7 Ways You Can Help Your Sales Team Be More Effective

From CRM to gamification, sales and marketing experts share strategies and tools that can help salespeople be more productive and close more deals.

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Credit: Thinkstock

Every organization wants its salespeople to be successful -- that is, close more sales. Yet ask many salespeople and they will tell you that their organization often makes it difficult for them meet their quotas, requiring them to do lots of administrative work (e.g., enter data into a CRM system) or not providing them with mobile tools.

So what can organizations do to better support and free up their salespeople, so they can close more sales? Here are seven sales strategies for success gleaned from sales and marketing experts.

1. Employ a sales-friendly CRM system. "A good [sales-focused] CRM system can help your sales force stay organized and focused," says Mack Dudayev, CEO and cofounder, InsureChance, an online life insurance marketplace. "With features such as lead prioritization, automatic reminders, lead nurturing and notes, you can expect to see an increase in your sales team's closing ratio and improved productivity." Another benefit of CRM: "You can see how fast leads are being contacted, amount of attempts made, total sales and idle time."

2. Qualify leads. "Define your target audience and recognize that people outside of that definition are more likely to be wasting your time than resulting in sales," says Al Huizenga, managing director of product at Sparkroom, which specializes in higher education performance marketing. "Third-party demographic and behavioral data from sources like Neustar can be appended to inquiries in real time to quickly evaluate how well [prospects] fit a defined target profile."

"It is counterproductive to hand leads to sales when those people are not ready for a sales conversation," says Katy Keim, CMO, Lithium Technologies, a provides social software to companies. Therefore, it's important to "take the time to understand the buyer's journey. Provide them with useful content. Then hand them to sales only when they demonstrate they are ready for a sales conversation."

3. Arm your sales force with the mobile communication and collaboration tools. "Salespeople can spend the better part of their days in the field, so you need to provide them with easy, remote access to timely and critical customer and sales information through a mobile CRM solution or app," says Anthony Smith, CEO and founder, Insightly, a small business CRM and project management Web app. "This allows them to always work with real-time data and to update a prospect's information immediately, rather than wait until they're back in the office, enabling managers to effectively track data through the sales funnel."

You should also "make it easy for your salespeople to have instant access to the latest product specs and contracts from any device -- laptop, tablet or phone," says Bill Carovano, senior director, Product Management, Citrix, a provider of cloud, mobile, virtualization, collaboration & networking solutions. "And since they're going to need to be able to draw up or edit documents, say a contract to close a deal at the end of a quarter, ensure that they can easily do so without jumping across multiple apps and devices."

As for signing contracts, consider using a service such as DocuSign. "This is a wonderful tool that lets your sales team get sales orders and agreements signed electronically," explains Dudayev. "When out in the field, the salesperson can make changes as necessary, using an iPad to get a digital signature."

Finally, because "communication is crucial, if you don't already have an enterprise-level communication app in place, it's time to get one," says Michael DeFranco, CEO, Lua, a mobile messaging provider. "Instantaneous communication coupled with data security and privacy lead to better [sales and] customer experiences, fewer errors and employees that work as one cohesive force."

4. Offer regular training and opportunities to share best practices. "Top performing sales organizations invest in the development of their teams," says Mark Donnolo, a sales compensation strategy/design expert and founder of SalesGlobe, which helps sales organizations be more effective. "From technical training on products and services to sales process training, or gathering regional teams together once a year to share best practices, a well-planned training and development program provides a measurable ROI," he says. "In addition, training helps to retain top performers and shift critical middle performers into top performers."

5. Minimize time spent on administrative tasks. "Almost all sales roles have non-selling administrative or customer service aspects," notes Donnolo. "But too often, those activities take up more time than the selling activities," he notes.

"Organizations that understand how to minimize the amount of time salespeople spend doing administrative tasks, such as data entry, win by helping them be more productive," says Somrat Niyogi, cofounder & CEO, Stitch, a sales automation app.

So what can organizations do to minimize the amount of admin work for salespeople? They can hire sales support personnel and/or make sure non-sales issues get routed to the right department, be it marketing, tech support or customer service, says Donnolo. They can also provide tools that make it easy to enter customer data from a mobile device, says Niyogi.

6. Employ gamification strategies. "Gamification taps into the natural competitive streak in reps and delivers positive results as reps strive to climb to the top of the leader board," says Leslie Stretch, CEO, CallidusCloud, a SaaS provider of sales effectiveness technology. "Give points not just for customer wins but also for sales activity -- getting a new lead or face-to-face meetings with senior executives," he advises. "According to a report from Aberdeen Group, companies do better on their quotas with gamification: with it 85 percent of reps attain their quota and 51 percent of new hires achieve their numbers in their first year. While in the absence of gamification, only 78 percent of reps make quota and only 42 percent of new hires meet their numbers."

[ How Gamification Drives Business Objectives ]

[ 5 Key Benefits Gamification Brings to Your Business ]

7. Track performance and identify areas for improvement. "The most important thing you can do to improve your [sales team's] performance is to figure out how well [they're] actually performing now and then make a plan to [help them do] better," says Huizenga. So you need have a system in place that tracks sales performance throughout the sales cycle, so managers can analyze and measure how each member of the sales team is doing -- and then determine where he or she needs help.

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