Four steps to definitively demystifying your sales team's performance

30th Sep 2015

For many businesses, determining where your sales team is succeeding and where it is struggling remains too much of a mystery. It shouldn’t.

Knowing who is driving your sales success and who is holding your company back should not be challenging to figure out. The trouble is that all too often companies do not have a consistent and measured way of evaluating sales success. In fact, recent research from data marketing firm JNR revealed that a whopping 60% of companies admit they do not have a reliable means of measuring sales performance.

In order for sales managers to unravel any mysteries surrounding the workings of their sales teams, they need to know exactly whose performances are unquestionably outstanding and whose are suspect. This isn’t a difficult task; it just requires the right tools and an understanding of what particular factors to keep an eye on – and to be able to quantify performance. Once you have the means of doing that, you are in a position to make the necessary adjustments to emulate best practice by your star performers and address the reasons why some of your team are underperforming.

1. Get on the case

In order to gauge exactly how your sales team is performing, you need to have a set of standard metrics which will allow you to see whether the team is meeting its weekly/monthly/yearly targets. If you are analysing the correct metrics, you will immediately be able to tell whether your sales team are really falling short or whether they are exceeding expectations. For the majority of businesses, sales managers need to be monitoring the following:

  • Number of leads received – What is the volume and can they handle it? Or, conversely, are they sitting around waiting for new leads to arrive?
  • Number of leads converted into opportunities – Are the leads good enough? Do they know what to do with them?
  • Number of leads that progress through each stage of the sales cycle – Where in the sales cycle are they stumbling? What adjustments need to be made?
  • Average length of the sales cycle – Are they closing deals in good time? Are they managing to get this down so they can close even more?
  • Number of sales won – Are they closing enough deals? What is the breakdown by territory, customer type, product, etc.?
  • Revenue – Are you hitting the big top-level targets? What are the breakdowns and averages?

2. Identify the key suspects

Once you have these metrics to hand, you can use them to clue you into which individuals are the stars of the show and who is hiding behind their results without bringing anything to the table. The majority of sales managers will have an instinct about who their top performers are but intuition alone is not enough; you need to look at the actual performance metrics before taking any real action. When looking at the hard evidence to suss out performance, it is imperative to look at:

  • Follow-up time – are the sales team getting to the hot leads fast enough? If they aren’t, then these are almost certainly the reps holding the team back.
  • Opportunity conversion rate – A weak result here can be a big indicator that the approach being taken by the individual sales consultant is lacking and needs to be addressed.
  • Time taken to progress a lead – If they are getting stalled, then they are almost certainly guilty of dragging down not just their results but that of the whole team and, in turn, the entire organisation.

3. Determine what the evidence is telling you

If a sales rep is accused of poor performance, they tend to argue that the situation is out of their control and they were merely a victim of circumstance. However, all too often this is not the case. If you have a set sales process – taking you from lead management, to discovery, to the pitch, to demonstration, to financial commitment, to the close – you can easily discover the real reasons for strong or weak sales performance; all the evidence is laid bare for you to see.

Looking at this process will show you how individuals are performing at each stage and will be a great indicator as to why they are failing or succeeding. You can then take this information to create techniques to improve overall performance. Not enough sales managers understand why their sales people are getting stalled in the first instance. For example, failure at the discovery stage could indicate that they are not spotting the clues that could suggest your pricing structure or your timing scales are making it unlikely for deals to  be made with certain customers, while poor performance when it comes to the pitch and the demonstration phase may indicate the need for further training.

Employing an integrated sales process makes it easier to identify not only where underperformers are struggling but where the top salespeople are exhibiting best practice. You can then share their example of best practice with the rest of the team, to help improve the performance of those who are falling behind.

4. Equip you and your team to solve the sales challenges

To effectively implement best practice and have a wider view of the sales staff, it is critical that sales managers have the means to capture and review the metrics associated with their sales teams. A customer relationship management (CRM) solution is the answer for most organisations. A CRM solution provides the sales manager with all the necessary information they need on their team members – i.e. lead, conversion, close, and revenue metrics that can be viewed via the CRM dashboard and reports. Having key information on a CRM platform enables you to forensically assess the situation and identify areas where adjustments can and should be made.  

Not only does CRM enable sales managers to monitor their sales reps’ performance; it enables individual sales consultants to monitor their own progress. It provides them with the tool they need to sharpen their own sales approach and better hit their targets. Through CRM, they can take advantage of sales automation, formulate action plans and hotlist tasks. And in the age of mobile digital access, they can do so on the road via a smartphone or tablet as well as in the office. What’s more, continually monitoring their performance means that their progress – or lack thereof – towards targets does not remain a mystery to either the sales consultants themselves or their managers. This can be a big motivation.

In summary, it doesn’t take a detective to figure out how a sales department is performing and what you can do to boost performance – it merely requires a strong process, the right metrics and the right tools to truly take the mystery out of managing your team. 

Diego Lunardi is head of direct sales EMEA, of Maximizer Services.

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