High performers are cut from a different cloth. They see the value in strong client relationships, follow up diligently and do whatever it takes to progress a deal. If you want to become a high performer, you must constantly push the boundaries, perfecting your sales activities, testing new technologies and finding new approaches to reach and nurture your customers.
It isn’t an easy task, but to become a high-performing sales rep you need to nail everything in this sales activities list:
- Centralize your activities with a CRM
- Keep a keen eye on your data
- Schedule your follow-up activities
- Warm up prospects to speed up deal flow
- Qualify inbound leads
- Batch time for cold calling
- Email outreach activity
- Experiment with your timing
- Nurture customer relationships
- Organize and get control of your inbox
- Create and optimize your templates
- Communicate with your team
- Appointment planning and researching
Let’s dive into how you can optimize each of your daily sales activities, how to organize sales activities and what you can do to improve your workflow to become a high-performing sales rep.
1. Centralize your activities with a CRM
One of the biggest hurdles in identifying the most important sales activities is a lack of tracking.
If you don’t track what you’re doing, you’re not going to know which activities are moving the needle closer to your revenue goals.
This is where a CRM can be invaluable for each selling activity. By keeping track of your contacts, deals and tasks, you can figure out which activities work best for you. Not only that, but it’ll make your work much more efficient and effective in the sales process.
Why? Because you’ll have an organized view of all your most important sales data in one place.
Here are a few ways you should be using your CRM on a daily and weekly basis to track your activities:
- Track your deals: Every time a new deal comes through, add it to your CRM. Keeping an up-to-date, detailed view of your opportunities through pipeline management will help you see which activities and opportunities you should prioritize on a daily basis.
- Keep on top of your contacts: When you engage with a new lead or a new stakeholder within a target account, keep a record of them in your CRM. You can keep track of the conversation and set reminders when it’s time to follow up.
- Track all deal stages: Every organization has their own sales process. Which is why reflecting your pipeline with this process is key. Sit down with your team (and wider sales organization) to map out what each core stage of your sales process is. In other words, what are the individual steps that move leads closer to the deal?
- Collaborate with teammates: Sales is a group effort. If your team is using several different platforms, then things can get messy. Most CRMs allow you to invite colleagues with ease, so make sure you take advantage of this feature.
- Take advantage of custom fields: Like your sales processes, the data you collect is unique. Make CRM technology your own by adding custom fields for contact data, target accounts and pertinent information that will help you and your sales team close more deals.
Whether you’re a small business using an Excel spreadsheet or a small sales team using a powerful CRM platform, this foundational step should act as a hub for the following activities in this guide.
What gets measured gets managed, and you’ll find that by tracking your activities you’ll not only perform more efficiently, but find there’s a lot to be optimistic and excited about.
2. Keep a keen eye on your data
Using data to monitor how you’re performing with prospects is key. Not only does data help you to achieve predictable revenue, it can also boost your customer’s buying experience and sales contribution margin.
How? Simple: by keeping a super close eye on what’s working and what’s not.
The data you need to monitor includes anything you and your peers are doing to close a deal. Start by monitoring the obvious metrics:
- Phone calls
- Attachments sent
- Marketing campaigns
By monitoring your data, you’ll be able to track the days, weeks and months leading up to a sale. You can then use the figures to boost your entire sales bottom line, as a lot of fast-growing companies are doing:
To make it easier, let’s break it down into a simple three-step process:
Step one: Measure your sales activity
Activities are the “inputs” that you can directly control. Ask yourself the following questions:
- How many emails have your team sent?
- How many meetings have your team had with prospects?
- How many cold calls have they made to prospects?
Track everything you do on a day-to-day basis. This will help you to scope out your key metrics.
Step two: Analyze the quality of your sales activity
Focus on how many key decision makers you were able to reach through your sales activity.
How many of them were qualified for your product or service? Take these figures and look at whether or not your team is chasing the right prospects. This is also a good time to look at your list of leads to see if you can write any of them off.
Step three: Uncover the number of deals closed
Finally, look at how many of your qualified prospects continue through the sales process to be converted into a customer.
Use these three simple steps to pinpoint any leaking holes in your sales strategy, and to see where your strengths are.
Using a CRM is a time-savvy way to correlate action-based data from your sales activities. Use it to keep an eye on your:
- Forecast analysis. Do you have a low volume of prospects in your sales pipeline? Low prospects equal low sales opportunities.
- Territory coverage shows how well your sales team is performing in their assigned sales territories.
- Quota analysis. Sometimes a sales rep fails to meet their quota. Keep an eye on the figures of everyone on your sales team.
Keeping an eye on your data will help you make faster decisions, as you’ll have an informed idea of the challenges you’re up against (and how to overcome them).
3. Schedule your follow-up activities
In a sales role, you’re likely to be juggling a number of different tasks and priorities, so you need to have a schedule to make sure every task is executed properly.
Don’t fall down the rabbit hole by concentrating on a specific activity. If you don’t set yourself a schedule and limit the time spent on activities, you could find yourself wasting hours looking over metrics and spreadsheets while not achieving results.
Your most valuable asset is time.
If you plan to spend an hour generating leads on LinkedIn, move on to your next sales activity once that hour is up.
Prioritize the outcomes you want to achieve that day. Start by deciding what the sales outcome is that you want and then decide exactly what you or your team needs to do to get there.
4. Warm prospects to advance deal flow
Got a prospect sitting on the fence?
Make a point to focus on warm leads in your pipeline to advance deal flow. After all, you already know they’re interested in your product—they might just need a little push to get them over the line.
One of the best ways you can warm up a prospect is to build a trusting relationship with them. This means attracting them and keeping them interested not only in your product but in you as a sales rep.
Once a prospect is in your pipeline, keep them hungry by offering them value. This could be anything from an email with a link to a blog post your prospect might find helpful, to keeping them in the loop about how much your product could potentially help their business goals.
Show them that your existing customers love your product with referrals and make it easy for customers to refer you on social media by adding share buttons to your confirmation page, product or service description pages and blog posts.
Social proof is one of the best ways to build trust with your prospects and, if you want to be a top performer, you need to be getting referrals wherever you can:
Don’t forget about leads that you might’ve put in your back pocket and forgotten about, either.
Following up with cold leads at the end of the year when their next year’s budget is about to be finalized is the perfect time to jump back onto a prospect’s radar. Assuming things are going well at the target account, they may be more generous with their time at the end of the year (as well as their resources).
Pro tip: Connecting with prospects at the end of the year gives you the chance to have a value-added conversation with a lead that you had on the backburner, and put them back into your sales pipeline. If you get in touch with a decision maker push to schedule a meeting in January or, at the very least, promise to keep in touch.
5. Qualify inbound leads
Qualifying leads is one of the best ways to save time. Putting effort into qualifying leads properly means your pipeline will only be filled with prospects that are interested in your product.
When you’re qualifying a lead, strip the process back and start with their first interaction with your product—how did they reach your website or find you?
Then, look at their engagement on the website. Did they visit your pricing page, or did they jump straight to your free ebook? If a prospect has visited a pricing page, they’re going to be more valuable than a prospect that stumbled on your website to read top-of-funnel content.
Don’t spend too much time trying to decipher their movements on your website. Instead, have a conversation with them. The best way to figure out if they are a qualified lead is to build a simple checklist you can tick while you’re talking to them:
- Need: Does the lead need your product or service? Are there any problems your product can solve for them?
- Budget: Does the prospect have any budget allocated for purchases like your service?
- Authority: Does your prospect have the power to make a buying decision within their company? How much influence do they have and are they the right person to focus your time on?
- Fit: Does your lead have a commitment to a competitor or another product? On the flipside, do you think the prospect is a good fit for your company and your product?
- Timing: Timing is everything. How quickly does your lead expect to make a decision about buying your product? Is there anything that might affect their timing to make a buying decision?
Ticking boxes on your checklist is the quickest and most painless way of either putting a prospect into your sales pipeline, or flagging them as a cold lead and putting them on the backburner.
Read our article on How to Develop a Lead Qualification Machine for a guide on getting the best leads into your sales funnel.
6. Batch time for cold calling
News flash: cold calling in the sales world is far from dead.
If you aren’t making time to cold call prospects, you’re missing out on a big chunk of the revenue pie.
Make sure you’re making time in your schedule every week to make cold calls to highly targeted or “dream” prospects.
Cold calls have a notorious reputation for being unsuccessful, but you can change that by making a great first impression with your prospect. The first few seconds of the call are crucial to its success, and the longer you are able to hold your prospect on the line, the higher the chance you have of booking a meeting with them:
When sitting down to make cold calls, be sure to remove any distractions. Keep your concentration by removing the following distractions:
- Keep your phone hidden and out of sight to avoid distracting notifications
- Close any browser tab that doesn’t involve the task at hand
- Make sure you’re in a quiet area that will allow you to connect with your prospect.
Pro tip: Practice making cold calls in the office with other members of your team. Don’t make it easy for each other: this “mock sales call” should be as difficult as possible to prepare you and your sales reps for tough situations in the real world.
7. Email outreach activity
Staying at the front of your prospect’s mind is crucial if you hope to land them as a client.
Why not keep a steady stream of emails landing in your prospect’s inbox to make sure they don’t forget you?
Don’t make these messages about your product or service. Surprise them by sending something of value that will teach them about a relevant challenge (or even entertain them). This might be a whitepaper on relevant topics or just a message to say congratulations if their company celebrated a recent milestone.
Don’t send out “just checking in” emails to your prospects. They’re boring, bland and add little value to their inbox. Make your email outreach personal, too. You’re not the only sales rep vying for your prospect’s attention, so make sure whatever lands in their inbox is enough to perk their interest.
Emails that are personalized get opened more often. A lot more often:
Adding your prospect’s name into your emails and taking the time to customize them into something that gives them some value can make a massive difference in how they view you as a salesperson.
Not only will they feel important, it will also help to build a relationship as it shows you are taking the time to craft an email for them. They won’t feel like they’re part of a mass batch to everyone on your list.
Their inbox is a sacred place. Treat it with respect, and you might just get some new business in return.
8. Experiment with your timing
Timing is everything. If you aren’t hitting the targets when it comes to emails and cold calls, try experimenting with when you’re sending them.
For example, when making cold calls, make sure you’re reaching out to your prospects at the right time so every conversation counts. Making calls either mid-morning or mid-afternoon will give you more chances of landing a meeting with your prospect:
Then, move on to your emails.
Take a look at the last six months of emails you’ve sent to prospects. Which ones landed you a meeting, and which ones didn’t even get opened? There’s a good chance that the emails that were getting opened were sent at specific times of the day.
Pro tip: Try emailing your prospects on the weekend. They’re probably getting fewer emails on a Saturday or Sunday, but chances are they’re still checking their inbox. Hit them when they don’t expect it and you might get lucky.
9. Nurture customer relationships
If you want to win in today’s sales world, you need to be nurturing your customer relationships. On average, repeat customers spend 67% more than new customers—so it’s worth keeping them happy.
Show your prospect that your main goal is for them to reach their goal.
Start by showing them some love on social media. Celebrate their wins and interact with their posts; share valuable content of theirs and give them any updates about your product you think might spark their interest. Social media is an epic way to respond to customer queries or concerns, too. It shows them that you are listening and care about their problems.
Chances are, like the majority of the population, your prospect also suffers from FOMO (fear of missing out). Keep them sweet by letting them know first about any new product releases, services or deals your company has before they’re released to the wider public.
Not only is this a great way to build loyalty amongst your customers, but it’s an effective (and free) way to build up a bit of buzz around your new products before the public can get their hands on them.
Lastly, stay at the top of their email inbox and make sure that you’re always having a conversation with them. Use your CRM to create marketing automation campaigns that allow you to nurture your customer relationships, stay in touch and add value to their inbox as well (see point ‘5’).
10. Organize and get control of your inbox
Your email inbox is like a symbol of your overall success in sales. If it’s a shambles, your sales activity probably will be as well.
The sooner you accept that you won’t be able to read every email that hits your inbox, the better. The key to an organized inbox is to label emails from your prospects, teammates and current clients.
Let’s be real. If you’ve just returned to the office on a Monday morning after your weekend, nothing is going to hinder your workflow more than an inbox with hundreds of emails. You’ll have to sift through spam, promotional emails along with other sales reps offering you a deal.
You need to get those emails labeled ASAP. Many CRMs can help you fast track the labeling process by only showing you emails linked to deals.
For example, Pipedrive lets you narrow down your inbox to only view:
- Emails that are linked to a deal
- Emails not linked to a deal
- Unread emails
- Emails with attachments
- Emails that are shared or not shared
- Emails addressed to you specifically
- A combination of the above attributes (e.g. all unread emails attached to deals)
Pro tip: Get unsubscribing. Any newsletters or emails you’re subscribed to that aren’t adding value to your workflow need to be unsubscribed from, pronto. You’ll thank us later.
11. Create and optimize your templates
By now, you’ve probably realized that you should be optimizing your email outreach and inbox in order to succeed. This goes for creating and optimizing your sales templates, too.
A good sales email will include three short sections to get your message across and tell your prospect what you need them to do next. When you’re creating your templates, follow this framework:
- The intro. Your “do or die” moment. The subject and the first few sentences have to be attention-grabbing. It’s the difference between getting opened versus getting ignored or blocked.
- The value proposition. What’s the main point of your email? Focus on value, demonstrating how you can solve a specific problem. Why should they care about you? If there is a clear and concise benefit to the prospect, you’ll get a response. If not, it’s unlikely they’ll care what you have to say—but that’s OK, it means they were probably not a high-quality lead to begin with.
- A clear call to action. Tell your prospect exactly what you want them to do. As you’d expect, this can make or break everything.
Here’s what a template that follows the above principles look like:
Subject: quick request
Hi [first name],
People like you are super busy, so I’ll keep this brief.
I work with companies like [company name] to help them [insert main benefit e.g. get more signups]. What our clients like most about us is this: [main selling point e.g. all leads on our platforms have been qualified during the last 6 months, so the response rates are 2-3x the industry average].
I’d love to give you or a colleague a 20-minute demo. Would next Tuesday or Wednesday work for you?
Having a foolproof arsenal of email templates can help you increase pipeline volume. For your cold sales email templates to be effective, you need to nail the following basic principles:
- They need to be specific to your pitch and narrative, maintaining the goal of leading your prospect into a presentation or meeting.
- If you’re trying to reach key decision makers, make sure the templates are short and to the point. Don’t waste anybody’s time.
- Lay out your prospect’s problem and what you’re going to do to solve it, and then briefly show the differences between you and your competitor's solution. Be clear on why your product is better.
- Mix up your email subject lines and customize them so your prospect knows it was made for them, and not sent out in bulk (even though it might be!)
- Don’t get fancy. Avoid fancy HTML design (apart from relevant screenshots). All of your templates should be text-only and straight to the point.
- Use a strong call to action at the end of each email.
Once you’ve created your templates, A/B test them and weed out which works best in each situation. You might find one template is working better for cold emailing prospects than another. Do the same for templates that you’re using to follow up with prospects after a meeting.
Any good CRM will have a feature to quickly insert any template into an email, and allow you to customize fields like name and pipeline stage, too.
12. Communicate with your team
News flash: every sales team is busy. But don’t use this as an excuse to not communicate with each other.
Make sure you’re talking to everyone on your team, and when you have a meeting, give it your full attention. Showing up to a call or meeting isn’t just about physically being on the phone or in the meeting room. It’s about dedicating 100% of your attention to your team and where your company is pushing your sales targets.
If you aren’t using it already, a productivity integration like Slack can be a gamechanger for your sales team:
Using Slack, you can create separate channels to keep everyone in the loop about everything from office conduct and invoicing to specific deals and prospects you might be focusing on.
But don’t let a bot replace a good old team meeting. You should be meeting with your team once a week to set expectations, go over sales activity and plan any follow-up activities.
A tip for sales managers: your reps are driven by success and, in turn, the consequences of their actions. If you recognize the effort (or lack thereof) in a weekly sales meeting, your team is much more likely to keep pushing to meet their sales targets.
13. Appointment planning and researching
If you’re in the sales game, meetings take up a huge chunk of your day. But an even bigger time suck is organizing the meetings in the first place.
How many times have you played a tug of war match with your prospect to try and nail down a time and place that suited you both to catch up?
Many CRMs have built-in schedulers if you don’t want to use another extra tool. Pipedrive’s built-in Scheduler works brilliantly to save you time and streamline your meeting set up.
In the dashboard, you can create a recurring event if you want to schedule a monthly or quarterly check-in with a customer, which is a great way to nurture a relationship:
Your prospect can also choose their meetings in a timezone of their choice. If they wish to select a new timezone (for example, if they are traveling) then they only need to click on the timezone information and select their preferred time zone.
How to identify key sales activities
Key sales activities are your bread and butter. These are the actions that steer your conversations with prospects and ultimately determine whether they’re going to become a customer or not.
Let’s look at how to identify these activities and the math behind optimizing them further.
What are your key sales activities?
Your key sales activities are the actions under your direct control. They have the highest positive effect on achieving your sales goal.
A key sales action will set other preparatory and consequent actions in motion, taking you closer to your sales goal.
There’s a universal trio of objectives you need to aim for to succeed in sales. If you want to close more sales deals, you must focus on the activities that help you:
- Demonstrate to prospects
Those three make up your key sales activities. Your ability to constantly deliver a certain number of each of these actions determines how many dollars or euros you put in your pocket.
Let’s get specific with an example
If you wanted to end the year with a personal sales revenue of $1M, and your average sale is around $20,000, you would need to close an average of five customers a month.
When calculating customers per month, we use 11 months as the time period as vacation, holidays and sick leave usually shave off a month. However, feel free to edit this number to match your preference.
If you’re able to demo your product or service to about 80% of the prospects you meet (four out of five prospects agree to a demo), then your second focus is on meeting 25 prospects per month.
Finally, if one out of four prospects you reach out to agrees to a meeting with you, then your third focus is on contacting 100 prospects per month.
5 customers per month ÷ ¼ demo to customer ratio = 20 demos per month
20 demos per month ÷ ⅘ meeting to demo ratio = 25 meetings per month
25 meetings per month ÷ ¼ call to meeting ratio = 100 calls per month
Building your weekly schedule around key sales actions
Let’s divide these numbers by four to get weekly key sales activities: 25 prospects called, seven initial meetings conducted, five demos delivered.
These are the “big rocks” of your week around which your time as well as every other selling activity—including writing proposals, sending emails and so forth—should be arranged.
This is how key activities could look like in a schedule:
Optimizing sales activity is key to high performance
The key to becoming a high-performing sales rep is to work smarter, not harder.
Every rep in every sales company has pretty much the same amount of time in their day as you, so you need to look for ways to make the most out of your time and have it translate over into your customer’s experience as well.
Optimizing your email outreach activity, making smarter cold calls and saving time on scheduling meetings might all seem like small wins, but they can lead to massive results.
Focus on your sales activity. Stick to a follow-up plan for each activity, and you’ll start to see results in not only your pipeline, but your company’s bottom line as well.