Most of us have heard the expression "If you build a better mousetrap, the world will beat a path to your door." Sales success often revolves around the idea of “better.” Improvement is the name of the game, both to beat your competition and to keep your customers loyal.
Constant improvement is not necessarily as easy as it sounds, however. It takes focused and sustained effort, strategy, and dedication to stay on track. Read on for 6 ways sales teams can work to constantly improve. Hopefully these tips will help you focus your efforts and make your own sales team better, a little at a time.
#1 - Ask the 5 Whys
Any parent of a preschooler can attest that hearing “Why?” over and over again can make you dig deeper for answers (when it’s coming from a four-year-old, it can also drive you slightly mad, but that’s beside the point).
The 5 Whys is a process created by Toyota Motor Company and used to take a deeper look at problems, finding a fixable root cause. Rather than asking a question and getting a superficial answer, the 5 Whys make askers move beyond surface instincts and inspect problems on a deeper level.
For example, a sales leader might ask the team, “Why didn’t we close the deal with ABC Company?” and get a response of “They went with someone else.” Using the 5 Whys, a sales team can delve deeper to find a solution. Consider the following:
- “Why didn’t we close the deal with ABC Company?”
They went with someone else.
- “Why did they go with someone else?”
They didn’t like our pricing.
- “Why didn’t they like our pricing?”
They felt they weren’t going to generate enough savings the first year.
- “Why didn’t they think they were going to generate enough savings?”
They hadn’t heard some of our other clients’ stories about their experience.
- “Why hadn’t they heard our other clients’ stories?”
We didn’t have a testimonial or case study focused on the cost savings we generated for them.
Digging deeper into the situation revealed that the issue wasn’t necessarily the competitor’s superior product or price point. Instead, the issue was that the sales team didn’t equip itself with the content needed to negate their prospect’s concerns and sell them on the offering.
It’s best to use the 5 Whys in conjunction with other data and information (surveys, analytics, etc.), rather than using it in a bubble. Otherwise, you may end up mistaking correlation for causation, or overlooking other potential issues that should be reviewed and resolved as well.
#2 - Use Quality Assurance and Coaching to Its Fullest Potential
Having QA professionals and coaches on your sales team is a must. They’re the proverbial canaries in the coal mine.
These professionals can point out issues your sales team is experiencing, and can determine whether those issues are an area for individual improvement or a problem in need of systemic change.
Areas to have your QA team focus on in order to provide improvement opportunities include:
- Response time: How long does it take them to connect with the prospect, particularly when the prospect has initiated an action (like an online chat session)?
- Communication: How clearly do they communicate in general with prospects? Are they polite, courteous and enthusiastic?
- Knowledge quality: How clearly do they express the benefits and features of your product/service?
- Pipeline: How successful are they at moving the customer farther down the sales pipeline?
When your these team members spot issues or areas for improvement, implementing new methods can become a team effort. This may include your client relationship manager communicating changes (where appropriate) to the client, your content writers creating or clarifying support materials, or your training team working one-on-one or in groups with prospect-facing reps to boost their skill sets.
#3 - Take a Scrum Approach
Agile methodology and scrum techniques are de rigueur in the software world. They also have useful applications in other fields, including marketing and sales.
Agile methodology breaks work down into granular and manageable pieces. Each day, team members gather for an extremely short meeting to address these three questions only:
- What did I accomplish yesterday?
- What will I do today?
- What obstacles are impeding my progress?
The benefits of this approach include encouraging close, collaborative work; creating a system of high accountability; and creating measurable opportunities for success.
Because work is organized into sprints (short time periods of one to four weeks), team members have to stay focused and be accountable for providing timely, measurable updates. Agile also makes it easier to ensure the team re-calibrates properly when adjustments are needed.
Agile teams are expected to deliver viable results on a regular basis, which keeps everyone accountable and focused, whereas longer, looser time-frames may allow people to go slowly at the beginning of the month/period, then make a frenzied dash at the end.
#4 - Automate Processes
Prospects need to be nudged every once in a while. Their teams are likely just as busy as yours, and they need reminders to move forward even when a product or service is extremely intriguing.
At the same time, your team is also busy, and it can be difficult to remember to make those check-in calls and send those follow-up emails.
Statistics show that 44% of salespeople give up after one call, which means there are plenty of prospects who might show interest if given additional follow-up. And, once that prospect is in your marketing funnel, supplying additional content to keep their interest can be important.
Sales teams can improve their follow-up techniques by implementing marketing automation systems. These systems assist with creating a collection of touch points that are mutually beneficial for prospects and your team.
The prospects receive additional useful information, and your sales team generates additional success; in fact, implementing marketing automation drives a 14.5% increase in sales productivity, in addition to reducing marketing overhead by more than 10%.
Teams without automation processes should secure software and start building them. Teams with an automation system already in place can find ways to continuously test and improve their messaging.
#5 - Outsource Areas Where You Need Support
Even the best sales teams can use additional support. As another option for continuous improvement, consider outsourcing some of the sales functions where you most need support.
For example, if you have great closers on your team but struggle with connecting with enough prospects, employ an outsourced team to handle lead generation through social selling and outbound calling. More than 40% of sales reps say that prospecting is the most challenging part of their jobs.
Outsource the steps of the sales process that aren’t your team’s forte; you’ll see results in the form of increased leads, and you won’t risk burnout on the part of your internal team.
For example, DirectTech Labs, an AI and behavioral science company, worked with outsourced sales to grow their sales pipeline by $15.5 million. By bringing in affordable talent through outsourcing, DirectTech Labs was able to give their sales team additional bandwidth and generate a 21x positive ROI.
#6 - Create a Culture That Celebrates Failure
Celebrating failure is a startup company buzzword. The phrase doesn’t mean to actively look for ways to fail, however.
Instead, it’s meant to take the fear out of failure; teams that are afraid of being reprimanded or embarrassed over their shortcomings won’t be as secure in taking risks.
When you only highlight successes, your team will pat themselves on the back when they do well, but they won’t necessarily learn from it. By allowing failures to happen, then discussing the reasons why a pitch or client meeting didn’t go well, you’ll encourage introspection and improvement.
For example, imagine a sales team member shoots for the stars and pitches your product to a massive enterprise-level company, and they fail.
Don’t kick them while they’re down. Applaud their effort, then help them plan for their next big pitch.
A failure on this scale could encourage your team to focus on an account-based approach in the future, targeting an appropriate company, researching thoroughly, then landing them (and celebrating success this time around).
Making each day a little bit better than the day before is an admirable ambition in any sector. If you’re working in sales, this attitude might just make all the difference to your bottom line.
What areas do you most want to improve for your sales team? Let us know in the comments:
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