How can you measure sales team success? Any manager knows that the process is much more nuanced than a simple focus on the dollar amount or customers brought in. A true data-driven sales management approach is much more complex.
That complexity, of course, can seem complicated. You don’t want to overwhelm your sales agents in the interest of building better performance. Instead, you have to walk a fine line between a focus on metrics and the more qualitative aspects of sales management.
The good news is that every organization, regardless of size, can achieve that emphasis on data and metrics. All you need is the right strategy. Take these 6 steps to improve the performance of your sales team through a more data-driven approach.
1) Develop the Core Metrics
To build a data-driven approach, you have to know what data to focus on. A failure to set your focus before shifting your approach leads to data overload. Simply put, you have too many metrics to focus on to realistically track those who matter for actual sales team performance.
Instead, focus on developing the core metrics you need first. From the wide range of possibilities, pick those that make the most sense to your team and your operations. A sales team focused primarily on phone calls, for instance, will look for very different benchmarks compared to one leveraging social selling.
2) Get Sales Team Buy-In
Once you’ve developed a core portfolio of metrics, get your sales team on board. The best data-driven sales strategy will fail to produce actual performance if your team doesn’t buy into the concept. That means not just developing the strategy in isolation, but actively involving them in the process.
Chances are they will have little input into the core metrics developed in the first step. However, it makes sense to involve them in anything beyond that first step. For all of the steps below, consider having at least one sales rep in the planning meeting to get input from the front lines. These reps also tend to be the first to buy in, becoming evangelists of the new strategy and approach among their coworkers.
3) Assess and Improve Tracking Capabilities
Once the metrics are in place, and your sales team is on board, it’s time to start discovering exactly how you can actually track your success. What software platforms do you currently use for tracking purposes? Will that platform be sufficient for future operations, or should you look to a new, more comprehensive option?
Consider your Customer Relationship Management software as an example. Most products in this space track communication and customer interactions. But do they enable you to add in dollar amounts for each action that allows for value-specific tracking as your audience moves through the sales funnel? If not, and assigning a more specific ROI case to each of your metrics is among your goals, it might be worth finding a solution that does.
The goal here is not to build a strategy on how to achieve your metrics; that comes in the next step. For now, all you need to do is make sure that you can actually track and report on the metrics you have discovered to be core to your sales performance.
4) Build Your Sales Strategy
With the framework in place, it’s time to build your actual sales strategy. This might just be one of the six steps in this post, but it is undoubtedly the most complex one. You need to establish:
- Your core sales goals, and how they connect to your company’s vision.
- The metrics you will use to measure progress toward these goals (see Step 1)
- The various tactics you will use to accomplish these goals.
- The exact audience you want to reach, defined by demographic, geographic, psychographic, and usage rate factors.
- A (tentative) timeline on how you will achieve your goals, and when.
- Continuous improvement measures that allow you to change and adjust your sales strategy over time.
Building a sales strategy that encompasses these points can take weeks, and sometimes months. Still, it’s a crucial step to make sure that your efforts are truly data-driven to build better performance.
5) Train Your Team to Optimize Your Strategy
After defining the strategy in a comprehensive document, you need to get your sales team up to date. Ideally, by this point, they have been involved enough in its development that they buy in. Now, they need the functional knowledge necessary to actually implement it.
That means training your salesforce. Help them understand just what individual metrics mean and why they are important. If reporting requires manual input on their end, let them know how to do it. Extend as much help as possible to make the transition smooth for them even as they expand to new businesses processes.
6) Start Building the Feedback Loop
Finally, never lose sight of the fact that sales performance, at its best, is circular. The best theoretical strategy might fail in practice. As a result, your employees should be empowered to share feedback and suggest improvements where they see fit.
You might see, for instance, that your metrics don’t actually raise your sales performance as initially desired. Don’t immediately blame your team’s failure to execute the strategy. Instead, talk to them to see where the sticking points are, and how you can work together to minimize them for better performance. Building and encouraging feedback loops is a key differentiator for top-performing sales teams.
Sales management driven by data is far from impossible. It does, however, absolutely require a system of both systematic buy-in and comprehensive training for each member of your sales team. Only then can you ensure that you build a strategy that is actually designed to enhance sales performance over time.
Software needs become another crucial consideration. Two fundamental platforms have to be in place: the ability to track all relevant metrics, and the opportunity to train your sales team as needed. Sales training software specifically needs to be designed with your team in mind. Look for an option that incorporates coaching potential for long-term success.