The 12 Best Ways to Improve Sales Performance in 2018

Sales performance quantifies how good your business is at generating new customers and retaining existing ones. In this article, I will share with you 12 of the best ways to improve sales performance and drive better small business profits.

A good sales CRM will help you to improve sales performance in many ways. For instance through measuring and managing sales performance. We recommend Pipedrive as the best sales CRM for small business. This is because it’s loved by small business sales reps for being a breeze to use.

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1. Use Sales Intelligence to Kickstart Your Sales Process

Sales intelligence is useful information gathered about prospective and existing customers that will help you to personalize your approach and serve them better.

How Can Sales Intelligence Improve Sales Performance?

The right intelligence about your customers can improve sales performance dramatically. Not least it can help you to:

  • Improve targeting – to ensure that your sales team spend their valuable time trying to connect with prospective customers. It can also help you to determine the right time to approach some prospects by identifying sales triggers.
  • Understand the customer’s context – which in turn allows you to personalize your sales communication . This will improve conversion and we discuss the importance of personalization in more detail further below.

Next Steps?

The traditional method of gathering sales intelligence is by networking. These days, internet based tools help you gather customer intelligence more efficiently. Having said that, they should not be considered an alternative to networking, which is still important for developing new relationships.

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Screengrab of Leadberry web visitor dashboard

  • Leadberry – Tracks customers that visit your website. It reveals who they are, the company they work for and the content they view.
  • Leads411 – Is a more efficient method of purchasing new customer leads. It integrates with the best small business sales CRMs like Pipedrive. Once leads are on your system, it will continue to clean their data and keep them up to date.
  • Sales Navigator – As part of the LinkedIn group of companies, Sales Navigator is a sales prospecting tool. It uses the data contained within LinkedIn to help you identify and target new customer prospects.

We recommend taking a free trial of each of these systems to see how they can help you to better target new customers.

2. Use an Effective Sales Plan

An effective sales plan defines your sales team focus, the goals you want to achieve and the targets for your sales reps. We recommend that you put an sales plan in place . This is because executing a well thought through sales plan will make your business more profitable.

How Does a Sales Plan Improve Sales Performance?

A sales plan has other benefits too, not least it can improve sales performance by:

  • Allowing your whole business team to contribute, which means you benefit from more ideas than just your own
  • Making the rest of your team feel more of a sense of ownership. This then translates into greater commitment to execute the plan
  • Ensuring that everyone in your sales team is clear about team goals and personal sales targets

Next Steps?

If you don’t have a sales plan, try downloading this free sales plan template and guideline. As you will see, it’s comprehensive, so you can strip it back to suit your needs.

Any effective sales plan covers, sales objectives, strategies, tactics and how you are going to measure progress. To make your sales plan easy to execute, ensure that your sales goals are also reflected in your sales CRM.

3. Use Sales Metrics to Measure and Improve Sales Performance

Sales metrics are simply ways to measure sales performance so that you can identify key learnings and focus on the right areas to improve sales performance.

How Can Using Sales Metrics Improve Sales Performance?

One of our mantras at Smallbiz Juice is that you can only manage what you can measure. If you measure systematically then you can soon see where improvement can be made and focus your energy in the right areas.

To improve sales performance, two key areas for small businesses to measure naturally rise to the top of the list:

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Screengrab of Pipedrive sales stage conversion report

Sales conversion metrics report in Pipedrive

  • Conversion metrics – it’s essential to understand how well your prospective customers convert from one stage of your sales pipeline to the next.
  • Activity metrics – Underpinning the conversion rate of each stage of your sales pipeline is a range of activity. For example, converting new leads to enter your pipeline is usually dependent on cold calling and other sales prospecting activity.

Next Steps?

The good news is that the best sales CRMs, like Pipedrive, automatically generate all of the sales metrics that you need to take into consideration to boost your sales revenues.

4. Adopt a Sales CRM

A sales CRM helps you to organise and automate many of the processes you need to adopt to manage your sales pipeline effectively. I recommend Pipedrive to small business owners because it’s focused on sales, easy to adopt, loved by sales reps and pricing starts from $10/user per month.

How Does a Sales CRM Improve Sales Performance?

Having an effective small business sales CRM like Pipedrive will improve your sales performance in many ways:

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Screengrab of the visual sales pipeline within Pipedrive

  • Automatically generate sales metrics – these reports make it easy for you to identify where to focus to most improve your sales performance
  • Sales team communication – a good CRM visualises the sales pipeline and allows sales reps to manage an report on their sales activity, like customer calls, meetings and proposals sent. It also allows the sales manager to take an aggregate view of sales and easily identify team priorities for weekly sales meetings
  • Sales forecasts – the more robust and up to date your view is of your sales team’s performance, the more accurately you can forecast future sales and manage your cashflow.

Next Steps?

Make sure that you have one of the best sales CRMs for small business in place. Set this up to reflect the sales objectives, process and metrics that you identify in your sales plan. You can also use your sales CRM to manage your weekly sales meetings, which we cover under the next point below.

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5. Keep the Discipline of Weekly Sales Meetings

If we were to ask small business owners whether they hold regular sales team meetings, most would confidently answer that this is something that they do well. The reality is a little different because effective sales team meetings need to happen every week, are based on a set agenda, take no more than 30 minutes and are respected as key to success by all sales team members.

How Can Weekly Sales Meetings Improve Sales Performance?

Sticking to weekly sales team meetings will improve your sales performance by:

  • Keeping each sales rep honest about what they have achieved (or not) over the last week
  • Allowing your salespeople learn from each other within a competitive team setting
  • Helping the sales manager to get a clear view of sales performance and progress on a week to week basis

Next Steps?

There are two different kinds of sales meeting that you we recommend any small business should put in place:

  • Weekly sales progress – these meetings focus on what each sales rep has achieved over the past week int terms of their personal sales targets and agreed activity. Only sales team members attend these meetings.
  • Biweekly pipeline health meetings – as the name suggests, these focus on lead generation and sales enablement priorities. Without these meetings, sales teams often run dry of sales opportunities during busy times. This is because they over focus on closing deals as opposed to balancing this with ensuring that new prospects are entering the pipeline and being warmed up to close further down the road.

6. Create an Effective Cold Calling System

Cold calling is only effective when it is properly understood, organised systematically and measured.  When organised properly, it’s one of the main ways a small business can rely on to meet complete strangers who have the potential to become future customers.

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Cold calling does improve sales performance

How Does Cold Calling Improve Sales Performance?

Effective cold calls, based on good sales intelligence, is probably the most cost effective way to generate good quality sales opportunities to enter your sales pipeline. If you are currently using marketing campaigns like email, advertising and social media campaigns, following these up with cold calls will double your conversion rate of cold contacts into qualified sales opportunities.

Next Steps?

We recommend placing an expectation on every sales rep in your team to make cold calls. The best sales reps recognise the importance of this activity and prioritise it. But less confident sales reps often avoid cold calling in preference for working more developed sales opportunities.

The best way to improve sales performance via cold calling is simply to set activity targets and start measuring it systematically. We recommend measuring call volume and conversion rates for each of your sales reps.

If you are using a good sales CRM, like Pipedrive, it’s easy to integrate this with call recording apps like RingCentral and Aircall, which will measure call performance for you.

7. Overcome Sales Objections Early in the Sales Process

Sales objections are the main reason for losing deals once they have successfully entered your sales pipeline. Sales objections are all the potential reasons that a given customer my have for deciding not to become a paying customer.

Understanding each customers potential sales objections as early as possible in the sales process allows you either overcome them by providing further information. If you cannot overcome them, at least you can close unviable sales opportunities down before you waste more time then necessary on them.

How Does Overcoming Objections Improve Sales Performance?

Having a robust approach to identifying and overcoming sales objections will improve sales performance by:

  • Improving your overall conversion rate
  • Increasing the average price at at which deals take place, (minor objections if unresolved lead to customers devaluing your offer and expecting discounts)

Next Steps?

Setup a managing sales objections guideline.

The reality is that the most common objections normally do not exceed 10 in number. And if you have a robust way of overcoming each of these objections, you will be well on the way to improving your conversion rates and selling more of your offer at full price.

To help you get starting, we recommend reading how sales experts handle objections.

8. Increase Customer Referrals

One customer refers another customer when the service that you provide exceeds what they would usually expect. For instance, when my car was repaired and this took longer than expected, the dealership owner gave me his car to drive until mine was ready to return. Because this exceeded my expectations, I have recommended this service many times over.

How Can Referrals Improve Sales Performance?

Placing a focus on how to increase customer referrals is a guaranteed way to improve sales performance because it will generate more sales leads without the related marketing costs attached to them. Referred customers also tend to be better quality sales leads, like the customer than referred them.

Next Steps?

There is no point in creating a customer referral program until you are confident that your business is consistently delivering an excellent product or service. But once it is, we recommend not wasting any time in creating a simple customer referral program.

There are lots of different ways that you could do this, here are six customer referral program ideas to help you get started.

9. Review How You Deliver Your Sales Pitch

Delivering your sales pitch is one of the key stages of the sales process for most small businesses. The best way to deliver your sales pitch is undoubtably face-to-face and one-to-one. This gives you the best chance to build your relationship, get your pitch across and further understand your customers needs.

However, you don’t always get the chance to pitch face-to-face. And even if you do, it’s rare that all the people involved in making the customer decision are sitting in the room.

Because of this, most experienced sales reps create a sales pitch presentation that can either be used for the pitch itself or as a leave-behind at the end of the pitch to be shared with other decision makers who were not able to attend.

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Source: Slidebean

How Can a Good Sales Pitch Presentation Improve Sales Performance?

A great sales pitch will ensure that your prospective customer has a clear understanding of your offer and how this will add value to their business. It also allows you to cover off common sales objections and engage with other key customer contacts after the event.

Next Steps

Whenever you mention a sales presentation, people immediately think — PowerPoint. But today there are more compelling sales pitch apps that will help you to avoid inflicting “Death by PowerPoint.”

We recommend Slidebean as it makes it easy for non-graphic design professionals to create powerful visual presentations in minutes for $10/user per month. And unlike PowerPoint, Slidebean will provide you with customer usage metrics when they open and read the leave-behind of your sales pitch. This allows you to know when to call and what to talk about to move your sales opportunity to the next stage.

10. Negotiate Effectively

Negotiating price and other terms is best left until the end of the sales process. At this stage your customer has the best appreciation of the full value your offer to them and you have also hopefully covered off all of their sales objections.

How Does Negotiating Effectively Improve Sales Performance?

If you understand how to negotiate effectively, and you negotiate at the right stage of the sales process, there really is no reason why you should lose any customers based on price negotiation alone. Effective price negotiation, also enables you to ensure that you optimise your profit margin within taking the risk of losing any valuable customers.

Next Steps?

We all think we know how to negotiate well, but the reality is that most us still have a lot left to learn to become truly effective. We recommend investing time to further develop your negotiation skills. For instance, there’s a lot of psychology rapped up in effective negotiation, which seven psychological strategies for mastering sales negotiations gives some insight to.

If you like to read books, you might also want to consider reading Never split the difference – negotiate as if your life depends on it by Chris Voss.

11. Wrap your Business Around Your Customers

The idea of wrapping your business around your customer is born out of putting your customer at the heart of your business. This approach is commonly referred to as customer centricity. It involves reconsidering every process in your business to ensure that every aspect of your business is putting the customer first.

How Can Being Customer Centric Improve Sales Performance?

Customer centricity provides you will a competitive advantage and one which it’s different for even your best competitors to copy. By demonstrating through your business behaviours how highly you value your customers, they become more loyal, refer other customers without you needing to ask and stay customers for much longer.

Next Steps?

Bring your team together to consider each key stage in your customers journey. To make this easier to structure, we recommend using free customer journey mapping tools to help you.

12. Don’t Forget to Still Make Time for Networking!

Business networking is so easy to overlooked or pushed out in a busy week packed with pro-active sales activities. But we recommend that sales reps regularly attend at least two networking events a month to mix with potential new customers, partners and suppliers. It’s also a great way to pick-up market intelligence that sometimes doesn’t get circulated online.

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Make time for business networking

How Does Networking Improve Sales Performance?

Regular business networking is a very cost-effective way to meet new contacts. Or valued partners and suppliers who can also help to introduce your to new customer prospects.

Next Steps?

Find out what business networking events take place in your local market. A good place to start, is via your local Chamber of Commerce. If your business operates online, it may be more relevant to network via an online community like Quora instead.

The Juice Press

This article explores the best ways to improve sales performance in your small business. We recommend exploring each of these 12 ways as improvement will drive increased revenue and enhance your profits.

The best place to start is by putting in place the right small business sales CRM. We recommend Pipedrive because it’s focused on sales, sales reps love working with it and it automatically generates the sales metrics you need to manage sales effectively.

Visit Pipedrive