Unlock sales productivity potential with Highspot’s CMO insights on dynamic marketing and sales strategies, overcoming challenges, & AI’s transformative role.
Boardrooms across the globe are dialed in on sales productivity, and rightly so. Sales productivity is the backbone of revenue generation, and during a time when businesses are being forced to achieve more with less, strengthening it has never been more vital.
Companies that have “cracked the code” on driving consistent sales rep productivity at scale are experiencing repeatable revenue growth, higher percentage of overall rep attainment, and stronger employee engagement. But despite its importance, many organizations are still struggling to unlock it.
In this blog post, I’ll share the best practices for how leading companies are achieving what good looks like in sales productivity, and offer insights on top strategies, known challenges, benefits, and the future role that AI will play across your marketing and sales organization.
What is Sales Productivity?
Sales productivity refers to the measure of how efficiently and effectively a sales team operates to generate revenue. In the boardroom, it’s about the percentage of your reps that are attaining quota. And from an efficiency perspective, it’s all about how sellers apply their talent, tools, resources, and processes without putting in endless hours to meet targets and sales quotas.
Imagine if not just a few, but the majority of your sellers exceeded quota and contributed to a higher number of closed-won deals in the same amount of time. That’s when you know they are working productively. Most importantly, when reps are more productive, the time and budget it takes to close deals and drive revenue decreases. You get more out of what you already have.
The Impact of a Productive Sales Team
In today’s fast-paced, competitive, digital world, every aspect of operations must be fine-tuned to perform at peak sales efficiency. Sales team productivity is not just a nice to have; it’s essential in today’s business landscape.
What exactly do you stand to gain from ramping up sales productivity and increasing quota attainment across your team?
Benefits of Sales Productivity
A high-performing sales team paves the way for repeatable growth through changing market conditions, competitive pressures, and economic challenges. It’s not about hitting your sales numbers once and resting easy. It’s about consistently achieving – or exceeding – average sales targets year after year.
Predictable attainment is another significant benefit of a productive sales team. Your company will be able to accurately forecast and achieve sales targets and revenue generation goals based on historical data, metrics, and repeatable behaviors across your sales teams. Through predictive analytics and forecasting techniques, revenue teams can anticipate potential outcomes, identify bottlenecks or challenges, and take proactive measures to overcome them.
Finally, let’s not forget about the most important part of your company – your people. Your salespeople’s job satisfaction increases when they are performing and perfecting their craft. This decreases employee churn, and results in less time and resources spent on sales onboarding. It also drives the level of employee engagement that is critical to sales success.
Biggest Challenges to Sales Productivity
Getting sales productivity right can be a Herculean task.
What happens when things don’t go as planned, and your sales team keeps missing quota? You need to identify the root causes of poor productivity. Consider issues such as ineffective onboarding, lack of enablement for sales managers, insufficient training, inefficient time management, inadequate sales tools, high rep turnover, misalignment between sales and marketing teams, convoluted processes, and inconsistent value messaging. If left unaddressed, any of these issues can negatively impact your sales performance.
Eight Actionable Strategies Revenue Leaders Can Use to Improve Sales Productivity
How do you achieve ‘what good looks like’? Here are eight tried and true strategies:
Establish Shared Marketing and Sales Goals and KPIs
It’s a tale as old as time – sales and marketing teams aren’t aligned, and it wreaks havoc on the business. But on the flipside when teams achieve an incredible partnership it works wonders. According to Forrester, “firms with high levels of alignment across their customer-facing functions reported 2.4 times higher revenue growth and twice the profitability growth of those with no alignment in a recent Forrester survey.”
Establishing shared goals begins with defining common objectives and expected results to foster cross-team collaboration and understanding. Objectives may include increasing conversion rates, generating more marketing and sales-qualified leads, or improving customer retention.
In my experience, I’ve seen successful teams often employ two key practices: (1) a shared scorecard and (2) seller confidence surveys. The scorecard provides a single source of truth for KPI measurements like pipeline growth, win rates, and conversion, helping teams identify potential gaps at every stage. Seller confidence surveys gauge seller confidence in areas such as pricing, differentiation, and negotiation. These tools help sales and marketing teams enhance areas that drive higher performance, together.
Co-Create a Narrative
Far too often there is a gap between the story marketing wants to tell, and the story reps share on the front line. To bridge this gap, marketing and sales need to create a shared narrative that includes input from all relevant stakeholders across teams. This will ensure you deliver a consistent value proposition across all platforms, from the company website to buyer conversations. A practical approach to achieving this cohesion is to centralize all content in a single source of truth, like your sales enablement platform. This method not only ensures everyone uses on-brand, on-message materials but also reduces sales reps’ time spent searching for content. The integrity of your brand hinges on ensuring all go-to-market teams are singing from the same songbook.
Understand Your Customer
Sales success starts and ends with deeply understanding your customer profiles. ‘Build it and they will come’ is a myth in today’s competitive markets, no matter how incredible your product is. To effectively reach your prospective customers, you must keep a pulse on who they are and what they care about, so that you can personalize every engagement and position your product as a solution that solves their pain points.
No matter how busy your schedule is as a marketing or sales leader, you must carve out time to listen to your customers. As people advance the ranks in their careers, this is often one of the first things to go, but de-prioritizing customer conversations is one of the biggest mistakes you can make. By joining in on Customer Advisory Board meetings, or jumping on the phone with a customer after they implemented our platform, or listening to win-loss call recordings, I gain firsthand insights that critically inform our go-to-market strategies.
Use Sales Tools that Automate and Up Your Game
Your sales tools can either accelerate or impede sales productivity. Your goal is to ensure teams spend time on high-impact sales activities like call preparation, as opposed to low-impact, time-consuming activities like data entry or other administrative tasks.
Thriving in today’s harsh environment requires three systems working together:
- A system of record (your CRM)
- A system of buyer engagement (your sales engagement tool)
- A system of Strategic Enablement (your sales enablement platform).
According to Gartner® , “With enablement currently allocating budget across 14 technologies, enablement leaders need to carefully evaluate which technology they should deploy against specific technology use cases.” This is far too many technologies for teams to manage, resulting in inefficiencies, poor ROI, and ultimately lost productivity. By ensuring your tech stack is right-sized, fit-for-purpose, and well-integrated, you can empower your sales force to focus on what they do best – creating and closing deals with excellence.
Master Sales Onboarding
Sales rep onboarding programs accelerate the time-to-productivity for new hires by providing comprehensive training on products, customer personas, and sales methodologies from day one. At Highspot, all new hires go through our intensive 3-week onboarding program called GROW, which although may seem like a hefty investment upfront, it’s worth every minute spent to ensure our people are set up to succeed in their roles.
When it comes to sales, failing to properly ramp sales professionals can cost your company big time. Not only can it take longer for new sales team members to start driving results, but it can result in lost business if they enter buyer engagements underprepared. Modern buyers have little to no tolerance for a poor sales experience. Well-managed onboarding programs instill confidence in sales reps, equipping them with the necessary knowledge and skills to interact with prospects as trusted advisors, long before a deal is on the line. Besides building rep confidence, onboarding also promotes a consistent, repeatable sales process across the team and familiarizes reps with templates, tools, and resources. Consequently, it reduces turnover, enhances sales efficiency, and ultimately drives high performance.
Invest in Sales Managers
Sales managers play an instrumental role in sales team productivity. At the highest level, they provide the leadership and guidance for your salespeople – they set clear expectations, define sales goals, and communicate sales strategy, and their ability to establish a clear vision and direction impacts the team’s motivation. Your managers are also the ones accountable for managing and optimizing performance. By identifying areas for improvement, addressing skills gaps, and providing regular feedback and coaching, they can dramatically impact your bottom line. I recommend scheduling regular check-ins to not only touch on performance, but also get a sense of how sellers are feeling. Just like your reps need to be empowered, so do your managers – equip them with the tools, resources, and sales management training they need to guide their team. It’s an investment that will pay dividends. Here at Highspot, any time we roll out a new initiative for our front-line sellers, we enable the managers several weeks beforehand, so they can be great coaches.
Prioritize Sales Training and Sales Coaching
Continuous sales training and coaching are non-negotiable. The majority of great salespeople aren’t born sellers – they become great through the dedicated training and coaching that your company provides. A rigorous training and coaching program reinforces knowledge precisely when it’s needed, offering timely guidance that ensures reps are ready for real-world situations.
Proactive training and sales coaching allows reps to refine their strategies when connecting with potential customers and anticipate potential challenges before deals are on the line. They perfect sales methodologies and processes through continual reinforcement. Sales managers can use sales coaching programs to encourage reps to break away from unproductive habits and adopt proven winning behaviors. Investing in your people’s growth and development not only improves their skills, but also boosts their confidence and motivation, leading to productivity gains.
Perfect the Art of Sales Playbooks and Plays
Sales playbooks and plays help standardize and enhance sales processes by providing best practices and guidelines tailored to different selling scenarios. For every stage of the sales cycle, sales playbooks outline the strategies that have proven successful, which reduces time spent on decision-making and allows teams to focus on selling rather than strategizing. Moreover, sales plays shine a light on how to adapt to every unique sales interaction – whether pitching via sales calls, LinkedIn or email outreach, or in-person meetings. Together, these materials boost help reps enter every customer interaction ready to close with confidence.
Infuse Repeatable Marketing and Sales Processes with Operational Rigor
It isn’t just luck when companies successfully boost sales productivity. Instead, it’s the result of a conscious effort to construct robust enablement initiatives and add operational rigor to repeatable sales processes.
By nurturing a culture that values repeatable processes, top-tier organizations achieve impressive results while inspiring their teams to strive for excellence.
The Future Impact of Artificial Intelligence (AI) on Sales Productivity
We’re currently at a massive inflection point for AI in sales. While AI in the near-term won’t replace the human element in the selling and buying relationship, it will automate, amplify, and augment your work for the better. Generative AI has the potential to catalyze sales productivity, enabling revenue teams to do more with less amid various external challenges such as budgeting changes, economic headwinds, and boardroom demands. Consider these potential use cases:
- Save more time for strategic work: AI can automate repetitive tasks in seconds that once took hours.
- Never look at a blank page again: With the right instructions, generative AI can draft everything from pitches to product marketing assets.
- Get intelligence delivered to your fingertips: AI can deliver the insights and instant answers you seek faster, and likely better, than what you could have ever uncovered on your own.
To bring this to life with a specific example, I predict that generative AI will play a significant role in course design and the foundational coaching for sales reps. By delivering 60-70% of the necessary front-end training materials, AI can play a key role in equipping your sales reps to have better customer conversations, elevating their preparedness all while saving your enablement team time and effort.
The impact that AI will have on sales productivity is immense, and its potential to enhance repeatability, streamline workflows, and optimize sales outreach is just the beginning of what we’ll see in the coming years.
The Power of Sales Productivity Persists: It’s Time to Grow Your Bottom Line
Productivity is at the heart of sustainable revenue growth. Despite the numerous challenges, the benefits are within reach if you implement the right strategies, consistently train and coach reps to be high performers, and focus your team’s time on generating and converting quality leads.
Dig further on how to gain control and implement Strategic Enablement that drives sales productivity with the Essential Sales Enablement Playbook.
1.Gartner, Unleashing Growth With the Sales Enablement Tech Stack, Published 4 April 2023