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9 tips on how to improve sales performance

9 tips on how to improve sales performance

If you’re anything like me, after every end-of-quarter blitz you may think, “Whew, what a rush. How can we improve […]


Category: Tag: Sales enablement platform

9 tips on how to improve sales performance

9 tips on how to improve sales performance

If you’re anything like me, after every end-of-quarter blitz you may think, “Whew, what a rush. How can we improve for next quarter?” I contemplate this whether we hit our goals or not. As the VP of Sales at RFPIO, I’m constantly on the lookout for how to improve sales performance. Not just for my team, but for our whole organization.

The sales process is unique to your particular brew of product and buyer profile. There are no magic bullets to improve sales performance no matter your bailiwick. With that in mind, I compiled this list of tips with the intent that they can be generic enough to apply to a majority of sales processes. They’re recommendations on where you can look to make incremental changes. Some may be obvious, but that doesn’t make them any less important to address if you want to improve performance.

I’m not saying that these 9 tips on how to improve sales performance are going to have you coasting into the end of the next quarter like Captain Jack Sparrow docking a schooner just as it sinks below the harbor’s surface. No, that end-of-quarter flurry will always be there (and, let’s be honest, it’s one of the reasons we love being in sales), but maybe the next one will be for your sales team to exceed quota or close larger deals or launch a new product like a moonshot.

via GIPHY

9 tips to improve sales performance:

1. Monitor buyer’s evolving needs

So many companies forget this step, even seasoned ones. Many companies assume that they know their buyer. But when taking a step back, some may realize they are targeting the wrong buyers, neglecting an entire target altogether, or basing their buyer persona on outdated intel.

Establish a routine of reviewing your available market, determining what factors (e.g., pandemic-related shutdowns, new technology, political changes, ad infinitum) may have altered buyer motivations, and strategizing how your sales team needs to pivot.

2. Keep the sales tech stack humming

Each member of a sales team’s ability to achieve their goals will be determined by the tools they have to work with. It’s “sales tech mayhem” out there, according to Gartner, and the number of sales tools reps use has more than tripled since 2017. Many businesses thrive with knowledge management systems that help them streamline important information into one place.

Plug into sales enablement. It’s by far the fastest-growing sector in sales technology (up 567% in 2019 and still growing). It’s integral to ensuring salespeople are equipped with the tools that they need to reach prospects successfully.

3. Foster collaboration…internally and with prospects

Sales teams cannot exist in a silo. Collaboration must be seamless among presales, account executives, marketing, and product teams, at minimum. By fostering a culture of collaboration, you create a stronger sales team and brand.

I’ve also found that my strongest closes happen because I’m collaborating with prospects, too. I ask them to help me solve their problem. It adds another layer of buy-in to carry me to the next step in the process while involving other stakeholders, eventually connecting me to the ultimate decision-maker.

4. Make data-based decisions

This will improve over time, but the sooner you start gathering data, the faster you’ll see results. More data will equal greater insight into buyer personas, product and demo strengths and weaknesses, why deals succeed or fail, and methods that your most successful reps are using. Patterns will emerge faster than you think.

5. Fine tune how to build customer trust

Ask quality questions until you truly understand customer perspectives. Otherwise, you’ll continue getting a barrage of objections. Further understand their challenges until they give you space to respond to concerns. Then you can work to help them understand potential outcomes of using your product and how it can address their specific concerns.

6. Focus on the right deals.

Evaluate whether or not you are pursuing deals that are a lost cause. Also keep watch on individual activities within deal cycles. Always re-evaluate the priority because it will constantly change.

I explain it to my team this way: Say you’re on safari, watching lions, hippos, and giraffes…whoa! Check out that zebra! Black and white, it stands out among the brown and green of the savannah. Know how to identify the zebra, the one you need to focus on. To know this, you need to understand how your environment functions, including everything from team dynamics to the chain of events that has to happen before closing to product details to buyer profiles.

7. Improve your proposals

Personalize your proposals so that the customer feels like you really care, because you do! Besides, you spend too much time building relationships to sabotage that hard work with subpar proposals. The proposal will weigh heavily in establishing trust, communicating to decision makers, and setting your solution apart from the competition.

8. Evaluate the Competition

Learn from your competitors. Always be thinking of ways that you can differentiate yourself from that competitor and find those challenges that other competitors may be missing that you can solve for.

Understand the value that competitors say they’ll provide to the prospects you’re both trying to target. That’s the only way to know how you can deliver greater value or fit your prospect’s specific needs better.

9. Track your pipeline

Monitor the volume of your pipeline regularly. Sales leaders need to be able to explain to reps that, “To be successful as a rep here, you need to have ‘X’ number of logos by ‘X’ date.” Know the benchmarks that determine success.

Always make sure you have a healthy pipeline. You’d be surprised how often this falls through the cracks. Reps understandably focus on the deal that’s right in front of them and can easily forget to nurture their pipeline.

Can we help?

By following these steps, you can improve sales performance and hit those KPI’s. Like I mentioned earlier, sales enablement can be a boon to sales outcomes. If you want to learn more about how RFPIO can improve sales performance, schedule a demo today!

What is sales enablement? Why is it trending?

What is sales enablement? Why is it trending?

I’ll be honest. When I transitioned from my frontline sales career to sales enablement operations, I didn’t know sales enablement was going to explode like it has. I was just intensely curious about the tools in our tech stack that helped me stay on top of customer engagement. So much so that RFPIO noticed and asked if I’d like to take ownership of it. “Don’t mind if I do!” I replied, and it’s been a rush ever since.

A recent Smart Selling Tools survey revealed that use of sales enablement tools grew by 567% in a one year period. Why? Well, there are many gears that have to sync before achieving a successful sale. Even the deals that close because you feel like you were in the right place at the right time are a product of a lot of work that has gone on behind the scenes. What’s the Richard Branson quote? “There are no quick wins in business—it takes years to become an overnight success.”

How can you make the sales process smoother? The answer to that question is sales enablement. The value prop for sales enablement is to make sure those gears behind the scenes are fully lubricated and precisely machined, no matter how unpredictable your product, market, or customer may be.

What is sales enablement?

Sales enablement is the ongoing, strategic process of equipping sales teams with the right resources in order to effectively close more deals. We complement the sales cycle and help reps do what they do best: Sell. There are myriad ways companies can provide these resources, like through knowledge management software, training programs, and other types of support.

Mind you, sales enablement isn’t just for the rookies. Sales enablement adds a layer of support for reps of all levels, from senior leaders to new hires.

Without enablement, there’s a lack of alignment between process and training. Sales professionals are hard chargers who want to succeed. If their organization doesn’t enable them, then salespeople will go rogue to find ways to succeed on their own. While this is admirable in a proactive sense, it can result in long-term issues with team dynamics, inconsistent messaging, and loss of native expertise when your strongest sales people leave the company. Because along with a penchant for seeking successful outcomes, great sales reps want to be in environments where there are as few barriers to success as possible. If they can be enabled elsewhere to greater success, they’ll leave.

With sales enablement, you can have an open line of communication between all stakeholders—from sales development reps to account executives to account managers. Only then are you able to develop a list of goals that can link the sales team’s needs with business objectives. Of course, goals will vary depending on roles within the sales team. For example, account executives want to rely less on others and have more control over meeting their quota, but other members of the sales team may be looking for ways to share resources faster so that everyone can succeed and better manage revenue streams.

Why is sales enablement important?

Sales enablement can scale the work of sales teams and can also improve collaboration across sales and presales. With these areas of the business communicating to each other, you’re able to formulate a sales enablement strategy that can improve business goals more efficiently.

I don’t believe that every deal is just another number. As the owner of sales enablement at RFPIO, I strive to make every customer journey an experience in partnership with RFPIO. I want to create a sense of community. The support we offer the sales cycle will provide dividends in the customer experience as a whole. If we can drive competency levels with demos, strengthen the sales team culture, and simplify knowledge management, then deals close faster and customers are more satisfied. Reps always want to sell better, they’re always looking to improve, and we’re their biggest cheerleaders.

As sales enablement matures, it can help with so much more behind the scenes, from prospecting to demos and deeper dives, including:

  • Reinforcing knowledge through training and coaching
  • Breaking down silos for sales team roles
  • Documenting best practices for the sales tech stack
  • Delivering the right content at the right time
  • Keeping communication open so sales teams know what they need to know to close deals smarter and more effectively

What is sales enablement strategy?

A sales enablement strategy is the business approach put in place to provide sales with the resources that they need to effectively sell. Not all sales enablement strategies will be the same, as it is unique to your business and its needs. The sales enablement strategy should include data on how to improve sales and an analysis on current sales tools to determine where improvements can be made.

Sales enablement strategy is what bridges the gap between sales leadership and sales operations. Sales leadership sets revenue goals. Sales operations has to meet those goals. Sales enablement strategy determines the technology, content, and support sales ops needs to execute their business development strategy. Sales enablement strategy also evaluates the sales tech stack to make sure it’s optimized to give leadership full visibility and ensure deals aren’t shrouded in the mystery of reps’ own records. It’s about finding ways to make internal relationships more efficient so they’re not detracting from time spent on revenue-generating activities.

7 sales enablement best practices

Sales enablement is important because it plays such a key role in scaling the organization. By providing all salespeople with a level playing field and equipping them with knowledge on demand, sales teams should thrive. I recommend following these seven steps to get the most out of your sales enablement strategy.

  1. Define objectives: The key to sales enablement is that every team involved is on the same page. What is our goal? How do we get there together? What is in our way? I drive and execute on the sales enablement strategy at RFPIO, but I don’t develop it single handedly. Strategic development falls on a combination of leadership from sales, marketing, IT, contracts, and operations.
  2. Understand your buyers: Empowering the sales team also involves empowering your buyer. Make sure that your buyer journey is mapped out accordingly in order to maximize sales enablement and customer experience outcomes.
  3. Continue training: Sales enablement is not a one-and-done solution. Adequate and frequent training will need to be incorporated into the company culture in order for veteran sales members to stay up to date on the trends and new sales members to learn the ropes.
  4. Create valuable content: There are two layers to this step.
    1. Work with marketing and/or your content development manager to provide assets like case studies, white papers, blog posts, webinars, and other content that sales teams can utilize to develop relationships. The best websites and products can bring in their own leads with content and branding, making it easier for sales to close the deal.
    2. Make sure the content that the sales team needs to do their job well is always up to date and accessible. This can include sales briefs, training materials, product roadmaps, and any other knowledge they need to have in order to build trust with a customer. At RFPIO, we actually conduct and record sales enablement sessions on everything from product updates to contracts to ongoing customer support to train anyone in the company who’s interested.
  5. Manage sales enablement processes: This doesn’t mean micromanage, because no one likes a micromanager. However, this process can be new to sales teams. Take the time and effort to ensure sales is enacting the strategy. Check in to ask if anything can be improved and gather feedback.
  6. Use tools effectively: Don’t just give answers. Show the sales team where they can find answers so that they can take control of the process.
  7. Document (v.): Too many sales processes only exist as word of mouth, especially in startup environments. Sales enablement can own the documentation of these word-of-mouth preferences to convert them into manageable, trackable processes. Take handoffs from one team to another, as an example. Sales enablement can smooth out these traditionally rough patches. Rather than nurturing or babysitting handoffs, document how those handoffs need to take place to make sure there’s a smooth transition for customers. This is the type of help that keeps sales teams focused on selling instead of getting distracted by vague operational details.

Empower your sales team

When you empower your sales team with the tools they need to succeed, they will return the favor with better performance. From presales to sales leadership, improved outcomes will leave all team members happy.

On-demand access to knowledge and content is essential to sales operations and sales enablement. Operationalizing your sales tech stack with AI-enabled software that drives more self-service experiences can remove many dependencies that have become frustrating pauses in the sales cycle. It can also increase revenue by up to 20%!

To learn more about how RFPIO can help with knowledge management and how RFPIO® LookUp can grant sales teams access to all content from almost anywhere, schedule a demo today!

How proposal teams can prove their value and drive sales productivity

How proposal teams can prove their value and drive sales productivity

This blog is a continuation of RFPIO’s white paper, Experience the Freedom to Thrive. Read the full paper here.

RFPs are part of the sales cycle. Ergo, RFP teams should be part of the sales team. You’d think it would be that simple… but, alas, nothing in the world of proposals is simple.

I’ve been in the proposal industry for almost two decades. Throughout that time, I’ve had to “make my case” to prove why I deserved a spot at the sales table.

This is despite the fact that $11 trillion of revenue is won through competitive proposal processes every year—and organizations with proposal professionals submit 3x more RFPs than those without.

And I know I’m not alone. According to a recent LinkedIn poll we conducted, only 69% of respondents said proposal management sits within the sales organization.

Proposal management in sales

For proposal managers who want to prove their value and drive sales productivity, the first step is demonstrating how your role fits in with the sales cycle.

Put an end to RFP telephone

Oftentimes, the RFP handoff from sales looks something like this:

  1. Sales forwards an RFP to the proposal manager and tries to get the proposal manager up to speed on the last 8 months of activities in about 15 minutes.
  2. The proposal manager starts herding the cats of SMEs and leadership in a short amount of time.
  3. Because the proposal manager wasn’t fully part of the sales strategy from the get-go, they aren’t able to answer questions about proposal strategy from SMEs.
  4. If the SMEs want to know what kind of “spin” they should put on certain questions, proposal managers might not know if they didn’t have a good hand-off from sales.

As a result, the SME answers the question generically. The proposal won’t be tailored to the customer’s specific needs. And sales might lose the deal.

That’s why proposal managers need to be involved in sales conversations from the very beginning.

If you’re trying to get caught up on everything, it’s too much to take in in a short amount of time. You need to understand how sales has been building up to that proposal, and what you need to highlight in the proposal to make sure you’re putting your best foot forward.

Take your seat at the sales table

The most important thing you can do to prove that you’re part of the sales team is act like you’re part of the sales team.

That means making it clear to your sales leader that you need a better understanding of what’s coming down the line and need to be part of sales huddles and pipeline meetings. This is especially important in this new era of remote work, where we’re not running into each other at the office. In the absence of impromptu conversations, we (proposal professionals) need to be more purposeful about communicating with sales.

If you’re not currently part of sales huddles and pipeline meetings, here’s an email template you can borrow to request to be part of those meetings:

Hi {boss name},

I’m writing to request an invitation to the sales team’s weekly sales huddles and pipeline meetings.

As the proposal manager, I’m responsible for crafting a compelling proposal that solves our clients’ problems. The sooner I’m clued into the status of open opportunities, the sooner I can start researching our client—and the more compelling proposal I can write.

To put a number on this:

    • Total dollar value of proposals won in [last year]:
    • Total dollar value of proposals lost in [last year]:

By joining sales conversations early on, I’m confident I can increase our proposal win rate—and help push deals deeper into the sales cycle.

Looking forward to seeing you in the first meeting!

Best,

{Your Name}

Take this template and make it your own—especially the metric purpose. I recommend tailoring your impact data t your company’s sales goals, whether that be revenue, membership, or new logos signed.

Once you’re part of those meetings, you have a chance to bring up ideas and offer your help. And help people understand that proposal teams don’t exist just to respond to RFPs. They are critical to winning and retaining accounts.

Gimme the data

After you’ve made the case to rightfully take your spot on the sales team, the next step is proving to leadership what you’re bringing to the table. And, more importantly, what would happen if you weren’t there.

This leads me to my golden rule of proposal management:

Even if you think everyone knows how much you’re working, they don’t.

If you’ve ever been told something along the lines of “Wow, your team is magic!”, that’s a big red flag.

My team is full of amazing, competent human beings who are excellent at their jobs. But there’s no such thing as magic. And if everyone else at your company believes you’re a team of magical proposal elves, that’s an easy recipe for burnout.

If you find yourself in that situation, you need to demonstrate how much time you’re spending on projects.

Here’s a list of everything you need to track to start building your case:

  • # of questions in each RFP
  • Time spent
  • By RFP
  • By task (e.g. formatting, printing, coordinating with SMEs)
  • By team member
  • # of RFPs and due dates

If you’re thinking, “I don’t have time to track all this”… Well, that’s probably a sign that you need to start tracking these metrics and prove to leadership how much you’re working.

If you have RFP software, tracking these metrics is easy. If you don’t, it’s a bit more challenging, but not impossible. I’ll cover both methods in the next two sections.

I think there’s an app for that…

If you really want to get on top of your data tracking, RFP software is going to be extremely helpful. It tracks all those metrics I listed in the previous section automatically, so you can just get on with your normal business and pull a report at the end of the quarter (or month or year or whatever it may be).

At my previous employer, we used RFPIO. We just went about our normal business and let RFPIO whir in the background. At the end of our analysis, we created a report showing (in quarterly timeframes and YTD):

  • How many hours go into each RFP
  • How many hours each individual is working per week
  • How many hours are spent on each part of the RFP

And the results of my report were really eye-opening for senior staff. I was able to prove that we needed an extra 2.5 people to achieve the same output and work 8 hours per day. As a result, we were put at the top of the list for new hires over the entire sales organization.

In lieu of RFP software, pivot tables are your friend

If you aren’t using RFP software, you’ll need to say hello to pivot tables, because they are going to be your new best friend.

First, ask your team members to use a free time-tracking software (like Toggl) to track their time. If you’re anything like me, you hate asking your over-worked team to do extra work.

If you start thinking that, just remember: The only way you can help your team get the support they need is by proving to the rest of the organization how much work you and your team are actually doing.

To put together a comprehensive report, you’ll need to ask your team members to track time by:

  • RFP, and
  • Task (e.g. formatting, printing, coordinating with SMEs, etc.)

At the end of the week, compile the report from each of your team members and pivot table away.

You don’t have to do this exercise forever. Only as long as it takes to build your case. Maybe it’s a week, maybe it’s a month. But just know that at the end of the exercise, you’ll have the data you need to prove how much you’re working.

Because—and I can’t say this enough—nobody knows how hard you work. And after you show them the numbers, they’ll wonder how you were ever able to do it all.

Building the right tech stack for your proposal team

As a proposal manager, you probably won’t have a huge say in what sales technology your team uses. When my previous company switched from Skype to Teams, nobody asked me what my thoughts were. All I could do was adjust and adapt.

And here is my pitch for RFP software. It truly is a game-changer for proposal teams. If you (or your boss) still need convincing, here are all the stats you need to build your case.

With RFP software, you can:

  • Act on the 80/20 rule: Automate responses to standard questions, and spend more time personalizing the client-specific questions
  • Always use the right client names: With RFP software, merge tags like [client name] make sure you never accidentally use the wrong client in a proposal (an easy mistake, but still embarrassing)
  • Consolidate content and keep it up to date: With an AI-enabled content library, you can store pre-approved, proposal team-blessed content, and make sure your entire sales team has access.

If you are already using RFP software, find ways to integrate with the rest of your tech stack. For example, RFPIO (my personal favorite) integrates with all kinds of platforms, including:

  • CRMs (Salesforce, MS Dynamics, Hubspot)
  • Cloud Storage (Box, Dropbox, Sharepoint, OneDrive, Google Drive)
  • Communication Apps (Slack, MS Teams, Google Hangouts, Jira)
  • SSO Authentication (Azure, Okta, OneLogin)
  • Web Browsers (Google Chrome, Chromium Edge) (These are technically called “browser extensions” and not “integrations” but whatever)
  • Microsoft Office (Excel, Word, PowerPoint, Outlook)

Proposal managers are essential to driving sales productivity

Trillions of dollars of revenue are won through competitive proposal processes each year, and organizations with dedicated proposal managers submitted 3.5x more responses in 2020 than those without.

To learn what else proposal managers can to do drive sales productivity, check out our newly published white paper: Experience the Freedom to Thrive.

 benchmark-blog-report

Are you ready to jump into the revenue-generation game?

Read our white paper to learn how

One thing we found… with the right sales stack, proposal managers become an impactful source of revenue.

Not to toot our own horn, but with RFPIO, you can expect to reduce your RFP response time by 40% (on average).

To put a number on that: If you spend 40 hours per week responding to RFPs, RFPIO could save you 16 hours per week, on average.

Ready to see how it works? Schedule a demo.

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