As a sales manager, your primary responsibility is to meet and or exceed the sales target of your organization. A significant part of sales management is making sure your sales team is productive.
Sales productivity is a challenge for many business-to-business (B2B) companies. Especially now with the transition to remote working models. Research shows that the average sales professional spends only one-third of their work hours selling. The rest is spent on emails, data entry, research, staff meetings, scheduling calls, sales training, and reviewing industry reports. In other words, non-revenue generating activities.
Sales productivity refers to a salesperson’s ability to optimize time management and drive revenue (efficiency and effectiveness). Top performers generally prioritize revenue-generating activities. At the same time, poor performers are overwhelmed by administrative tasks. Improving sales productivity comes down to finding ways for sales professionals to be more efficient with their time.
There are various reasons sales teams struggle with sales productivity:
- Unrealistic sales targets
- Poorly defined ideal customer profiles
- Lack of training
- Inadequate sales tools
- Inconsistent sales strategies and sales processes
- Continuous distractions
- Low morale
The list goes on.
With this understanding, let us now discuss ways to address these problems and improve your team’s sales productivity.
1. Measure your sales activities
The first step to improving sales productivity is identifying and understanding your current standing. Consistently low conversion rates might indicate a problem with lead generation. Low sales per hour averages might indicate an issue with time management.
Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are measures used to track and analyze performance. There are many sales performance metrics you can use. For instance, you may track lead generation rates, sales activity metrics, sales productivity metrics, conversion rates, and revenue metrics.
- Lead generation rates measure the quantity and quality of new leads added to your sales pipeline.
- Sales activity metrics show how much sales-related activity your team is doing daily.
- Sales productivity metrics measure how much time your team spends converting leads.
- Conversion rates measure the number of prospective buyers who complete a specific action.
- Revenue metrics: measure how well revenue targets are being met.
The key to accurate KPI measurement is consistency. Ecommerce platforms often feature sales dashboards that allow you to track your team’s sales activities. They can also help you identify and follow up on tasks close to the deadline.
Without this, you won’t be able to establish an accurate baseline against which to measure productivity. Sales dashboards like the one above help you visualize your team’s performance.
2. Research your target audience
It is critical to know which customers drive revenue for your business. Focusing on these customers is good business practice and improves sales productivity. When you know more about your best customers, you use your sales time productively.
A customer persona or buyer persona is a detailed description of your ideal customer. This person is fictional but based on extensive research of your target audience. Creating a customer persona gives you a comprehensive outlook on your desired customer. A customer persona gives you a better understanding of the customer’s goals and pain points and offers insights that will help their business.
Customer personas aren’t one size fits all. B2B customer personas are different from B2C customer personas (mainly demographic details like age, gender, or race typically don’t influence complex business solutions). The decision-making process in B2B companies usually involves more than one person. So, you may need to develop several customer personas. Different products may also have different customer personas.
Still, there are common factors you should consider in developing your customer persona:
- Customer Data – title, department, decision-making capabilities
- Your Customers’ Motivation – what are the company and decision-maker trying to accomplish?
- Customer Needs – how will your product help their goals?
- The Customers’ Challenges – what issues do they have with their current system?
- Interaction styles – how does the persona prefer to be contacted?
Developing customer personas takes time. It involves sending surveys to your customers, conducting interviews, deep dives into social media, monitoring interaction with your website, etc. But the payoff is worth the effort. Companies that use buyer personas report higher quality leads, higher conversions, and even exceed revenue goals.
3. Send better emails
Buyers receive hundreds of sales emails every day. Crafting effective sales emails that will get them to open and respond to your emails is essential to improving sales productivity. For your sales emails to stand out, they must have these five elements:
- An enticing subject line
- A strong opening line
- A concise body
- A powerful CTA
- A professional signature
All five elements are essential, but you should pay particular attention to the subject line and the body of your emails.
The subject line is what gets buyers to open your sales emails. An enticing subject line that grabs people’s attention is crucial to getting your emails noticed and opened. One way to do this is to get straight to the buyer’s pain point. For example, ‘Low CRM adoption?’ or ‘Declining email open rates?’ Keep it short. The goal of the subject line is to pique enough interest to open the email.
The content of the body is what gets buyers to respond. It is tempting for salespersons to want to throw everything they’ve got on the chance this one email will be opened and read. However, hard-selling through email is a great way to ensure that your contacts will delete your emails immediately. With hundreds of emails daily, buyers just don’t have the time to read long messages.
The ideal length of a sales email is between 50 to 125 words. The key to time-saving and effective emails is identifying the goal of the email, figuring out the process to accomplish the goal, and explaining the goal and process in a way the recipient will understand.
The email above is one example of an effective email. Demonstrating interest in a prospective business will get your email opened. The email is relevant and in response to a conversation they started with their blog article. In addition to showing sincere interest, the email offers value with access to helpful resources, including content marketing experience, in just 125 words.
In all your emails, be sure to double-check grammar and spelling. Nothing loses a prospective buyer’s confidence in your product than a poorly written email.
4. Set daily goals
Your sales team essentially has one goal – to meet sales targets. But if this is the only goal, you are setting them up for failure. Stanford Business research shows that the best way to achieve goals is to break them down into smaller sub-goals. If the gap between the goal and the starting point is too wide, your team might get discouraged.
Sales professionals can become overwhelmed with large targets, hindering sales productivity. Setting daily or weekly goals increases the likelihood of achieving the bigger goal. They give sales teams a sense of direction, improve morale, and increase motivation.
You can structure your daily goals around annual sales goals. Other structures include
- Activity goals: “Schedule 5 product presentations with high-value customers every month.”
- Progression goals: “Reduce lead conversion times by 10%.”
- Waterfall goals: “Increase closing rate by 5%.”
- Stretch goals: “Sell two times more products this month than last.”
For daily goals to have a more significant impact, ensure they follow the SMART criteria. They should be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound.
5. Improve your pipeline activities
The ideal sales situation would be for a prospective customer to be so wowed by your sales pitch that they instantly buy your product/service. Unfortunately, most, if not, all buyers need a little more convincing – even those that are interested and need your product/service.
While the first point of contact is essential, the truth is you will need to make at least five follow-ups to close the deal finally. Most sales agents tend to give up after the fourth contact. Giving up too soon only contributes to low conversion rates.
A sales pipeline is a visual representation of your prospects’ journey along your sales process. In other words, it is the buyer’s journey. Sales pipelines allow sales teams to forecast revenue depending on prospects’ different stages.
There are essentially seven stages in a sales pipeline: prospecting, research, outreach, pitch/presentation, handling objections, closing, and follow-up. Equipping your team with the best tools for each stage of the sales process reduces a lot of the leg work and allows your sales reps to focus on other sales activities.
Sales platforms incorporate different sales process components into a single seamless package: email templates, CRM, visual funnel builder, landing page builders, etc. Using automated processes ensures that leads won’t fall through the cracks, resulting in more sales opportunities. If your sales team working remotely, use software for virtual assistants to boost your productivity.
6. Encourage referrals
Referrals are the low-hanging fruit of sales. They are easier to convert because they are interested in what you offer. Most of the work is already done for you.
More and more buyers are considering customer reviews in their decision-making process. Having existing customers vouch for your product/service increases your credibility and sales. They are the social proof that what you have to offer is valuable to other businesses and potentially their own.
Setting up referral incentives is beneficial for new customer acquisition and customer retention. Encouraging referrals with incentives saves time and effort in prospecting new customers and builds loyalty with existing ones simultaneously.
There are different incentives you can adopt, from discounts to branded merchandise. You want to choose the most attractive incentive for your customers but don’t take away from the bottom line.
The referral program set up by construction company Hilti for its tool tracking service On!Track is designed to grow leads and sales. The referring customer receives one month of free service for every implemented contract. Rather than a one-time offer, this program encourages customers to keep referring to the product.
7. Batch your admin work
Earlier, I mentioned that non-sales activities take up 66% of salespeople’s time. A strategy that will help manage your sales team’s time and boost sales productivity is batching non-sales activities together.
Batch working is grouping similar activities and working on the group until it is completed. For example, you have several emails that require your attention. Instead of responding to these reactively, set aside time to work specifically on emails. Then move on to data entry work, reports, follow-up phone calls, etc.
Working this way is very efficient. You get through similar tasks quickly and free up time for sales-oriented work.
8. Reward good performance
This seems like a no-brainer, but it is easy to forget and even take your team for granted in the fast-paced sales environment. The last thing you want is for your good performers to start feeling unmotivated. Rewarding good performance boosts morale, which in turn increases sales productivity.
Sales compensation packages typically come with a commission so relying on commissions to incentivize your team isn’t effective in the long run. Acknowledging your sales agents in personalized ways is a better motivation strategy. This can be as simple as a gift card to their favorite restaurant and retailer. Not only will you recognize their successful sales efforts, but you will also build trust and loyalty.
Regarding employee loyalty, the ultimate reward for good performance is career advancement. Sales career paths vary. The industry you are in determines what sales roles are available. The common entry role is the sales representative. Mid-level roles include sales manager, senior project manager for sales campaigns, and sales engineer. Then there are the senior leadership roles (Director of Sales, CEO).
Discussing career paths and organizational advancement keeps good performers and motivates them to keep performing well.
The answer to improving sales productivity lies in improving the sales efficiency of your team. Amidst increasing pressure to meet quotas, sales reps are busier than before. Unfortunately, most of that time is spent on low-value, non-sales activities.
Meetings and administrative tasks aren’t going away any time soon, but there are several things you can do to help save time and increase sales productivity.
Start by giving your sales reps tools and processes that automate time-consuming activities. Adopt productivity metrics that show how well your team is performing and where improvement is needed. Streamline lead generation by qualifying leads, so sales agents aren’t wasting time pursuing leads that aren’t likely to convert.
Your work as a sales leader is to motivate high-performance and lead your teams in meeting or exceeding targets. With the right tools, processes, and sales strategy, your sales teams can work more efficiently and bring in those much-needed sales.