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Sales performance

Sales Performance Tips to Rescue an Underperforming Sales Team

Sales performance can’t always be up to scratch. Sales teams are made up of human beings, and we’re prone to making a few mistakes every now and again. It’s called life.

Even if you follow the sales textbook to a tee, you’re going to make a mistake somewhere. It’s inevitable. So let’s get rid of this failure mindset straight from the off and focus on how you can apply sales team motivation to rescue an underperforming sales team. 

When the going gets tough, sometimes you have to keep plugging away and focus on your team’s cohesion, morale and the bigger sales picture. Other times you have to dig deeper, dive into the intricacies and locate the root cause of your troubles. Only then can you possibly know how to increase your own sales performance. 

The use of 360 feedback can give you an in-depth look at your leadership skills. It’ll help you get introspective. While professional sales manager training is a good idea, it’s not essential for every hurdle you encounter. The reason for any dip in conversion will almost always be staring you in the face. You just need to know what to look for.

Table of Contents

What Causes a Weak Sales Performance?

You’re only as good as your team. I’m sure you’ve heard that quote before and whilst it rings true, there are plenty of reasons for an underperforming sales team. Some much closer to home. 

At the end of the day, you’re a team and whether you need to have some self-reflection or get your sales team motivated, you’re all working towards the same goal: making sales.

So you must be wondering; what causes a weak sales performance? 

1. Lack Of Leadership

Without a captain on a ship, it would be difficult to navigate the tides. Without a strong sales leader, how can you expect success? A great sales manager directs and leads the team, has a clear vision, effective communication, and high quality team-building skills. 

When this is missing, your team can feel incohesive and lack the motivation needed to turn their sales slump around. It falls on you to ensure your sales team motivation does not drop. And remember, it’s nearly impossible to have all team members on the exact same wavelength all the time. People are different. They have their own lives. Motivations vary. Your job is to ensure that variation remains minimal and doesn’t impact other members of the team.

“The very essence of leadership is that you have to have vision. You can’t blow an uncertain trumpet.”

2. Communication Issues

If your team is not communicating clearly with one another (which should be the bare minimum), then are they really engaging effectively with your customers? Everyone has to be on the same page in relation to your customers’ expectations. This is non-negotiable.

Regular and open communication creates a collaborative environment, breathing life into your team. Effective communication is a critical factor for a successful sales performance. If you’re working remotely, make sure that you choose your cross-functional tools well so that you can all stay connected.

Listen to Simon Sinek compare sales with dating to get a deeper understanding of the nuance needed in communication.

3. Skill Gaps

Unfortunately, not every salesperson can talk the back legs off a donkey, nor will they all have matching sales attributes. If your sales team does not have the skills and experience necessary to ensure a positive sales performance, then you need to conduct serious sales training strategies to level them up.  

Your sales reps need to build a relationship with the customer, actively listen, show confidence, empathy and understanding… This isnt always an easy feat if it’s not in their nature. However with the right guidance and training, sales skills can be learnt. 

4. Motivation

It’s a relatively straightforward concept; an unmotivated team makes for an underperforming sales team. If your team doesn’t make an effort to go that extra mile for your prospects, your potential customers will be picked off one by one by a sales team that actually cares. With motivation, your team will put in the hard work to achieve their desired targets. 

But how do you motivate a floundering sales team?

A positive attitude is a good start. No one got motivated by negativity. Encourage persistence with customers and stress how important it is to focus on KPIS and sales targets. However, don’t focus solely on work metrics. Try rewarding your sales team for closing deals, or incentivizing them in other ways. Sometimes, a simple team-building exercise is all it takes to find that spark again.

If your team’s customer calls are engaging and enthusiastic, the positivity can spread like wildfire. When done well, a boosted sales team motivation can influence the customers’ perception of both the sales rep and the product or service being sold to them.

5. Weak or Absent Sales Strategy

If your team doesn’t have a clear strategy, you’re not going to achieve consistent sales results. The execution of the sales strategy, however, is just as important as the actual plan put in place. Harvard Business claims that a staggering 90% of strategies fail, not so much because of the strategy being wrong, but because the execution was poorly performed.

If your strategy is weak, it’s time to rethink it. You can start by optimizing your sales call scripts through the use of A/B testing. This will help you identify variables to improve to boost revenue. Alternatively, you may need a new strategy entirely. Try to pinpoint what’s not working and narrow it down to the source. It may be multiple things. Whatever your findings, don’t get demotivated. Identifying the root cause of the problem is the first step in finding a game-changing solution.

How to Improve Sales Performance

Improving sales performance requires a number of factors that involve a combination of leadership, strategic sales planning, and the development and training of your sales team. Here are some important steps to consider.

Setting Goals

The Sales Manager has to establish realistic targets. Goals should be challenging yet reachable as this is what keeps a sales team on their toes. When you choose a clear goal, you give your entire team a sense of direction. This alone increases sales performance and can help turn the tide for an underperforming sales team. 

Goals can also be tracked. A good goal means your team’s sales performance can be evaluated on a consistent basis. This constant analysis allows you to identify if something changes as it happens. Improving your team’s sales performance is an ongoing task that never really has a completion date. You should always be finding ways to improve. 

"Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible."

Sales Strategies

When you clearly document your sales strategy, it helps outline the steps needed to enhance your sales team’s performance. If these steps are followed consistently then your sales should increase. This is especially true when you implement an incentivized structure, motivating your team through rewards for reaching targets and in-house competitions. It should get your sales team fired up. 

By defining your sales strategy and narrowing down the target audience, your sales team will have direction and focus when trying to convert those leads into sales. It’s so important the strategy is communicated properly to your team and that they have a whole understanding of it. In 2024, it was recorded that 42% of sales reps feel like they don’t have enough information before making a call. Clearly, a well-communicated sales strategy is not something that all sales teams use. This puts you at an advantage against almost half your competitors straight off the bat.

Learning Sales Skills

You can’t just expect your new starters to hit the ground running. Some will have next to no experience in the sales industry and will need all the guidance they can get. Having a comprehensive training program in place will adhere to these hurdles. Equipping your sales employees with the skill, knowledge, and tools to succeed from the off will only aid your company’s success. 

Providing product knowledge, different sales techniques, and skills to negotiate and handle customer relations is essential to increase sales performance. Whether new or existing, regularly communicating with your team through complementary and constructive feedback will improve their overall performance. It will also help you to understand what they’re comfortable with and what they need to work on. Regular sales training should be a no-brainer.

Your sales team needs to keep up with changing customer preferences, world trends, and new technologies. Adopting new sales skills helps your team stay sharp, agile, and ready to tackle whatever’s thrown their way.

"Most people think 'selling' is the same as 'talking'. But the most effective salespeople know that listening is the most important part of their job."

Work Culture

Being a leader doesn’t necessarily mean you are the manager of the sales team. If you’re leading by example, you’re setting the precedent for the rest of your team to follow. Creating a culture of collaboration within the sales team should be encouraged. An open and welcoming team environment is the best way to share customer insights, successful strategies, and new trends. Peer-to-peer learning will exponentially fast-forward your teams’ overall development and sales performance.

A positive work culture also gives a sense of purpose to your employees. When your employees feel like they belong, they will be more engaged in their work, resulting in higher productivity. 

This translates into better customer experiences too. When your team is more focused on delivering an empowering service, it rubs off on the prospect. A staggering 89% of highly engaged employees claim the culture in their organization is positive. It adds up.

Sales Manager Training: Adopting 360 Degree Feedback

360 Degree feedback is an age old technique that has been around for decades. In a nutshell, it’s an evaluation of your performance as a sales manager that is gathered from multiple sources within your company.

Capturing feedback from multiple sources within your company gives you valuable insights into your performance. Ultimately, the buck stops with the sales manager. This is why introspection is such a critical tool when looking at the bigger picture as to why your sales team is underperforming.

Introspection involves deeper insights into your own playbook and leadership. You can analyze your own sales strategies, managing styles, and general communication with your troops. By taking a step back and assessing your own performance, you can develop a fresh outlook on things which can be the key to driving those sales conversions up. Seeking feedback and learning from it will only strengthen you and your team.

Soliciting and Understanding 360 Degree Feedback

Generally speaking, anonymity is the usual method for gathering 360 degree feedback. This encourages honest and constructive feedback. It can also reduce any biases that may crop up. It’s a great way to unlock critical information that will help you understand your strengths and weaknesses on a deeper level.

Anonymity usually comes with a degree of brutal honesty, so take it on the chin and allow these truths to delve deeper into your general performance. Using 360 degree feedback, you can identify certain traits or patterns of behavior that might not be so obvious to you but are to others. 

If you work for a huge corporation, this method is highly recommended but if your business is smaller and tight knit, there are other options.

Other Options for Smaller Businesses

As a sales manager, organizing one-to-one interviews to seek feedback in a private setting is a good way to solicit the information you desire. On a one-to-one basis, you will indulge in deeper conversations with your team and uncover insights into your leadership skills. Of course, you need to make sure your sales team is okay with giving you feedback to your face. Some may not be.

You can also request anonymous surveys. These can be performed by businesses of all sizes.

The context in which the 360 feedback is being given can help you evaluate your individual strengths and weaknesses. Certain factors like position of authority and your general relationship with the respondent have to be considered when reflecting on the feedback, to get a more honest understanding of the overall consensus.

The most important thing here is not to take anything to heart. You’re looking to improve, so go in with an open mind and let your team speak their truth.

Putting a Plan Into Action: Sales Manager Training

If your team feels safe about sharing their opinions, they’ll probably feel more valued. A greater team harmony might evolve from that alone! Sales managers with constructive 360 feedback from their team can lay the foundations for success through improved leadership practices. But it doesn’t stop with receiving the feedback. You have to act on it.

Based on the feedback, you need to put a plan of action in place with targeted areas of improvement. Set yourself clear goals to work on your areas of weakness. Your team might not trust your sales strategies. You have to get to the bottom of why. Is it because of your leadership skills, your communication skills, or the strategy itself? If you can pinpoint the why, you can change it.

A good idea might be to record your feedback sessions with tl;dv, then ask its powerful AI to provide a report on areas to improve. It will summarize all your feedback sessions and provide a single report with timestamps to various moments from each call. This report will highlight things that different people said in common. If you want to make 360 feedback a consistent and ongoing process, you can set up recurring reports to do just that.

Let’s Get the Show Back on The Road

An underperforming sales team doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not a good one. Yes, there can be major flaws within the team: a lack of experience, a weaker skillset, or even just unmotivated individuals that aren’t pulling their weight. But maybe you should look in the mirror before you look at your own team. 

By being honest with one another, you can boost your sales performance using critical feedback of your sales strategies and techniques. If you dive deeper into every level of 360 feedback, you will find the details of what’s bringing your team down and be able to turn your fortunes around that much sooner. 

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