Sales Productivity

Sales Productivity - How can you achieve more with less?

In business we’re constantly being challenged to do more with less as economic constraints take effect across numerous commercial sectors. So with that in mind business leaders need to figure out how their business processes can be optimised to get the best out of the resources available to them.

To enable this to happen it’s never been more important to find ways to improve our productivity within our respective industries. Whether the business is a start up or turning over billions - it’s essential to eliminate any activities that don’t contribute to the attainment of our business goals.

One area frequently overlooked in terms of productivity is within the sales function yet that is where typically a lot of time and energy is wasted. The impact of this can be incredibly significant given the department is chiefly accountable for generating revenue for the business.

These issues become apparent when observing businesses going to market with their products. There are a lot of conversations to get through to make a sale so with that being the case the salesperson doesn't want to spend the majority of their time in admin mode - drafting emails, writing up notes, digging out relevant information and so on.

The stats speak for themselves…

Salespeople spend just one-third of their day actually talking to prospects so where does the rest of the time go?

  • 21% of their day is taken up with writing emails
  • 17% of the time is spent on entering data
  • 12% is taken up with going to internal meetings, and 
  • 12% on scheduling calls.

So with that in mind wouldn’t you want your sales team to spend their time actually doing what you pay them for - selling?

It really doesn’t have to be this way and by no means should we accept these practices as the status quo as there’s so much technology available, including free technology, to address these issues. You just have to think about it in the context of what you need for your business.

So why is addressing sales productivity so important?

Put simply, it's critical to the success of a business. It helps those in charge make better decisions. If you know the optimum rate at which your organisation should be performing at then you will have a better understanding of the resources required to achieve your business goals.

Within the sales department, it’s unrealistic to expect the team to be spending 100% of their time on business development activities as there will always be downtime that has to be accounted for. For instance a salesperson will have to invest some of their time in training or being coached. Plus they will inevitably be involved in occasional business meetings, not to mention other absences including holidays and potential sick days.

Therefore a good productivity benchmark in terms of time spent selling is 65% - this is double the amount mentioned in the statistic cited earlier. Think about what can be achieved with double the capacity available to you.

Furthermore unproductive salespeople are not happy salespeople. Convoluted systems and processes affect the sales team’s performance which impacts their morale and therefore their ability to do their jobs.

Being in business is challenging enough without having a demotivated sales team. Therefore it’s in the business’s interest to support them with sales enablement systems not only to improve return on investment but also to improve staff retention and reduce costly impacts of high staff turnover.

What mistakes do business leaders typically make in terms of their sales productivity?

1. Assigning the sales team to ad hoc / non sales related tasks

Using the sales team to carry out ad hoc business tasks like answering all incoming calls regardless which department it is for. In smaller organisations without the luxury of a reception desk or switchboard there is a temptation to request that the sales team pick up these calls.

The problem with this is that it devalues their roles which is far from ideal given they’re accountable for generating revenue for your business.

Handling all calls coming into the business takes them away from what they’re meant to be doing and can be particularly demotivating when they have challenging quotas to achieve. Especially when they’re spending significant time transferring calls to operations or the finance department.

Nowadays with so many low cost options that can help with this it’s really worth considering using one of the many call answering services available on the market to address this issue.

2. Increasing the sales team too fast

Another all too frequent error is to take on new hires as a knee jerk reaction to achieving sales quotas rather than thinking how you can better utilise your existing sales team.

It happens when you see your sales team working at capacity and instead of understanding what they’re doing to determine if they can work more efficiently you opt to make a new hire.

The consequence this has on cash flow is significant. There are many businesses that have expanded their team too fast and have consequently imploded because their revenue does not cover their overheads. By evaluating this ahead of time you would have been able to predict the situation in advance and therefore avoided this unfortunate outcome.

3. Introducing too many tools and applications into the sales process

The abundance of apps and productivity tools on the market has made the task of deciding which ones to adopt increasingly difficult. One consequence of this is that many businesses have incorporated way too many tools into their sales process and they’re therefore getting in the way of what they were designed to achieve.

It’s at this point you need to evaluate your technology stack in the context of your business and look for ways to simplify your processes to enable your sales team to get on with the job at hand.

4. Analysis Paralysis

Conversely the proliferation of the technology available has resulted in analysis paralysis meaning that many other business leaders have resorted to doing nothing, taking no action and are simply standing still.

As the maxim goes in business, if you’re not going forwards you’re going backwards and once momentum moves away from you it’s difficult to get it back.

The truth is there is no perfect solution when it comes to selecting the right system, it’s simply about finding the best fit for your business and then committing to it.

You could always do an audit at a later stage and make a change when the time is right but the trick is to take action that will get you to the next step in your business growth journey.

What can you do to improve your sales productivity and effectiveness?

So you’ve come to realise that this is something you need to address but how do you go about it.

First of all, evaluate your business and business goals.

What is the current situation within your sales department?

The simplest way to start is to measure your productivity, track the activity of the sales team and understand what they are spending their time doing? If it’s disproportionately being spent on admin or other non value added activities then you need to take action.

Document your findings to assess the areas you need to address and once you have done this you should have a better idea of what you need to do going forward.

But it all starts with having a good understanding of where your business is at and then mapping out where you want to be so that you can determine what steps will help you get there.

Simply undertaking this activity will give you greater clarity and with that greater confidence to move forward with your growth plans.

If you want to a better understanding of your company’s sales effectiveness and productivity position then take this FREE quick fire test which will give you immediate feedback on your current situation

Alternatively feel free to get in touch to discuss and issues you may be having around your sales productivity