The Sales Improvement Plan – Improving Your Sales Performance

Sales are the lifeblood of any business.

Yet it’s the thing that entrepreneurs often struggle with the most.

You can have the best product in the world, but if you don’t know how to sell it, you won’t be able to build a sustainable business.

But how can you become better at sales when selling doesn’t come naturally to you?

You need to create a sales improvement plan.

And today we are going to show you how to do that.

Possible Causes of Unsatisfactory Sales Performance

Before we get into sales improvement, it makes sense to analyze the situation and try to identify what’s preventing you from making more sales.

It may be helpful to look at the most popular causes of unsatisfactory sales performance:

#1 Health Issues

Health issues can lead to low energy, lack of focus, and depressive moods. It goes without saying that none of that is conducive to sales.

You may want to examine your lifestyle:

  • Are you getting enough sleep?
  • Are you eating nutritious food?
  • Are you exercising regularly?

You should also look into your daily habits.

For example, drinking three cups of coffee may not seem like a big deal, but it may be interfering with your ability to think clearly, focus, and get restful sleep.

You need to ask yourself what actions that you take every day may be contributing to suboptimal sales performance.

#2 Personal Issues

You can’t be effective at selling if you are always preoccupied with something else.

While some ups and downs are unavoidable, you may want to see whether it’s possible to make your personal life more balanced.

For example, if there are people in your life who are a constant source of stress, worry, and conflict, you may want to consider setting better boundaries with them or even cutting them off completely.

#3 Not Enough Outreach

Let’s keep it real:

Reaching out to potential customers can be scary.

Moreover, as you probably already know, those potential customers can sometimes be rude, mean, and belligerent.

So it’s no wonder that salespeople often subconsciously avoid making as many cold calls or sending out as many cold emails as they could. After all, no one likes rejection.

But you need to get over this fear of rejection if you want to reach your full potential as a salesperson.

#4 Not Understanding the Product

You can’t be effective at selling a particular product if you don’t understand that product.

Take time to learn everything there is to know about the product that you sell so that you could better convey its benefits to potential customers.

#5 Not Believing in the Product

You also can’t be effective at selling a particular product if you don’t believe in that product. And that’s a good thing. It shows that you have a conscience and a strong sense of ethics.

So it’s best to avoid selling products that you don’t believe in because you are inevitably going to self-sabotage.

#6 Lack of Sales Skills

Another common cause of suboptimal sales performance is a lack of sales skills.

It goes without saying that if you struggle with sales, then the odds are that you could benefit from extra sales training.

#7 Limiting Beliefs

Sometimes people self-sabotage when it comes to their sales performance because they have limiting beliefs about sales.

The most common of these limiting beliefs is this:

“Selling makes you a bad person”.

No one wants to be that sleazy, pushy, obnoxious salesman or saleswoman.

So if you believe that this is what selling is all about, of course you are going to subconsciously avoid getting good at it.

It’s important to examine how you think about sales if you want to improve your sales performance.

Sales Improvement Strategies & Techniques

Okay, so now you know the most common pitfalls that you need to avoid.

But what are specific strategies and techniques that you can implement to improve your sales performance?

#1 Conduct Extensive Customer Research

The best salespeople aren’t the ones that are the most extroverted, the most charismatic, or the best talkers.

The best salespeople are the ones that understand their customers the best.

So it makes sense to start your sales improvement process with extensive customer research.

Ask yourself:

  • Who are they?
  • What do they want to achieve?
  • Why do they want to achieve it?
  • What are they struggling with?
  • How do they perceive themselves?
  • How do they want to be perceived by others?
  • How can your product help them get what they want?

You can do all this by observing the relevant conversations online as well as talking to people in your target audience one on one to understand them better.

#2 Set Daily, Weekly, and Monthly Outreach Targets

You can’t control how many sales you make each month.

But you can control how many cold emails you send and how many cold calls you make. That’s why you should set daily, weekly, and monthly outreach targets each month.

Needless to say, if you aren’t making enough sales at the moment, then it makes sense to aim to do more outreach than you are currently doing.

You can create a spreadsheet with Excel or Google Sheets to record your outreach numbers and make sure that you stay on track throughout the month.

#3 Implement a Sales Qualification Framework

It’s important to reduce the amount of time you waste by talking to people who are never going to buy.

They may not have the authority to make the decision, they may not have the funds required to purchase your product, they may not need your product to begin with. You need to avoid these sales dead-ends as much as possible.

You can do so by implementing a sales qualification framework that allows you to quickly figure out if the person you are talking to is indeed a potential customer.

Here are the three most popular sales qualification frameworks that you should look into:

BANT (Budget, Authority, Need, Timeline)

BANT acronym definition

You ask questions that allow you to quickly establish if the person you are talking to:

  • Has the budget to buy your product.
  • Has the authority to make that decision. 
  • Needs that product.
  • Is willing and able to make the purchase within a timeline that works for you.

ANUM (Authority, Need, Urgency, Money)

ANUM acronym definition

You ask questions that allow you to quickly establish whether the person you are talking to:

  • Has the authority to make the purchase.
  • Needs your product.
  • Feels a sense of urgency.
  • Has enough money.

FAINT (Fund, Authority, Interest, Need, Timing)

FAINT acronym definition

You ask questions that allow you to quickly establish whether the person you are talking to:

  • Has the necessary funds.
  • Has the authority to make the decision.
  • Is interested in your product.
  • Needs your product.
  • Is able and willing to buy within a timeframe that works for you.

Everyone has their favorite sales qualification framework, so there’s a lot of “Here’s why my framework is better than yours” discussions going on in the sales world.

But guess what?

Any sales qualification framework is better than no sales qualification framework.

So pick one that appeals to you the most and start implementing it in your sales process.

#4 Practice Your Sales Pitch With a Colleague

You may want to practice your sales pitch to better prepare for interacting with potential clients.

The idea is simple:

  • You present your sales pitch to a colleague that pretends to be a potential client. 
  • They respond with common questions and objections.

It’s helpful if the colleague has experience selling that same product. That way they will be able to offer more realistic responses.

#5 Record and Review Your Sales Pitch Practice

You may want to consider recording those practice sessions:

  • Audio makes sense if you are practicing for cold calls.
  • Video makes sense if you are practicing for sales meetings.
  • Screen capture makes sense if you are practicing for virtual sales meetings.

Warning: you will almost certainly cringe when you play the recording. Everyone does. Steel yourself.

That being said, being able to observe yourself as you make your sales pitch can be eye-opening, since it allows you to catch things like awkward body language, weird verbal ticks, odd cadence of speech, etc.

More Sales Improvement Ideas

Here are a few more ideas that will help you improve your sales performance:

  • Study psychology. You need to become better at understanding people if you want to get better at sales. Reading up on psychology can help you with this. 
  • Invest in sales training. While you can get better at sales solely through trial and error, there’s no need to waste time reinventing the wheel. Investing in sales books, courses, and seminars will allow you to make progress much faster than you could on your own. 
  • Hire a sales coach. Working with an experienced sales coach can help you take your sales skills to the next level. This can be expensive, but it’s well worth the price.

Creating Your Personal Improvement Plan (PIP)

Now it’s time to create your personal improvement plan (PIP).

Sales PIPs are a way to improve the performance of a salesperson who isn’t reaching their targets. It usually involves a collaboration between that person, their team, and their manager.

However, as an entrepreneur, you can also benefit from this concept by creating your own sales PIP.

Here’s how you can do that:

  • Select a timeframe. Say, 3 months.
  • Set your goals. Decide how many cold calls you are going to make each day, week, and month, how many sales books you are going to read each month, how many sales coaching sessions you will invest in, etc.
  • Create daily/weekly/monthly schedules. For example, if you decided that you are going to read one sales book per week for the next 3 months, then determine how many pages you need to read every day to accomplish that and then block out enough time for reading.

Note that the more specific you are with your timeframe, goals, and schedule, the more likely you will be to follow through with your PIP and improve your sales performance.

Conclusion

The ability to sell effectively isn’t some mysterious quality that you either have or you don’t.

Sure, some people are naturals at selling, but it’s probably safe to say that most of us don’t fall into that category.

Fortunately, sales is a skill that can be acquired, provided you are willing to invest time, energy, and money into getting better.

So don’t be discouraged if you are struggling to make sales. You can improve your sales performance. Maybe even become a master salesperson.

You just need to start working on your sales skills.