement All of These Tips With One Move
The best way to improve overall sales performance is to enhance individual sales rep performance, which means changing to a better sales training environment. At Quantified, we provide selling organizations with an AI-powered training platform that can teach your reps soft and conversational skills (with our signature C-IQ focus) and keep you in the loop the entire time. Contact us today to schedule a demo and see how simple improving this year’s sales performance can be.