A weak sales process can spell disaster for companies with even the most innovative and exciting products. If you can’t convert leads into customers, you won’t be able to keep the lights on for very long. Identifying problems and course-correcting early and often can help your company not just stay afloat, but thrive. By looking for telltale signs of a leaky sales process, you can work with your sales managers and representatives to improve your game and form a closer, more effective team. What’s Missing and How to Fix It Ask yourself if your team is lacking in any of these five vital areas, and implement the following solutions to remedy each problem. #1. Understanding Does your sales team fully grasp all the stages of the sales cycle? Are they systematically entering sales opportunities into the pipeline and advancing them against a set of measurable criteria? Reps who don’t fully understand the process may make mistakes, like forgetting to document conversations in your customer relationship management system (CRM). This can cause a lead to stagnate, and it slows down other team members who end up duplicating efforts due to a lack of adequate information. What to do: Provide intensive training to each salesperson immediately after he or she is hired. Hold regularly scheduled trainings every couple of months to update team members on new strategies and tactics and to refresh them on proper protocol. #2. Defined territories or demographics Are each of your team members assigned tasks that best match their skills, and are you distributing their efforts efficiently? Having too many reps approaching the same prospects is confusing and makes your company look disorganized. Assigning someone who doesn’t have the right background or qualifications to work on a specific sale is a waste of resources and puts them — and the company — at a disadvantage. What to do: Define territories, whether geographic or demographic, for all sales executives. Ensure that everyone is assigned to a territory with plenty of opportunity for success, and match each rep to an area that matches his or her skill set. You want all team members to be clear on exactly where they should focus their energy, thereby avoiding duplicate efforts and disorganization. #3. Measuring prospects Does your team have an efficient way of measuring the success or failure of a lead at each stage of the sales cycle? Each sales rep should know which targets present serious opportunities and focus on winning those. They should be able to calculate whether the time and cost invested in pursuing a lead is worth the potential revenue generated by a sale. If they can’t measure success or failure, they make it difficult for managers to allocate resources effectively. Measurement gives sales managers the critical ability to predict future success. What to do: People respond to incentives, especially people in sales. Light a fire under them by offering a bonus or extra commission for improving their measurement skills and closing more deals. #4. Correcting failures within the sales cycle How effective are your sales reps at adjusting to shifts in market conditions, demographics of the customer, competition, and other variables? Your team members need to be able and willing to think on their feet, adapting their strategies as necessary to stay relevant to prospects’ and clients’ needs. What to do: Hire people who can handle criticism and adapt to changing environments. These employees will thrive when sales managers approach them to correct and improve performance, and they will be able to implement change quickly. Managers should present corrections as opportunities for development, rather than as criticisms. #5. Repetition Is your sales team able to reproduce success? Do they have a repeatable process to follow, week after week? A long-term, consistent approach to managing prospects is important in order to not only win deals, but to also understand what works and what doesn’t. You don’t want your salespeople changing message or tactics on a whim with each new contact. This hurts your branding and long-term marketing efforts. What to do: Demonstrate to team members instances of where following all of the sales cycle protocol led to success. This will prove to each team member that repeatedly following protocol works. Staying Ahead of the Game Sales and marketing are ever-changing areas for a business. There are constantly new strategies and technologies to adapt to, not to mention the need to get ahead of any problems that might slow your progress. The following are ways to keep things running smoothly and encourage your sales force to stay on top of leads and assignments. Have sales managers work closely with their reps on calls and strategies. This allows them to know employees’ strengths and weaknesses and strategize assignments accordingly. Use customer relationship management software and/or other data entry tools to measure and analyze progress. These help quantify each rep’s sales activity. But remember: Data entry is only as good as the person entering the data. Make sure team members know how to use the software — and that they’re doing so truthfully. Hold weekly one-on-one meetings with team members. You, or a sales manager, can gain constant knowledge of reps’ success and failures and address potential problems before they hurt the company. The challenges of modern sales executives are daunting and formidable. Really understanding the problems they’re facing is the only way to ensure that they feel heard and valued — and to correct lapses in the sales process as they happen. A hands-on approach in which team members feel supported, but not suffocated, is vital to a company’s success, and it should be an integral and ongoing aspect of your company’s culture. Images: ”Increase sales graph / Shutterstock.com“ __________________________________________________________________________________ Connect with Tweak Your Biz: Would you like to write for Tweak Your Biz? Tweak Your Biz is an international, business advice community and online publication. Today it is read by over 140,000 business people each month (unique visitors, Google Analytics, December, 2013). See our review of 2013 for more information. An outstanding title can increase tweets, Facebook Likes, and visitor traffic by 50% or more. Generate great titles for your articles and blog posts with the Tweak Your Biz Title Generator. Want to get your business featured on Tweak Your Biz? Check out #TYBspotlight.