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How to Improve Sales Productivity and Close More Deals

Posted in:  Sales and Marketing Management, Sales Enablement Strategy, Sales Playbooks and Plays, Sales Training, Coaching, and Onboarding

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 dialled 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 organisations are still struggling to unlock it.

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 behaviours 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 team performance.

How Do You Measure Sales Productivity?

There are three categories of sales metrics related to productivity: efficiency, effectiveness, and performance. Insights from all three of these will provide a comprehensive view of how salespeople are using their time and whether those activities are actually driving revenue.

What sales productivity metrics should you measure?

Be sure to choose KPIs relevant to your teams’ workflows and overall business goals. Here are examples:

Sales EfficiencySales EffectivenessSales Performance
Time spent updating CRMCalls madePercentage of reps meeting quota
Time spent creating contentProposals sentAverage deal size
Time spent searching for assetsSocial sales interactionsWin rate

You can learn more about productivity metrics in the Sales Enablement Analytics Report, which provides a comprehensive overview of what leading businesses are tracking and why. Productivity data can be collected via a rep survey, qualitative interviews, or by using the sales reports available within your sales enablement and CRM platforms. We dive deeper into this next.

Auditing your sales productivity

In order to optimise productivity, you must first benchmark your current performance. This will help you understand your strengths and uncover areas for improvement. For the purpose of this exercise, you may find a table like the example below helpful.

ActivityImpact (Effectiveness)Urgency (Efficiency)Benchmark Time

1. Audit current sales activity

Start by listing all of the potential activities a salesperson may do over the course of a sales cycle. Tasks may include:

  • Meeting invitations
  • Call preparation
  • Email creation
  • Content creation
  • CRM administration
  • Expense reports
  • Proposal generation

2. Determine impact

Impact is related to sales effectiveness; spending time on impactful activities increases your ability to close deals. Organise your team’s activities by impact — either high or low.

High impact activities move potential new customers forward. Examples include account research, call preparation, and sales training.

Low impact activities are still necessary, but don’t directly move a deal forward. For instance, expense reports, CRM updates, and content creation are all low impact.

Once done, you should have a list of core selling activities, as well as each task’s relative importance to closing deals.

3. Determine urgency

Urgency is related to sales efficiency and determines how to prioritise actions based on:

  1. Proximity to driving revenue, and
  2. The ability of reps to outsource the activity

As you assign urgency to each task, consider the following examples:

  • High Impact/Urgent: Account research is high impact and urgent as it directly moves buyers in your direction.
  • High Impact/Not Urgent: Creating content is high impact but not urgent, because a salesperson doesn’t have to do it — marketing can.
  • Low Impact/Urgent: Updating your CRM is low impact but urgent because it may affect other teams, such as marketing or lead hand-offs.
  • Low Impact/Not Urgent: Weekly sales all-hands are low impact and not urgent as they don’t move the needle.

4. Calculate time spent on sales rep activities

ActivityImpact (Effectiveness)Urgency (Efficiency)Benchmark Time
Account researchHighUrgen3 Hours

Next, measure the average time spent on each activity. Surveys are the simplest way to do this, but interviews can provide helpful perspective as well. Much of this data can also be pulled from your CRM or sales enablement platform. When your data is collected, add it to your table so it looks like this:

Now you have a complete benchmark report of sales productivity, including how and when your reps are spending their time and where exactly you can improve their workflows. Compare this information to your selected sales performance metrics — with your current activity mix, is sales meeting business goals? Likely, reps are either struggling to stay focused and underperforming, or meeting quota by spending long hours in the office. The next section can help you resolve both.

How Do You Increase Sales Productivity?

When your sales productivity audit is complete, it’s time to take action. Using the productivity matrix featured earlier, you can map each activity based on its impact and urgency to see which of the remedial actions below should be taken. Remember: the goal is to focus reps on activities that close deals.

Prioritise high impact, urgent activities

The problem: Reps should prioritise revenue-driving, customer-facing tasks, but can’t due to other activities.

The solution: Use sales operations to handle administrative and technical tasks. Invest in sales enablement to boost rep effectiveness and ensure the right content, guidance, and training are on hand and easy to find.

Delegate high impact, non-urgent activities

The problem: Reps are performing customer-facing activities outside of sales’ speciality when account management, services, marketing and others can execute better.

The solution: Drive tight alignment between sales and ancillary teams. Templates and technology let other teams do the heavy lifting so that sales can focus on doing what they do best — selling.

Automate low impact, urgent activities

The problem: Recurring, repetitive tasks help close deals, but their frequency consumes too much of reps’ time.

The solution: Integrate sales tools to reduce duplicate actions (such as CRM updates). Automate early stage activities (prospecting) and end stage tasks (proposal generation). Use a sales enablement to personalise outreach at scale, and eliminate tedious tasks like searching for the right piece of content.

Evaluate low impact, non urgent activities

The problem: Status-quo processes and procedures that were once helpful have been outgrown or automated. Maintaining them wastes valuable time.

The solution: Consider whether standard procedures, like weekly all-hands meetings, still provide cultural value. Streamline what works; eliminate what does not.

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 sales 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 centralise 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 personalise 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-prioritising 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 Automation Tools that 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 sales productivity tools working together:

  1. A system of record such as your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool
  2. A system of buyer engagement (your sales engagement tool)
  3. 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 and apps 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 offers robust integrations, 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 programmes 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 programme 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 programmes 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 familiarises 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 optimising 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.

Prioritise 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 programme 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 programmes to encourage reps to break away from unproductive habits and adopt proven winning behaviours. 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 standardise and enhance sales processes by providing best practices and guidelines tailored to different selling scenarios throughout the sales funnel. 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 strategising. Moreover, sales plays shine a light on how to adapt to every unique sales interaction – whether pitching via sales calls, LinkedIn or email outreach, follow-ups 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 Rigour

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 rigour to repeatable sales processes.

By nurturing a culture that values repeatable processes, top-tier organisations achieve impressive results while inspiring their teams to strive for sales 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 catalyse 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, provide real-time insights into productivity, and optimise 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 lead generation 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