How to increase sales: 8 data-driven strategies
Every sales manager wants their team to increase sales. Follow these tips to make it happen.
By Alex Smithers, Contributing Writer
Last updated June 8, 2023
Sometimes, you need to spend money to increase sales—whether that means hiring more salespeople or investing in an external training program for your reps. But that isn’t always the case. You can still improve sales without dropping too much dough.
We’ve got the data to prove it, too: Zendesk Sell’s CRM customer survey data, a survey of over 730 customers who use our Sell platform on a daily basis. This research supports a number of cost-effective strategies for increasing revenue, which you’ll find below.
1. Create data-driven buyer personas
Leads don’t want to spend their time listening to pitches that aren’t relevant to them.
The Zendesk Sales Trends Report 2021 revealed how critical it is for sales teams to understand their potential customers and their needs. In our research, 32 percent of B2B sales leaders say their buyers want them to have the full context of their business and the problems they’re trying to solve. Leads don’t want to spend their time listening to pitches that aren’t relevant to them. Developing data-driven buyer personas helps ensure sales reps focus their efforts on high-quality leads.
Clear buyer personas help agents focus their time and energy on qualified prospects.
Unless you’re just starting out, your CRM software has key information about the prospects who purchase and those who don’t. Use the tool to start forming your buyer personas.
- Look for buying patterns in your customer data. Pay attention to factors like company size, role, demographics, and location. If there are gaps, fill them in where possible and tag them accordingly. This analysis will help you create customer segments.
- Rank your segments according to indicators of customer value. For a SaaS company, that could be average annual recurring revenue (ARR). For ecommerce, average order value (AOV) might be more appropriate.
- Create profiles for hypothetical individuals to represent each of your groups. These will be your buyer personas.
Once you’ve completed the personas, get input from agents who understand their customers well and make the necessary adjustments.
While you’ll want to capture important information about your target audience, try to limit the number of buyer personas you create. For example, it might not be necessary to segment customers by age if they share key characteristics across generations. But if different age groups are facing distinct problems, it might be worth separating them.
2. Prioritize quality over quantity
Too often, sales teams seek to source as many leads as possible. Instead of fixating on the number of leads, your reps should focus on the quality of leads. Here are two ways to enhance lead qualification and ensure your team spends the bulk of their time on the right targets:
- Offer training and helpful resources on how to qualify leads. Discuss lead qualification with your team members during one-to-one meetings and schedule bootcamps for top performers to train newcomers.
- Embrace the lead scoring features of your CRM. Lead scoring is a form of qualification in which you assign numerical values to important data points (such as company size or job title). For example, Zendesk Sell allows users to select variables and weigh their value within scoring formulas, allowing reps to determine which leads are worth pursuing.
Systematic lead scoring improves efficiency and consistency—not to mention the quality of your leads. By strengthening your qualification process, you’ll empower reps to save time and close more deals.
3. Establish a sales process
Trying to close sales without a defined process is like setting up a factory without a production process. You have no idea what leads to wins or losses, so deals are unpredictable.
Sales leaders know this struggle. In a survey of 730 Zendesk Sell customers, 16 percent of respondents cited an inconsistent sales process as a major challenge for their sales department.
To provide a reliable, repeatable way for your team to win deals consistently, build a sales process and define the stages in your CRM. Start with the five-stage template below so you have a framework for customizing your own sales process.:
You might need to add or remove stages. For example, if you’re a B2C business and have fixed prices, you can drop the quote stage. But if you work with hard-to-reach B2B clients, inserting a stage between prospecting and qualified may be useful; this stage could contain leads who’ve been contacted but not yet properly qualified.
Next, add the stages to your CRM to help your agents manage their pipelines. You’ll also want to define the actions needed in each stage so your team has a clear, repeatable path to follow. For instance, at the prospecting stage, you could instruct agents to make cold calls and answer questions on forums like Reddit to generate leads.
Once everything is set up in the CRM, train your agents on how to use it properly. Make sure to measure the results of your sales process, too. This way, you’ll be able to identify what is and isn’t working and refine your process accordingly.
4. Increase productivity
One of the best strategies to increase sales may seem obvious, but it’s impactful: Allow agents to spend more time selling. Despite the fact that selling is a sales rep’s primary responsibility, the average salesperson spends only 22 percent of their time actively selling. Too often, they’re bogged down by administrative tasks, which aren’t likely to drive sales increases.
While administrative tasks can’t be ignored, they don’t necessarily need to be completed by sales reps. Use automation for repetitive, tedious tasks so your reps can dedicate more time to nurturing leads and closing deals.
To free up time, consider these ideas:
- Automate administrative processes. For example, stop manual time tracking and data entry. Most CRMs can automatically generate activity reports and metrics.
- Automate lead generation. Zendesk uses data enrichment to build targeted prospect lists, identify decision-makers, and automate follow-up emails.
- Delegate tasks to another employee. See if a team member in a different role or department can pick up a few administrative tasks, especially if they overlap with the person’s expertise. For example, you might ask a marketing team member to evaluate the ROI of outreach channels.
There’s a direct correlation between low sales productivity and meeting quota. The less time a rep spends selling, the harder it is for them to meet their targets, which then affects the company’s bottom line. Follow the tips above to turn your sales reps into productivity pros.
5. Set goals and track them
Unproductive employees are often just unclear about expectations. Empower and motivate agents to go after sales by setting clear sales goals.
There are a number of goals you can use to address the needs of your team. For example, the first two weeks of agent X’s month are always filled with business development calls but few sales. The last two are the reverse. As the manager, you could come up with a time-management-focused target to help even out their workflow.
But goals mean nothing without accountability. The best way to keep your sales agents focused is to “gamify” the experience as much as possible. Tap into your team’s competitive side by keeping all goals and the progress toward them visible.
To do this, use your CRM to set and track goals. Some CRMs like Zendesk Sell have widgets that allow you to monitor individual and group performance throughout the day. You can also create reports to determine whether your team is on track, ahead, or behind in meeting key objectives and milestones.
6. Find new ways to connect with customers online
Forty-one percent of sales leaders say customers prefer digital communications and online interactions. Yet only 64 percent of sales teams believe they have the tools necessary to succeed in an increasingly digital world.
Outperform rivals by enabling digital communications and finding more avenues for virtual connections. With more forums to connect with customers, your team will be set to create more sales opportunities.
To connect with prospects online:
- Ask a satisfied customer where they congregate online. For example, are there any LinkedIn groups that are particularly active? Do they avoid one social media platform but prefer another?
- Embrace social selling to maximize potential touchpoints. Use your company’s social media accounts for upper-funnel work. Many B2B sales pros already use LinkedIn, but Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (among others) can also yield results.
- Add a chat feature to your website so visitors can start a conversation with sales and support agents.
- Host or attend online industry events. These are often easier and cheaper to organize than in-person gatherings.
- Use your CRM for a data-driven approach. Some CRMs allow users to track where leads and deals originate. For Zendesk Sell users, defining a list of possible sources is the first step.
In the era of remote work, online communication isn’t a nice-to-have—it’s essential for connecting with customers.
7. Always add value
Prospective customers don’t want to be sold to—they want sales reps to hear and acknowledge what they’re saying. In a RAIN Group survey, 68 percent of B2B customers said sales agents’ listening skills highly influenced their buying decision.
When you listen to your customers, you’re not just meeting their expectations—you’re also increasing your chances of making a sale. Pay attention to what leads share, and you’ll find out more about them and generate plenty of ideas for delighting them.
To start, help leads better understand their own needs by asking questions about their goals or problems they’re looking to solve. Based on their answers, offer content resources or small, actionable tips that can immediately help prospects. For example, if a lead mentions that they struggle to maintain a digital library of internal knowledge, suggest tools they could use. Or, send them a company blog post about how to manage an internal knowledge base.
Strong customer relationships are foundational to developing trust, which makes it easier to close deals and keep customers around—both of which are critical to your bottom line. So, make sure your team keeps their prospects’ best interest at heart.
8. Focus on retaining customers
Although the slow work of relationship-building may feel like time wasted, your sales agents should spend at least 10 percent of their time on it. Why? Because keeping good customers in place is cost-effective. According to Bain research, a five-percent boost in customer retention can increase profits by 25 percent.
To retain valuable customers:
- Set a minimum number of virtual coffee chats reps must have with clients each week. This accountability ensures sales agents will make the effort to bond with their customers.
- Send personal thank you notes. Handwriting thank you notes is a great way to stand out, as many reps only send emails. Mail clients a note every month or quarter to show them that you appreciate their business.
- Offer valuable resources. Forward case studies, ebooks, and product videos to existing customers—anything to make their life easier as they use your product or service. Resources can also be industry-related, such as insightful reports or helpful checklists the customer could use. The point is to send something of value that will help the buyer find success with your product or service.
- Survey customers about what they like and dislike about working with your brand. (You can send this survey to both former and current clients.) Focus your questions on aspects that sales reps have a direct impact on. For example, was it easy to contact your team? Once you have the feedback, act on it.
- Look for tools that can improve the customer experience, such as social media listening software or behavior analytics. If another department is already using a similar tool, you might need to collaborate with them to pull insights.
Sales leaders often focus on gaining entirely new customers, but it’s important to nurture your existing clientele, too. Once prospects turn into customers, agents should invest time in strengthening those relationships. They must be authentic with their buyers, concerned about their needs, and focused on adding more value to their business. If customers know the company cares about them, they’ll want to renew their product or service subscription when the time comes. They may even become customer advocates and promote your company to others.
Boost sales without breaking your budget
When sales start to slump, it’s easy to panic. You worry that your business will plummet unless you act big (and spend big) to boost revenue again. But luckily, there are cost-effective tactics for improving sales.
Determining how to increase sales within your own company will ultimately depend on your particular product or service, but the principles we covered offer a solid foundation to build on. Once you combine these proven sales strategies with excellent products and outstanding customer service, you’ll be well on your way to increased sales and business success.
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