How to Revamp Your Sales Team on a Budget

Sometimes your sales process needs a reboot, and you don't have the money to hire an expensive new VP of Sales to turn things around. It can be overwhelming to look at a floundering sales team and wonder what it is you should do to make it start running more smoothly.

The good news is, there are processes you can improve and ways to troubleshoot that don't involve a massive investment. The key is figuring out what's going wrong, so that you can focus on fixing it without wasting time and money on trying to change the parts of your sales function that aren't broken.

A successful sales function is like a well-constructed building. You need to lay a good foundation and then build your sales program step by step. If any of the building blocks is out of place, it can cause the whole program to malfunction. Fortunately, fixing a specific problem can also often have far-reaching effects, causing every part of your sales function to fall into place.

Take a Look at Your Strategy

The first thing you should consider is whether you have a coherent sales strategy. Your strategy should be built on your value proposition--exactly what you are offering to your customers, and the value it has for them. Can you define your value proposition in a sentence or two? If not, this is probably where you should start. In fact, if you hire a sales consultant, this is one of the first questions he or she will ask you.

The first part of your value proposition simply defines your product or service, and should include whatever levels or versions it has. Your value proposition should also include your price points and whether there is a monthly or yearly contract involved. The second half of your value proposition concerns the value or benefits your customers derive from what you provide them, and what problems it solves for them. You should also know whether there are comparable products on the market, and how yours is better, cheaper, easier, or in some other way more valuable to your customers.

Just as important as knowing your product or service is knowing your customers. You should know what types of consumers or businesses buy your product, and why. The more closely you identify your target market and verticals, the more likely you will be to come up with a sales process that will reach them effectively. If you have several different types of customers, you should develop a buyer persona (typical customer profile) for each one, since different strategies might work for different buyer personas.

If you are not certain what types of customers are buying your product, don't just guess. Try conducting a survey of current customers. Ask for demographic information, as well as what they are looking for and why they've bought from you. Knowing what your current customers look like will help you find more like them. 

Get the Right Sales Reps—And Train Them Well

Once you've reviewed your sales strategy for bugs, you should focus on the composition of your sales team. Just like you profiled your ideal customer, you should profile your ideal sales candidate. Depending on your product, you might need reps with a college degree in a certain field. But if not, open it up to high school graduates to widen your pool. Also think about whether they need experience, and know the type of compensation that the reps you need are getting in your market.

How robust is your training program? You can get by with a skeleton training program, but only if you hire very experienced (and very expensive) reps. A good training program allows you to hire cheaper and more malleable reps and keep them from developing any bad habits. If sales training is a weakness for your business, hiring a sales training company can reap big dividends. 

If you have a "revolving door" problem with your sales reps, it may be time to look at your compensation structure. While the simplicity and low risk of a 1099 independent contractor sales force might be tempting, if it's not working for you the best choice might be to bite the bullet and hire some W-2 reps. Give them a reasonable salary in addition to a commission structure, and you'll find that they stay around longer and view the job more as a career and less as a stop-gap until they find something better. If the paperwork and hassle of hiring is daunting, consider hiring a company like Netpique to build you an outsourced sales team.

Define Your Sales Process and Measure Results

It's important to know what your sales cycle looks like before you can come up with ways to improve it. You should know how many contacts generally takes to close a sale, and how potential customers progress through the sales process. Many companies find that their sales process can be more efficient with the addition of sales support staff, as long as their role is clearly defined.

One of the most important ways to foster success for your sales team is to have well defined sales objectives and make sure that they are supported by achievable sales quotas. Ensure that sales expectations are reasonable, but challenging, and that they are clearly communicated to your team.

Finally, keep track of relevant metrics! There's no way to diagnose why a team is under-performing if you don't know what your sales reps are doing on a daily basis. They need to know what data you want, as well as have a procedure in place to collect and record their metrics. Both activity metrics (number of attempts, number of sales, etc.) and ratio metrics (closing ratio, sales mix ratio, etc.) are important for gaining a good picture of how your sales team is doing and what needs improvement. For help on which metrics to track, see our blog post, Sales Productivity Metrics Every Manager Should Know.

Still not sure what's wrong with your team? Need someone to sit down with you and figure things out together? At Netpique sales outsourcing we provide consulting for every aspect of the sales function, and can help you troubleshoot and figure out a sales solution that will work for your company.