Here’s how to prepare your team so it’s always ready to fly off with the sale.
1. Refocus your sales manager
Many sales group leaders swoop in to close deals themselves instead of training their teams to do it. But that prevents your salespeople from getting better. Managers need to spend at least 50% of their time on coaching. “Nothing will have a greater impact on boosting revenues,” says Dave Kurlan, CEO of sales-assessment firm Objective Management Group. Rename your team leaders “sales coaches” to show you’re serious.
2. Gather daily intel
Your salespeople are your eyes and ears in the field, and they often feel ignored. Have them call in daily and at least leave a message — they hate to write — to share what they’re learning from customers and talk about any roadblocks they are experiencing. Taking a daily pulse will help you support your salespeople in snatching deals from competitors and reacting quickly to obstacles.
3. Pursue the best quarry
Desperate to make their quotas, sales folks will sometimes go after any easy, available transaction, even if it pulls your company out of its sweet spot. To keep them focused on the most strategically valuable customers, it’s critical to give them a list of prospects you want to target instead of relying on them to go after the right ones. And arm them with the marketing recon to support sales to targeted customers.
4. Raise your prices
Mark Lancaster, CEO of the Employment Group, a staffing and managed-services firm in Battle Creek, Mich., bumped his rates up each year from 2010 to 2012 to offset increasing costs. Some money-losing clients walked, but, he says, “we had no business serving unprofitable customers in tough times.” By focusing attention on the most profitable customers, the firm expects sales to hit $45 million for 2013, up from $42 million last year.
5. Make referrals painless
Most salespeople hesitate to ask customers to introduce them to other prospects for fear it’s too much trouble. But if you ask clients for the names of the vendors to whom they write the biggest checks each month, they’ll usually be happy to share that information and make a referral. And their suppliers will always return your call, since a big customer suggested that you get in touch.
Verne Harnish is the CEO of Gazelles Inc., an executive education firm.
This story is from the September 16, 2013 issue of Fortune.