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How to build a high-performing sales team

23rd Mar 2017
CEO, sales-i sales-i
Blogger
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There are many obstacles and irritations that can frustrate top salespeople and hold them back from doing their jobs effectively. Time-consuming administrative tasks, limited visibility and poor teamwork can create an environment of sub-standard performance and declining profits that only worsens over time.  

Why should this still be the case? Any company worth its salt will know that the world of sales is intensely competitive, yet too few are giving their teams the tools and training they need to sell better.

Nonetheless, the process of building a high-performing sales team to achieve true sales effectiveness is by no means easy one. Many companies trudge their way through four initial stages before reaching optimal sales performance: ineffective, inhibited, predictable and competitive.

To move past these four stages and achieve optimised selling quickly, it’s necessary to understand the common characteristics and ingrained behaviours associated with each.

Ineffective

Companies in the ineffective stage are, simply put, disorganised. Their sales process is chaotic, with no real procedures in place to manage the pipeline from lead to conversion. Important customer and prospect information is stored haphazardly across the company server or worse, on individual computer drives. Salespeople are unable to measure the success, or lack thereof, of each customer interaction, or track how they are performing against their targets.

Ineffective companies also rely heavily on traditional sales techniques like cold-calling and guess-work. This approach is time consuming and wide-open to human error, which can be very costly in the long-run. They act without concrete information to guide each sales interaction, so their results will inevitably be hit and miss.

To overcome this obstacle, it’s vital that you set up (and maintain) effective systems and processes to manage how information is gathered and used across your sales team.  For example, you could instruct your salespeople to update the CRM system with fresh information immediately after each customer interaction. Another process worth initiating is the regular removal of irrelevant customer data from your system. This will help your team avoid an overload of unnecessary information and maintain a clean, up-to-date, and organised database.

Inhibited

Companies in the inhibited stage have started to put processes and systems in place to manage the information they need when selling. The challenge is that their sales teams are unable to use this information effectively due to problems with visibility and mobility.

According to research from sales-i, 16.6 percent of salespeople reported that trying to gain visibility into their team’s activities was their most significant day-to-day challenge. This can lead, for example, to two salespeople contacting the same customer about an opportunity, which is both an ineffective use of resources and, quite simply, an embarrassment for the company.

Additionally, without access to insights on-the-go, response time is delayed and deals can be missed. In fact, 49.5 percent of salespeople struggle to spot which customers’ orders are dropping in time to address the problem or identify where the next sales opportunities will come from.

Visibility is further challenged by an inability to analyse the information at hand. Ultimately, the success of every sale comes down to two vital elements – the quality and interpretation of data. Smart, targeted sales campaigns depend on data; the better you know your customers and their needs, the more effectively, and thus successfully, you can communicate with them. Your sales team may have good data on file, but is inhibited by the fact that they can’t always pull real value from it.

Mobility is also important, yet many salespeople are practically tied to their desks. Eleven percent of salespeople struggle to access information when outside the office, and 33.6 percent struggle to get hold of timely information to use when selling on-the-go. For sales teams to sell effectively, they need to be able to access a single, mobile-friendly, centralised system of customer information at anytime, from anywhere.

Predictable

Companies in this stage are starting to use their customer data, but aren’t pushing it to deliver more in-depth insights. In short, their data is delivering repetitive predictions regarding customer buying behaviours and market trends. This results in reactive rather than proactive salespeople who stagnate in their roles, processing the same-old customer orders rather than hunting for new opportunities.

Too much data is often the problem. When quantity outweighs quality, companies end up using information that is out-dated, incorrect and unhelpful. This prevents them from targeting lucrative sales opportunities with personalised offers based on relevant data.  

Personalised customer communications are key to sales success. The challenge is that data is constantly changing and requires regular analysis to stay useful. Your sales team can’t be expected to keep up with the requirements of sophisticated data analysis, so investing in the right customer data analytics tools is a business-critical move. These technologies can help your salespeople identify buying patterns and behaviours that allow them to pre-empt future demand. That way, they no longer need to rely on processing the same old, predictable routine orders, but can be bolder and more proactive. They can surprise customers with new offers that reflect a more in-depth understanding of their changing needs and requirements. By staying relevant, your salespeople will be able to build even better customer relationships and attract new business. 

Competitive

In this stage, companies have all the necessary elements in play and have a created a competitive sales team driven to succeed. The crucial, missing element here is a strong culture of collaboration and teamwork.

No matter how clear-sighted, mobile or tech-savvy your salespeople are, if they are not operating as a team, they won’t stay motivated. To achieve optimal sales performance, your company needs to encourage team work. Pay attention to their training needs and invest in skills development, team-building activities and incentives programmes. Introduce mentoring initiatives. Pair veteran salespeople up with millennials and see what they can learn from each other. Reward proactive, smart and successful salespeople and share their winning approach with the team. Be willing to hear the team’s feedback on all initiatives, and respond to them in good time.

Optimised

Once this has all been successfully instilled, your company will be effectively optimised. At the end of the day, a high-performing sales team is built on a combination of different strengths: strong processes, strong information, strong technology, a strong culture and most importantly of all – strong leadership. 

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