5 Actions That Increase Sales Performance
Every sales leader wants to get more out of their current sales team. How do you boost sales performance with what you have? In our recent webinar, Force Management's President, John Kaplan, and Chief Operating Officer, Dave Davies, discussed what sales leaders are doing right now. We’ve broken down our top five takeaways and action items from their conversation. If you want to watch the full discussion, get access to the on-demand webinar here.
1. Align on your external sales message of value and differentiation
One of the top enablers of a successful sales team is having cross-functional alignment on what matters to their buyer. This alignment is key to building resilient sales teams. We’ve seen it time and again, and especially in our current economic state.
It’s impossible to succinctly convey a message of value and differentiation without this outside-in alignment. Your company’s baseline message needs to be aligned to the business problems you solve and the outcomes you help your customers achieve. This message also needs to have cross-functional agreement, accounting for how your entire company communicates to the buyer.
It provides a solid foundation for aligning the tactical sales message with the broad-based marketing message, and with the product roadmap priorities. The greatest single exercise any company can do right now is to test for cross-functional agreement on these four essential questions:
- What business problems do you solve?
- How do you solve them?
- How do you do it better or differently than the competition?
- Where have you done it before?
Write them down. Share them with your executive team. Compile the answers and then share agreements and differences. Working through the essential questions is an effective test to see where you are misaligned. Then, you can develop an action plan. Once you have this shared alignment on your solution’s value and differentiation — you have the foundation you need to change mindsets and improve sales performance.
2. Align internal resources around how you execute the value message
Outside-in alignment with your buyer should also drive internal execution. You need to make sure you’re executing on that agreement, cross-functionally. We call that inside-out alignment. It’s where your internal resources (executives, sales, marketing, product) all align around a common and consumable sales message. Everyone should operate with the same buyer focus, from what you’re saying and how you’re executing the sales process.
A great sales process provides a firm understanding of how your customer buys. Buyers have done their homework on your solution — and your competitors’ solutions as well. Make sure your sales process is buyer-centric and tightly aligned with your buyer’s buying process, not the way you want to sell. There should be a clear definition of who is responsible for what and when they're responsible for it. When is sales ops involved? When does sales leverage marketing? At what point should procurement be looped in? Delineating roles and responsibilities provides accountability and much-needed checkpoints for you as a sales leader to intervene if problems arise.
This alignment ensures you’re able to not only create value for your customers but also capture it in additional selling opportunities. It’s not just about that first deal. It’s about adding value for the customer throughout the entire customer engagement process.
These questions can help your company strategically assess your customer engagement process for buyer alignment:
- How aligned is your selling process with your customers' buying process?
- How do sales reps ensure opportunities are qualified?
- What customer outcomes progress a deal?
- How do managers inspect sales opportunities and pipelines?
- How do sales stages align with forecasting?
Assessing these questions and elevating their sales process accordingly, helped Plex Systems shorten sales cycles and close larger deals, even in a murky sales environment.
3. Help sellers consistently focus on solving business problems, not simply selling products:
If you're frustrated with discounting and need to boost numbers, ensure your account teams aren’t missing the value-based justification for the business purchase and aren’t relying simply on technical capabilities. Help your salespeople define themselves by the problems they help buyers solve, not the solutions they sell. Start by changing their mindset.
It’s a company’s obligation to provide their salespeople with the tools and knowledge to keep a focus on solving buyer problems. It’s the sales team’s job to trust in this process and leverage those tools to strategically consult with their buyers. Generating cross-functional alignment with your buyer [action steps #1 and #2] is the key to generating that consistent language and process that keeps reps focused on their buyers’ business problems. (Once you have that alignment, operationalize it in a way that’s consumable to your sales team. Here’s one tool you’ll want to consider.)
Enable your salespeople to effectively uncover big business problems and articulate how they can solve those problems in a differentiated way by equipping them to do these three things on every deal:
- Capture collective agreement on what their buyer needs to achieve, (i.e., their positive business outcomes and before and after scenarios) and the metrics to measure that success.
- Help multiple decision-makers define the solution capabilities they will need to achieve a positive business outcome and long-term adoption.
- Influence their buyer’s decision criteria in their favor, to avoid losses to competition (including a do-nothing or not-right-now decision.)
When salespeople get stuck having to cut their margins or lose critical deals, they’re likely not executing one or more of these steps correctly, if at all. Enabling salespeople to do all three steps will be pivotal to boosting sales performance across your entire organization.
4. Operationalize a transformation initiative that changes the mindset of your company
Boost sales performance by launching an initiative that changes the mindset and fosters the needed alignment of your entire organization, not just the sales team. Shifting the entire company into being more buyer-focused drives the kind of results that increases valuations. Sysdig saw these benefits in many forms, one being a more impactful transition from sales to customer success, resulting in skyrocketing net and gross retention rates.
Launching an initiative that changes the mindset of your entire company supports the sales team's ability to execute. When there’s cross-functional agreement on a new way of running the business, you as a sales leader can build your initiative in a way that ensures commitment from other departments. Post-launch, you’ll have other departments reinforcing behaviors because they understand how to interact with the buyer in a way that supports the sales team’s ability to get results. In return, these departments understand how ensuring consistent sales execution supports their ability to meet critical benchmarks.
When you’re aiming to build a resilient sales team you want to achieve organizational transformation, instead of individual seller or territory transformation. It takes a concerted effort, one that successful sales leaders are willing to take on. Start by making your initiative a top priority, not a sales-only priority. Get other leaders to see the benefits and align behind your initiative, then leverage that support to launch a transformation initiative that sticks and gets results.
5. Focus on the how to improve performance, not just the what
When you’re changing sales behaviors to boost performance — ensure there’s a focus on what good looks like and how to execute it. Without a focus on both the how and the what, sales reps may comply with what they need to do, but they likely won't have the tools and knowledge they need to execute and achieve impactful results.
Boosting sales performance demands sales leaders change behaviors by providing their reps and managers with:
- A north star of “what good looks like”, (i.e., the preferred sales behaviors reps should execute and managers should coach for.)
- Insight on how to execute that behavior, (i.e., the processes, sales consumable tools, content and training that enables reps to go out and execute.)
- A definition of how they’ll be measured or held accountable to drive consistent execution.
Changing behaviors by using these three steps will enable you to ensure new behaviors stick and drive sales impact. See how Intercom changed behaviors in this way and the significant results they’re seeing because of it.
Capture Alignment with Your Buyer and Improve Sales Performance
If you would like to learn more about how to achieve alignment with your customers and alignment within your organization, watch this on-demand webinar. Hear John Kaplan and Dave Davies discuss how sales leaders define their plans to improve sales performance and build resilient sales teams.