By Ty Collins
If there’s one point that business leaders across industries can agree on, it’s that increasing sales productivity is a great goal to set for your team. The rub, however, comes in agreeing upon what sales productivity actually is and the best methods for boosting it. This guide will help you better understand how sales productivity works and impart some simple techniques you can use to improve it.
First things first, we’ll need to define what sales productivity means. In everyday conversation, this ambiguous term is often conflated with sales efficiency and sales effectiveness as a catch-all for any kind of improvement in sales.
Sales productivity is neither of those things, however, comprehending it does require you to first understand what sales efficiency and sales effectiveness are.
Sales Efficiency: This is a reference to how you distribute your sales resources. Those resources could be financial or material, but your most precious resource, from a sales perspective, is time. The idea is to increase the number of actions your team is engaged with that might yield sales. So, when you’re sales efficient, you’re trying to maximize each hour of the day with high-value activities instead of wasting time chasing low-value activities.
Sales Effectiveness: Instead of looking at the allocation of resources, this metric looks at how potently you can use your available resources to achieve sales goals. In other words, this means getting the most done with the resources that you have (e.g. time). A more efficient unit can yield greater results (e.g. more leads per call, more deals closed, etc.) than a less efficient team in the same amount of time.
Now, sales productivity is what comes from the amalgamation of sales efficiency and sales effectiveness. In the simplest terms:
Sales Productivity = Sales Efficiency x Sales Effectiveness
In optimizing sales productivity, you’ll put an emphasis on your most important sales activities, such as tracking down prospects and generating leads. At the same time, you’ll be cutting down on the number of resources — like money, time and so on — that you need to complete those sales activities.
Increasing sales productivity requires you to concentrate on both efficiency and effectiveness. Therefore, we’ll take a look at common factors that might be impeding your sales team in these areas.
Any obstacle that forces your sales team to be less effective or less efficient is a hurdle to sales productivity. The list could get long, but the greatest offenders you should concentrate on are:
Inadequate training: When your reps are unsure of the best practices for sales demos and ultimately success, they spend more time trying to produce results than necessary.
Time wasted on unproductive tasks: This is a no-brainer. The more time spent on repetitive admin work is less time spent selling.
No time devoted to metrics or analysis: If you aren’t tracking what’s working and where you’re falling short, you won’t know how to adjust to make yourself more effective or efficient.
Disjointed organization; lack of priorities: Chasing after the wrong type of sales activities, such as low impact instead of high impact, can put a damper on productivity. This often stems from a lack of planning within the sales team.
Improper tools for dealing with the current sales environment: The sales landscape is always evolving, and the best tools for the job can fluctuate as time forges on. If your tools are out of date, your productivity will suffer.
Poor alignment between sales and marketing: Marketing and sales should work in unison, but if your goals are misaligned, you’ll spend more time spinning your wheels than could have been spent selling products.
Negative sales culture: A negative culture breeds unenthused sales reps, who, in turn, don’t operate at the peak of their efficiency.
Now that you know what challenges might be blocking your path to increased sales productivity, let’s look at strategies you can employ to circumvent these obstacles.
Like the challenges that stand in your way, the number of techniques you might use to conquer them are multitudinous. If you want to focus your efforts, concentrate on these six strategies to improve your sales productivity.
If you haven’t been investing in continuing training for your sales team, then you’ve been unintentionally hobbling your ability to optimize sales productivity. Think about it like this:
Sales reps usually receive some initial training on best practices, but get a lot thrown at them while learning the ropes.
It’s unfeasible for reps to remember all of their training in one go, and in just a few weeks, most reps will have significant knowledge gaps. They may also take to substituting best practices with low-productivity habits without realizing it.
What’s most efficient and most effective in the sales world is continuously evolving. Even reps that remember 100 percent of their training will at some point fall behind the curve if they don’t keep up with change.
Continuing training is the best way to surmount these obstacles to productivity. It provides an opportunity to refresh your sales team’s skills and simultaneously keep them up-to-date with current industry knowledge.
Statistics further illustrate the impact that sales coaching programs can have. According to the Center for Sales Strategy, thorough sales coaching programs can net you a 28 percent higher win rate and 91 percent quota attainment from your reps.
A rudderless sales team wastes time with inefficient actions. As a leader, it’s up to you to establish order and optimize the moments that your team has to work with. This doesn’t mean that you should be micromanaging your team, as that’s counterproductive. But, you should try to set goals and establish routines that facilitate productivity.
On that first point, goal setting provides motivation to your sales team. The combination of direction — and pressure to meet a deadline — makes it more likely that your reps will make the most of their time, thus boosting your productivity.
When creating goals for your sales team, try to follow the SMART goal framework to ensure that each target you set is specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-based. Examples include generating a specific number of leads or meets, closing more deals, increasing your average sales price and reducing cycle time.
As for establishing a sales routine, this will allow your team to better organize high-impact and low-impact activities, then prioritize the ones that will yield the greatest results. Remember that your routine and sales schedules should be in service of your overall goals, so set those first to maximize the benefits.
Taking shots in the dark is an easy way to miss your targets and waste time. You can see those proverbial targets more clearly, however, if you know what’s working within your sales program and what isn’t.
Metrics, KPIs, and analytics provide a data-driven method of identifying trends and insights that can tweak your sales program to boost productivity. There are plenty of performance indicators that you can track, but as a general rule, you’ll want to focus on the following five elements:
Average revenue per sale
Rate of follow-up contact
These measurements will provide an overview of the impact that your expended resources have had. You’ll then be able to test what you can do to encourage positive trends in your efficiency, effectiveness and overall productivity.
While you might think of content as primarily a marketing team responsibility, did you know that it can have a serious impact on your sales team’s performance?
Good marketing content lays the groundwork for a steady flow of organic leads and built-in familiarity among prospects with your products or services. This helps save your sales team time, which in turn, boosts their productivity.
Beyond that, having a strong content game plays a pivotal role in increasing your quantity of leads, quality of leads and conversions. You’ll want to make sure that your sales and marketing teams are working in concert to yield greater productivity for all.
One of the most substantial barriers to sales teams is the time wasted performing repetitive admin tasks — time that could be spent tracking down leads and closing deals.
You can reclaim some of that precious time by equipping your sales team with software to handle all the busywork. CRM platforms, for instance, free your team from repetitive data entry and recordkeeping. Meanwhile, scheduling apps like Calendly are great if you want to eliminate the massive time sink of setting up sales meetings.
There are many more opportunities to let software free your team so they can dedicate more time to high-impact sales activities. Be sure to perform a thorough evaluation of which manual processes are holding you back, and consider whether or not an automated solution would better serve your sales productivity.
If you aren’t communicating with your team, they’ll start to lack direction and motivation. Likewise, you won’t know what challenges they’re facing and they won’t receive the support they need to surmount those hurdles. Your productivity, as a result, will suffer.
This is why you should make it a point to check-in with the members of your sales team periodically — not only so that you can provide them with direction and goals, but also to gauge how they are feeling and what might be standing in the way of them being productive.
Schedule weekly (or monthly) meetings with your team, and let them know that the lines of communication are always open should something come up.
Sales productivity is a great attribute to optimize, but it’s not something that you can snap your fingers to improve. You’ll need a firm grasp of sales productivity’s parent components — efficiency and effectiveness — along with the impediments that might be in their way before you can start boosting productivity.
Remember that in general, increasing the amount of time that your sales team has to reach its goals and the amount of work that can get done within said timeframe, will have the most direct effect on your productivity. When you streamline your team’s operations and free them of busywork, you’ll be well on your way to a more sales-productive future.
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