There is evidence that an average sales rep spends around 15% of their time sending out voicemails. Among their other tasks are: writing proposals and sales reports, preparing expense reports and other paperwork, attending internal meetings, and traveling to meet clients. This workload leaves little time for actual selling — some sources even suggest that active sales only take up to 23% of a sales rep’s total work time.
Imagine how many more sales you could get if you found a way to increase your sales team’s productivity!
What is sales productivity?
Sales productivity is the number of deals your team closes per a certain expenses amount. In other words, the more sales are closed and the cheaper (both in terms of money and time) they are, the more productive your sales team is and the more value it brings to the company.
The often-used Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to estimate a sales rep’s productivity are:
- the number of customer interactions
- the number of opportunities to qualify to closure
- the number of closed deals compared to the same period in the past
- the number of thank-you notes the sales rep receives
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Factors of sales inefficiency
Before you can start maximizing your sales team’s productivity, you should find out what’s blocking their way to success. Some common scenarios to avoid are:
- lacking sales training
- lacking or having inconsistent sales strategies and process
- using outdated sales tools
- setting unrealistic targets and excessive pressure to meet them
- lacking two-way communication within the team and other company departments
- under-researching customer profiles
- having a toxic atmosphere
The list goes on, but the point is you should determine bad habits before you can start replacing them with productive ones.
8 tips to increase sales productivity
Anyone can have a good sales month, but you have to be consistent to maintain good performance. Here are 8 tips to help you set the right mindset and balance out your goals and capabilities to pave the way to success.
- Introduce an employee shadowing program
- Create a sales process plan
- Research the prospect
- Use automation tools
- Motivate your sales team creatively
- Set realistic sales goals
- Provide regular training
- Use a meeting agenda
1 Introduce an employee shadowing program
Knowing how to sell a product is just as important as knowing how to build a good one. By making new employees shadow experienced workers as a part of their onboarding program, you give the new employees valuable insights.
According to Selling Power, organizations where top performers regularly shared their knowledge with team members increased their deal win rates by 54%. Shadowing is one of the ways to encourage knowledge sharing and help newbies quickly learn from experience what the target audience is, how to position your product, and how to work with objections.
Not everyone in your team will be ready to be shadowed, so ask your top performers if they are comfortable with your decision. Explain why it is important and discuss how the new employee will participate. The experienced worker can help prepare for the call by gathering materials and creating a sales call agenda.
If possible, let the new hire join a sales call. You can come up with a list of observations they should make, such as how the expert salesperson conducts discovery, brings up competitors, uses the product roadmap, gets the prospect to the next step, escalates issues, etc.
If you use knowledge base software, direct your new salesperson to it before they start their shadowing. They will find their training even more effective if they are equipped with the basic knowledge of your company’s product and sales processes.
2 Create a sales process plan
Sales processes give your team a map of what they should do and say to turn a lead into a customer and close the deal. With an effective sales process, you get faster conversions and provide a consistent experience to customers.
A typical sales process consists of seven stages:
- Lead qualification
- Objections handling
- Closing the deal
- Customer nurturing
Each stage involves a certain relationship between a potential customer and your brand that a salesperson can work with to move the prospect towards the purchase.
To create or improve your existing sales process plan, start by analyzing the current sales process. Using the last 5-10 sales, determine how much time (on average) a prospect spends on each stage, what the touchpoints were, and what it took to move to the next stage (for example, 3 follow-up emails and 1 call during the “objections handling” stage, a demo during the “pitching” stage, etc.) Then, define the action that initiated that move.
Think about how you can optimize the process and cut the effort your sales reps put into each stage. Determine what tactics prove to be the most and the least effective. Lastly, you can tweak sales offers to be more appealing and try to increase your sales by upselling or cross-selling items.
3 Research the prospect
Knowing your prospect’s needs is crucial for creating a sound sales plan. Fortunately, today, there are plenty of tools to conduct in-depth research, starting from common call tracking software to comprehensive AI tools.
Social media provides a vast amount of information about prospects’ habits and preferences. For example, group memberships on LinkedIn show what topics your prospect is most interested in. Their Twitter interactions can also show you products they’ve mentioned and companies they have dealt with or considered. You’re looking for any indication that a prospect needs your product.
See if the prospect has any history with your company and if they did, find out what has happened.
The prospect’s competitor analysis may give you a hint as to the gaps in their performance, and you can use it to pitch your product. Last but not the least, make sure to verify their email addresses for better conversions from cold outreach campaigns.
4 Use automation tools
To decide what you should automate first, look at your reps’ daily tasks and determine which ones are the most repetitive. Then, you should think to what extent you need to personalize those tasks, and pick software that will help you. For example, if you see that your team spends the most time crafting nurturing emails, you should opt for an automated email software that sends triggered emails depending on a customer’s interaction.
A lead management system can help qualify, analyze, and nurture leads. And, chatbots will carry on automated conversations and schedule meetings and calls — and they can do this 24/7.
Customer engagement solutions help to provide the best customer experience using conversational messaging techniques. These solutions identify communication issues and offer tips to pick the right communication style.
Finally, route optimization tools build the fastest route and guide a user to the physical meeting point, bypassing traffic.
5 Motivate your sales team creatively
Salespeople live a stressful life full of objections and rejections. The main motivation is money for most, so fair compensation with a clear structure is an absolute must. Yet, sometimes it takes an extra move to ignite their desire to be better and win.
- Give their work a deeper meaning. McKinsey found that 70% of employees said their work largely defines their sense of purpose. Help your sales team understand their role in implementing the company mission and values.
- Acknowledge their value. You can start with praise and enhance the feeling of being valued by inviting your sales reps to participate in decision-making. Growth opportunities, flexible work arrangements, and rewards beyond money — time off, social recognition, etc. — also help people stay motivated.
- Encourage collaboration rather than competition. Sales are competitive. However, stressing this attitude can lead to negativity between colleagues. A much better approach is to drive competition against competitors and reward knowledge sharing and mentoring inside the team.
6 Set realistic sales goals
If your sales team repetitively fails to meet your goals, chances are you are being unrealistic. Sometimes, business owners start too many projects, making it impossible to distribute resources evenly. To avoid this, test each of your goals for quality using the following criteria:
- The goal requires improving one or two metrics (for example, ‘to lower customer acquisition costs to $3 million’ is a good goal. ‘To minimize call blocking’ is a bad one).
- You can measure the goal’s result. How much did you have before, and how much do you have now?
- The goal has a deadline. With a target date, employees can plan their work to maximize productivity, and you know when to reward the top performers.
7 Provide regular training
According to Hermann Ebbinghaus’ Forgetting Curve, people forget 80% of the information they’ve learned within the first week after training. That’s why, to save your sales team’s productivity, you have to offer continuous training.
It’s up to you what training program to provide but, generally, sales training is categorized as follows:
- Inside sales traditionally refer to selling over the phone, by email, or online instead of traveling to meet a client in person. Due to the ongoing pandemic, the concept has changed a bit, though. Field sales involve sending your reps out “in the field” to search for clients at conferences, trade shows, etc.
- Service sales are focused on building loyalty and improving customer retention. These may include storytelling and consultations.
- Sales management teaches sales reps to be better coaches and build teams that effectively reach business goals.
8 Use a meeting agenda
Regular sales meetings are a way to make sure your team is on the right track. However, making your employees report one by one on what they have done leaves the rest disengaged. As a result, employees may start seeing meetings as annoying, time-wasting calls.
To make your sales meetings more effective, create a meeting agenda and send it out to your team before the meeting so they have time to prepare their questions and suggestions. Be sure to include the following:
- Wins and successes
- Pipelines and roadblocks
- Customer feedback
- Sales team’s KPIs
- Business updates
- Competitors discussion
- Training advice
Start on a positive note, discussing the wins or just using the opportunity to connect with teammates using an icebreaker. You can spice up the meeting by inviting your team to play a game. Break them into teams (for example, salespeople and customers) and give them a scenario to do, then discuss what was done right and what could be improved.
Games are great for team building and also allow you to see what skills you should work on with your sales reps.
Sales agents are responsible for many things. You can help them focus on their core tasks by introducing automation to take over the routine work. A motivating culture will make your salespeople happier, and providing them with regular training will keep them in excellent shape.
These eight tips are just some of the steps you should take to build the basis of your sales team’s long-term productivity. Remember, it’s a marathon rather than a sprint, and every change you make will have a long-term effect on your company’s performance.