Wednesday, January 20, 2010

10 Simple Ways to Improve Sales Performance

Are your business goals to sustain growth, increase revenue, and increase market share? While there are numerous ways to go about this, the simple fact is expanding your business is not possible without increasing sales. Often times, we focus so much on improving our products and services that we don't concentrate enough on sales performance. And when we do, we focus mainly on attracting new customers. So much so that we sometimes forget about our most prized possessions; our existing and past customers. This article discusses ways to attract new customers while at the same time enticing past customers to buy again.

1. Communicate organizational and sales goals throughout your sales department.

Are your organization's goals and objectives clearly stated and documented. Does your entire sale force (including managers, salespersons, and support staff) understand executive management's goals and objectives. Do they understand how their sales goals and objectives support the overall organizational objectives? This is the number one, first thing that must be in place in order to have a successful sales program. It's very easy to find out if this critical step is in place, just ask your team members.

2. Gain executive management Buy-In.

It is critical that executive level managers buy into your sales strategy. Studies have shown that senior level management that places value in leveraging sales performance data into overall strategy increase their organization's chances for success. Compound this with strong sales leadership that is able to translate the sales strategy into action and these organizations are often able to quantify extraordinary results through sales performance management. Executive management can also ensure that your sales program has the necessary funding it needs to implement a successful strategy.

3. Define and communicate competencies for salespeople.

You may already have sales competencies. If so, reevaluate them and make sure that they are specific, unique and drive organizational goals. Make sure that they are not generic job descriptions that don't support objectives. What makes your top salespeople successful. Document these characteristics and the processes that these top performers have in place. Mimic these behaviors throughout your sales force.

4. Strengthen your sales efforts on products and services that generate the most income.

Now I'm not saying that you shouldn't try to increase sales in many different areas. I encourage organizations to explore new avenues for generating sales. But if there is something that your customers really buy into and you see greater sales from that area, you should be maximizing your profits in these areas even if it means reallocating resources from weaker areas.

5. Link sales training and performance-management systems to your business goals and competencies.

Make sure that your sales staff are properly trained to most effectively execute their function. Do they have all the resources they need? Does training address specific challenges that your sales force encounters? A detailed, competency-based selection process will give you a profile of each sales person's strengths and development needs. Identify which areas each salesperson is weak in and provide the necessary training for them to improve in those areas. Identify their strengths and leverage their knowledge and processes to help train other staff. Integrate their development plan into the performance management process.

6. Set up a sales incentive program.

Let's face it. Most people are not the motivated goal reaching machines they are capable of becoming. Give your sales staff a reason to achieve great things. Reward them for their accomplishments. They will continue to return the favor. Be creative. If that dinner for two to the local restaurant isn't stirring up competition find something that will. Remember, the more people you can get to compete for incentives the more successful your sales team as a whole will be.

7. Encourage your sales staff to upsell.

Upselling involves persuading customers to buy additional products or services, which normally relate to, benefit and compliment the original purchase. But just throwing additional products at them won't work. For example, if you own a pet grooming business, you may try to upsell your customers to buy pet grooming supplies to maintain their current look. Not a great example, but you get my point.

8. Tier your customers.

This is an effective technique, however it must be used with care. Customer tiering is assigning different values to customers to ensure that your best customers get the best treatment. While there are customers that you want to ensure top level service, it's important that you value all of your customers. More and more companies are using this technique to decide whether you're a customer worth taking care of and it is very troubling to know that careless, almost discriminatory practices may be taking place. Ways you may want to show customers that they are important is by recognizing them, greeting them by name or going out of the way to contact them, and offering them discounts or referral bonuses.

9. Set up a customer rewards program.

We talked about sales incentive programs. Now we need to focus on customer reward techniques. Customer reward programs can be as simple as providing a discount for every additional product your customers purchase, to offering them referral bonuses and incentives, to providing them VIP status. These simple techniques can build customer loyalty and repeat sales.

10. Offer customers free valuable, products or services.

Giving away something for free to your customers is one of the easiest way to get viral marketing benefits. This means that your customers are more likely to refer a product or service to their friends or business partners if you can provide a free sample. This is why you see so many 'free trial' or 'test drive' offers.

Victor Holman is a performance management expert who helps organizations reach performance goals through best practice analysis and implementation and custom enterprise performance management products and services.

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