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How to track, measure and improve your team’s sales performance

Sales Performance
Implement strong sales management from the start
Set objectives to boost sales performance
Choose the right sales metrics
Focus on the right prospects
Develop a lead qualification machine
Use reporting data to optimize sales performance
Balance time between key sales tasks
Look at overall team performance
Monitor team performance with sales dashboards
Improve your sales soft skills
Carry out annual sales performance reviews
Provide frequent feedback for continuous improvement
Final thoughts

Building a high-performing sales team involves more than just hiring sales reps and expecting them to get on with it. Sales performance management involves optimizing every aspect of the sales process, from initial onboarding to sales forecasting, so that every member of your team can do their best work.

In this article, we’ll look at best practices to help your sales team elevate their performance.

Implement strong sales management from the start

A structured approach to sales management is the foundation for strong sales performance. Sales managers have a long list of responsibilities, from hiring and training new reps to creating sales plans and setting targets.

There are three aspects of sales management to consider:

  • Sales operations. How are you supporting your sales team? This covers a wide range of support functions, from building and onboarding your team to providing them with the necessary tools and sales coaching to do their job.

  • Sales strategy. What does your actual sales process look like? This includes defining your sales funnel and clarifying the day-to-day tasks and activities that turn leads into customers.

  • Sales analysis. What results are you getting? This involves analyzing your operations and strategy to see what’s working and what needs improving.

New businesses and startups might begin managing sales with nothing more than notes and spreadsheets, but a good CRM comes with features that make it far easier to track your processes and review sales performance.

For example, Pipedrive lets sales reps monitor customer relationships and get a visual overview of their pipeline, while managers can use the reports and dashboards to analyze results and make any necessary adjustments to the sales strategy.

A strong management foundation is key to seeing success in your efforts to improve sales performance. Review your existing procedures and ensure that you have clearly defined sales operations, strategy and analysis functions in place.

Set objectives to boost sales performance

Setting the right goals is an essential part of an effective sales strategy. They give your teams clear targets to aim for. Objectives could be related to:

  • Increasing your team’s sales capacity

  • Increasing your team’s sales activities

  • Increasing the number of customers you gain or retain

  • Increasing your team’s sales revenue

The objectives you choose will depend on your current team’s performance and your overall business goals. Typically though, you’ll want to tackle these in order. For instance, it doesn’t make sense to set revenue goals if your team is still struggling with the capacity or activity necessary to achieve that revenue.

One way to check that you’re setting worthwhile goals is by using the SMART framework:

  • Specific. Make your goals clear and detailed

  • Measurable. Choose quantifiable goals that allow you to track progress

  • Achievable. Set goals that stretch your team while still being realistic

  • Relevant. Choose objectives that align with your overall business goals

  • Time-based. Set target deadlines for achieving your goal

For example, you might decide that you want to increase average order value. While that seems like a sensible goal for any sales organization, it isn’t particularly helpful.

Applying the SMART framework leads to more meaningful objectives, such as “increasing average order value by 10% within the next three months” (assuming that’s an achievable result for your team and relevant to your business model).

Goals help your team stay productive and make consistent progress. Pick a combination of short and long-term objectives that will motivate your sales team and have the biggest impact on overall sales performance.

Download Your Guide to Sales Performance Measurement

The must-read guide for any sales manager trying to track, forecast and minimize risk. Learn how to scale sales with data-backed decisions.

Choose the right sales metrics

To improve your team’s sales performance, you first have to measure it using metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs). This allows you to see how your sales activities are paying off, evaluate whether you’re likely to meet your objectives and make any appropriate changes.

The ideal sales performance metrics will vary between organizations based on your objectives.

For example, if you want to increase your team’s capacity, then it makes sense to track sales productivity metrics, such as how much time is spent on sales compared to how much time is spent on administrative tasks.

Alternatively, if your objective is increasing sales activity, then you want to look at metrics such as:

  • Calls made

  • Emails sent

  • LinkedIn invitations sent

  • Social media interactions

  • Sales demos held

  • Proposals sent

If your priority is increasing the number of customers you gain or retain, relevant metrics would be:

  • Number of deals in pipeline

  • Conversion rate

  • Percentage of revenue from new versus existing customers

  • Net promoter score (NPS)

  • Customer satisfaction (CSAT)

Metrics directly related to revenue include:

  • Closed deals

  • Win rate

  • Average deal size

  • Number of cross-sells

  • Customer lifetime value (CLV)

  • Number of upsells

  • Total revenue

With so many metrics to choose from, it’s important to concentrate on those that are directly related to your key objectives. Look back at the goals you’ve set for your team and pick one or more metrics from the relevant category to monitor.

Focus on the right prospects

While it’s tempting to reach out to as many potential customers as possible, high-performing sales teams tend to prioritize quality over quantity. Reaching out to prospects who will get the most value out of your product or service is a far more productive use of your reps’ time.

To establish who your best prospects are, look at your existing customers.

  • Who spends the most with you?

  • Who’s been a customer the longest?

  • Who has the shortest sales cycle?

Then, look at what those customers have in common. Have they recently expanded? Are they in similar industries? Are they in the same geographic location?

Not only will this exercise help you identify your best-fit prospects, it will make it easier to tailor your outreach. Instead of trying to appeal to everyone, your sales team can focus all their efforts on creating messaging that’s personalized to your ideal prospects. By directly addressing your prospects’ specific challenges and objectives, your message is more likely to arouse their interest and move them to respond.

Review your top ten current customers, identify their commonalities and then work out what kind of message your reps can use to reach similar prospects.

Develop a lead qualification machine

Even when you’re targeting your best-fit prospects, not all of them are going to become happy customers. By qualifying leads as soon as possible, your team can spend more time talking to the prospects who are most likely to convert.

The first step is to agree on how you define a qualified lead. For most organizations, this will include separate definitions for marketing qualified leads (MQLs), who have shown some interest in your marketing content, and sales Qualified Leads (SQLs), who have shown intent to buy and are in the sales pipeline. Defining leads will help ensure that the right team takes responsibility for any leads so that they’re appropriately nurtured.

Sales teams can build on this by implementing lead scoring. By assigning a score to different attributes and behaviors (such as job title or downloading a white paper from your site), you can rank leads by how likely they are to buy. This helps prioritize leads more effectively, taking into account both how they match up against your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) and their level of engagement.

This might sound like a lot of work, but there are plenty of apps and tools that can automate the process. For example, Pipedrive’s Smart Contact Data feature will enrich lead data with relevant information, while the Salespanel integration adds behavior tracking to your CRM.

The LeadBooster add-on includes four tools to help you generate and qualify leads: Chatbot, Live Chat, Prospector and Web Forms.

Lead qualification relies on accurate information. Review what prospect details you already collect and see if you can enrich that data or use lead scoring to speed up the qualification process.

Use reporting data to optimize sales performance

There’s no shortage of data around, but it’s of little value to your sales teams if they can’t use it effectively. Too much data can even have a negative effect, overwhelming your reps with unnecessary information and paralyzing them.

Reporting data can also seem confusing and contradictory if taken out of context. For example, your average order value might have gone up, but what if this has corresponded with an increased churn rate?

Instead of trying to measure every possible component of your sales performance, focus on the data that corresponds with your chosen sales objectives and metrics. Where possible, automate data collection and analysis. Manually copying your sales data from multiple sources and pasting it into complicated spreadsheets can be time-consuming and leave room for errors.

A better option is to connect your sales tools so that they can automatically collect and share relevant data. You can then use your CRM to present that information in visual reports that tell you everything you need to know to improve your sales performance.

Set up a variety of sales reports to get regular insights. For example, you could have daily reports to track activity metrics, weekly reports to catch any immediate issues and monthly reports to get an overview of long-term trends.

Balance time between key sales tasks

In Pipedrive’s latest State of Sales and Marketing report, just over half of the respondents (54%) said they spend most of their day selling. Other important tasks featured highly on the list, such as prospecting and lead qualification, but spending too much time on even these important tasks can hurt sales rep performance. For instance, 61% of respondents who spent most of their day selling reached their personal annual sales target, compared to just 39% who spent most of their day prospecting.

Other tasks can overload your salespeople too. For example, 19% of respondents spent the majority of their day on administrative tasks, while 8% spent most of their time handling tech support.

Even if your sales teams manage to spend most of their time on sales, too many additional tasks on the to-do list can be distracting. Switching from one task to another takes time, with one researcher claiming that the resulting mental blocks can cost up to 40% of someone’s productive time.

To help salespeople spend their time productively, clear and consistent communication is key. Each sales rep should know what their priorities are and how their performance will be measured. A solid sales enablement function will also empower your salespeople with the sales training, tools and techniques they need to focus on sales instead of any ancillary tasks.

Get a baseline for what tasks your reps typically deal with and how much time they’re spending on them. See if you can reduce, automate or eliminate any of the non-sales tasks on the list.

Look at overall team performance

Consistently hitting your overall sales goals will require everyone on your team to work together. Even with a team of individual sales superstars, performance will suffer if they're working at cross purposes.

By taking collective performance into account, sales managers can encourage big-picture thinking and promote teamwork. An easy way to start doing this is to involve your team in key decisions and strategies. For example, by asking for their input on what sales objectives to set, you can make certain those goals are realistic and achievable. Your sales team will also feel more motivated and invested in meeting those targets.

Ensure you have a combination of both short and long-term goals for your team. Weekly goals help your team stay consistent throughout the year (rather than rushing to hit their quota in the last few days of the quarter), while having long-term goals to aim for guarantees that one bad day isn’t the end of the world.

Use your next catch-up to check in with your team and get their input on current objectives, challenges and results.

Monitor team performance with sales dashboards

Once you’ve set team goals, you need a way to measure the team’s sales performance. A sales performance dashboard gives you a bird’s-eye view into key metrics for both individual and team sales activities, so you can spot any potential issues before they become a serious problem.

Your sales reports may go into more detail and provide a more comprehensive overview of your sales performance, but the right dashboards can give you and your team a quick overview of what’s going on. By using real-time data to provide instant feedback, you can identify what’s working and what isn’t, allowing you to make informed decisions.

Set up dashboards, either within your CRM or using a dedicated dashboard solution, to keep tabs on daily sales activities, results and any other metrics relating to sales performance.

Improve your sales soft skills

While some types of sales jobs require specific knowledge and qualifications, every salesperson can benefit by improving their soft skills. Although they may be difficult to quantify, soft skills have a very real impact on teamwork, customer experience and overall sales performance.

Important soft skills for a career in sales include:

  • Communication

  • Collaboration

  • Active listening

  • Empathy

  • Relationship building

  • Time management

  • Decision making

  • Perseverance

As much as technology and automation are now a fundamental part of modern sales, they cannot completely replace the personal touch of a sales rep. While it takes some effort, it’s possible to measure these skills based on related activities; for example, someone who’s good at communication and active listening will likely have fewer complaints or refunds.

Assess your team’s existing soft skills, then use training and coaching to address any gaps and further develop their skills.

Carry out annual sales performance reviews

An annual review is more than just checking performance against key metrics. By sitting down with your sales reps individually and evaluating their performance over the past year, you can see how they’ve progressed and give them constructive feedback to improve further.

Done correctly, the performance review can be a positive event for you and your reps. While you’ll inevitably cover challenges and issues that need to be resolved, you should also highlight what has gone well.

Instead of using a reviews as a chance to go over every single mistake a sales rep has made, make it a learning opportunity that’ll help them improve and progress in their career goals. By the end of the review, both you and the rep should have an actionable plan on how to do even better next year.

Rather than leaving your performance reviews to the last minute or treating them as a tick-box exercise, start planning now. Mark your next annual review in your calendar, decide on your agenda and ensure it’s a positive learning experience for your reps.

Provide frequent feedback for continuous improvement

Just because you have an annual review in place, that doesn’t mean you can only give feedback once every 12 months, or even once a quarter. Providing your reps with regular feedback throughout the year allows them to quickly correct any minor issues as soon as they appear.

This doesn’t have to be a formal meeting either. Make time to regularly catch up with your sales reps and encourage open communication so your team will feel more comfortable accepting feedback. This will also help you pick up on problems that a report or dashboard might miss, such as personality issues or other behaviors that could hurt results.

If you’d like a more structured way of regularly evaluating performance, consider 360-degree feedback. This method combines self-assessment with anonymous feedback from team members. Managers can get a better picture of how reps feel about their performance as well as how they perform as part of a team. It’s also a good opportunity for managers and sales leaders to get an honest evaluation of their own abilities.

Whether you want to keep it to a catch-up over coffee or more formal scheduled meetings, don’t leave feedback to chance. Decide on an approach and ensure that everyone on your team regularly gets feedback.

Final thoughts

Building a high-performing sales team isn’t easy, but it is possible with the right foundation and processes in place. Setting the right objectives, choosing relevant metrics and using technology to track your results all help optimize your sales performance.

It’s a never-ending role, as you constantly work to improve your team and deal with new challenges, but it’s worth the effort. By committing to continuous improvement for yourself and your team, you’ll be able to sell with confidence and smash your sales goals.

Download Your Guide to Sales Performance Measurement

The must-read guide for any sales manager trying to track, forecast and minimize risk. Learn how to scale sales with data-backed decisions.

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