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Most businesses are eager—sometimes to the point of desperation—to improve the performance of their sales staff. The sales department is the last link in the chain responsible for securing new customers (and preserving old ones), and therefore represent the critical valve controlling a business’s revenue stream.

There are dozens of supposed methods to boost the productivity of a sales team, but only some of them end up working. So what is it that makes a sales strategy effective?

Types of Sales Strategies

First, it helps to know what types of sales improvement strategies exist:

  • Technical changes. Technical changes include giving your sales staff different equipment or tools to help them get the job done. For example, you might purchase a subscription for new sales management software, or upgrade your team’s individual tablets to help them get more done in a day. Even small improvements to the technologies we use every day can result in significant improvements in productivity.
  • Approach and process changes. Approach and process changes include changes to how your internal hierarchy communicates with one another or contributes to the group goal. For example, you might improve your sales funnel to delegate leads to the most effective salesperson on your team for each customer archetype, or you might formally document the procedure for updating a contact in your sales platform, to ensure consistency across the board.
  • Staff changes. A more obvious change for improvement is weeding out your underperformers, and recruiting more talented or experienced professionals to take their place. Training new recruits isn’t especially sustainable, so this isn’t a process you can repeat indefinitely, but as an occasional practice, this can easily breathe new life into your organization.
  • Goals and direction. You can also spark better sales productivity by improving the goals and direction of the overall campaign. From the top down, you can set better group and individual goals, possibly offering rewards for those who meet their respective goals, or threatening disciplinary action for those who fail to meet their minimum required objectives.
  • Rewards and personal development. You could also reward your employees, or give them incentives for personal development, such as with a yoga and meditation retreat. These incentives cost extra money, but inspire much greater individual morale and investment within the organization, spurring better performances all around.

Anecdotally and empirically, there is evidence to support tactics in each of these four categories having a positive impact on sales performance. So what makes some strategies work better than others for specific organizations?

The Critical Factor

The key factor to remember here isn’t the tactic itself, but rather how and where the tactic is applied.

  • Where a tactic is applied matters because different organizations have different philosophies. A cutthroat organization with a competitive spirit would do well to set firm goals and make its staff members compete with one another. A laid-back, individual-focused organization, on the other hand, would do better improving employee morale and rewarding personal development.
  • How a tactic is employed also matters because employee perception, adoption, and consistency all depend on how the new change is presented. Dropping a new sales platform on them unexpectedly will only breed confusion, but informing sales staff how this system can help them hit their goals will lead to much better results.

In sales, context is everything. If you’re looking for an objective way to improve sales productivity (and employee morale at the same time), consider using SAP’s robust sales management software as part of your suite of tools.

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