Episode 18: Using Data to Drive Rep Productivity
Research has found that only 35% of a rep’s time is spent actively selling. So how can organizations optimize productivity to drive sales performance?
Shawnna Sumaoang: Hi and welcome to the Win Win Podcast. I’m your host, Shawnna Sumaoang. Join us as we dive into changing trends in the workplace and how to navigate them successfully. Here to discuss this topic is Bart Prins, the Chief Business Development Officer at Taylor Corporation. Thanks for joining, Bart! I’d love for you to tell us about yourself, your background, and your role.
Bart Prins: Great to be with you. My name is Bart Prins and new business development is what I’ve dedicated my career to and I just absolutely love it. I started off as a BDR during the first .com boom. I then moved into a series of player-coach roles and from there I started running bigger and bigger business development teams. Today, I lead the business development function at Taylor, which is a very large privately held company in the graphics communications industry.
A typical day for me includes selecting and then supporting the right tools in the new business development toolkit, you might say. Those tools include people, processes, and technology, and then help our organization use those tools in an optimal way to acquire brand new business.
SS: Now, Bart, as you mentioned in your introduction, you lead business development in a highly competitive market. What does sales productivity look like for you and what does it mean for your organization?
BP: At Taylor, sales productivity is all about using the right tools for the right job and if you do that well you’re going to be productive. What that looks like for us is integrating the sales and marketing teams into one combined team that is focused on new revenue. Every member of that team does what they’re uniquely capable of doing best. Also, for us, productivity involves objectively analyzing the opportunities in our pipeline and then deciding to spend our time on the ones that were most likely to win and where we can spend our time doing our very best work for our customers.
SS: I love that. How does Highspot help your business development reps, or BDRs, improve productivity?
BP: There are really two points. First, we help our team members understand the questions that Highspot can answer for them. Things that are on their minds related to deals that are in their pipelines, such as who is engaging with my content and who is not. Another question that we answer for them is where do I go in Highspot to find the information that I need? Again, the tools are in the toolbox.
The second thing that I want to emphasize is we learn from each other. What I’ve learned from the business development reps is some really unique ways to use Highspot that I hadn’t thought of, so they come to me and show me what they’re doing and then what we do from there is we train the rest of the team on best practices. It’s really a combination of sort of top-down training and coaching on how to use Highspot, and also sort of bottoms up the users of Highspot every single day that is in the tool and showing management what they’re doing that the rest of the team should be doing.
SS: I love to hear that. What advice do you have for keeping your sales process current and streamlined to optimize productivity?
BP: I have two bits of advice really under one main point, which is to focus on your customers and do that in two ways. The first thing I would offer as advice is to talk to your customers directly and ask them how, when and why they buy the solutions that you provide. Secondly, I also recommend objectively assessing what they tell you by awarding you business or not. Both of those things together are forms of feedback that are going to tell you how well your sales process is working and what you may need to change. Listen to the market, look at what people are telling you, either directly or through awarding you deals or not, then you will know if you’re on the right track.
SS: That’s fantastic. What are some of the common challenges that your reps have experienced in terms of sales productivity and how have you gone about overcoming those?
BP: A common challenge that I think your audience can relate to is that a lot of our best salespeople have trouble now and then letting go of what may not necessarily be the highest value-creating work that they do every single day. Really successful salespeople like to maintain control of an opportunity, but the opportunities that we work on a Taylor are typically pretty complex and they require a team where everyone plays a unique complementary position. Salespeople cannot play every position as much as they would like to. That’s really been a challenge that we’ve been able to deal with, but having salespeople let go of things that they may not necessarily need to be doing.
What we’ve done is created on our deal teams, role clarity and what that means is everyone understands uniquely what they’re doing, why they’re doing it and then we’ve also complimented that with a culture of trust and shared accountability and frankly selflessness, so that when we win as a team, we win together and when we don’t, we don’t. That’s really what we’ve done to address that challenge of people wanting to hang on to things that they may not be best suited to do.
SS: To shift gears, what are some metrics that you use to track to measure the productivity of your sales teams?
BP: Well, we try to keep it simple, as complex as things can be. We look at the cost of new revenue acquisition as a percentage of revenue. Then, we also look at our win rate for opportunities that we scored as either fitting us exceptionally well or not. How are we performing? We had an exceptionally strong year last year and I really believe that that is a product of the discipline that we’ve brought to finding the right types of opportunities that fit us really well, assessing whether the customer is really interested in having a conversation and fixing a problem now, or is it something that they’re looking to solve in the future. Then, putting our very best resources on that deal team on the best opportunities that we are most likely to win. When you do all of those things right, you’re going to get great results and we have been getting those for the last few years.
SS: I love that. How do you use analytics within Highspot to drive productivity and really achieve better results among your reps?
BP: I’m glad you asked because that is really important. Engagement with our content is a really good sign of how important our solution is to the customer right now. That gives us a really good sense of whether our interest in doing business with them matches at least their level of interest in doing business with us. It’s really not a good use of our time to have salespeople pursue a conversation with a customer when they’re simply not ready to buy and what Highspot’s been able to do through its tracking capabilities is give us a really effective, consistent way to answer the question is the customer engaged with what we’re providing to them. Are they interested in talking to us as much as we’re interested in talking to them? I feel that’s a really important way to use Highspot.
SS: How do you approach managing underperformance to boost BDR productivity?
BP: What Highspot does is it shows us what’s working and our sales teams are always interested in knowing exactly that. By knowing what’s working, what I mean is are our prospects and customers clearly interested in what we’re providing to them or are they not interested in it? What we’re able to do is we’re able to correlate the engagement level with the opportunity score with pipeline value and ultimately won revenue.
So how to coach our sales leaders and teams to boost performance? We have them look at the data that is being provided back to us through Highspot. That gives us a sense of where we should be prioritizing our time right now and where we may have a customer who is interested in talking to us, but they’re not engaging to the level where this seems to be a burning issue for them or a problem that they need to solve in the immediate term, which is fine, but we would just handle that opportunity a little bit differently than we would with someone who’s engaging with our content consistently and immediately.
SS: I love that. I’d also love to hear from you, Bart, about how you and your team are keeping productivity top of mind, especially with the current uncertainty that the economic climate is bringing.
BP: It’s become part of our culture that productivity is a way of life. It’s not something that we do annually, quarterly or monthly, we do it every single day and we’re able to do it every single day because we have so many fantastic tools in our toolbox, including Highspot. These tools are providing us with immediate feedback from the market in terms of which of our marketing campaigns are really taking hold. Which of our customers is engaging with the content that we’re putting out? Which of the deals that we’re working on our customers doing the sorts of things that you would naturally do if you were interested in doing business with us and so on and so forth. We plan to remain productive by assessing, really on a daily basis, what’s working, what’s not doing more of what’s working, and then when we do all of that, the return on the investment in this team is just gonna continue to get better and better. That’s how we look at it.
SS: I have one last question for you. Is there anything else that you’d like to share with our audience from your unique perspective?
BP: Listen to your customers. They’re the best source of information about what you should be doing every day. Don’t make what you should be doing a mystery. Make it simple. Talk to your customers, and what we have experienced is a lot of times they will just tell you how, when, and why they buy what you sell and that just makes things so much easier. It provides a better experience of doing business together with the customer.
SS: Thank you so much for joining us, Bart. I really appreciate your insights and your time.
BP: Thank you to our audience.
SS: Thanks for listening to this episode of the Win Win podcast. Be sure to tune in next time for more insights on how you can maximize enablement success with Highspot.