Sales is an exciting and demanding profession to be in; you have to use your wit, intelligence, knowledge, charm and perseverance to win over the hearts and minds of customers to make sales.
As a sales professional, you are not only entrusted to educate customers about your company’s products or services, but you also have to be the living embodiment of all the values that your company stands for.
Product development and marketing teams strive day in and day out to create product and service offerings that sell themselves, but if only it were that simple. In today’s global market, competition is fierce, options are bountiful and customers are constantly bombarded with information left, right and center.
Under such circumstances, working hard to highlight your brand isn’t for the faint-hearted. Though the year has just started, the pressure is already on for sales teams who need to quickly come up with strategies to hit this year’s sales goals.
Here are some key tactics that will empower you to not only achieve your sales goals but make 2018 a year to remember.
How to Hit Your Sales Goals
They say failing to plan means planning to fail, and rightly so! This year, be sure to invest time and energy in reflecting on last year’s strategies, evaluating your team’s strengths and weaknesses, learning from your experiences, and developing a holistic sales strategy. Here are a few sure-shot techniques you can use to craft your sales strategy in 2018.
Sales has risen from being an art to being a science, so make it all about numbers. You can start by looking back at the previous year to extract useful information such as the team’s performance against predefined benchmarks, techniques that lead to the generation of new business, average sales cycles and sizes, and customer satisfaction, in addition to other KPIs.
In order to make informed projections for 2018, you’ll need to conduct an internal analysis of the sales trends over the past 2-5 years. This will show you the efficacy of various strategies that have been adopted, and the pitfalls that you need to avoid.
Since the success of a sales strategy is tremendously affected by an array of external factors, do some research about any changes that may be anticipated in your industry, alongside surfacing opportunities as well as challenges.
Only once you’ve gained adequate knowledge about internal and external variables should you proceed to develop your action plan. While company management would urge you to maximize your sales targets, it’s important to set objectives that are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound (SMART) for your sales team. The concept of SMART objectives was originally devised in 1981 by Peter Ducker, the founder of modern business management, and is now implemented by many leading organizations worldwide.
In 2014, Mary Barra, General Motors’ new CEO, was put to the test after she needed to craft the car maker’s response across a number of major issues involving product quality and profitability. She needed to fix the issues while upholding GM’s goal of being “the world’s most valued automotive company,” a measure that includes customer satisfaction, quality and multi-year financial results. At a heavily scrutinized event, Barra outlined their strategy and plans to deliver, while facing a myriad of issues. The goals set by Barra started out general, but went on to be more specific, such as:
- Delivering superior profits and market-leading vehicles.
- Changing behavior deep in the company’s bureaucracy.
- Addressing flaws in Cadillac distribution issues across North American operations.
- Achieving major growth objectives in China leveraging the Cadillac brand.
2. Engage your sales team:
The reason why most businesses fail to achieve their targets is because nearly 95% of their workforce is not clear on what these business goals are to begin with. As you outline your path for 2018, be sure to engage your sales team in the process and solicit their opinions.
Doing so will increase their motivation and ownership of the targets. According to statistics, businesses that engage employees well outperform those that don’t by a staggering 202%.
Since sales professionals work in close proximity to your clientele, they possess street-level understanding about customer preferences, their response patterns, and industry dynamics. Gaining insights from them will enable you to devise a better informed and focused strategy and also set practical goals.
You will also be able to increase motivation in your team by collaboratively aligning your compensation plan with performance expectations. Firms with engaged employees are able to achieve 6% higher profit margins.
3. Set multiple targets:
Sales professionals have three distinct ways of establishing goals. Some set audacious goals, the pursuit of which causes them to reach outstanding results. Others believe in setting specific objectives that they can hit right on the dot. Yet, others set the bar low so that once they surpass it they feel great about their efforts, and move on to the next.
Therefore, to devise a strategy that keeps everyone engaged, it will serve you well to establish three different goals. The first should be a lofty goal that can only be met via herculean efforts.
The second should be a goal impressive enough to ensure that the sales division is among the highest performing divisions in your company.
The third should represent the bare minimum that the sales team needs to achieve in order for management to stay pleased.
4. Chop goals into bite-sized bits:
To quote Brian Tracy, “goals in writing are dreams with deadlines.” So, once you’ve decided on the sales goals for the year, you should divide them into bi-annual, quarterly, monthly and weekly sales targets.
This will enable regular monitoring of team progress as well as timely identification and resolution of issues. Google has followed its infamous Objectives and Key Results (OKR) methodology whereby employees set quarterly objectives and refer to them on a daily basis in order to keep their efforts focused.
Regular documentation and presentation of sales performance reports keeps your management team in the loop with regards to the pace of your efforts, facilitates in performance management, and compensation. Moreover, it will enable you to make crucial tweaks in your strategy as external or unforeseen factors begin to play a role.
Nurture and Retain Your Existing Customers
Generating a lead takes a lot of effort, so once you establish a client, hold on to it. This not only makes logical sense, but is financially lucrative. It costs 7 times more to acquire new customers than to retain existing ones.
A study by Harvard Business Review found that a mere 5% increase in customer retention leads to a 25-90% increase in profits. Therefore, sales professionals should deploy retention tactics in order to increase the lifetime value of their customer base.
As far as internal department functioning goes, map out a consistent experience for your clients so that you’re able to attain as well as sustain high levels of service quality.
You can do this by defining and following clear SOPs (standard operating procedures) for processes such as client onboarding, kick-off meetings and other procedural requirements. Tweak them if you must, in order to cater to individual client needs, but the underlying process should remain the same.
Also, have your sales team communicate the process to clients in order to help them understand what is expected of them and what will enhance the overall efficiency of your department.
Lastly, use the age-old but effective surprise or trumpeted reciprocity to keep your clientele engaged. Surprise reciprocity would entail a gift or a gesture, whereas trumpeted reciprocity would include a gesture made above and beyond regular client-company interaction in order to make the client feel special.
Countless firms use reciprocity in the form of free resources and free trial periods in order to make customers feel special. A few examples are Moz Pro which offers free product trials, HubSpot’s free certifications, Red Bull‘s free giveaway cans at sponsored events, and Converse’s free recording studio for emerging artists!
Capitalize on Social Selling
Social media is becoming an increasingly popular channel for sales teams to engage with and expand upon their clientele. According to an estimate, 62.9% of sales professionals actively use social media platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn to drive sales.
74% of buyers also rely on social networks for their post-purchase research, making them the ideal platforms for bringing buyers and sellers in close proximity to each other.
There is an unprecedented need for alignment between the sales and marketing divisions. So this year, make social selling a key component of your strategy whereby your sales team shares marketing-related, industry-specific and original content on their personal profiles.
Sharing marketing-related content will enhance brand awareness and generate more leads, whereas industry content will position your sales professionals to be in-tune with the latest trends. Moreover, leveraging expert knowledge in order to share original content from time to time will enable your sales team to increase their visibility and credibility. Branding yourself the right way is a very powerful technique that successful companies understand well.
Use a CRM System
In an era of cutthroat competition, you won’t have the resources to maintain manual records of client correspondences. Therefore, it is imperative that you utilize an effective customer relationship management (CRM) software to maintain logs of client information and conversations.
These systems not only help you retain your customers, but can also help you in acquiring new ones by generating useful reports pertaining to consumer buying patterns and preferences. In addition to this, a CRM system will also allow you to monitor and guide your team’s efforts by generating reports —pertaining to crucial KPIs like percentage of leads converted into sales and most effective content to publish, amongst others.
Let Metrics be Your Guide
You cannot improve what you cannot measure, so managers of all functional areas utilize metrics in order to gauge and improve team performance. However, it’s the right blend of metrics that matters most in determining the quality of performance achieved. Here are some crucial metrics that you should make part of your weekly or monthly reviews this year:
1. Time spent per rep
When it comes to sales, a few extra minutes can make or break deals and, hence, it is vital that you keep a constant watch on the time that your reps spend in selling. Doing so will enable you to address any roadblocks that your sales people are facing and consequently streamline your entire sales process.
2. Lead response time
With the rise of inbound marketing, companies are increasingly focusing on online techniques to generate leads. Since the last life span of online leads is inherently shorter, the speed of response from your sales team is critical.
Research shows that businesses that contact leads within 1 hour of lead generation are 7 times more likely to qualify the lead. On the other hand, companies that wait 24 hours before responding are 60 times less likely to qualify them.
This is a key metric to consider, because your company is probably investing heavily on building an online presence, and the only way to ensure that this investment pays off is by quickly and efficiently responding to leads that are generated.
3. Marketing collateral usage
According to the Information Technology Services Marketing Association, companies spend nearly 16% of their budget on content marketing, whereas sales teams utilize only 10% of this content.
This underutilization of researched and company-specific content significantly lowers the performance of sales teams. Overcome such gaps by encouraging your sales team to use relevant marketing content and by implementing sales content management softwares that close the sales marketing loop and measure marketing collateral usage.
4. Opportunity win rate
The opportunity win rate indicates the ability of your sales team to close deals. It is important, as it directly impacts the size of business they are able to secure. At times, sales professionals are good at networking and building relationships but unable to close deals.
This wastes resources that went into lead generation. It is therefore recommended that you keep an eye on this performance metric and promptly guide struggling reps on how to increase opportunity rates.
5. Average deal size
When it comes to hitting sales goals, it is important that you channel your team’s efforts towards high-priority deals as opposed to small ones. This is where the average deal size metrics will enable you to highlight deals that aren’t worth pursuing.
If your metrics indicate an average deal size smaller than desired, work with your marketing team to evaluate your firm’s lead generation efforts and see why they are producing leads that result in smaller deals.