While the recipe for creating a successful sales team may seem to be a basic one, those responsible for consistently delivering revenue to their organization know that it can be anything but. A multitude of factors impact the performance of a sales team, and many times, the least noticeable ones are the ones that have the largest impact.
So what are the hidden factors that can make or break a sales team? And more importantly, how can they effectively and proactively be managed? Take a look at the top hidden factors listed below, as well as simple suggestions for combating them.
Ask any sales manager or executive how he or she wants the sales team to spend the majority of its time, and it's likely a common response will be "Having conversations." In a perfect world, reps would spend every ounce of their time engaged in meaningful conversations or strategizing how to tackle prospects, but the real world is a different story. Notes need to be logged; multiple attempts to catch a prospect live need to be recorded; follow-ups must be scheduled. So much of a sales rep's time is devoted to these administrative tasks, and endless clicking translates into lost opportunities and dollars.
It's wise for managers to talk to their team about how time is allocated, and evaluate how they navigate the CRM system. If re-evaluation is needed, managers should seek out campaigns that make it possible to set activity cadence and one-click screens that enable reps to log all information from a single location.
Sales executives deal with a large amount of reports, and they must determine the important actions the documents actually help facilitate. Many organizations have found that an important key to success is focusing on fewer reports—the right ones as determined by all stakeholders—and consistently and quickly reviewing them to create action.
A useful exercise is to make a comprehensive list of all sales-related reports compiled or exchanged on a weekly, monthly, and quarterly basis. For each, write the purpose beside it. Next, write the last time it was used to take action or influence change. Present these findings to the executive team and propose limiting reports to the critical set that has emerged. The result will be less time compiling and more time proactively adjusting.
Managing the Middle of the Sales Funnel
Rather than only paying attention to ratios such as raw lead to qualified lead, qualified lead to opportunity, and opportunity to close, it's imperative to dedicate the same amount of focus to the middle component of the sales funnel, often referred to as the "human touch." Because it's a phase where an abundance of action takes place, it is known to set the stage for how a sales rep will perform. Oftentimes, executives who monitor the middle of the funnel find that even when they have determined the ratios, they are unsure why they are what they are. The problem is the lack of tools that enable a clearer view of the entire sales funnel.
Enter new cloud-based sales management software that makes it possible to gain real-time insight into all areas of the sales funnel. With access to this invaluable information, managers can use findings to provide targeted training that moves conversations toward appointments and conversions.
Training Skills the Right Way
Too often, sales training programs only address new sales reps and devote insufficient time for exclusive, one-on-one interaction between the instructor and each participant. While new rep training provides a solid foundation, it is ongoing, individual-based training that will produce the best results.
To efficiently train reps on an individual level, look for software and sales tools that lay out data in a way that provides benchmarks, highs and lows, and trends over time so that the information can be digested in moments. Moving forward, it's essential to share these findings with reps individually so they receive more meaningful guidance and understand recommendations.
Ignoring the Most Obvious Prospect Segments
New leads play an instrumental role in sales performance, but it is important to remember those prospects that engaged but never bought. With so much focus on new prospect generation, re-engagement efforts can fall through the cracks. For companies that have been in business for a long period of time, this missed pool may include thousands—or even millions—of individuals.
To avoid these missed opportunities, ensure that a suite of tools allowing for consistent coding of leads and prospects is available. Whether monthly, quarterly, or annually, keep re-engagement prospect targeting front of mind with regular campaigns that include a focused message, such as where things left off or examples of how your organization is helping others like them. Finally, consider how to segment this group—perhaps by industry, geography, or size—so the message is as relevant as possible.
The world of sales is fast-moving, and it can be difficult to identify all of the factors impacting success. Many of the factors are reliant upon solid software, sales tools, and processes that facilitate quick and confident adjustment. While the need for change might not feel urgent, it can make the difference in millions of dollars for an organization.
Bill Johnson is president of Salesvue, a provider of prospecting automation software since 2006. As a career sales professional, he is committed to solving the important problems that exist in sales and sales management today.