Sales performance improvement is a program of sales training and self development courses to accelerate revenue growth within a company. Sales performance improvement initiatives deliver the best results when sales management and leadership take a partnership approach where ideas and inputs are solicited from the salespeople, and then used in the various courses or programs.
This support approach gives the sales teams the confidence and ownership to improve the sales performance goals. Before setting any sales performance improvement goals, sales leadership has to acknowledge that it is a process not an event, it is a continuous improvement process NOT a single sales training event.
With longer sales cycles, smaller budgets, multiple decision makers and more educated buyers, every business who is striving to achieve sales growth will want to improve sales effectiveness and efficiency through process,tools and technology.
The first step is to understand that sustainable sales performance improvement is a change management project which can lead to resistance and uncertainty, especially if seen as interfering with the current sales model. So it needs to be resourced and planned properly.
The next step is to review existing sales performance improvement assets such as sales training materials, courses, videos, sales playbooks, tools and competency guidelines, as they all play a key role in driving improvement. A business may not have any or all of this content and some or all of the content may not be available in digital formats.
The first real decision in creating a sales performance improvement plan may be to choose between (1) content that is ready (but doesn’t meet the current needs) and use it anyway OR (2) invest in refreshing, upgrading and transforming the content and templates etc for digital access. A point to note is that research shows that salespeople's learning habits and preferences are changing. They they want shorter, more engaging learning content, for example sales training videos or sales training courses that can be accessed online as needed or accessed in their down time.
Document Areas for Sales Performance Improvement
Sales leadership in tandem with the sales teams views need to create a baseline improvement expectation across ALL steps in the sales process for every sales team member. Then the sales managers or sales trainers needs to document what areas have been identified that require improvement for (a) the steps in the sales process and (b) for each salesperson. These in turn would be discussed with each individual as part of the overall sales training and development plan.
It is important to remember that when documenting and creating a paper trail for each sales performance improvement area is to ensure that all the information gathered is entirely objective, fact based, and specific. The trainer, coach or manager should avoid generalities and provide detailed examples to support each area that is to be addressed. Once the sales performance improvement areas have been communicated to all stakeholders, a number of templates will now need to be created. These typically include what was expected in the agreed sales performance plan and what was actually delivered. Other templates or documents, maybe as part of the companies sales playbook could include action plans, reviews and consequences of veering outside the agreed process's in the plan.
Sales Performance Should Match Salespeople's Goals
Sales performance improvement needs to be aligned to each individual salesperson and their goals from their action plan should be personalized. Within the overall plan, align goals that focus on areas of self-development and personal improvement, individual to each salesperson. To ensure ownership by the sales team for the plan, within the sales training section of the sales performance improvement plan, give each salesperson the opportunity to enhance areas where they are already competent and improve areas where they agree they have a skills deficit.
To migrate any perceived disruption or risk, a company can start by introducing a smaller sales performance improvement plan with lower goals. An example would be a goal to improve a salespersons sales habit loop such as doing 10 minutes research work ( the research work output should be documented) prior to making a sales call. Another goal example is for a salesperson during quiet time to engage in social/digital selling to connect with existing customers or prospects in the pipeline (again, goals need to be set). Take note that rolling out a new sales improvement plan with goals is not enough, the salespeople have to understand that there be also be consequences such as reviews and evaluations.
Time stops for no one and in a rapidly changing sales environment if there ever was a time to take action to improve sales performance, it's now. Sales leadership, management and trainers need to plan for the future, the future sales model, the future sales strategy, the customers buying journey, the role salespeople will be expected to execute against and how the business plans to develop their salespeople so everyone has a mandate to doing things better.
Future looking leaders never let the pursuit of profit get in their way of progress. Much like any change management process, the sales performance improvement plan will face obstacles and encounter issues. Sales leaders need to focus on how they envision their sales engine performance and sales growth in one to three years time. This includes working with the sales training and development resources to put some well thought out initiatives into play ASAP, as they can often just comply with current objectives. However, they also need to know that management supports them and communicate that it’s not just OK but VITAL that the business adopts new ways of getting salespeople to learn, develop and grow, so sales performance improvement will be a constant not just an event.