HOW TO IMPROVE SALES PERFORMANCE FAST

checklist-154274_1280Consultants and experts will tell you there are dozens of ways you can improve your sales performance – Better training for your people, the latest negotiation techniques, where to find the best leads, and how to close a deal. While these are important, the fastest way to improve sales is simply to deal with any problems in your existing business and improve your sales processes.

Admittedly, “business and sales process” doesn’t sound like the most interesting of areas, which is why it gets overlooked. The irony is you’ll see better, more sustainable results from building and improving your sales processes than you will through just getting your salespeople to “work harder.”

 

Time to Hire says: Once you’ve perfected your sales processes, everything else you do in your sales organization will be magnified.

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There are lots of ways to improve processes, in this guide we’ll be looking at just one – Asking your sales teams what they think needs to be improved.

This has several big advantages:

  • Your salespeople are closest to the processes that need to be fixed, they can give you great insight on how to improve sales performance.
  • It’s in their best interests to see the company improve the sales process– A faster more efficient way of doing things means more sales and more commission.
  • It removes their frustrations at broken processes and helps them feel more involved, leading to improved sales performance.

 

How to get feedback from your sales teams

If you want to get good, smart, actionable feedback, you’ll need to go about it in the right way. That means setting some ground rules and expectations on how you’re going to gather the information and what you’re going to do with it.

 

Setting ground rules

 

Time to Hire says: Gathering and using information can be a delicate process. You’ll want to keep things clear for your salespeople, and ensure you’re approaching everything in the right way.

Here are some important ground rules for getting authentic feedback:

  • Ensuring you and the senior sales management team don’t take any feedback personally – Remember, criticisms can help you learn what’s wrong and fix it.
  • Requesting your salespeople, teams, and anyone else you survey provide honest, accurate, constructive answers.
  • Reassuring people their answers will be taken seriously and used to improve sales processes.
  • Letting people know it’s safe for them to express their opinions and there’s no consequences for doing so.
  • Providing a way for salespeople to privately record their thoughts and feedback.

 

Should feedback be confidential or not?

One of the first things you’ll need to decide is whether you want salespeople and teams to provide feedback confidentially or not. There are advantages and disadvantages to each approach.

Confidential feedback – No one knows who has provided the feedback

Tools

  • Online survey and feedback tools like Google Forms and Survey Monkey.
  • Printed out forms or Word documents people can fill in and deposit anonymously.

Advantages

  • It’s fast and easy to create and distribute a survey.
  • You’re likely to get more honest results.
  • Salespeople won’t feel compelled to answer in a specific way.

Disadvantages

  • You can’t ask follow up questions.
  • You can’t interview people to get better quality information and examples.

 

Non-confidential feedback – You know who provides the feedback

Tools

  • Online survey and feedback tools where people need to give their name.
  • Face to face interviews and discussions.
  • Group discussions and workshops.

Advantages

  • You can hold group discussions to get sales team’s opinions.
  • You get direct, face-to-face feedback.
  • You can deep dive into particular parts of the sales process and any issues.
  • You can ask follow up questions.

Disadvantages

  • Interviewing and getting non-confidential feedback can be time-consuming for you and your sales reps.
  • The answers you get probably won’t be as honest.
  • People won’t be as straightforward as they would be in a confidential survey.

Read through each of these and decide the approach that’s best for your organization, then decide on the right tool and approach.

 

Time to Hire says: If you’ve got a good relationship and trust with your salespeople, non-confidential is probably the best way to go. Otherwise, keep it confidential. Either way, let the staff know their honest feedback is invaluable in improving the sales process.

 

Selecting the right tool

You’ll need to collect feedback about potential improvements to the sales process in the most useful way, here’s how various tools can help you:

  • Google Forms or other survey tools – Great for collecting and consolidating information and letting many people contribute to feedback. Not so good at providing deep answers to questions or follow up information.
  • Face to face interview – Great at getting to the heart of the matter, asking questions and digging into issues and sales problems.
  • Group discussions / workshops – Great at getting a consensus of opinion and letting people build on each other’s ideas for sales and process improvement.

 

Working out what questions you want to ask

Your questions need to be general enough they cover most possibilities, and specific enough they let you see what you can do to improve things in your sales processes. With a survey like this, you will want to ask “qualitative” rather than “quantitative” questions. In other words, you’re asking for specific feedback, rather than asking your people to “rate” something.

When you’re putting questions together, think about how you would like to improve sales performance and the areas of your sales business you’d like to know more about. This might include:

 

  • Onboarding processes for clients.
  • Pitching to clients.
  • Door to door sales.
  • Making cold calls.
  • Training for salespeople.
  • Administrative processes.
  • Account management.
  • Customer support.

 

Time to Hire says: All of these sales areas and more are fair game. You probably have an idea of the main area(s) you want to look at to improve sales performance.

 

 

You won’t be able to get all of your questions for all of your areas into one feedback session or survey. We recommend focusing only on one (or possibly two) areas for improving sales performance in a survey. This will also help you target the survey to the most relevant people.

Once you know the area you want to focus on, you can come up with questions about potential improvements to the sales process.

Examples of questions

You should write questions that encourage people to answer in an honest and thorough way. Here are some examples for a door to door sales team.

  • What do you consider to be something we do well when preparing you for door to door sales?
  • How could we improve on that further?
  • What area of your door to door sales do you consider most difficult (please provide an example)?
  • What is the one thing we could do to make that easier for you?
  • What training and support could we give you to make your job easier and help you close more sales?
  • What did your old employer do better that you’d like us to adopt here (please provide an example)?
  • Please share any other feedback or comments.

 

You can see these are very specific questions that require some thought to answer. None of them can be answered with a simple yes or no, and they focus on parts of your sales process that are working, and parts that aren’t. You can use a similar approach for other parts of your business and other types of salespeople and teams.

Time to Hire says: You can easily adapt these and similar questions to other areas and we’ll share more on the types of questions you could ask.

 

Creating your sales survey

Once you know what questions you want to ask, it’s time to turn them into an actual survey. If you’re doing an anonymous survey, put them into a survey tool like TypeForm or Survey Monkey.These tools are very easy to use and you can have your questions online in no time. If your survey isn’t going to be anonymous remember to include areas where you can capture people’s names and email addresses.

If you’re going to be asking sales process questions in a face-to-face meeting or group discussion, you’ll want to create a series of questions and an easy way to capture feedback from the meeting. Make sure you have plenty of space to record responses.

 

Sending your survey out

When you’re sending the survey out, there are a few ways you can do it:

  • Letting people know face-to-face – Go round and talk to your people about what you want to do or mention it in a team meeting. You can then follow up in an email.
  • Emailing people – You’ll want to send out a few emails:
    • Firstly, send an introductory email explaining what the survey is and what it’s going to achieve, a few days before sending it out.
    • Secondly, send the survey out.
    • Thirdly, send a reminder a few days after you’ve sent the survey.
    • Lastly, on the final day, send a final reminder.
  • For interviews / group discussions – If you’re meeting people face to face, simply let them know what you’re doing and the questions you’re going to be asking. Then schedule a meeting time with them.

Another important area to think about is incentivizing your survey. Salespeople are often very short on time, so you’ll need to make it worth their while to spend time answering your questions. You might provide a cash incentive or some other reward for participating in the survey.

 

Time to Hire says: Incentivization can be vital – You need to give your salespeople a good reason to fill in the survey – And remember, any flaws in the sales process they identify will save you more money than you’d be sending out in incentives.

Gather and analyze the results

Once you’ve sent the survey out and your sales reps have answered your questions, it’s time to gather and analyze the results. You can do this as follows:

  • Gather and consolidate all of the answers to questions – Whether that’s from an online survey, meeting notes or somewhere else.
  • Sort your responses – For each sales question you asked, gather all the responses to that question in one place.
  • Look through all of the responses to each question, you’re looking for:
    • Common themes – Does more than one salesperson identify any particular problem areas?
    • Surprises – Are there any parts of your processes you didn’t think were an issue, but they actually are?
    • Good examples – Look for specific examples of ways you could improve sales performance.
    • Root causes – Dig deep into particular issues and try to find the root cause to the problem – That’s what you can fix.
    • Constructive criticism and suggestions – Active ways you can improve the sales process.

 

Time to Hire says: Expect to be surprised – Because you’re so close to everything, it can be difficult to take a step back and see what’s wrong with your sales processes. Your sales reps will help you improve sales performance by identifying weaknesses for you.

 

Act on your findings

You’ll need to turn your feedback into actions you and others can take to improve your sales processes. Once you have your actions, prioritize them in terms of how important they are and how easy they are to implement. It’s time to make the changes:

  • Do high importance, short time to implement actions first.
  • Then high importance, long time to implement next.
  • Then low importance, short time to implement.
  • And finally low importance, long time to implement.

Thank your salespeople

Once you’ve started to improve the sales processes, follow up with your sales people. Thank them for giving you insight and give them regular updates on how their feedback is directly improving the sales business. Explain what this means in terms of improved sales performance, resulting in more closures and better rewards and commission for them.

As you can see, a structured and open approach to finding out what’s wrong with your sales processes is the fastest way to improve sales performance. Spend some time thinking about a survey, putting it together, sending it out, analyzing the data, and making changes to your sales process. The improvements you make will help your sales process become more efficient, and you’ll see greater turnover and profit as a result.