Cold emails. Follow-ups. Meetings. Demos. More meetings. Selling is a never-ending process that needs your constant attention. No sales, and your business is dead.
Despite this, companies struggle with sales productivity.
The problem is only exacerbated by the growing competition and rising pressure to meet sales quotas and revenue targets.
Sales teams are chasing more aggressive sales goals. But they have a surprisingly lukewarm approach to scaling their sales processes, updating sales tools, and improving sales techniques.
This causes sales productivity to decline slowly—steadily.
AEs must understand where they’re going wrong to grow the business. Team productivity and performance must be dealt with timely and effectively.
The thing is, it’s easier said than done.
What is sales productivity anyway
Sales productivity means increasing sales results while minimizing spending (cost, effort, and time).
You’re at your most productive when your team keeps smashing their quotas and bringing in more business, which helps accelerate your revenue.
Potential reasons why you’re seeing a drop in sales productivity
You have to act fast the moment you notice your sales dropping. First step: identifying factors behind the drop.
Every company has its own problems, disadvantages, and target audience. To define and understand the reasons behind yours, figure out where your sales dropped.
Here are the most common factors that can be detrimental to your sales team’s productivity:
- Unclear insights into wins and losses
- No sales follow-ups, and if there is, it’s spent working on unqualified leads
- Poor communication between teams—especially sales and marketing
- Lack of enablement resources
- Overlooking competition
- High pressure to hit unrealistic sales targets
- No alignment between marketing, sales, and operations
- Reluctance to upgrade and adopt the latest technologies
- Lack of clear-cut and consistent sales strategies and processes
- Failing to set sales priorities
- Lack of the right sales and cold email tools
- Hiring the wrong people and giving minimal sales training
The next step is to implement the highest-level solutions to your problems.
Use the following strategies to help your sales team overcome common productivity obstacles and become more effective at selling.
Get the right people on your sales team
Research claims a strong onboarding process improves productivity by over 70%. Having capable and dedicated AEs and SDRs on your team gives you a productivity advantage. But to build a winning team, you need effective onboarding.
Here’s how to onboard a winning team:
- Treat your new hires as prospects. Making a good first impression may make them more cooperative.
- Provide the necessary support and guidance. Talk to reps about their passions and goals. This will help you assign projects that play to everyone’s strengths.
- Set milestone-based goals. Create effective 30, 60, and 90-days plans that help your sales team understand your products, buyers, and the market.
- Schedule regular check-ins to discuss progress. One-on-one meetings will help both parties to understand the other’s concerns and needs.
Explain your company culture to new hires. Tell them about your company’s history, values, and mission. Visualize your team’s structure and leadership. This will help them come in confident and prepared.
Focus on and prioritize effective prospecting
Leads are the lifeline of your business.
But you don’t need just any leads. You need the right leads—ones you can actually convert into a paying customer. Prospecting will give you access to these leads.
In his article, 6 Keys to Prospecting Success, John Doerr explains the goal of prospecting is to create interest and convert that interest into a sales meeting.
“Note that I didn’t say that the goal of prospecting is to find someone currently looking to purchase a particular product or service. For most sellers, this is not what you want to do because it doesn’t work.“
For prospecting to work, you need a strong and precise targeting technique. Salespeople often contact people with little authority, wanting to work their way up.
Don’t do that.
Instead, reach high and contact decision-makers. Keep your list clean and ensure you give value in every touch. Make the prospect believe that speaking to you will be time spent well.
Implement a stable and consistent sales process
Your sales productivity is as good as your organizational sales structure. It’s why you must identify the best strategies and tactics, share them with your team, and encourage them to use them when selling.
Don’t get us wrong, we’re not asking you to restrain your reps from being creative, but they should follow the established process in order to measure their performance.
Map out the entire sales process of your last ten closed deals, identifying every step. Also, observe sales team behavior to get a better idea of what works and what doesn’t.
Another crucial factor is knowing how long the whole process takes on average and how much time passed between each step.
The idea is to understand what actions prompted the prospect to move on to the next stage and which tactics helped your AEs move the prospects along the sales cycle from prospecting to closing.
Embrace sales automation and leverage sales tools
An average salesperson spends two-thirds of their time on busywork—activities that don't add value to prospects or help advance deals to closure. They’ll also have their inefficiencies, which makes the sales process even more sluggish.
It’s why, most of the time, the solution to drive sales productivity is simply streamlining workflow and eliminating redundant or unnecessary tasks.
Empower your sales team with high-performing sales tools that can help them do their jobs more effectively and efficiently. Encourage automation to save steps and time, allowing your sales team to focus on core selling activities.
Your sales stack should tell your sales team who and when to call and what content to present to boost sales execution, sales excellence, and sales automation.
For instance, presenting product demos is the norm for most organizations, but things never seem to go as planned. What happens when demos get out of the way?
Tools like Demostack let you send prospects an interactive, customized demo of your product. This makes it easier for prospects to imagine a life with your product, hence, improving your chances of closing the deal faster and accelerating revenue.
Work on your email copy
There’s a lot of advice on how emails should be sweet and short.
Gong, for example, recites a study eports that since 85% of people check their email from their mobile phone, cold emails should be short and sweet. Which makes sense, especially because, “readers assess the amount of effort it’ll take to digest your message before they read a single word.”
However, that can absolutely change once you’ve gotten a reply.
Cal Newport makes a case for writing longer emails. He outlines a three-step process that can help your sales reps save time and send more effective emails:
- Identify the goal of the email
- Brainstorm a process that can help accomplish this goal
- Explain the process precisely in the mail, so everyone understands it
Newport emphasizes having a “process-centric“ mindset to make your approach more precise. For example, your reps could suggest a few timings to set up a meeting or ask for a phone number when emailing.
The idea is to create a copy that reduces any back and forth instead of worrying about the length.
Encourage sales coaching
Having an excellent onboarding session where you train your employees about your processes and the tools you use is great. But these “one-and-done“ training sessions are hardly enough.
Your sales team will forget 87% of their onboarding training within 90 days. What’s more, because of the increasingly dynamic sales environment, they’ll have to learn more relevant techniques and strategies to sell, adding to their plate.
Luckily, ongoing sales coaching can be a practical solution.
Have your senior management spend more time with your sales reps and coach them. Not only will this help develop the sales force, but it’ll also help find actionable solutions and strategies to drive revenue.
Sales coaching can increase productivity by 88%. Further, Gartner found when sales managers spend time working with core performers, sales performance improved by an average of 8%.=
In the end, your reps can prioritize and allocate their time and resources more effectively, and your overall sales team can develop more professionally.
Create high-quality sales goals
40% of sales professionals didn’t achieve their revenue goals in 2020. And before you blame the pandemic for this, things weren't much better in 2019, with only 43% accomplishing their sales goals.
The main culprit behind this? Unrealistic sales goals.
Resources are already limited, so spreading your sales team too thin will leave you with nothing but lower sales productivity and demotivated staff.
What you need is a shortlist of high-quality sales goals.
In the words of Brian Tracy, “goals allow you to control the direction of change in your favor.“ Seeing a list of objectives motivates people, helping them come up with better strategies to meet the target faster.
Now, let’s understand what we mean by “high-quality.”
- Bad goal: To increase win rates in 2021.
- Better goal: To increase win rates by 15% in 2021 by letting sales engineers get custom demos in the hands of the prospect sooner.
This gives your sales team a specific metric to optimize. Therefore, instead of them focusing on everything and achieving nothing, they can divert their energy into creating rapid, customized demos, with the increased focus making it more likely for them to achieve it.
- Bad goal: To increase the number of demos by 20%
- Better goal: To increase the number of demos sent per month by 18% by Aug 2022.
This gives your sales team a clear deadline for achieving a clear goal. This will help keep them in check, plus a little pressure doesn’t hurt.
Prioritize up-front research and understand your ideal customer profile
Good AEs can hold quality conversations with leads. The best AEs hold successful conversions backed by solid research.
Your sales team must have a deep understanding of the prospect in order to present your offerings effectively. This includes the features and benefits to emphasize, the concerns that may prevent the prospect from converting, and the results they can expect.
To achieve this, salespeople must spend more time on research.
- Check out the prospect’s website
- Learn background information on the company and the lead if need be
- Go through any relevant information you find online
You can also use a data enrichment tool for better results.
Make sure everyone on the sales team understands your company’s ideal customer profile as well.
Focusing on customers that create the most value for your business can seriously help boost productivity. Plus, knowing your best customers makes it much easier to identify which aspects of the sales process need your most attention.
Keep employee motivation high
Companies that actively motivate employees see a 50% increase in sales and 38% above-average productivity.
It’s because motivated employees give… more. They put in more effort, spend more time strategizing, and take more initiative to realize your sales goals.
Here are a few tips to help you motivate your team:
Winning your customer’s trust is key to selling. The same logic applies to your employees: your team will be driven to work more if they trust you.
To build trust, you need complete transparency in the workplace. No bias, no favoritism. Be supportive of your salespeople’s dreams and goals too.
Your sales reps will appreciate being appreciated publicly for their individual contributions to the team.
Precisely why you should always celebrate big milestones and small achievements. Highlight top performers and show appreciation for all the goals your sales team has achieved.
Don’t forget to be specific so everyone knows what they did well!
Give extra perks
Taking a materialistic approach to show your gratitude towards your top-performing employees isn’t all that bad.
Gift top-performers tickets to movies or sports events—even a free dinner works—to give them time off to relax and enjoy. Make sure your gift is something they’ll appreciate. Getting tickets to a basketball match for an employee who doesn’t understand the game won't help.
Make data-driven decisions
To succeed in sales, you’ve got to make data your best friend. This will help you drive business strategy and facilitate informed decision-making.
Know how your competitors are performing, which areas to improve within your organization, and what opportunities are available for new sales strategies.
Also, track productivity gains and results regularly. Determine metrics that matter most to you (win rate, sales cycle length, average number of touches). What’s more, you can use sales enablement technology to get these insights and analytics. From visualizing trends to gaining valuable insights, these tools are excellent.
Becoming more data-driven will help you experience a positive change in productivity levels and initiate effective conversations with prospects, both contributing to better outcomes for your bottom line.