Benchmark data spotlights four fundamentals to improve sales team performance
There are some basics to every sales call that most sales teams tend to take for granted. Sales and enablement leaders assume that their teams are highly capable of executing the fundamentals of a sales conversation. They lack the visibility into daily sales interactions to really get a good snapshot of how these fundamentals are used in the field. As a result, when met with the question of how to improve sales team performance, they will fixate on adjusting activity levels, offers, messaging, and/or processes to improve outcomes.
Michael Jordan said, “Get the fundamentals down and the level of everything you do will rise.”
Companies make huge investments in big sales transformations, consulting, methodologies, etc. when the end result is going to be the same. When a team lags in performing fundamental skills, no messaging strategy is going to have the intended impact, and sales performance fails to hit expectations.
The data from our 2018 Sales Team Performance Benchmark Report spotlights a critical need for optimization in four fundamental sales skills. This data is based on the observation and assessment of over 32,000 sales calls over a range of company sizes and industries.
1. Setting an Effective Agenda
100% of your reps should be able to set an effective agenda at the beginning of each call or meeting. This is a fundamental, yet simple, area of improvement to focus on in your team and will have a clear impact.
Setting an agenda establishes a mutually agreed upon purpose for your meeting, ensuring that the time the prospect spends with your sellers is uniquely relevant and valuable to them. This helps build the relationship by signaling that your seller respects their time and has something valuable to share with them in return.
How to Improve Your Sales Team’s Agendas
- Write it Down: Have your sellers draft their agenda for a given interaction type and review it with you in their 1:1. The agenda should remain 90% the same for any conversation of that interaction type.
- Roleplay: Have your seller roleplay setting an agenda. Ultimately, sellers fail to set an agenda because they get excited at the beginning of the call, and then before they know it, they are straight into discovery. Give them the opportunity to practice so it becomes second nature.
- Monitor and Recognize It: Provide feedback (positive and constructive) to your sellers on their agenda every time you attend one of their meetings to continue to reinforce positive habits.
2. Telling a Client Story
Our brains are wired to seek out stories. Stories give us a glimpse into what our lives could be like if we make the same choice that others have already. A client story gives your prospect tangible proof of success and assures them that, as a customer, they will be in good company. It also helps establish trust and provides third-party validation to your solution.
It is relatively easy to teach sellers how to tell an effective client story during a sales calls. Sellers should be equipped with available stories that align with customer needs, profiles, industries, pain points, etc. Given the information, your sellers then need to practice incorporating the story and making it their own. If appropriate, it is also often helpful to provide slides that sellers can include in their decks that help illustrate the key points of each story.
How to Improve Your Sales Team’s Client Stories
- Tell Your Sellers a Story: The hardest part of creating a story is having a compelling narrative and arc. If you have client stories that you have found to be successful in your selling, document them and share them with your sellers.
- Practice Your Story: Have your sellers practice their stories. Like most things, stories improve over time. Consider adding a “story hour” portion to your team meeting where, each week, a seller brings a client-facing customer story and shares it with the group.
How important is it to your business that customers understand the differences between your solution(s) and those of your competitors? Very important, right?
Differentiation is a core sales skill that leadership expects all sellers to be able to do. But that expectation is being taken for granted when 47% of your sellers are not able to articulate these differences! They are actually creating more harm than good by taking calls with your customers and prospects. In fact, we found that a full 6.29% where providing absolutely no differentiation at all!
More often, we find that sellers talk about features, rather than specific benefits to the client. To effectively differentiate, sellers must be trained to focus on customer needs and how your solution is uniquely capable of filling that need. Features and pricing do not differentiate your solution from your competitors.
How to Improve Your Sales Team’s Differentiation
- Play a Game: Is it a feature or a benefit? In one of your team meetings, prepare five to ten index cards with examples of features and benefits of your product. Have team members pick a card from the pile and determine if it is a feature or a benefit.
- Show and Tell: If you record sales calls, find an example of strong differentiation based on value and an example of a feature dump. Play both clips and have your sellers discuss what they think went well and what did not as a group.
4. Value Proposition
Your strategic team worked hard to create a value proposition that clearly states how your solution helps your customers. It’s pure gold and ready to be shared with the world. But does your sales team know how to articulate it to your prospects and customers? You have about a 50/50 chance.
Delivering the value proposition in a sales call is critical to establish why the prospect should care about what you are trying to sell. But, in this environment, it needs to be delivered appropriately. Many sales teams have the value proposition scripted; most sellers can recite it in their sleep. But only about half of them can deliver it in a way that is engaging and highly relevant.
How to Improve Your Sales Team’s Value Proposition Delivery
- Certify: Value propositions should be consistent across sellers. Establish and confirm that all sellers have the knowledge by certifying them on your value proposition.
- Practice In-Workflow: In an effort to move beyond a flat delivery that often occurs with scripted content, start each of your 1:1s by having sellers tell you the value proposition.
How can you improve sales team performance? By relentlessly focusing on improving and optimizing the fundamental sales skills reps need to be successful. Without that commitment, investment in big, sexy sales transformations, rebrands, consulting, messaging, etc. is just a huge waste of money.