Any company would love for its sales team to produce more revenue without the added expense of having to hire more people.
With that in mind, let’s define what we mean by sales productivity: It’s your sales team’s ability to generate the revenue numbers and margin that your company needs. And there are several ways to increase that ability, especially with today’s sales effectiveness technologies, such as price optimization, CRM and CPQ (configure, price, quote).
Here are 7.5 tips for maximizing your sales team’s productivity:
1) Align your organization: A common issue in the B2B sales process occurs when the marketing, sales and service departments aren’t able to collaborate effectively, and marketing and sales tend to blame each other for poor sales productivity. The underlying problem is often that there’s no shared understanding of the process.
In fact, a study by Accenture found that 60 percent of companies surveyed haven’t defined what a qualified lead means. On the service side, 82 percent of those organizations aren’t asking their customer service team to take advantage of cross-sell and upsell opportunities. Getting that alignment within the organization is one of the first steps to take in improving sales productivity.
2) Balance retention and new customer acquisition: It’s no secret that finding a new customer is more expensive than keeping customers. But many organizations aren’t taking full advantage of this information. According to the Accenture study, about 50 percent of chief sales officers still believe they need to improve their ability to sell to other business units within their current customers, and only about 23 percent of their total leads are coming from that existing base.
Focusing on maintaining and growing your existing customer base is a great way to increase sales productivity. If you’re doing a good job of working as a trusted partner and creating reference accounts, satisfied customers are going to support you and provide leads and referrals. To get there, you need formal retention and farming programs in place.
3) Emphasize pipeline management over sales forecasting: Forecasting is important for predicting revenue and closing those late stage opportunities, but the best results come from management throughout the sales pipeline. If your pipeline dries up, you’re going to eventually have a terrible quarter. Managing each stage effectively is important to ensure that you have consistent sales productivity, and allows you to identify and address any leaks in specific stages of the sales process.
Let’s say your numbers show that you’re losing a lot of customers in the second stage of your pipeline, when reps are providing an initial proposal or engagement presentation. That suggests you can apply specific actions to improve that specific process, maintain more deals in the pipe and, ultimately, move more deals to later stages becoming part of the forecast.
4) Provide in-depth training and competency models: Many companies try to get by with just a few days of training, but that’s not enough for reps to understand the products they’re selling and how the products solve specific business problems for customers. To improve sales productivity, make sure the training modules and competency models provide reps with the knowledge they need to communicate the benefits of your products and services to prospects and existing customers.
5) Implement sales productivity tools: Often, sales reps focus all their efforts on a specific opportunity, but end up neglecting others. If that one deal doesn’t come through, sales productivity suffers. That’s why it’s important to have processes, tools and capabilities that help reps manage their entire account list.
CRM is a great tool for providing visibility into the pipeline and managing opportunities. But CRM on its own doesn’t have the capabilities to translate this information into productivity. The Accenture study indicates that only 15.8 percent of companies are seeing improvement in revenue and win rates using CRM alone. Even fewer are seeing reductions in sales cycle. To optimize productivity, it’s necessary to extend CRM’s capabilities with tools like CPQ and price optimization.
6) Create a “winning culture” that drives performance: The key to creating this culture is having the right tools for coaching sales reps. You need to be able to provide feedback that’s based on concrete actions and results, and that’s where data-driven coaching comes in. Use analytics for concrete data showing reps the outcome of an action they’ve taken, and compare it to a better outcome from taking a different possible action. And do it often to provide ongoing insights, not just once a year during performance reviews. This approach makes the learning process a journey and helps build a team-oriented, winning culture.
7) Consistency with time in territory: At some organizations, their structure and coverage model is constantly changing in an attempt to find the best solution. While pursuing improvement is admirable, constant changes create inconsistency in coverage and limits sales effectiveness. Consistency with time in territory is essential to building the knowledge and customer relationships that drive sales productivity.
These seven tips are great ways to improve sales productivity and effectiveness. But don’t try to implement them all at once, or else you’ll likely have trouble making the changes stick. Instead, pick an area to focus on and work relentlessly until you get it right before taking on more changes. And that brings us to the final tip:
7.5) Apply sound change management: Good change management improves your sales team’s ability to be successful when taking on new tools and practices. Taking a thorough and explicit change management approach ultimately supports each of the above seven tips, providing a solid foundation as you maximize your team’s productivity.