how to improve sales

Clarity in the Sales Function: Effective Ways to Improve Sales Performance

Written by Rob Malec

From the outside looking in, job role clarity in sales seems like it should be easy. Work with buyers, help them to become clear on their needs, present your products and solutions in a compelling way, and close the deal. Simple, right? In reality, it’s trickier than you might expect. 

A lack of clarity around the specific duties and tasks your salespeople are required to perform leads to undesired behaviours, conflicts within the team, and poor sales results. To ensure great performance and to improve sales, you should focus on maximizing your team’s productivity by providing maximum job role clarity. 

Areas to Create Clarity to Improve Sales

You need to consider several aspects of your sales function when it comes to clarifying team roles. Here are some classic gray areas to watch out for that can throw sand into your sales gears. 

In-Bound Prospects

All inbound prospects are not created equal. Some represent a large revenue generation opportunity. Some have a higher probability of closing quickly. Others present the best opportunity for a long-term relationship with multiple purchases. Within your sales team, who gets which sales leads?

Typically, all net new inbound sales inquiries should go through your business development department or person. This role is typically more junior (and lower paid) and the buyer qualification process is relatively straightforward, so it makes the most sense to have these folks handle them. Save the more complex part of the selling and closing work for your sellers.

Clearly and plainly lay out how inbound leads will be distributed to your sellers. Will it be based on the geographic location of the prospect, their potential revenue size, or their industry vertical? If you have multiple sellers, set up a rotation so that the leads get distributed evenly and all sellers are given equal opportunity to close business. Set up a conflict resolution process so that if there are any sticking points it is clear to all parties how distribution decisions will be made. 


This is a very deep and detailed topic, which is why there are so many books written on it. Here are a couple of suggestions to keep in mind. For business development people, only pay a bonus or commission when the lead turns into a paying customer. Giving business development people bonuses based merely on the number of leads forwarded will get you the right number of leads each month but will not ensure you get the right quality.

For salespeople, only pay one person commission per sale. In my role as a Fractional Vice President of Sales, I have seen companies that will pay commissions to multiple parties if one seller helps another. This becomes extremely problematic down the line, especially around the incidence of follow-up. Ultimately duplicate commission is expensive to the organization and can create resentment between salespeople. Avoid it at all costs.

I’ve also seen some companies implement bonuses based on team sales performance. I have yet to see this be anything other than a bonus for the salespeople who don’t work as hard as the top performers. Again, this is expensive, and I have not seen it incentivize the type of behaviour it is trying to reward.

Legacy Prospect Ownership

With commissions on the line, salespeople will hang onto prospects tooth and nail for a surprisingly long time. When a new sales opportunity appears in the sales funnel, it’s not uncommon for another salesperson to claim, “Hey, I spoke with him two years ago – that should be my account!”. 

Set a statute of limitations clearly outlining the stage at which a prospect ceases to belong to a salesperson. Generally, this involves a requirement for meaningful customer interaction on a time-defined basis (e.g. quarterly, annually) that clearly demonstrates the salesperson has put in the work and deserves the lead. 

Legacy Customer Ownership

The same rules outlined above for legacy prospects should apply to legacy customers. Segment your customers into A-B-C-D based on annual revenue generated and review this list once a year. 

Take the D customers who have neither ordered in the last 12 months nor been contacted by sales and return them back to business development. Have them work these small accounts in search of revenue. If they find stray orders, have those be house accounts upon which there is no commission.

If a salesperson loses a D account they have not been working, and then that account places an order, they cannot try to reclaim that account down the road. Working your company’s account base in this way ensures that all past customers are given a chance to generate new revenue.

CRM Compliance

Make CRM compliance a job role requirement. It should be tied to quarterly and annual performance reviews and measured as stringently as revenue generation is for job retention. Lack of CRM compliance ties the hands of virtually every stakeholder in your company that deals with customers. Sales must be the keeper of CRM data integrity.  

These are the crucial areas to consider when creating clarity in your sales function. If you’d like to improve sales by implementing these ideas across your company, contact me to learn how I can help.

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