In today’s competitive market, buyer behavior is constantly changing in response to new technologies and buying processes, and smart sellers must evolve to keep up. Even the highest performing sales teams have to stay alert and on the lookout for new ways to boost sales productivity to keep their competitive edge — or risk falling behind. According to our 2018 State of Sales Enablement report, nearly 70% of respondents reported that their company’s sales process was becoming more complex, and 55% reported that the increasing level of sales process complexity impacted their sales performance. With these new sales process challenges, it’s more important than ever to regularly take time to focus on optimizing sales productivity. After all, productivity means profit. When a business improves its salesforce’s effectiveness and productivity, it makes it easier for sellers to close deals that drive revenue.
What is Sales Productivity?
First thing’s first: let’s define what we mean when we talk about sales productivity. Think of sales productivity as the baseline factor in the success and health of a company. Sales productivity is calculated according to the rate a rep increases revenue for a business. Put another way, optimal sales productivity is maximum sales results with minimal resources (such as time, money, or effort) expended.
When you are looking to improve sales productivity, you will usually need to deal with these three main obstacles:
- Time needed by a new seller to become effective (on average, 7 months)
- Seller turnover (typically 30%)
- Time wasted searching for and creating selling materials (3-4 hours per week, per rep)
But how do you influence these factors and improve the productivity of your sales team? We’ve put together six questions to ask yourself as you work on your sales productivity strategy. Use these questions as a guide to help you identify areas of improvement and opportunities to achieve greater productivity.
- What is your business’ sales process?
- What insights can your reps offer?
- Does your organization have a sales playbook?
- Have you integrated a sales enablement solution?
- Are your sales and marketing teams aligned?
- Does your company culture encourage sales?
Onboarding and training successful reps is a massive investment from a business perspective. Improving sales productivity rep by rep in this continually evolving sales landscape can waste time and negatively impact productivity. Companies need a scalable, customizable process, created and managed according to specific personas. If you don’t have one yet, read this SiriusDecisions report, Best Practices for Increasing Sales Productivity, for some ideas on how to get started.
Get ideas on how to improve productivity right from the source — from your sales reps! Sit down with your reps and ask them about what constitutes a successful sale. Consider posing the following questions:
- What do they implement for managing and creating accounts, fostering prospects, organizing plans?
- How do they pitch and nurture leads?
- What are their main pain points?
- Where do they feel misunderstood or undervalued?
- What do they consider valuable assets of a successful proposal?
- How do they navigate the ins and outs of daily content needs?
Combine all of the feedback from sales reps across tiers of expertise and map out a clearly defined, step-by-step playbook of your rep’s sales processes as they currently stand. Make sure to note any pain points or areas that sale reps highlighted as areas needing improvement, which indicates what you’ll likely need to tackle to improve sales productivity.
Like your company and the individuals within it, sales processes are always shifting, growing, and changing. What works today may not work five days from now — let alone five months down the line. Consider your playbook a live entity that morphs to fit the forever-changing sales landscape. As a targeted tool used to pinpoint customers during their buying journeys, a sales playbook offers insights to reps as well as leaders and stakeholders, and ultimately equips reps with the necessary materials and know-hows — at the right time. Here are some best practices for ensuring your playbook has the freedom to breathe:
- Train and enable all sales reps via your playbook
- Revisit your playbook on a regular basis to tweak, edit, and alter accordingly
- Ensure the plays that were built for certain markets or accounts are still accessible and relevant
- Continue to streamline processes — especially as your teams grow and your sales processes continue to evolve
Once a playbook is in regular rotation, a flexible, digital infrastructure can streamline and improve productivity even further. In addition to offering real-time visibility into sales reps’ performances, a sales enablement solution connects sellers to relevant content, offers scalable ways to showcase content to customers, measures what content works (and what doesn’t), and empowers sellers to get the training they need.
Another method for dramatically increasing sales productivity (and one that reps often don’t want to hear): align with marketing. Too often, there’s a breakdown between both sales and marketing. Often due to one side having led the charge regarding goals, processes, and defining the methods deemed successful. From there, information isn’t correctly or efficiently communicated to following teams, resulting in communication breakdowns and unhealthy assumptions.
Despite their differences in approaches, and too-often misunderstandings, it’s important to remember that marketing and sales teams are striving for the same end results. Getting both sides synced on the same strategy and communicating effectively is a surefire means of improving sales productivity.
Here are two actionable ways to find out if your sales and marketing teams have easy access to updated, relevant content that will help them close deals:
Perform a content sweep
Evaluate where each piece of content is stored within your organization and determine a home for each set of materials. Consider the following:
- Does your sales team have a sole, established place for sales-related content and training?
- Are all materials aligned according to buyer persona, buying stage, etc.?
- Where can these be accessed (e.g., online within a CRM system, inbox, via mobile)?
Conduct a sales training and content audit
Establish if and how sales reps have the tools and know-how to successfully land sales. Delve into the following:
- Have reps completed assigned sales training?
- Does your sales team fully understand and utilize core company concepts?
- Are reps making use of the ideal kind of content – and at the correct time?
Sales complexity hinders performance — an impact that’s even greater for larger sales organizations. A full 77 percent of companies with sales organizations of more than 101 representatives reported that their sales performance has been negatively impacted by the increasing level of complexity, resulting in friction within the sales process. A powerful means of decreasing this friction is building a company culture that fosters communication, trust, and integrity.
Given the increasing competition of the sales landscape, it’s easier than ever to allow competition and paranoia sneak into your team’s culture. But when management builds a culture on trust and empathy, reps better learn from mistakes, support each other’s successes, and operate more transparently. An environment of trust enables reps to embrace change as well as loop others, and management, in when deals prove especially tricky. Creating and upholding a culture of trust ensures sales productivity stays a constant — even amid difficulties.
Together, strategies such as playbooks, sales enablement solutions, aligned teams, and a healthy company culture can vastly improve sales productivity. Integrating these methods for success arms reps with the right tools at the right time, ultimately increasing sales, upping profits, and creating a company-wide win-win.
This article was contributed to Highspot by Erica Karnes.