5 Tips for Improving Performance in Small Sales Teams

In my years of experience in sales and sales management, I have observed many small and medium sized sales teams. Often, they struggle to perform at capacity and hit their goals and it’s frequently a sales management issue. Sometimes it’s because the CEO or business owner is the de facto sales manager and is wearing many hats. They are often just too busy running their business or spread too thin. Sometimes they’re the technical experts in their field and their expertise and time is being used to improve products, systems or services. It’s sometimes because a top performing sales person was promoted into a sales management role and their strength lies in salesmanship and delivering revenue to the business personally rather than in a broad sense. Below are five things you can do to improve sales management in your company now.

1. Planning

Many business owners have at best a rudimentary sales plan. If they do have one, often times it consists of higher and higher sales goals, without accounting for what will drive that new business. Will a new product line be added, a new market be opened or new additions made to the sales team? Will the company be able to support the added expense while markets are opened and new sales people trained? How much risk will the company bear? A good but simple sales plan takes this into consideration. Takeaway: Make a better sales plan with concrete steps to get to the desired goal.

2. Modernize

There are many new technologies that make it easier to interact with prospects. Among them are CRM systems, collaboration tools, the cloud, dialers, email tracking, prospect and customer information systems. Existing systems are being upgraded all the time with the newest capabilities. All are designed to more efficiently and effectively reach more buyers, disseminate information, warm them up and help make sales. Social media platforms allow a business to extend its reach inexpensively and makes your business more visible to search engines such as Google.com. Takeaway: Evaluate new technologies on a regular basis to make sure you are keeping up and modernize as needed.

3. Training

Training sales people serves three purposes. The first is that it provides them an opportunity to hone and refresh their skills. The second is that it reminds them that performance is important and that expectations for them performing well are high. The third is that it shows a willingness to invest in them and that they are part of the long term plan for the organization. Takeaway: Make sure you offer training to your sales people every year (a sharp axe cuts better than a dull one).

4. Lead Generation

All businesses need sales and most small and medium sized businesses are subject to the feast/famine paradigm. When they’re busy, the first thing that gets pushed aside is prospecting for new business. Until business slows down. Then there’s a flurry of sales activity and soon business is back where it should be. For a while. Most small businesses don’t have bandwidth to prospect effectively in a consistent way.

Lists should be highly targeted and refreshed regularly. Technology should be used and a proven process followed. The technology should reinforce the process rather than detract from it. Top management should enforce the use of the technology and following of the process. Utilize social media and blogging to widen your reach inexpensively. Finally, no one can be an expert on everything so get help from the professionals when needed. Takeaway: Make prospecting part of the company routine and culture and call in the experts when needed!

5. Measurement

You get what you measure is the old adage and it’s mostly true. The challenge is top management often has a hard time pinning down the exact actions, activities and behaviors they are trying to encourage and measure. Here’s a practical example. Maybe top management believes that offering free webinars will increase sales since it worked well in the past. So the goal is to run well attended webinars.

How will these webinars be promoted to prospects and clients? Will a set of emails be sent, starting a few weeks before the first webinar? Then a prospect list with email addresses will need to be purchased and loaded and a compelling email invitation created.

Will prospects be called and told about the webinars? Then phone numbers will be necessary, a script will need to be created and a person designated to make the calls. To track call results, an activity report should be created and run on a regular basis to test the messaging, to make sure the calls are being made and to analyze the prospect responses. Will the report be grouped by prospect type (or industry or state or city or source)? Then that data will need to be captured or imported for each prospect.

Finally, reports should measure the success of each webinar, so that results can be tabulated. How many people registered and attended are important to measure, as well as what happened to the prospect once the webinar was complete to determine the ROI. Takeaway: Create reports that measure actions, activities and behaviors that drive sales success, run them regularly and share the results.

How to Raise Emotional Intelligence for Increased Sales Performance

Sales and Emotional Intelligence Training for Sales Managers, Sales Professionals, and Entrepreneurs

Research into Emotional Intelligence has shown that there is a strong relationship between this ability and sales performance1. Daniel Goleman then made the concept better known since 1995 with his book by the same name. If you think about it, this makes complete sense. Do you work better when you’re happy, or unhappy? Furthermore, emotional intelligence increases our ability to empathise. This in turn, helps us to understand and sell to our prospects better. Zig Ziglar once said “Selling is essentially a transference of feelings!” Today you’ll learn three ways you can improve your emotional intelligence, which will in turn improve your sales performance.

Emotional Intelligence Tip #1: Put your health first Your emotions will be heavily influenced by the three pillars of health. This includes exercise2, sleep3, and nutrition4. What’s that? You don’t have time for that? That my friend, is exactly why you need to prioritise your health! Think about it – have you ever set out to do sales activities… Only you didn’t? Or, how enthusiastic are you when trying to work after a late night? Your emotional and physical energy levels will directly influence your sales. When your body is deprived of these factors, you simply cannot work at your best. I’ll make my tips for you simple but scientific. Here are three ways you can improve your physical health:

  1. Walk (or jog) outside for 30 minutes a day. You’ll benefit from the physical activity, and the sunlight will also enhance your mood5.
  2. Sleep for 8 hours a day. The reality is that what you do outside of work affects how you perform at work! Because this tip is easier said than done, I highly recommend you check out the book Sleep Smarter for great advice on improving your sleep.
  3. Reduce sugar intake and eat more low GI foods. High GI foods have been correlated with depression and fatigue6. Therefore, you can protect yourself against common negative emotions that naturally arise with sales.

Emotional Intelligence Tip #2: Practice meditation daily Emotional intelligence begins with understanding what you are feeling. By practicing mindfulness on a regular basis, you will more easily identify your emotions. As a result, you will be better positioned to handle those feelings. When practicing mindfulness, listen to your inner-monologue. Are there any negative thoughts or limiting beliefs? Challenge them! Ask yourself questions like “Is there any truth to it?” or “Where did that come from?” If you replace negativity with positivity, you can improve your emotional state and sales performance. By the way, sitting still for more than 3 minutes will probably feel a little uncomfortable! Nowadays, our minds are being constantly stimulated. For this reason, I strongly recommend using an app like Calm or Headspace so you can learn the basics. After one or two weeks of using the program, I recommend you practice mindfulness for 10 minutes a day. Your stress levels will likely drop7 and unlock your potential to sell more.

Emotional Intelligence Tip #3: Empathise through active listening

Empathy is the foundation of emotional intelligence for others. By practicing it, you will better understand other people. With this, you will be better equipped to understand what your prospects are going through, and sell more effectively. To increase empathy, I recommend that you become an expert in active listening. These are the three key components of active listening:

  1. Acknowledgement: Keep eye contact. You can make subtle sound cues like “hmm” or “uh huh” to help your prospect know that you are listening. Nod your head and use other non-verbal body language.
  2. Reflection: Let your prospect know that you understand. You may start your sentences with “So what you are saying is… ” or “Just so I understand… “
  3. Follow-up: Ask related questions to better understand what the prospect is saying. Doing so will demonstrate that you are genuinely interested in what they are saying.

Conclusion

Emotional intelligence is essential for successful sales professionals. The above action steps are simple, but often neglected. I’d like to encourage you to put your health first, practice mindfulness, and empathise more. Doing so will grow your emotional intelligence and subsequent sales performance. Because of the numerous tips provided, choose just one habit to put into practice immediately. You’ll be happy you did!

References

1 Elizabeth J Rojell Ph.D., Charles E. Pettijohn DBA & R. Stephen Parker DBA (2014) Emotional Intelligence and Dispositional Affectivity as Predictors of Performance in Salespeople, Journal of Marketing Theory and Practice, 14:2, 113-124

2 Edwards, Meghan; Rhodes, Ryan; Loprinzi, Paul (2017) A Randomized Control Intervention Investigating the Effects of Acute Exercise on Emotional Regulation, American Journal of Health Behavior, Volume 41, Number 5, September 2017, pp. 534-543(10)

3 Deliens, G., Gilson, M. & Peigneux, P. Exp Brain Res (2014) 232: 1403. Sleep and the processing of emotions

4 White, D. (2016). Improving Your Emotional Health Through Healthier Eating. Psych Central.

5 An M, Colarelli SM, O’Brien K, Boyajian ME (2016) Why We Need More Nature at Work: Effects of Natural Elements and Sunlight on Employee Mental Health and Work Attitudes. PLoS ONE 11(5): e0155614.

6 Breymeyer KL, Lampe JW, McGregor BA, Neuhouser ML. Subjective Mood and Energy Levels of Healthy Weight and Overweight/Obese Healthy Adults on High-and Low-Glycemic Load Experimental Diets. Appetite. 2016;107:253-259.

7 Jenny Gu; Clara Strauss; Rod Bond; Kate Cavanagh (2014) How do mindfulness-based cognitive therapy and mindfulness-based stress reduction improve mental health and wellbeing? A systematic review and meta-analysis of mediation studies, Clinical Psychology Review, Volume 37, April 2015, Pages 1-12