9 sales optimization strategies to set your sales team up for success
On a scale of 1 to 10, how optimized is your sales process?
Sales optimization sounds complicated. After all, if your process is working and your team is closing deals, do you really need to change anything?
In short, yes.
Optimization is an ongoing process. Whether you’re an experienced sales leader or a startup founder, you should never allow yourself to be satisfied with a sales process that’s ‘good enough’.
Your team is closing deals: that’s good. But what if your team was closing MORE deals, building STRONGER relationships with customers, and making a bigger impact on company revenue?
That would be great.
Right now, let’s talk through 9 sales optimization strategies that you can start working on TODAY to turn your process into something great:
- Keep your sales process simple and scalable
- Measure your data accurately
- Turn data into actionable insights
- Stay focused on your ideal customer
- Automate as much as possible
- Avoid trends and constant course changes
- Coach and empower your team
- Refine your sales pipeline
- Build the right type of sales team for your business
1. Keep your sales process simple and scalable
I talk to a lot of founders, and many times they fall into the trap of trying to build the ‘perfect’ sales process from day 1.
This is a mistake for two very strong reasons:
- First, because you’re building a process without getting out there and figuring out what actually works
- Second, because you’ll likely create a process that’s far too complex (and your sales team will resent you for it)
Here’s what to do instead:
Start by documenting what actually works in your current sales process. Forget what the sales ‘gurus’ are telling you about building the perfect process, and just focus on what’s really working for you right now, no matter how simplified that process is. In fact, the best sales managers I’ve seen are very good at keeping things simple.
Make small, measurable changes to that process over time and keep track of the results. Don’t dive deep into the more complex aspects of your sales workflow until you have a solid foundation to work from. When you do find areas to improve on, work on one piece at a time and analyze how the changes you make affect your bottom line.
Building your first sales process may sound like a gargantuan task, but remember that it’s much easier to overcomplicate things than it is to keep them simple—involve your salespeople in the creation. All you need is a starting point.
The real work is in staying agile. Building a simple process will make it easier to scale over time, whereas a complex process makes it harder. Of course, there are some things early-stage startups should do that won’t scale over time, but the key is to focus on the essentials and avoid bloat in your process.
2. Measure your data accurately
Of course, to see what’s working and what isn’t, you absolutely must have accurate sales data to measure your results. This is the only way to see which actions have the most impact on your business and your bottom line.
For sales managers and startup founders, the best way to get accurate data without wasting your salespeoples’ time is to automatically capture that data with the right sales software, rather than forcing your reps to input this data manually.
This means having the right tools in your sales stack, including a CRM that automatically logs activity and sales data and generates reports that are easy to digest.
In my past CRMs, I had to export the data into a spreadsheet to get the reports I needed. It was unnecessary manual work. Close’s reporting features are the opposite of that experience - they streamline our daily sales reporting processes, save us a TON of time & money ($1200/year) and help us motivate our teams.
—Andy Flowe, Head of Operations at Broadworks
3. Turn data into actionable insights
Having data is good. The key is using that data to improve your sales performance.
There are two keys to make sure you’re measuring the RIGHT sales numbers:
- Use metrics that are inherently tied to company goals
- Make sure you and your team’s actions can have a direct impact on these metrics
When you’re tracking metrics that feed your goals and are directly manageable, they’ll be more than just numbers at the end of the month—they’ll be insights into the actions your team should take next.
I teach sales professionals to start with the AQC framework—Activity, Quality, Conversion. Here are some examples of the sales KPIs that fall into these categories:
Activity, tracking the actions your reps take:
- Calls made
- Emails sent
- Time on calls
- Meetings booked
- Demos given
- Revenue per rep
Quality, the performance of your sales team:
- Email open and response rates
- Opportunities created
- Call reach rate
- Trial starts
- Pipeline value
Conversion, the success of your team’s efforts:
- Sales by contact method
- Conversion rates per stage
- Average conversion time
- Average deal size
- Customer lifetime value
- Retention rate
- Quote to close ratio
- Monthly and annual recurring revenue (MRR and ARR)
- MRR and ARR expansion
Use this data to make decisions about what to do next and where your sales process can be improved. For example, are your reps sending a high volume of emails but getting few responses or conversions? Then maybe you can help them improve their cold email templates.
4. Stay focused on your ideal customer
So, someone wants to buy your product. That’s great! But what if they’re just not a good fit for what you’re selling? If they want to buy, does it really matter?
I’ve said this before and I stand by it: Selling to bad-fit customers will kill your startup.
Here’s why selling to bad-fit customers isn’t worth it:
- They’ll most likely end up churning
- They’ll sap the energy and time of your support and success teams
- They won’t see the value of your product (and will likely try to negotiate a cheaper deal)
- They could damage the reputation of your startup
Instead of allowing bad-fit customers to sneak into your business, make it absolutely clear to yourself and your team who your ideal customers are, and how to move then along your sales funnel.
In other words, create a buyer persona.
As a startup founder, you have an incredible advantage here. You created this product to solve a problem. You had a clear mission when you started. Go back to that early mission: Who are you trying to solve this problem for?
For sales leaders, the best way to identify the right prospects is by talking to your current customers. Find the ones that are seeing the most success with your product (think: high usage, high adoption, high ROI). Get to know them and the unique traits that make them especially successful with your product.
5. Automate as much as possible
Another key to sales optimization is making your team as productive as possible. With more technology available for sales teams now than ever before, it’s the perfect time to invest in automation.
As long as you’re automating the right things.
There is a place for automation in your sales process, but remember that solid customer interactions happen between two human beings. Don’t let automation get in the way of meaningful interaction with prospects and customers.
Instead, focus on sales tools that help you automate things like:
- Inbound lead capture: With online forms, chatbots, and similar tech for your website, you make it easy for new inbound leads to come to you, and capture all their contact information.
- Lead scoring: By adding a quick qualifying question to your online form, you can determine which leads are the most qualified and set up automated lead scoring.
- Lead assignment: When new inbound leads come in, they should be automatically added to your CRM and assigned to a rep. (Learn more about automating lead assignment in Close.)
- Early inbound interactions: Such as an automated response to a lead who fills out a form.
- Onboarding free trial signups: This might include a welcome email, a series of emails that help free trial signups get started with your product or even in-app training modules.
- Sales data collection: As mentioned above, real-time data collection and reporting should be automated—that way, you and your team can spend more time on selling and less time on data entry.
- Dialing: Yes, even dialing can be automated! When your calling system or CRM includes a Power Dialer, your reps will save precious seconds every time they call a lead (which adds up to hours of time saved every month).
After moving our team to Close’s built-in Power Dialer, we saw a 60% increase in outbound call volume and 28% increase in outbound call duration.
– Sarah Haselkorn, Head of Sales at MakeSpace
6. Avoid trends and constant course changes
Just like Reddit’s day trading community and the crazy world of fashion, there are always new fads and trends in sales management. But the popular sales models, methodologies, and tools that are touted by sales ‘gurus’ today will be labeled ‘out of date’ next week.
The point—don’t get lost in the noise. Focus on the fundamentals that make sales work. Things like making sure your reps follow up with prospects effectively.
Consistency is a key aspect of long-term success in sales. By consistently showing up for your prospects, helping them solve problems with your product, and delivering on what you promised, you will develop a long-lasting process that will elevate your entire team.
While everyone else is focusing on the latest sales fad, look at the out-of-fashion method no one cares about anymore. If it gives you consistent results over time, keep using it.
Another way to avoid constant course changes is to stop getting caught up in quarterly thinking. While your quarterly goals are important, they should only be a supporting pillar to your long-term mission. Rather than pushing your reps to do short-term, end-of-quarter sprints to reach quota, focus on the long-term results. Sales is a marathon—you have to learn to play the long game.
7. Coach and empower your sales team
Your team is the core power behind your sales effectiveness. So, you need to put time, energy, and money into making sure they’re hitting their peak performance.
Here are three ways to do that:
First, coach and train your team consistently over time. Coach reps by looking at their individual performance metrics and helping them improve in key areas of the sales process. Train the whole team by increasing their sales knowledge, enabling them to learn from each other, and giving them the freedom to learn from their own mistakes.
For more in-depth information about coaching and training, check out these articles:
- Ultimate guide to sales coaching: strategies, tips & tools to win
- Top 15 sales coaching platforms to develop a high-performing team
- 25 expert sales coaching tips and techniques to amplify close rates
- Free quota-boosting sales coaching template for managers
- Introducing Call Coaching: Seamlessly coach your team to more deals won
Next, create the right resources for your sales team to succeed. This includes all of your sales enablement content, such as sales scripts, objection handling documents, email templates, battle cards, talk tracks for specific product features, prospecting strategies, and the like. If you’re still in the early stages, don’t overcomplicate this—create your minimum viable sales documentation, and add to it over time.
Speaking of which…we’ve created templates for all of your most essential sales enablement documentation. Swipe this file, add your own information, and share it with your reps:
Finally, empower your sales team with the right tools and technology. Again, it’s important not to get stuck on the latest fads. Instead, look for the tools that help your reps do more of what they’re great at (and less of everything else).
For example, a good CRM like Close allows reps to focus on their most important daily actions with an Inbox that combines new emails from prospects, missed calls, and upcoming tasks, all in one place. It also keeps a record of every interaction with prospects and customers in one neat timeline, which means less time scrolling through email threads and more time actually selling.
8. Refine your sales pipeline
A sales pipeline shows you each stage of the deal, the actions reps should take at each stage, and where your current deals stand inside your process.
With a good pipeline overview, you can easily spot potential leaks where leads are falling out of the process and identify bottlenecks where leads have trouble moving forward.
For example, if you see lots of opportunities stacking up at the right side of your pipeline but none on the left, that means your team is about to run out of new leads to contact. Action: You need to optimize your lead generation process.
Or, maybe you notice that the time it takes to convert new leads through the qualification stage is increasing. In this case, your sales optimization efforts should focus on more efficient qualification.
Keep watching your pipeline to see where leads get stuck or fall out of the process. This will help you shorten your sales cycles.
9. Build the right type of sales team for your business
Building, scaling, and optimizing an inside sales team can be complicated. Where do you start? Who do you hire? How should you structure your team?
Here are some quick sales hiring tips for startup founders:
- Hire the right people for the right roles: Identify what you want each new hire to accomplish, and look for the right personality traits to fit that role.
- Hire two at a time: This is a piece of advice I give to all startup founders building their first sales team. Hiring two reps to start builds friendly competition, makes your company’s revenue less dependent on individual performance, and adds more firepower to your process.
- Hire them young and hungry: Your first sales hires shouldn’t necessarily be experienced sales veterans. You’ll get more bang for your buck by hiring sales reps who are young and hungry, and eager to learn and prove themselves worthy.
- Be invested in their long-term success: In the early stages of building a scaling your sales team, you as the startup founder must be invested in the success of your sales reps. Coach and train them regularly (or invest in professional sales training for them).
When it comes to structuring your sales team, simple is best. This is another area where it’s important to avoid getting caught up in trends. The best structure will depend on the number of reps you have, their individual skills, and your market.
One popular sales team structure is the assembly line. This involves separating your reps into 3 teams:
- Sales development (the qualifiers)
- Account executives (the closers)
- Customer success (the farmers)
These teams share new leads as they flow through the pipeline towards a sale (and afterward). The key here is making sure that handoffs between these teams are smooth and seamless.
Reap the rewards of sales optimization done right
Sales optimization is NOT an excuse to create a more complex process that changes and shifts with each new trend that’s promoted.
In fact, it’s the opposite—building a simple but effective sales process from the ground up, focusing on the fundamentals that are proven to work, and making measurable improvements over time.
When you work alongside your sales reps to improve sales performance, stay focused on your customers, automate the repetitive sales activities, and refine your pipeline, you’ll reap the rewards of more closed deals, shorter sales cycles, high-quality customer relationships, and more loyal customers.
Of course, for sales optimization to work, you need to pair your improved process with the sales software that empowers your team within that process.
I may be slightly biased, but in my opinion, that ideal sales software is Close.
With Close, remote sales organizations are able to manage your pipeline, keep track of the right sales metrics, increase revenue, develop deeper customer relationships, and help your team streamline their process.
Get started with a free, 14-day trial on the house (I promise we won’t even ask for your credit card to get started).