- The most important aspect of sales is a strong sales strategy that you can continuously improve on.
- As a sales team manager, you should build a culture of motivation and emotional intelligence. Build relationships with your sales reps, and provide coaching and encouragement to be an effective team leader.
- Make sure you have an action plan in place before something goes wrong so you can quickly address issues that arise.
Even though the sales process is an essential part of every business, it's no secret that it is challenging. It requires perseverance, strategy and an understanding of human psychology, and it changes often as your business grows.
But it can be difficult to know how or what to change to increase your sales, other than making more calls or finding more leads. Business News Daily spoke to sales experts to get their best tips on how to improve the sales process.
Tips for sales managers
1. Develop a sales strategy.
If you are a new business owner or sales manager, the first and most important thing you must do to determine how you can improve sales is to develop a sales strategy. A sales strategy, as opposed to a marketing or product strategy, is focused entirely on selling a product or service to your target market.
A good sales plan determines how you will acquire new customers, how you will create or expand relationships with prospective customers and how you will continue to sell your product or service to existing customers.
When creating your strategy, you should ...
- Define your target audience and craft an ideal customer profile or buyer personas
- Decide your method of lead generation
- Create revenue goals
- Define your target conversion rates
- Determine your business's positioning in your market
- Do a SWOT analysis
To fully build out your sales strategy, you should also have a good understanding of your sales funnel, which is a term used to describe your buying process.
A sales funnel has two main stages. You'll typically start with marketing strategies during the initial "awareness" stage, where you introduce your products or services to potential customers – or raise awareness about your business – and build relationships with leads.
Once you have generated strong leads, you'll move into the middle or sales stage, where you put your sales strategy into play and highlight your differentiators from competitors to successfully sell your product.
Your sales strategy serves as a roadmap for your sales team, guiding them through any future changes you make, so it is vital that you are thorough and pay attention to every detail. [Read related article: How to Develop an Effective Sales Plan]
If you already have a strategy in place and your sales performance is not where it should be, it may be time to make some changes.
2. Have a plan prepared in case something goes wrong.
When you create your initial sales strategy, also create a plan that details what actions you will take if something goes wrong, like losing a key sales rep or not meeting your sales goal. Your contingent plan should denote who will be notified of the problem and how, as well as what steps you and your team can take to fix the problem and, in some cases, avoid making the same mistakes in the future.
When your team encounters an obstacle, you turn to your action plan and know exactly what must be done to fix the problem rather than wasting time developing a new plan to improve sales performance.
3. Effectively manage your sales staff.
Your sales strategy is only as good as your team, so you must cultivate well-trained and motivated sales reps. The best way to do this is to learn as much as you can about the people on the team and what motivates them as individuals.
"The more [that] you can have a strong personal relationship with your team, the more effort and energy they'll put in to not wanting to let you down," said Sarkis Hakopdjanian, director of strategy and principal for The Business Clinic. "Every person is motivated by different goals."
Without effective management, your team might resort to poor sales techniques and run your sales goals into the ground, or your team may become susceptible to high turnover.
"Sales is tough, and it is a grind," said Jim Guerrera, managing director of Search Consulting Network. "But people are people, and they need encouragement and coaching to keep them on the beat for the next sale."
During sales training, be transparent with your sales reps about goals, metrics and how their performance will be judged. Set up monthly one-on-one meetings with each salesperson to see what they need from you and where they are struggling.
You can also use this time to garner feedback from them about where they think the company can improve the sales strategy – after all, they are the ones on the front line of implementing the strategy, plus your sales reps often have great insights into the weaknesses of a strategy.
Tips for sales teams
1. Break down your sales goals.
Looking at your monthly or yearly sales goals all at once can be overwhelming. Break down bigger goals into manageable chunks. For example, you might decide to accomplish specific tasks each day: Make five phone calls, find two new business prospects, and make one new appointment. Create a prospecting plan, outlining how you'll generate new leads.
"Making sales is a lot like dieting," said David Mattson, CEO of Sandler Training. "You may be overwhelmed when you think of the 50 pounds you need to lose, but when you break it down into realistic daily goals – run two miles and skip dessert today – you'll lose a pound or two each week." Smaller tasks add up, allowing you to reach that bigger goal.
2. Reverse the sales funnel.
It makes sense to follow the traditional sales funnel as part of your sales strategy, but if you find that something isn't jiving, try working backward.
Let's say you need to close 10 deals to hit your revenue goal. To accomplish that, you'll have to make 15 presentations. To get in front of those 15 prospects, you might need to make 60 follow-up calls, which would depend on first making 90 initial calls. When thinking "up" this way, it's easy to feel overwhelmed about what you need to do, which negatively colors your sales approach and can counteract what you're trying to accomplish.
Instead of focusing on your revenue goal, focus on customer service. Reach out to your customers and find out what they need from you. Next, develop your sales strategy, breaking each step down into manageable daily tasks.
3. Use emotional intelligence to build customer relationships.
Sales is just as much about understanding who you are selling to as it is about selling the product. The rapport you build with your customers can be the key determinant in whether or not you make the sale.
Emotional intelligence is being aware of your own and others' emotions, and adapting those emotions to your environment. Hakopdjanian said that emotional intelligence is the key to developing a relationship with someone. He recommended these four strategies for building rapport:
- Start with the basics. Be relaxed, smile, listen attentively, and use your client's name.
- Have empathy. Ask open-ended questions and give your client the space to share their thoughts and concerns.
- Seek commonality. People tend to be more comfortable around those who are similar to them, so look for things you have in common with your client.
- Try mirroring. Try coordinating your verbal and nonverbal behaviors with your client's, like crossing your legs or using a basic phrase, to build on commonality.