It’s not uncommon for companies to hit a wall with sales teams. The numbers for the entire team start to dip because of a failing process, a new industry trend, an innovative competitor, or one of dozens of reasons.
But when your team is performing just fine for, say, Salesperson Steve, then it’s not a process, team or industry issue. The problem is with Salesperson Steve. But what’s important to remember here is that the problem may not BE Salesperson Steve.
That means you don’t necessarily need to get rid of him. You should take the time to figure out what’s going on, regardless of whether his numbers have been soft from the start or if his performance is starting to slip. There’s always an opportunity to improve.
If you’ve got a 'Steve' on your team with less-than-stellar performance, here is how you can nurture that sales rep and turn them into a selling machine.
1. Start With Data
Before you make any decisions about what to do or how to coach, start with your data. Look over call records, contact points, lead to close ratio, when those leads close during the day, etc. You’re looking for anomalies that could indicate a root cause of their struggle. Consult Sales Ops to really dive into the data.
For example: Is there far more follow-up calls to lead prospecting? Are they spending too much time trying to nurture current accounts? If they’re not feeding their funnel, then they’ll come up short on closing sales.
2. Review Their Goals
A good sales leader or manager will set goals for the team and individual sales reps. An overarching goal works well for most people, but there are some people who struggle with reaching a big goal. They see it, they understand the need to get there, but they get caught staring into the distance at that goal and can’t focus on how to get there.
In cases like this, the fix is simple: Get granular with the goals and improve goal monitoring.
If you set a dollar value they must reach by the end of the month, or quarter, then break it down to the week or day. The same goes for lead closes, or outbound calls, or new prospects – whatever the main goal is, break it down into manageable daily goals.
This gives them a roadmap to follow in order to reach the major goal with the team. It keeps their eye on the prize so they don’t get sidetracked, and they’re not overwhelmed worrying about trying to reach the finish line. This can help clarify expectations for a team member as well.
“An integral part of a consistent winning cadence is the tone and the topics of your communications with your sales team. Nothing is more important to sales makers than knowing what is expected of them and when it is expected,” says professional business coach Walter Rogers in a piece for Salesforce. “Effective sales managers keep their communication clear and their expectations well defined, so that team members know what to aim for, and understand what will happen if they hit it (or not).”
3. Go Over The Value And Customer Needs
A solid onboarding process for new sales professionals should include a deep dive into your product or service, ensuring they fully understand your unique selling proposition (USP) and how it aligns with the needs of your target customer.
Revisit this to see if the lack of performance is related to a misalignment in value with customers. If they don’t communicate this well to the customer, you’ll see poor performance in lead to close ratio.
It can be helpful to regularly review your target audience and revisit the research to see if audience segments shift. This is the ideal time to go over audience needs, pain points and barriers with the team. Make it a two-way discussion so your team can bring up new issues in communicating with prospects. This can help an underperforming representative stay fresh on aligning needs to value with what they’re selling.
4. Evaluate Time Management
When you have an underperforming sales rep, turn over every stone to discover the cause. Going over your data is a good start, but you also need to fully audit their process and review how they spend their time throughout the day.
For example, in an effort to improve the quality of leads they pursue, they dig into each lead to accurately vet them before making contact. Unfortunately, this progresses into too much time spent on each lead resulting in fewer closes over a given period. While their intentions are good, they’re hurting their numbers and killing their performance.
Get your team together and look closely at how each of your team structures their day. Stack processes against one another and use it as a learning experience. Each may be doing something that could benefit another and could be especially helpful to a sales professional struggling with managing their time spent on each lead. Work as a team to improve time management for everyone.
5. Audit Their Communication
Even the most active, driven sales professional can come up short if their communication with prospects is creating friction. This could include:
- Pushy tactics
- Poor tone in spoken or written communications
- Long-winded communications
- Too much time or too little time between follow-ups
- Poor historical tracking that leads to poor communication and awkward follow-ups
Communication can be audited discreetly, and it should be. Review call logs and emails without letting the sales representative know about it. If you audit over their shoulder then you’re not going to see them in the raw, how they usually perform. You’ll get the “my boss is standing over me watching me work” performance.
If you spot communication issues, create an action plan with clear examples to help guide them. Have the reps who are struggling listen in to coworkers who are succeeding. Show them how to improve communication by making calls and creating customer follow-ups. Lead by example with live customer interaction so they can see first-hand how the customer response improves.
7. Ease the Process
The top performing sales teams generally succeed because they have a standard process that clearly maps out the approach to each prospect, how to qualify leads, how to work with those prospects, the nurturing process, and the steps to close.
But it’s possible to have too much of a good thing with complex sales processes. While most of your team may fall into line, your rep may be underperforming because they have difficulty working within the confines of a complex sales process.
You don’t have to throw the process out, but it doesn’t hurt to try and relax that process either. Provide your sales team with some autonomy or guided flexibility. In one study of over 300 firms, researchers found that businesses who granted more autonomy to employees quadrupled their growth rates over those with more rigid structures and processes.
Give them a more dynamic sales environment and you may see that underperforming employee suddenly blossom as they can flex their creativity in getting prospects to say yes.
8. Discover Their Motivator & Celebrate Often
This one should be self-explanatory but even great leaders can have lapses in employee recognition. This can be a costly mistake that profoundly impacts employees — especially in an achievement-driven position like sales.
People are motivated by different things; some by the pay, others by growing professionally or the recognition of a job well done. If you’re not celebrating the wins enough, you could be directly impacting their performance.
A strong and effective sales leader recognizes that the best way to kill pressure in the sales environment and motivate teams is to recognize and reward achievements. That includes the small wins. That recognition should come often and used as an opportunity to boost not just a single employee, but the entire team. It can come in a variety of forms, giving you the opportunity to be creative and come up with interesting ways to motivate and reward the team.
That little bit of celebration can be a massive motivation, and it might be all your underperforming employee needs to push forward and start rocking the charts.
9. Invest In Core Training
Some people are naturals with sales. They have the right personality, the right tone, and they know how to work and communicate with a lead to get them across the finish line. Others on your team have the same capacity to close, but may struggle in some areas.
Invest in your team with sales training. This gives those underperforming employees additional ammo, tools and resources to help them close more sales. Regular training helps them stay on top of the psychology of sales, communication techniques, actionable phrases, time management skills and more.
Best of all, a team that trains and goes through skill building exercises together forms a stronger bond. Even in a competitive sales environment, they’ll be more likely to support one another in reaching goals.
While some people simply don’t do well in sales, it’s also possible that an underperforming sales professional needs guidance to help them unlock their potential. Review their efforts, communication, and bring the team together to give them the best opportunity to succeed.
About the Author
Daniel Threlfall is an Internet entrepreneur, content strategist, and a seven-year veteran of remote work. As a writer and marketing strategist, Daniel has helped brands including Merck, Fiji Water, Little Tikes, and MGA. Daniel and his wife Keren have four children, and occasionally enjoy adventures in remote corners of the globe (kids included).Follow on Twitter More Content by Daniel Threlfall