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Sales strategy, Sales training, Sales performance

Sales Productivity Demystified (and the Five Things That are Holding You Back)

Written by

Mike Stokes

One of the most fundamental components of a successful business is a high-performance sales team. By having qualified personnel selling your brand to clients, you can increase your bottom line and minimise cost-cutting measures.

But what is your current sales productivity like? Is your sales team performing at the rate that they should? Do you know where it should be right now? For many businesses, the idea of a productive sales team sounds nice, but implementing a comprehensive strategy is beyond their grasp.

So, with that in mind, today we’re going to be discussing the best methods that you can use to improve sales productivity. Whether you’ve attempted a solution in the past or you’re brand new to the concept, these ideas are sure to put your business on the path to a better, brighter future.


Defining Sales Productivity

Before you can understand what it takes to improve this metric, you first have to know what it is and how to calculate it. Most of the time, the thing that’s holding companies back is now knowing how to measure productivity in the first place. Without being able to quantify it, how can you know if your strategies are working?

Simply put, the best way to measure this is by calculating how much money is earned through sales and then compare it to the amount of resources required to get those sales. For example, if one of your sales team made $1000, but it cost 20 hours to get there (at $20/hr), then the result would be $1000-$400, or 60% productivity.

Overall, you want to look at the time your sales team spends closing sales and earning money and see how they compare. If you’re like most companies, then 20% of your salespeople are making about 60% of all of your business, which means that the rest have significant room for improvement.

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What’s Holding Your Team Back?

The best way to focus your energy on increasing sales productivity is to figure out what is causing it to lag behind in the first place. Here are a few common setbacks that businesses experience that prevent sales from excelling.

Poor Time Management

If your sales team is focusing too much of their attention on procedures and office tasks, then they aren’t maximizing their productivity. In fact, most companies suffer from this problem - almost ⅔ of a rep’s time is spent on back-end materials that don’t increase the value of a sale or increase the number of sales. Overall, this problem can lead to a significant drop in potential across the whole team.

Lack of Training

How much time and effort have you invested into your sales reps? If they are lagging, what kind of retraining resources do you offer to get your team back on track? Too often, companies take a “one and done” approach, which can lead to problems down the line. Rather than recognizing that developing a strong sales rep takes time, businesses expect their staff to learn on the fly and improve on their own. This is a huge mistake that is costing you money.

Too Much Pressure

Although you don’t want to relax too much, you can go too far when trying to push your reps to increase their sales. Some people thrive under pressure, while others collapse. Those members who are exceeding their projections and numbers probably don’t need you to pump the brakes, but anyone who is falling behind will probably do better with encouragement, not punishment.

Obsolete Sales Methods

Technology is advancing at a record pace these days, which means that many companies are struggling to keep up. It can sometimes seem like any program or system you implement becomes obsolete as soon as your team masters it. However, it’s better to embrace these new methods and allow your reps to use technology to their advantage, particularly when it can streamline a lot of the back-end processes that are costing so much time.

Not Enough Focus

Micromanaging can be detrimental, especially with sales reps. The reason for this is that so much of the time and effort spent closing requires personal relationships with clients. If you’re pulling your team back every so often for meetings, updates, and other office work, then it disrupts the flow and can lead to lower numbers.


How to Improve Your Sales Productivity

We recently shared Dr. Sven Hansen's '4 Keys to Unlocking Your Sales Productivity' and got his unique insight into this area. So now that we know what’s causing so many problems, how do we fix them? What kind of sales strategies will ensure that we can get the most out of our resources and improve our percentages? Let’s go down the list.

Streamline Operations for Better Time Management

Although we go into more detail about how time management can unlock your sales potential in another article, we want to give you a detailed preview here. Knowing that most of your reps’ time is spent on non-sales related work allows you to pinpoint processes and procedures that can either be improved or removed to increase their numbers.

When trying to quantify your productivity, it’s best to get hard data first. Be sure to look at what kinds of things your reps are doing on a daily basis and assign times to them. For example, if they spend two hours per day updating their CRM software, that will show you a potential solution. If you don’t know what they’re doing or why things are taking so long to complete, then it’s infinitely harder to address the issue.

One method of streamlining is automation. If you can create systems that automate various tasks that have to be completed (such as updating their software), you can vastly improve sales productivity across the board.

When finding methods, look for redundancies. Even if they are necessary, automating them will save a lot of time in the long run. Just an hour saved per day can add up to a significant increase in sales in the future.

Also, don’t be afraid to get creative with your solutions. If you can save half an hour by giving your sales team mobile devices so that they can do updates on the go, then it will likely be worth the investment. As long as it saves time and adds value, any solution is a good one.


Ongoing Training and Support

Some people are born to sell - it’s in their blood. Others have to be pushed into it from time to time. While it would be incredible for you to be staffed with ace sales reps who always meet or exceed their projections, it’s probably not reality (or why would you be here?).

Thus, it’s imperative that you invest in your team as much as possible. Although too much interaction can be distracting, a little can go a long way.

Some potential solutions can include having your top salespeople train those on the bottom. Alternatively, you can bring in a consultant to provide expert advice and training programs that will help your team thrive. Since your reps are the backbone of your business, it’s always a good idea to support them with positive reinforcement. Gone are the days of punishing sales reps who don’t perform well - that will only force you to hire new people on a constant basis, which will cost you a lot more in the long run.

To that end, make sure that your team understands that they can come to management if they are stuck or need assistance. Rather than having an adversarial relationship with supervisors, it should be one of mutual respect. This will help everyone on your team do his or her best.


Update Your Systems and Software

If your customer relationship management (CRM) program isn’t doing as much as it should, then don’t hesitate to upgrade to something better. If you find yourself fixing software or technological issues on a regular basis, then now is the perfect time to switch to something more reliable.

Your team should always be on the lookout for new systems that can help them succeed. Whether it’s an app that manages phone calls and contact with clients, or a back-end program that ensures that follow-ups are automated, embrace technology wherever and whenever you can.

Another side to this is recognizing that some people adapt quicker than others. If you are trying to upgrade to new software, it’s imperative that you realise that some of your team will have trouble adjusting to the new system. Change can be difficult for some, so you have to incorporate that into your sales productivity strategy.

One option is to allow sales reps to use the apps and programs that work best for them. As long as they can all be compiled and reconciled on the back end, whatever helps them perform should be encouraged. For example, if one agent excels at using a particular app and another can never seem to get it to work, then forcing both of them to use it will put you behind.


Give Your Team Room to Grow and Develop

When analyzing the time your reps are spending on particular procedures, you may notice that a lot of it is going toward coordination with other co-workers or sitting in meetings. In that case, you might want to adjust your office schedule so that it doesn’t inhibit your sales team from maximizing their productivity.

One solution could be to switch to a different time frame for meetings and updates so that it doesn’t conflict with their schedule. For example, if your reps do most of their calls before lunch, then schedule meetings and one-on-ones in the afternoon. If improving sales productivity is your top priority, then you should be willing to work around their needs, not the other way around.


Other Strategies for Improving Productivity

While these issues are some of the most common, that doesn’t mean that they are the only things holding you back. Here are some other tips that you can utilise to make your sales team more efficient.


Create a Repeatable Sales Process

Your top reps likely have an order of operations that they follow to ensure that they are always on track. If you don’t already have a system in place for your entire sales team, then now is the time to develop one.

Creating a repeatable sales program ensures that everyone on the team can thrive and move forward. It keeps everyone focused and enables you to track progress much more readily and easily.

Once you have a system in place, then revisit it on a regular basis. Hopefully, your team will be growing and expanding all the time, which means that your programs can become obsolete. When that happens, it’s time to build a new one out of the remnants of the old and then start again.


Use Analytics to Discover Pain Points

Is your sales team spending too much time and effort on procedures that aren’t working? If so, how do you know? If you’re not analyzing your sales results, then you can’t understand which processes to focus on the most.

Overall, reps should be focusing on what works and cutting their losses on anything that isn’t profitable. Whether it’s dropping certain products or services, or focusing on retaining high-profit clients instead of prospecting, analysis can help you determine what your team should be spending their time on, as well as what to avoid. This focus on profitability will naturally increase productivity, even if nothing else changes.


Make Priorities

In many cases, sales reps don’t know what they should be focusing on at any given time, so they wind up doing a bunch of busy work while they figure that out. However, if you have a clear and precise hierarchy of tasks that are prioritised, it’s easier for everyone to stay on task.

If you’re not sure what your priorities should be, then use analytics to figure that out. Once again, focusing on profitability will always help you improve your bottom line, so that should be the starting point for any strategy and system.


The Bottom Line

When it comes to improving sales productivity, the primary thing to remember is that there is always room to grow. The more time, energy, and attention you invest in your sales team, the better your ROI will be. Don’t assume that things are as good as they’re going to get, and don’t get too complacent.

To help you in your quest to crack consistent Sales Productivity, and all the benefits that come with it, Indicator have teamed up with Dr. Sven Hansen of The Reilience Institute to educate and empower New Zealand's Sales Leaders in the area of Sales Productivity.

With ever increasing targets, sales people need to successfully navigate the highs and lows of the role. High performing sales people recognise the need to be resilient and to operate in an optimal state of productivity. This is the essential Sales Productivity course for all salespeople, managers and executives.

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About Indicator

Indicator provides expert training and consulting for sales leaders and CEOs who want to transform their capability, performance and impact in the market – for their teams and organisations.

We bring together like-minded people and industry leaders through consultation, training courses and the Sales Syndicate – the monthly programme designed specifically for sales managers and sales leaders.