According to a study by Aberdeen Group, 2/3 of salespeople do not reach their annual sales targets.
This may lead managers and executives to review the effectiveness of their sales teams, and therefore to take corrective action to improve their performance.
However, the question on everyone's lips is how to achieve this in practice? 🤔
Qobra's experts have put together the 9 best techniques for companies to improve the sales performance of their teams, and how to implement them!
1. Set clear business objectives
You only improve what you measure!
The core task of a sales team manager is to translate the company's strategic objectives into operational objectives. In short, it is a matter of translating the company's commercial strategy into a series of clear and easily measurable objectives.
These objectives must be achievable, but also motivating for the teams. Motivation is above all a matter of clarity. In concrete terms, the easier it is for employees to understand what is expected of them, the easier it is to engage and motivate them.
To do this, a simple method exists, and it includes all the points mentioned above, the SMART method. Thus, the objectives must be :
- Simple and specific. Each objective must be precise and unambiguous. Unclear and complex objectives are difficult to understand and therefore difficult to achieve.
- Measurable. Each objective should be measurable by a performance indicator (KPI). An objective that cannot be measured is not a good objective, because it cannot be achieved.
- Ambitious. Ambitious targets are more motivating and serve the overall business strategy of the company.
- Realistic. Although it is necessary to set ambitious goals, it is important to be realistic and not to set the bar too high, otherwise it has the opposite effect, namely frustration and discouragement.
- Time-bound. Each objective must have a deadline for achievement.
Clear objectives act as a compass to steer the performance of sales teams!
💡 Good practice
It is important to set different objectives for each employee depending on their level of experience, and especially depending on their seniority in the company. New employees should have lower objectives, so that they can improve gradually and realistically.
2. Define and monitor commercial performance indicators
All the objectives set for sales staff should be measurable by means of performance indicators (KPIs). It is important to choose these KPIs in line with the sales strategy. The clearer the KPIs are, the easier it is to motivate employees.
📌 Here is a method for determining KPIs based on the sales funnel:
1. Top of the sales funnel - Signature & opportunities, e.g. :
- Annual Recurring Revenue (ARR) closed since the beginning of the quarter
- Current opportunities (value & volume)
- Closing rate (opportunities vs. contracts signed)
2. Middle of the sales funnel - Activity KPIs, for example :
- Number of demos performed over a period of time (e.g. one week)
- Number of open opportunities
3. Bottom of the sales funnel - Prospecting KPIs, for example :
- Number of logged phone calls
- Number of accounts canvassed per week or month
As with the objectives, it is useless, or even counterproductive, to multiply the KPIs; it is better to focus on a few that are relevant to the company's activity.
Finally, to motivate salespeople and help them achieve their objectives, it is essential to make performance indicators accessible to each member of the sales team. This can be done through sales dashboards directly accessible from the CRM.
As an example, at Qobra, each sales person has access to three dashboards with their KPIs (Company Dashboard, Individual Dashboard, Top Sales Person Ranking). Below is the individual performance dashboard that each sales person has access to:
3. Implementing a prospecting strategy
Sales performance presupposes a continuous flow of qualified leads. It is therefore essential to make this task easy for the sales staff and thus avoid them becoming dispersed. The prospecting process must be clear and well-defined.
📌 To do this, here is a list of actions to be implemented:
- Make a good targeting. To achieve this, it is essential to draw up a precise, clear and structured portrait of the various personas beforehand and to make them available to the members of the sales team.
- Determine and define all stages of prospecting.
- Identify the right prospecting channels. This involves understanding which channels are preferred by prospects and determining which are the most effective in terms of conversion and profitability.
- Structuring a Growth/Sales Ops unit. Its objective is to prepare the ground for sales representatives so that they can have all the cards in their hands when prospecting. In concrete terms, it feeds the CRM of companies to be approached, and the corresponding information (contacts, telephone numbers, e-mail addresses, etc.).
- Establish prospecting routines. Each salesperson should have a weekly or monthly action plan on which companies to contact, who to target, what channel to use, what to contact, etc.
- Make useful resources available. Sales representatives must have easy access to all the resources that could help them in their prospecting (sales pitches, email templates, visuals, etc.). In this way, they save time and become more efficient.
- Provide a follow-up of actions. Through a dedicated tool, a dashboard, each salesperson can project the next steps to be taken by each prospect.
4. Creating a multi-channel sales strategy
Today, it is impossible to ignore a multi-channel prospecting strategy. Indeed, to optimise the chances of booking a meeting, it is necessary to multiply the points of contact with prospects. Thus, it is not uncommon to have to create sequences with twenty or so points of contact (social networks, mailings, telephone, etc.) in order to finally book the meeting.
☝️ To help employees perform better and secure as many qualified leads as possible, it is therefore essential to :
- Share approved methods. This is a space where reps should share knowledge with all the best methods and techniques, throughout the sales cycle, to move a deal forward.
- Organise team call slots. By bringing together all the sales staff for a specific period of time, and with a common objective, this creates a group dynamic and allows employees to progress collectively.
- Use replay tools. This allows you to identify the best sales pitches, but also to detect areas for improvement for each salesperson, and thus provide them with concrete feedback.
- Test different channels for each prospect. By multiplying contact points (email, LinkedIn, phone calls, etc.), salespeople optimise their response rate and allow prospects to respond through their preferred channel. For example, at Qobra, every Friday, salespeople add prospects to outbound sequences via the Outreach tool. As a result, every Monday morning, their entire prospecting week (email, cold call, linkedin) is already prepared. Below is an example of the sequences and channels used to engage with prospects over several weeks:
5. Creating a Sales Playbook
In order to make employees quickly operational and to centralise the best practices in prospecting, it is essential to create a Sales Playbook specific to your company and your sales teams. This document, easily accessible, will bring together all the ready-to-use tools, such as :
- Commercial strategy
- Targeting with the precise issues of each persona
- Best practices in prospecting
- Product demos
- Call scripts
- Opportunity management
- Responses to objections
- The templates of prospecting emails
- Approach messages on LinkedIn
- Preparing for appointments (discovery meeting, demonstration meeting, etc.)
- Educational or inspirational content that enables employees to enrich their practices
At Qobra, we have chosen to build our Sales Playbook directly on Notion.
💡 Good practice
At Qobra, in order to help our Sales reps to progress regularly, we organise two-hour team coaching sessions once a month. The theme of each session is decided in advance and focuses on a specific skill.
6. Train the sales teams
To keep the sales force motivated and to help all members of the sales team to improve their skills, it is essential to offer them regular training.
☝️ However, to get the most out of business training, it is important to :
- Identify beforehand the points of progress of employees. This involves identifying the stages during which employees have difficulties, and it is therefore necessary to have observed them beforehand in order to judge their competence.
- Choose an operational sales training course. Each training course must be able to provide concrete actions to be implemented.
- Involve middle managers. It is essential that each manager has a steering role following each training session in order to accompany and check that the employees are applying the concepts seen during the training.
- Measure post-training results. The interest here is to measure the impact and results of the actions implemented, and to encourage sales representatives to continue them on a regular basis.
- Train employees with the must have sales training tools.
💡 Good to know
In addition to training sales reps to obtain new skills, to be better in their approach, etc., it is also important to train them in the internal tools available to them. It is also important to train them in the internal tools available to them. Their goal is to help them be more efficient, more effective and save time on a daily basis, but for these tools to deliver the promised benefits, they need to know how to use them. To do this, several practices are commonly used: video demonstration bank, face-to-face training, practical guides, etc.
As a bonus, here are some personalities to follow on Linkedin who give high value-added advice on sales techniques:
7. Organise team building events
Managing a team also means creating time for cohesion outside of work. Sales performance is not just the sum of individual performances. A good team spirit enables employees to progress collectively.
✅ The team building sessions are important moments in the life of the sales teams and allow them to :
- Strengthening team cohesion
- Consolidating the corporate culture
- Improving teamwork
- Encouraging initiative
- Intensifying commercial emulation
☝️ However, organising an effective team building event that meets the above-mentioned benefits requires following rigorous steps:
- Define a clear objective. Each team building event should have a clear objective, around which workshops, training, activities, exercises, etc. can be built. Examples of objectives: "strengthen collective performance", "improve process quality", etc.
- Offer an original activity. Team building is the ideal opportunity to get out of the usual work environment, so it is essential to make a mark and propose an activity that is off the beaten track, which combines teamwork, cohesion and creativity.
- Call on a specialist service provider. Organising a team building event takes time and expertise, so to ensure that it runs smoothly, you might as well entrust it to a company that specialises in the field.
8. Organise sales challenges or SPIFs
Sales challenges are one of the most powerful motivators for sales forces. They have multiple objectives and benefits: to increase sales performance, boost sales, reach new customers or increase turnover.
☝️ To organise a motivating sales challenge, it is necessary to
- Define the objective of the challenge. It can be commercial (targeting high-potential prospects, building loyalty among the most profitable customers, increasing sales in a customer segment, etc.), marketing (supporting the launch of a new product or service) or managerial (creating commercial emulation, increasing motivation, breaking with routine, encouraging team spirit, etc.).
- Ensure that the challenge is consistent with the company's business policy. The challenge must be in line with the company's direction. The opposite could be detrimental to the company. For example, acquiring customers with low prices when offering a high-end product or service can damage the brand image.
- Set a clear framework. Clear objectives should be set, with associated rewards if they are achieved, and a time limit set. Challenges are usually rather short in duration to motivate participants.
- Define an original theme. The effect of originality and novelty is very stimulating for the participants, which is why it is important to vary the themes for each new challenge. They can be associated with sporting events or current events (Olympic Games, World Cup, etc.).
- Implement individual and group rewards. Challenges are a unique opportunity to strengthen team cohesion, so it is important to reinforce team spirit through collective rewards, without forgetting to reward the best salespeople individually.
- Animate the challenge. A challenge must be animated throughout its duration to be effective. Indeed, offering attractive prizes is not enough to motivate participants. It is important to provide regular updates and activities to keep the challenge alive and prevent it from running out of steam (presentation, milestones, speeches, workshops, confrontations, dedicated slack channel, prize-giving, etc.).
📖 Going further...
Discover the 10 steps to organize a motivating sales challenge!
9. Bring transparency to variable pay
"Whether you're a CEO or Sales Director, the sales compensation plan is probably the most powerful tool you have to drive sales strategy."
Mark Roberge, VP Sales at Hubspot
Variable pay is a crucial element of employee motivation, but also a powerful lever for commercial efficiency and, more broadly, a powerful tool for the company's commercial strategy.
But the rules of the game must be transparent to employees. Otherwise, how can you motivate sales people with something they can't see?
"The lack of visibility on variable pay creates a lack of confidence, it creates a sense of BlackBox."
Aude Cadiot, Revenue Operations Lead at Spendesk
Regardless of the company's activity, commissions depend on several parameters, such as
- Sales targets (commitment, product, size, etc.)
- Commercial objectives
- The commission structure (tiers, bonus accelerators, etc.)
However, many companies still manage variable pay with Excel... And this is not without risk for the commercial efficiency of the teams. Indeed, calculation errors, late payment of commissions or lack of transparency lead to poor motivation and performance, but this can also have an impact on sales turnover.
"Excel implies: formulas that are sometimes broken, calculations that are sometimes a bit opaque since Sales doesn't necessarily understand them and above all UX that is not obvious."
Clément Bouillaud, Director of Operations at Partoo
What can be done about it?
✅ By adopting a solution like Qobra that makes variable pay transparent, i.e. :
- A solution that gives employees the same level of transparency as managers.
- A solution that allows salespeople to view their compensation progression in real time, with details of each commission.
- A tool that avoids the back and forth and builds trust between the finance, operations and sales teams, especially by giving everyone access to every commission detail at the click of a button.
- A tool that avoids spending dozens of hours on an Excel file with opaque calculations and a strong possibility of error.
- A tool that allows you to transfer commission amounts to your payroll in one click.
In this way, employees are more encouraged to achieve their goals and thus contribute to the company's business performance.
"Since we've had Qobra, we've seen between 15 and 20% improvement on target achievement."
Tomas Hons, GTM Strategy & Operations Manager at Make
The final word...
Whatever the objective: to improve sales results, to reach ambitious targets, to conquer a market... Sales performance is key, and to achieve the best possible one, there are many levers:
- Implementing a prospecting strategy
- Creating a Sales Playbook
- Train the sales teams
- Organise sales challenges
Of course, it is best to implement all the practices and actions discussed in this article. However, if you don't have the financial and human resources and the time to do so, you have to choose your priority battles.
It is therefore important to define the actions to be taken in the short, medium and long term, and to initiate them within the sales teams.