Three Simple (and Free!) Tactics to Boost Sales Performance

Author: 
Eric Blumthal

Most sales organizations are not unlike a college class being graded on the Bell Curve. Typically, 20 percent are top performers – these A+ performers get it done with minimal support. The D’s and F’s in the bottom 20 percent are either new or need to find another line of work. Middle performers represent over half the sales force. They have enough success to keep them around, but there’s definitely room for improvement.

This middle majority represents your significant revenue opportunity. Imagine if you could improve all your C’s and B’s by a half or full letter grade. Even the slightest performance improvements from your middle majority significantly enhance your top line.

Middle majority reps are the primary beneficiaries of your sales support investments already. CRM, sales process and knowledge support tools are all necessary, but often fail to achieve the potential results. I’ve found three powerful tactics that will move your middle majority closer to top performing levels. These tactics are storytelling, industry acumen, and leveraging resources. While many characteristics of top performers are difficult to replicate, each of these is easily transferred to your middle majority.

1. Tell a Good Story - Customers want to know you understand their pain and have a way to relieve it. Nothing demonstrates this ability better than linking the correct customer success story at the moment of truth (during the sales call). Just look at your top performers. Top performers are great storytellers. They listen to the prospect’s challenge and easily relate it to a similar circumstance with an existing customer. This simple tactic immediately establishes credibility and trust with the prospect. Prospects know your company understands the problem and has addressed it with good results.

In case you brushed over certain words I used in the previous paragraph, they bear repeating. Reps must leverage the CORRECT story at the MOMENT OF TRUTH. In this busy, short attention span world, reps get only one chance to make an impression. Force-fitting the wrong client success story is not effective; neither is remembering the correct one after leaving the meeting. Credibility and trust get established in a live setting and not with a follow-up email.

Success stories and related storytelling should become the foundation of your sales/marketing alignment. A success story has value as content marketing collateral—but collateral combined with storytelling is a one-two punch. Here are some ideas to make this happen:

Marketing’s Role: Every published success story should include a sales rep job aid explaining specifically when, where and how reps should leverage it.

Sales Leaders’ Role: Make storytelling part of the culture. At sales meetings, ask reps which story they would use in a specific situation; get them practicing stories in front of their peers. Since most success stories never get made into case studies, encourage reps to share a new story every time they win a deal. Share this lore in a document so everyone benefits, particularly new hires.

Training’s Role: Repetition and reinforcement are key. Create exercises to match the situation to the best story. Do this frequently as it needs to be something reps automatically remember when on calls.

2. Have Industry Acumen - You’re probably thinking, “duh.” Understanding target market drivers and keeping up with industry news and trends are no-brainers. Still, it’s worth mentioning here because most companies assume their reps get this. Make sure reps understand why it’s important to have this knowledge, provide them with resources to better understand market drivers and buyer persona motivations, and ask them to share their best practices for research markets, companies and contacts. 

3. Leverage Resources - Somewhere, there’s a piece of content, an internal expert or a partner that will move specific types of deals forward. Easy to say but hard to remember. That’s where reinforcement comes in. Companies that take (and make) opportunities to remind reps what’s around will help them close more deals. If a rep is sharing a success story following a win, make sure they reference the resources they used to close the deal. I guarantee you’ll get reps’ attention every time you reveal the “secret sauce.”

Storytelling, industry acumen and leveraging resources can be the difference between mediocre sales performance and good performance. Why? Because these three things impact the most important part of your middle majority: their confidence. Confidence transfers directly from your reps to your buyers and to results.

These three tactics will drive more sales than anything else you do. The key to making it happen is prioritization. If new information doesn’t fall into one of these three buckets, simply communicate it and then park it on the sales portal. If it does fall into the storytelling, industry acumen or internal resource bucket, talk about it and then frequently reinforce it with your sales team until it becomes second nature.

Eric Blumthal is the co-founder and CEO of count5, a software company specializing in knowledge reinforcement. count5 empowers companies to deliver interactive reinforcement to enterprise sales and customer service teams, directly to their desktops and mobile devices in a way that gets noticed and requires only a few minutes of time to review. He can be reached via email at eblumthal@count5.com. Or, follow him on Twitter or connect on LinkedIn.