8 sales improvement pillars in a fast-paced business environment


Global growth is projected to slow from 6 percent in 2021 to 1.7 percent in 2023. This comes as no surprise to many economies given the current cost of living, tightening of financial policies and the lingering COVID-19 pandemic that seems to resurface every now and then.

Investment growth in emerging markets and developing economies is predicted to remain below its average rate for the past two decades, according to The World Bank Global Economic Prospects report. This has significant impact on businesses with external financing and supply chains. With the projected outlook, many businesses will have to ‘survive’ in 2023 with the most agile businesses emerging as winners. To win, it is imperative the sales function of every organisation is dynamic, agile and adaptive.

The eight pillars in this article will set the sales units of businesses apart.

Build conviction in the team

Believing in the product you’re selling makes it easier to handle objections. This can be achieved by encouraging team members to purchase the products they sell. Develop a staff purchasing plan where employees receive discounts and payment spreads to encourage staff purchases.

For the current dispensation of social media and digitisation, sales reps may be incentivised to record their product use experience for a competition, where the best video is awarded a prize. First-hand experience improves relationships with clients and helps them relate better to enquiries, questions and clarifications.

An alternative approach is to encourage users of the product to send testimonials to your team. These may be videos or written reviews which boost morale and improve the confidence on the team. Conviction builds confidence, and confident reps close more business.

Work in pairs

Encourage colleagues to work in pairs. It’s better to hire, train and engage salespeople in pairs. The most efficient use of an organisation’s human resource is to pair experienced individuals with inexperienced or new employees. It is also recommended that such pairings be rotated after a set period. This allows for succession planning, and encourages knowledge transfer in their daily interactions. Institutional memory is also retained and transitions are smoothly run, leaving no gaps when employees resign.

Audit calls

Management should develop an internal process where a random audit verification call is placed to a customer for feedback on the product sold or service rendered. This gives team leads and bosses insights of how reps are communicating with existing and prospective clients. New strategies can be developed based on feedback from audit calls. This is a different approach to customer service and supports a client for life approach to running a business.

Weekly role plays

A weekly role play is where real life customer conversations and challenges are simulated to test the readiness of the team to respond to customers. Role playing helps teammates build rapport and confidence, and helps them improve presentation and communication skills. The experience from weekly role play sessions will overtime create a team of confident sales representatives. The key is to ensure teammates, rather than supervisors, play the most active role in these simulations.

Keep the team accountable

The team should have a quota and target close rate. This helps track the sales unit on an individual level. This should be periodic and should have a direct correlation with the general target of the business. Performance should be closely monitored and assessed. Outlier performance – high and low performers – should be identified through reviews to allow for effective pairing as indicated in the second pillar – Work in Pairs, to improve general performance. Target drives performance and keeps reps sufficiently motivated to pursue prospects. Of course, these targets should be with the commensurate remuneration.

Separate prospecting and closing

Most businesses have reps who both prospect and close. This has been effective over the years but in a dynamic and fast-paced economy, businesses need to separate prospecting from closing. For businesses with the capacity and human capital, it is recommended that more experienced team members be tasked with closing deals. This allows for efficiency as the experienced team members focus their efforts on closing deals with a more than likely positive outcome to ensure the best terms of trade are agreed.

Classify your prospects

Classify your prospects as cold, warm and hot. Manage your prospects in line with this classification. The team’s strength and time should be allocated to each prospect on the basis of classification. A cold prospect requires little to no time involvement whereas a hot prospect will have all resources and efforts engaged to close the transaction. Warm prospects can be contacted monthly with newsletters, product updates and general information on current industry trends. This keeps your business top of mind, and clients will refer to your product whenever the need arises.

Rapid respond

Studies show that 35-50 percent of sales go to vendors who respond swiftly. For e-commerce platforms, businesses must have a dedicated customer service person to respond swiftly to handle business in real-time. At best, automated processes should be set to handle weekend enquiries.

These tips and tricks will enhance client engagement as well as keep products and business top of mind.

For heads of departments, salespersons are like wine – the older they get, the better they become. A high performing salesperson is one with a rich pipeline, high conversion rate and satisfied clients. Make every effort to train and retain your best and brightest salespersons. Capacity, once developed, is an invaluable asset which will set your business apart for the long term.

>>> The writer is a Lead Consultant at Runbal Consulting Ltd., with a decade of experience in Sales and Marketing. He holds an Ll.B and Executive Certificate in Marketing from North Western University – Kellogg School of Management. Contact: [email protected]

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