How to Improve Sales Productivity
Sales productivity has emerged as one of the chief concerns among businesses today. Sales productivity is the rate at which a salesperson acquires revenue for the organization. Rather than pushing salespeople to work harder, an increase in sales productivity is primarily concerned with salespeople using their time more effectively.
CRM systems, sales automation software, and other sales productivity tools now play a vital role in enterprise sales productivity. Companies are willing to invest increased amounts in these tools which means successful implementation, roll out, and adoption has become integral to the sales productivity effort.
The reason so many companies are scrutinizing their sales productivity rather than focusing solely on increased revenue boils down to sustainability. While growing revenue, quite naturally, remains the major aim at most companies, an increase in sales productivity represents a more holistic goal to aspire to.
Sales Productivity Strategy
There are a number of areas an enterprise can focus on to improve sales productivity. The responsibility for sales productivity does not lie solely with the sales representative. The enterprise should be realigned in support of the sales organization. Sales productivity software will need to be successfully implemented into a streamlined sales process.
A concerted strategy should be developed which focuses on a number of targeted areas within the sales process that can be improved. CIOs will need to support sales managers with the required technology when and where it is needed if sales productivity is to be successfully addressed.
Before this multi-pronged sales productivity strategy can be implemented, a set of clearly defined sales productivity metrics will need to be established. Companies that successfully raise their sales productivity will, in the process, establish a company roadmap and a set of processes on which future revenue growth can be built.
Sales Productivity Roadblocks
The first port of call for companies that target increased sales productivity is the identification of the specific roadblocks hampering their sales productivity. Research has shown that sales representatives spend as little as 41% of their time selling. What then constitutes the rest of the sales reps’ working week?
There are a number of factors that lead to this misallocation of time. Each meeting that sales reps attend should be assessed. If their presence isn’t absolutely necessary perhaps the meeting can be struck off their calendar. Companies must also ensure that any administrative tasks that can be automated are not being performed manually. For example, sales reps can leverage their unique Salesforce.com email address by sending a blind-copy of any email to outbound customers or prospects to themselves. By taking this step, Salesforce.com will automatically update the activity on the contact or lead’s record, meaning the rep does not have to waste time on a manual update. The Salesforce example is just a typical example of the non-selling activities sales reps might be engaged in.
If a rep is spending more than half of their time in non-selling activities, there might well be a number of other tasks that are unnecessarily being performed manually. One way to identify this wastage is for sales managers to perform a ride-along with their reps. This minor commitment by the sales manager can free the sales rep from multiple non-selling activities which are damaging sales productivity. Entire sales teams may need to undergo a training session or two to incorporate a set of automated tasks into their processes. Through a simple analysis of sales team’s non-selling activities, reps can refocus previously wasted time on engaged selling.
While time-consuming administrative tasks and unnecessary meetings can hamper sales productivity, it is the information overload sales teams now face that is proving truly problematic. In recent years companies have increased the rate at which they produce content exponentially.
With an abundance of information at their disposal, companies, in theory, now have the sales pitch for almost every occasion. There is one issue however. The rate at which companies create and store content has not been accompanied by any major developments in data retrieval technology. The unfortunate reality is that content retrieval has become a major sales productivity drain. With the increased utilization of cloud storage services and the enduring popularity of file servers and shared drives, sales teams must now wade through a variety of locations to find their most relevant content.
Even if the sales rep can find the particular file or folder they were trying to access, how can they be sure it is the most up to date version? Recently there has been some progress in data retrieval software which can make information instantly available. Estimates on the amount of time knowledge workers spend searching for documents each week range from 6.5 to 8.8 hours per week. By leveraging sales enablement software that simplifies content retrieval, companies can immediately improve their sales productivity.
Marketing and Sales Alignment
Eliminating wastage from the sales representative’s schedule will certainly help to improve sales productivity in the organization. Sales teams will spend more time in direct selling activities. This revamped sales schedule will certainly help the sales productivity effort, but sales teams will still need support from the rest of the enterprise to really impact sales productivity.
Unfortunately sales productivity issues can not be solved simply by increasing sales rep selling time. While this increase is certainly an important starting point, it must be supported by other functions within the organization or run the risk of proving futile. If marketing does not support sales with qualified leads, sales reps may waste their increased selling time on prospects who are not yet ready to buy.
As far as marketing departments are concerned, sales productivity is not simply a numbers game. Supplying sales teams with lower quantity, but higher quality and qualified leads may even be the recipe for sales productivity success. If sales reps are presented with leads that are ready for conversion, then they will really begin to maximize the benefits of their increased selling time. The CSO or whoever leads the sales productivity project must take the time to secure an enterprise-wide buy in. For a sales productivity project to succeed, there must be a culture of shared responsibility across the enterprise.
Sales Productivity Software
The potential CRM systems and other sales productivity tools can bring to an organization are tremendous. However, these tools alone will not solve sales productivity issues. Sales productivity software will need to be identified, implemented, rolled out, and adopted.
The CSO or sales productivity project leader will need to leverage the technological input of the CIO. The implementation of sales productivity software has the potential to make or break the sales productivity project. One rule of thumb the CSO should bear in mind is that the software should serve the process and not vice versa.
Sales rep perception of sales productivity software is crucial. Chances are, reps won’t spend non-selling time on a tool from which they can’t derive any obvious benefits to their bottom line – sales revenue. Low adoption rates on expensive software has the potential to derail an entire sales productivity project. There are however a number of steps that can be taken to ensure the successful implementation of sales productivity software.
Having already identified the areas within the sales process that are hampering productivity – information overload etc., the project leader should pilot a number of solutions to gauge their effectiveness. If the software is positively received within the user group i.e. the sales organization, the project leader should make an effective presentation to company executives to win a project buy in at the top levels of the company. After the sales productivity software purchase, follow up meetings and reporting should be instigated to monitor the progress of the chosen solution.
Sales Productivity Metrics
The final step in the sales productivity project is the establishment of a set of clearly defined sales productivity metrics. The metrics should include sales performance targets as well as sales productivity adoption software adoption rates.
Adoption metrics can be as simple as running a report on the company CRM system and shouldn’t need to involve the IT department. It can also help to instigate a system that rewards sales reps for using these new sales processes.
On the completion of a successful sales productivity project, a company should organize a review or retro of the project. At the review the recently adopted set of best practices can be enshrined as a roadmap for sustained sales productivity.
To successfully increase sales productivity companies will need to adopt a multi-faceted approach that requires revamped sales processes as well as successfully implemented sales productivity software.
Increased sales productivity will require a concerted effort from all sectors of the organization. This effort, while certainly sizable, pales in comparison to the enormous benefits increased sales productivity can bring to the organization.
Written by Cóbhan Phillipson