The B2B selling space is evolving, the balance of power in the sales process is shifting and sales reps are under increasing pressure to hit or exceed quota. And while organizations are expanding their sales teams and targeting higher revenue goals, many companies aren’t scaling processes, best practices and tooling appropriately.
Furthermore, it’s easier than ever for sales reps to get distracted, off-task, or even overwhelmed. So it’s unsurprising that, even as we push for more, industry-wide sales productivity continues to decline year-over-year.
What Factors Impact Sales Productivity?
Productivity refers to the amount of value produced, divided by the amount of resources required to do it, such as time, cost and effort. Only about 20% of the average sales team is composed of top reps who often meet or exceed quota, leaving a majority of the sales team with room for improvement.
Those reps can show dramatic improvements in performance if they’re coached right. How dramatic? In some cases as much as 200%. And when 95% of companies are raising revenue goals, additional sales productivity from average sales reps should be a company-wide priority for B2B organizations.
Unfortunately, there are myriad factors at play that negatively impact sales productivity, including the following:
- Internal pressure to perform and expectations to overachieve
- Lack of consistent sales processes and methodologies
- One-and-done sales training
- Poor communication about organizational strategies and goals, and unclear prioritization of sales activities
- Hesitation to adopt new, or underutilization, of existing technologies, processes and best practices
- Misalignment and lack of communication among sales, marketing and operations departments
- Evolving dynamics in the sales funnel
- Constant distractions (i.e. smartphone alerts, emails, meetings)
Every sales member is sure to encounter several of these challenges and in today’s competitive and fast-paced sales environment, there is no room for mistakes.
How To Drive Sales Productivity
An Accenture report shows that mediocre sales performance costs B2B companies over 3% in potential revenue, but it takes just a 5% improvement in sales productivity to recoup those millions in lost revenue. With more effective training, use of sales technology and leveraging analytics, sales professionals can overcome productivity challenges, become more effective and attain quota.
Here are seven strategies to drive sales productivity:
Strategy 1: Work Smarter With Technology
Technology is disrupting sales, but in a good way: it is fueling new sales strategies and enabling productivity across the organization. Sales technologies enable reps by surfacing critical templates, scripts, data and content right when and where they need it. The sales stack tells reps who to call, when to call and what content to provide in order to achieve optimal sales results.
In the EMI Industry Intelligence Report ‘Sales Enablement: Develop the Tools that Deliver Results,’ Anthony Nygren says:
‘Optimizing selling time requires an investment in tools that enable rapid response to maintain sale momentum and that bolster the personal touch of sales with customized, strategic, compelling messaging; [these tools], when properly designed, executed and deployed, increase active selling time, improve message consistency and effectiveness and decrease new hire ramp-up time.’
Just having the tools will not deliver results. The sales team must actively embrace technology and incorporate it into their daily workflow. For example, our team uses Datanyze to instantly prioritize accounts based on key firmographics and behaviors; this tells our reps where to focus their time and attention.
Strategy 2: Use Automation To Get Back To Core Selling
Sales reps only spend 1/3 of their time on actual selling, which means the other 2/3 of their time is spent on busywork that doesn’t add value to prospects or advance deals. Examples of these administrative tasks include scheduling and attending meetings, sending emails, making phone calls and updating the CRM. This is not to mention the distractions that range from alerts on smartphones to viral videos popping up on computers and tablets. Furthermore, the increase in collaboration has led to the need for even more coordination and meetings.
Image Source: Typical Sales Rep % of Weekly Hours by Mark Ellwood Pace Productivity
These non-sales activities not only take time away from core selling but also distract reps and impact their ability to focus. Automating unproductive or repetitive tasks will save steps and time so that reps can get back to essential core selling activities.
Strategy 3: Embrace Social Selling
An Aberdeen study shows that social-savvy sales teams are 79% more likely to attain quota. Why? Because sales professionals can relate to and engage more intelligently with buyers throughout the sales process, from networking and prospecting to customer service.
With prospect insights such as demographics, company and industry news and where buyers encounter pain points, reps can quickly and effectively drive engaging and meaningful conversations. Having this information about buyer personas will ensure reps don’t waste their time connecting with low-level employees or waste their prospects’ time by being unprepared during meetings or conversations.
Strategy 4: Deliver The Right Content At The Right Time
Sales reps spend about 30% of their day looking for or creating content, rather than focusing on core sales activities.
Image Source: Sales Productivity in the Age of Big Data by Docurated Hubspot
Yet 70% of content never gets used by sales because they are unable to find content that is relevant and at a time when they need it.
To make content productive, sales reps must know how to access the collateral, which pieces to share with prospects and when to use it in the sales cycle. A sales enablement tool can proactively recommend and surface best practice content based on persona and stage in the sales funnel, saving the reps the time they would have spent looking for and / or creating content.
Strategy 5: Always Be Measuring
There is more data, more readily available than ever before and it’s disproportionately used by successful teams. For instance, 57% of high performing sales teams rely on sales analytics, compared with 16% of underperforming teams.
Image Source: High Performers vs Underperformers Using Sales Analytics in 2015 State of the Sales Report by Salesforce
And 48% of organizations indicate that scattered information impairs their sales organization; 42% say limited visibility into data holds them back too.
Image Source: Impediments in Sales Motivate Investment by Ventana Research Benchmark Research
When B2B companies become more data-driven, they begin to see changes in how they engage with prospects and are able to make greater impacts on the bottom-line.
Determine which metrics are most important and use dashboards to visualize trends and gain valuable insights into sales rep activity. Then take a step back and use this data to determine what makes top performers so successful, as well as what is inhibiting under-performers.
Don’t view this time as stalled productivity, or time that would have been better spent doing more of what you’re already doing, faster. Rather, it’s a time investment in improved future performance. According to Miller Heiman, this strategy is effectively utilized by 89% of the world’s largest and most successful sales organizations.
Strategy 6: Learn To Prioritize
Working longer and harder does not mean that you are productive. And just because you are busy doesn’t mean that you are productive. In fact, busyness is often just an indicator of lack of focus. While you can’t add more hours to the day, you can make the hours that you do have more efficient and effective.
A recent study from Wrike found that 60% of sales reps think that they are working on too many things at the same time and over half are unclear about their priorities. Sales reps should be clear on goals and how they will meet and be held accountable for those objectives.
With regards to prioritizing, identify the most critical tasks that must be completed and then focus on quality over quantity for best results. For example, near the end of month, focus on reconnecting with lost opportunities rather than prospecting – those are people who have already journeyed through a majority of the sales funnel.
Strategy 7: Communicate And Collaborate
Today’s B2B sales space is increasingly complex and collaborative, where reps must manage their personal workload as well as share in the collective one. This means that clear communication about priorities and expectations is important; as is the opportunity for team members to engage in open dialogue.
As a sales leader, it’s your job to help reps prioritize and effectively allocate their time and resources. This doesn’t mean you should micromanage – rather, you are there to help with time management and answer questions about prioritizing sales activities.
It’s also up to you to keep the team updated on progress toward meeting goals (which helps to boost morale, as well!). Just-in-time coaching and guided selling mean higher productivity, as well as more predictable sales performance.
Together, strategies including sales technology, data analytics and just-in-time coaching enable sales reps to increase their productivity, enhance their performance and more effectively hit quota. No need to wait until the end-of-quarter – start driving your organization’s sales productivity today!
About the Author
Shelley Cernel is the Senior Marketing Manager at KnowledgeTree. KnowledgeTree is a sales enablement tool that uses data science to get marketing's content used by sales. She frequently writes on a variety of B2B sales and marketing topics, including social selling, sales productivity, and about the B2B buyer.Follow on Twitter More Content by Shelley Cernel