3 ways to improve sales performance without relying on innovation

Years ago, when I worked as an employee for a global company, I had access to some interesting resources. One in particular stands out – for a couple of not-so-great reasons.

First, it was expensive. It cost tens of thousands of dollars just to become a member of their community and get access to research. It wasn’t my money, but I never thought it was the highest priority spend for us.

Which leads me to the second point: the research wasn’t worth the money. This group of primarily academics would provide me “best practices” that had been defined by the companies doing the best financially that year. But when I looked under the veneer, I found a terrible bias towards companies that were predominantly technology innovators. Well, duh. Innovation sells itself. That’s why it is such a precious resource to consistently invest in.

But what do you do when you don’t have any game-changing innovation? What do you do when your best innovation is essentially the same as your top competitors?

In my last post, I ranted about how too many leaders don’t know how to improve their team’s performance without some new innovation to sell itself. So this week, I’m giving you three things that you can do immediately to drive improved sales.

Number one: I can’t say this enough – drive clarity. Make sure everyone on the team (inside and outside of sales) understands the outcomes they are supposed to be working towards (no, a sales target is not an outcome – that’s the metric) and their roles in achieving them. Simply sitting your people down and making sure everyone is on the same page costs you nothing to do and provides immediate benefit. Frankly, this one action alone can drive an immediate lift in performance. Further, investigating where – and why – clarity breaks down will provide you months of action to address the biggest obstacles.

Number two: Create engagement. And by engagement, I specifically mean BOTH motivation AND empowerment. Don’t simply persuade people to care. Create an environment where you tackle what is de-motivating them (like isolation, information overload, etc.) and give them the assets they need for success (like access to people who can be an example/coach, showing them how to use their resources better, etc.). Again, simply giving this area attention and telling people what you see and what you will do can lift sales performance quickly. The critical key is immediately doing something about what you see/say. Make the effort, share the results.

Note: If you combine clarity and engagement, you get a powerful one-two punch that may literally take you years to fully build and implement. But the rewards will be phenomenal because how you execute matters.

Number three: Get deep on your customers. By this, I mean make sure that everyone on the team understands their customers in very specific, very tangible ways. They should be able to talk about their customers for at least 10 minutes without mentioning your company, your products, or themselves. They should be able to give real examples of what their customers are doing now, the challenges they are experiencing now, and the decisions they are making now. Share this information with each other – then define how you are helping these customers now. Only then can you connect the dots between the customer’s problems and the solutions you provided to them. Describe how you worked together to deliver the value you promised. Finally, make these stories available to the entire sales team so that they can see what true customer-focus looks like. You would be amazed at how often simple story-telling will help sales people get outside of their perspective and see their roles in new – and motivating – ways.

And for a bonus: You can always ask for help. Get someone (like us) to help you navigate the complexity of your business with an outsider’s eye. Leverage a fresh perspective to see what you and/or your team is missing. The impact can be immediate.

What would you add to the list?

I mua. Onward and upward.

By Tim Ohai

PS If you or someone you know needs to get better performance from the sales team, let’s set up a conversation to talk about it. Get on my calendar here.

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