One of the most lucrative ways to improve your bottom line is through boosting your sales team's effectiveness — yet many companies choose to focus on aspects of the business like product velocity or customer support costs rather than dialing in on their sales execution. But the truth is, if your sales team is working at maximum efficiency, the amount of revenue that it brings in will be significantly higher than all of your other teams combined.
That said, sales execution can be elusive. There are many levers that teams can pull that contribute to the efficacy of their work. This blog post will break down the question, “What is sales execution?” and provide eight ideas for improving yours.
What is sales execution?
Sales execution is the sum of the activities and processes that a team puts in place to guide a lead through the sales funnel. Some of these activities are done by marketing teams through lead generation or by other customer-facing groups in sending along potential prospects from their inbox.
When looked at holistically, sales execution includes everything leading up to the close of a sale. That can mean anything from your customer experience to the way that your sales team generates interest and reaches out to prospects to the nuances of your sales funnel.
Sales execution is inherently customer-centric — based on zeroing in on your customer's needs, determining focused solutions, and putting structures and processes in place to consistently deliver on them.
Ways to Improve Sales Execution
- Identify your target markets.
- Create a plan.
- Define the stages in your sales pipeline.
- Build up your pipeline.
- Automate processes to free up your sales team.
- Iterate on your sales process.
- Review your progress with sales scorecards.
- Align your teams.
Knowing what sales execution is might be half the battle, but working towards it takes time and effort. Whether you’re just getting your sales team off the ground or already have a well-oiled sales machine, there are always aspects of sales execution that can be revisited and tightened up. Here are eight methods for boosting sales execution and your bottom line.
1. Identify your target markets.
Many companies wind up trying to sell to too many audiences, and that can be a tough mistake to make. When you take that sort of scattershot approach to targeting, you might end up being a "jack of all trades, master of none." You're much better off identifying a few key target markets that you would like to sell to and focusing on their needs and interests.
For instance, young companies assume that the more people they market to, the better. However, suppose a startup’s product is best suited for smaller businesses, but it’s spending money on advertising to businesses of all sizes.
In that case, even if it sells to larger companies, those companies are likely to end up churning because the product isn’t a great fit. Instead of boosting your numbers upfront and paying with subsequent churn, identify your markets from the start — and focus your selling, time, and resources on them.
2. Create a plan
After identifying the markets that your product is best suited for, it’s time to create a plan to reach them. There are a few steps for creating a plan:
- Develop goals for your team as well as goals at an organizational level.
- Identify your target audience and define how you will reach them.
- Maintain an excellent sales team that feels motivated and excited by their work.
- Work with marketing to create a demand generation plan.
- Measure performance and coach team members towards goals.
- Track sales activities and rectify bottlenecks.
Each of these helps create a cohesive, definitive plan for how your team will succeed in their movement towards sales execution.
3. Define the stages in your sales pipeline
People outside of sales often assume the field is straightforward — you find a customer and sell to them, right? Wrong. Sales is a complex dance of outreach, waiting, and well-timed pressure on the customer to ensure prompt closing. One of the best ways to ensure that leads move through your funnel as quickly as possible is to define clear stages in your sales pipeline.
Every company will have different stages, depending on their product and the type of customer that they have. For instance, a company that primarily sells enterprise software may have a significant number of more detailed stages in its sales pipeline. In contrast, a smaller company may be fine with something as simple as:
- Awareness — When the buyer realizes that they have a problem they need to solve
- Consideration — When the buyer defines their pain point, creates a list of their needs, and evaluates their options
- Decision — When the buyer is in the final stages of the process and assessing a few competitors
By identifying these stages, your team can create steps within your pipeline to address the particular needs of your prospects at each phase.
4. Build up your pipeline.
The best thing that you can do for your team’s sales execution is give them something to execute on. Without leads and prospects to work with, your sales team can’t meet their sales goals.
There are tons of ways to build up your pipeline, including:
- Having your sales team actively prospect on social media like LinkedIn
- Working on your inbound marketing content and collect leads via your visitors
- Adding tools like Justuno to your stack to allow your content and site to generate leads passively
- Dropping dead leads quickly, and constantly assessing your evaluation process for leads
- Generating automated call lists for your sales team
- Keeping your sales cycle short.
When you have a well-fed pipeline, your sales team will always have leads and prospects to engage with.
5. Automate processes to free up your sales team.
Automate as many steps in your process as possible to free up your sales team to do the hard work of direct selling. For instance, you can automate data entry and prospecting emails. By utilizing tools with analytics built-in, you can choose to trigger specific emails or outreach based on your prospects’ behaviors.
For example, tools like GetAccept make it easy to see precisely what your prospects are doing on any sales documents that you send to them. When you know that they’ve viewed a document but not taken action on it after a certain amount of time, you could use automation to trigger a follow-up email.
Automating this functionality frees up your sales team from having to watch analytics like a hawk and provides an excellent experience for your prospects. It also serves to move them through the sales cycle.
6. Iterate on your processes.
As with every other aspect of your business, you shouldn't set your sales execution strategies in stone. Take every opportunity to evaluate the effectiveness of your plan and if it's still serving your team. There’s no need to maintain old habits that are no longer working to improve your sales velocity or bottom line.
Some teams evaluate processes, automation, and triggers every quarter. Some do it more frequently. Identify what the appropriate review period is for your team, and put it in place. Remember, this can always change and can be moved to be more or less frequent as needed.
7. Review your progress with sales scorecards.
Your sales team members are critical components of your sales execution. If they’re not performing to the best of their abilities, your team will not be executing as well as it could be.
Sales scorecards are a great way to efficiently and comprehensively evaluate each of your team members. Identify whether you’d like to do a mix of manager-executed scorecards — or if you’d like to mix in peer review, and then develop a process to ensure that they are regularly happening. Scorecards help your sales team continue improving their strategies and serve as quality control for conversations with prospects.
If you don't leverage sales scorecards, find another way to ensure that you're keeping your thumb on the pulse of your team’s conversation quality. As soon as prospects start to doubt the efficacy of your team, your sales execution will plummet.
8. Align your teams
As I mentioned earlier, it’s not just your sales team that contributes to sales execution. Your marketing and customer-facing teams also have a significant impact on how many deals your team can close.
Take the time to align your marketing efforts with the types of leads and prospects you’d like to attract. Beyond that, work directly with your customer-facing teams to ensure that the appropriate expectations are set for treating leads at certain stages in the sales funnel. When everyone works together to provide the best possible experience for your leads, they’ll be banging down the door to buy your product.
Sales execution isn’t rocket science.
Your team is probably already doing some — if not all — of these things. That said, the best way to boost your sales execution is to continue to pay attention to the details of each of these practices. Even if you’ve done an excellent job historically, there’s always room to improve.
Start by identifying who you’d like to sell to, and then create a plan to make it happen. From there, identify the different stages that your ideal buyer needs to go through to execute a sale. Work to build up your pipeline so that your sales team has something to work with, and then automate menial tasks to free up their time.
It’s essential to constantly evaluate your efficacy and iterate on your processes to be better. It’s a whole team affair, so ensure that everyone is on the same page, and you’ll be moving fast with sales execution in no time.