As a sales leader, you’re guaranteed to have sales reps that go above and beyond. But how can you tell if a rep has truly achieved sales excellence? What are the definite qualities that separate excellent sales reps from the rest of the pack?
In this post, you’ll explore what sales excellence looks like, how to measure it, and how to achieve it. Experts from G2, Northpass, impact.com, and Articulate Marketing share their tips.
- What is sales excellence?
- How should you determine sales excellence?
- Sales Excellence Examples
- How to Measure Sales Excellence
- How to Achieve Sales Excellence
- Rewarding Sales Excellence
What is sales excellence?
Sales excellence is defined as consistently meeting and exceeding growth targets. Think of it as a measure of how individual salespeople are performing and how successful an organization is at closing deals.
To achieve sales excellence, you need to focus on understanding your target customer and providing offerings relevant to their needs. You can then create an engaged sales team where each rep understands how to meet customer demands for a quality experience.
Next, we’ll explore how you should determine sales excellence.
How should you determine sales excellence?
- Working Smarter
- Quickly Getting Up to Speed
- An 'Onto the Next One' Mentality
Achieving sales excellence is simply a matter of putting in the extra effort. You want your reps to be ambitious and dedicated. Excellent salespeople go the extra mile to book an extra meeting or keep a prospect in your pipeline.
The best reps take initiative. Motivation is the underlying component that puts these sales reps above the rest. Without motivation, the other components of sales excellence don’t pan out.
2. Working Smarter
While motivation is central to sales excellence, extra effort must be applied effectively. A rep who haphazardly gives it their all might burn out or see disproportionately low returns.
Excellent sales reps:
- Know how to manage their time.
- Selectively apply their effort.
- Strategically structure their day.
- Understand when a deal is not worth the effort.
- Push to maximize their time and effort.
3. Quickly Getting Up to Speed
True sales excellence materializes at every point in a sales rep’s career — no matter how early. One of the marks of a truly excellent sales rep is the speed at which they onboard and ramp to a full workload.
To evaluate your new sales rep’s sales excellence, ask yourself this:
- How long did it take for them to learn the ropes?
- Did they take the initiative to learn the ins and outs of your product or service on their own?
- Could you be hands-off and still expect them to figure out your sales process?
Sales excellence is a measure of what a rep can do for your sales org beyond their immediate contributions. By ramping up quickly, an excellent rep spares your company time, effort, energy, and resources.
Most reps know that it’s easy to find a groove or daily rhythm. However, excellent sales reps understand there’s always room for improvement.
An excellent rep is willing to keep an open mind and continue learning. That could mean something like trying new messaging on sales calls or transitioning to a more customer-centric sales methodology.
Not everything they’ll try will work for them, but excellent sales reps are willing to stay abreast of new strategies that could potentially take them to the next level.
5. An "Onto the Next One" Mentality
Excellent sales reps aren’t afraid to fail. They can take rejection on the chin and keep moving forward — using every hitch and hiccup they run into as a learning experience. If an exceptional rep drops the ball on a deal or botches a call, they don’t sulk or get demoralized.
Instead, excellent sales reps:
- Analyze their performance.
- Try to identify where they went wrong.
- Do everything in their power not to make the same mistake twice.
If an excellent sales reps notices they’re running into the same issue consistently, they don’t keep it to themselves. Instead, they seek out some insight that can set them on the right course.
To further understand what sales excellence means, let’s take a look at some examples.
Sales Excellence Examples
Sales excellence can mean meeting or exceeding sales targets, but it’s not just limited to quotas. Here are other signs of sales excellence to consider when you evaluate your organization.
- An excellent sales rep can meet targets quickly.
- An excellent sales rep ramps to a full workload after a short time.
- An excellent rep follows up with high-quality leads.
- An excellent rep is prepared and diligent when interacting with customers.
- An excellent rep is coachable and takes constructive feedback well.
- An excellent rep is committed to honing their sales technique and remaining open to change.
Other than quantitative metrics, these examples of sales excellence can help you identify what to aim for within your company.
How to Measure Sales Excellence
Measuring sales excellence allows you to understand how well your reps meet sales targets.
Mike Head, the chief revenue officer of impact.com, told us it’s important to identify a small number of core sales metrics. Reviewing these metrics helps you understand who your best-performing reps are and if your organization as a whole is achieving sales excellence.
Focus on "talk ratios, question rates, and consistent top-of-funnel activity levels,” Head suggests. “If you’re best in class on those metrics, you’re always at the top of the leaderboard."
There are some qualities of sales excellence that are less easily measured. Those traits include "curiosity, coachability, and discipline," Head says. However, you can adopt these behaviors by "listening to your calls, practicing your pitches, and constantly refining your skills."
To get a full picture of how your sales department is performing, focus on these three groups of metrics:
- Sales performance.
- Sales productivity.
- Sales proficiency.
The exact sales metrics you choose to focus on will depend on your business objectives. However, these metrics offer a helpful starting point.
Sales performance metrics are probably the first metrics that come to mind when evaluating sales excellence.
Here are the key sales performance metrics to track:
- Total revenue.
- Average customer lifetime value (CLV).
- Customer acquisition cost (CAC).
- Year-over-year growth.
- Percentage of sales reps attaining 100% quota.
These metrics show if your reps are achieving your objectives.
Only 39% of a sales rep’s time is spent actively selling, according to Alice Heiman, founder and CEO of sales consulting firm Alice Heiman LLC. So, you’ll need to measure how your team spends the remaining 61% of their time.
Sales productivity metrics tell you more about how efficiently your sales department is meeting sales targets.
Focus on tracking these sales productivity metrics:
- Percentage of time spent on selling activities.
- Number of sales tools used daily.
- Percentage of high-quality leads followed up with.
- Percentage of time spent on sales tasks.
Use these sales productivity metrics to better understand how your sales reps meet, exceed, or miss targets.
Sales proficiency metrics demonstrate how skillfully your team closes deals. These metrics can highlight where team members may need the most help.
These metrics include:
- Time to quota attainment.
- Time to first deal.
- Time spent in sales onboarding sessions.
- Time to ramp.
- Time to productivity.
It’s worth keeping in mind that only 24.3% of salespeople exceeded their quota in 2021 — which may be because reps aren’t given enough support and training to meet their goals. In fact, research from Gartner found that B2B sales reps forget 70% of the information within a week of training. Up to 87% of information will be forgotten within a month.
Mike Buscemi, director of SMB at G2, says his organization invests heavily in their people’s growth to improve sales proficiency,
“We discuss career aspirations and drivers on a quarterly basis, so we can help everyone achieve their goals,” Buscemi says. “We celebrate the small wins such as booking a meeting, helping a teammate on a call, and sharing great messaging or decks..”
As Travis Nardin, the director of sales at Northpass says, it’s not just about meeting number-based goals. There are also attributes that contribute to sales excellence that managers can’t measure with numbers.
“Aside from any sales reps crushing their quotas, I believe that sales excellence can be measured qualitatively through the following: preparation, intellectual curiosity, cross-functional collaboration, and diligence,” Nardin says.
Alt: sales excellence tips: “'he best reps I’ve worked with take the time to over-prepare. That means they thoroughly understand a prospect’s business and how the product being sold can impact a prospect’s key performance indicators (KPIs) for the better. Without the appropriate level of preparation, conversations simply aren’t productive since it’s hard to articulate value creation,' Travis Nardin, Director of Sales at Northpass.
Img name: sales-excellence-northpass.jpg
Rewarding those more qualitative skills — such as celebrating how a rep approaches the selling process, or how she built a strong relationship with a prospect — helps your reps aspire to and achieve sales excellence.
For example, consider preparedness. “The best reps I’ve worked with take the time to prepare — and over-prepare, frankly. That means they thoroughly understand a prospect’s business and how the product being sold can impact a prospect’s key performance indicators (KPIs) for the better,” Nardin adds. “Without the appropriate level of preparation, conversations simply aren’t productive since it’s hard to articulate value creation.”
How to Achieve Sales Excellence
To achieve sales excellence, you’ll need to work toward building the right combination of processes, people, and programs.
Here are a few strategies for helping your team and individual reps achieve these goals.
1. Create a strong sales culture.
Creating a supportive and encouraging sales culture is vital for helping sales reps perform at their best.
Start by defining your company’s values and mission. Consider how your sales department can align with your company’s core values. Then, think about how your workplace culture is tied to your employees.
It’s important to hire reps that match your organization’s ethos and values. Consider making a list of the qualities and experience your ideal reps need and how your hiring managers can identify these attributes.
“When we hire talent, we look for three main attributes: drive, grit, and adaptability,” Buscemi says. “These things manifest themselves through someone’s ability to do the right things when no one is looking. Behaviors can be observed in a person’s focus, their attitude when they hear no, and the ability to course-correct when things get challenging with a book of accounts.”
“Drive can easily be measured with accurate sales reporting nowadays,” he adds, “but grit and adaptability are more nuanced and show up in how the salesperson … perseveres by finding creative ways to change their approach, process, and strategy.”
As an example, Buscemi says managers can monitor which of their employees are eager to hear best practices from their peers and are open to implementing change.
Creating a strong sales culture starts with defining your business’s values, knowing what your ideal sales rep looks like, and continuing to inspire your reps once they're on your team.
2. Focus on actionable sales training and continuously coach reps.
Over a three-month span, new sales reps only retain about 16% of their sales training, according to The Brevet Group. This means there is room for coaching.
When you invest in continuous and actionable sales training, you help reps reach their full potential. They’ll know how to respond, act, explain, and sell in different situations.
A few best practices when it comes to sales training include:
- Schedule regular training updates so your materials remain fresh and up to date. Include any product updates, messaging changes, and industry changes in your materials so reps have all the resources they need to succeed in their role.
- Invest in consistent coaching and one-on-one mentorship. Depending on your company, this could look like call reviews, role-play scenarios, and peer reviews.
Nardin says he mentors his company’s sales reps by understanding their personal goals and work needs.
“I first encourage my teammates to identify their personal motivation that drives them to be successful,” he says.
From there, Nardin offers the following tips:
- Treat prospects to coffee to learn more about what makes them tick.
- Listen to the recordings of top performers’ calls.
- Establish meaningful relationships with key internal stakeholders.
- Structure their schedule to allow for periods of diligent, deep work.
To unlock reps’ full potential and help them achieve sales excellence, companies need to prioritize training and coaching. This also feeds into building a supportive sales culture where reps are given everything they need to succeed.
3. Choose new sales technology carefully.
One in five sales reps believes they don’t have the right resources to keep their sales processes on track. The right sales enablement tools will make your reps’ jobs easier and streamline operational processes.
Plus, high-quality sales software gives you access to key analytics, reports, and data that will help inform future sales strategies.
To get started, consider adding these tools to your tech stack:
- A customer relationship management software (CRM).
- Sales enablement software.
- Business intelligence software.
- Sales engagement software.
- Remote work tools.
Using this software can make your sales operations more efficient and save your reps hours in the workweek.
Make sure to provide onboarding and training sessions for every tool you add to your tech stack. Everyone should learn how to get the most out of different features. Then, create resources and guides so that reps can easily access help as needed.
Additionally, ensure your software promotes sales and marketing alignment.
“‘Two people divided by a common language.’ It may be true of Brits and Americans, but it’s also true of sales and marketing,” says Matthew Stibbe, CEO of Articulate Marketing. “If you can find and define a common vocabulary with definitions for things like MQLs, SQLs, and clear targets and SLAs, you can measure performance more effectively across the whole funnel.”
Rewarding Sales Excellence
Rewarding sales excellence can be tricky. Excellent sales reps are bound to smash any target you give them but might stall if you impose ceilings. For example, capping commission can hold your rainmakers back.
An obvious way to award sales excellence is to let them earn all the commission they can. Another effective means of enabling sales excellence is allowing for overachievement commission — a slightly increased commission on any sales made beyond quota.
If your organization cannot offer a compensation plan, there are other ways to motivate sales reps without straining your company’s budget.
Prizes can be valuable incentives to motivate your sales rainmakers. Periodically implementing programs like spiffs — short-term, competitive, incentive-based initiatives — can keep your excellent reps engaged.
If you offer recognition, a financial incentive, a vacation, or any other sort of reward for achieving a certain level of performance, you can encourage sales excellence.
Sales excellence isn’t always easy to come by. The reps that go above and beyond should be rewarded for their exceptional performance.