Sales productivity is the measure of how productive a seller or sales team is. This is measured in results (dollars!). In this post, we’re going to take a look at the key drivers of sales productivity and provide actionable sales manager tips for boosting productivity on your team.
What Are the Drivers of Sales Productivity?
These are the primary drivers of sales productivity:
- Recruiting and retaining the right sales people for your team.
- Training and coaching the sales talent on your team.
- Sales culture that is positive with a focus on achieving results.
- Sellers are enabled, know what to do to produce results, and are free from barriers to selling.
- Organizational structure maximizes personal growth and sales opportunities.
- The market is well-understood, and the company is strategically positioned for growth.
- Sales managers are trained to both manage sales AND lead people.
Let’s take a deeper dive and look at these seven factors one-by-one. You can find more about each topic elsewhere in this CONNECT2Sell series for first-time sales managers.
The Sales Team:
What makes a candidate the ideal fit for an open sales job in your organization? What are the specific skills, knowledge, and traits that make your top sellers successful? Knowing the competencies that are required for the job will make it easier to identify the strongest candidates.
Training and Coaching:
Using the same competency model, you’ll also know what skills and knowledge to supplement with training and coaching. Ongoing seller development is critical for continued growth and optimum productivity levels. If you think taking people out of the field to put them in training is going to reduce sales productivity, you’re thinking too short term. Sharpening the saw is the only way to maintain long-term effectiveness.
You want your team to get the right results. But you also want them to get those results the right way. Do they know what they right way is? Is it modeled, talked about, and celebrated? What is the environment in the office? Sales managers who proactively set and maintain a culture have higher levels of employee engagement (which directly correlated to higher levels of productivity).
Be careful with this one. Less may be more. It’s about having the right tools, not more of them. Sellers should be adequately equipped with tools and technology that make selling easier. If there are too many burdensome tasks associated with a tool, it may reduce sales productivity.
Does your organizational structure support sales productivity? Do sellers have internal partners and support systems to help with order fulfillment, marketing, production, service, billing, and back up? Are your systems set up to drive productivity (territory alignment, compensation, goal setting, etc.)? Is collaboration easy or do sellers have to deal with internal competition?
Do you know where the opportunities are? Are you focused on the buyers who are most likely to become your customers or are you trying to be all things to all people? Do you offer the right products and services to meet emerging demand? Does your company have a strong brand and effective marketing? Do you know your strengths vs. the competition?
Ultimately, it always comes back to you. The other six drivers of sales productivity are useless in the wrong hands. You have to know which ones to leverage, when, and how to make the most of them. That’s why it’s so important for sales managers to be well-trained. You shouldn’t have to figure all this out on your own.
If you’d like to learn more about sales productivity drivers, access this free PFPS webinar, now available on demand. It goes into greater detail about each of these and breaks them down into more discrete elements so you can build bit by bit.
Here’s one way you can look at sales productivity to see it in the broader context, too. In this illustration, SP stands for Sales Professional in the last row that provides measures for each area. It all starts with readiness, so be sure to examine that before jumping straight to productivity drivers. Incidentally, PFPS can help your organization assess and address all these areas to help your team become more effective.
Oftentimes, when we’re called in to help with sales productivity, we diagnose issues with readiness. That’s why, in this series, we’re putting so much emphasis on hiring, training, and leading your sales team effectively. This is what we mean when we say to build organizational strength, you’ve got to put PEOPLE first.
Notice, too, what comes after productivity. Efficiency is represented here because, without it, all your efforts to boost productivity will be in vain. You’ve got to protect the time need for customer-facing and selling activities. If seller time is wasted on non-selling activities, your sales cycle will be needlessly prolonged and you’ll need more sellers on your team. Worst of all, you’ll generate less revenue.
Time Stealers that Impair Your Team’s Ability to Make More Sales
On average, sellers spend less than 35% of their time actually selling. Yikes. This finding from ClearSlide in “4 Reasons Why It’s Time to Reboot Technology,” is echoed in study after study. Perhaps it’s why less than half of sellers made their quotas in 2018.
These are the top time-stealing culprits that interfere with sellers’ ability to sell (click the link for an on-demand PFPS webinar that goes into more detail about each one).
Note: this illustration isn’t meant to suggest you should abandon training or provide less customer service. Not everything on this list should be slashed to the bone. Instead, as a sales manager, you should evaluate each of these areas to:
- Make sure the time invested is worth the return you’ll get
- Find out who else, other than the seller, could be doing this work
- Understand what is taking longer than it should and how you can speed it up
- Evaluate what’s essential and what’s expendable. Do you really need all those reports?
- Be sure sellers aren’t choosing non-selling activities due to call reluctance
One of the most important aspects of a sales manager’s job is setting clear, consistent expectations. Your sellers should know exactly how you want them to spend their time, how to structure their day to meet those expectations, and why it’s important to spend their time as you’ve prescribed. If they aren’t adhering to your expectations, you should be having timely discussions about that – especially if goals aren’t being met because of their choices to spend time elsewhere.
Of course, you shouldn’t demand unrealistic allocation of time. If it takes 2 hours a day to process orders and do administrative tasks, you can’t expect sellers to spend 8 hours a day in the field. Be sure you know what it truly takes to do the work required before and between those sales calls and after the sale is closed.
Just in case you think this sounds like micro-managing, let’s talk about that. Everything in this series, Promoted! Now What? The Guide for First-Time Sales Managers, is meant to work together. Here’s how these pieces dovetail:
- Top Sales Managers don’t need to watch what people are doing because people see value in what they’re asked to do (leading).
- Top Sales Managers aren’t constantly reactive, zooming in on whatever is on deadline or being talked about today (proactive).
- Top Sales Managers have Sales Professionals who are focused on the activities that produce results (sales selection practices).
- Top Sales Managers ask more often than they tell (coaching).
- Top Sales Managers enable Sales Professionals (sales culture).
- Top Sales Managers are too busy developing people to micro-manage.
Setting expectations and holding sellers accountable isn’t micro-managing. It’s simply managing. Giving people clarity is something they appreciate, especially when you show them how and explain why it’s important to do things a certain way.
One more reminder here. Taking these tasks upon yourself isn’t the answer. You have your own job to do, and you cannot be productive or effective if you’re swamped with administrative tasks. Find other resources, make the business case for the added expense of outsourcing or hiring support, and figure out ways to protect your sellers’ time and your own.
Sales Manager Tips to Dramatically Boost Sales Productivity
Let’s make it actionable and practical. Here are the steps you can take immediately to dramatically boost the productivity rate of sellers on your team. You’ll find instructions on all these steps in the first-time sales manager guide. You can also get support for any or all of these areas by retaining PFPS coaching or consulting short-term. It’s affordable and pays back big dividends.
- Improve your hiring practices using a competency model, behavioral interviewing, and a sales selection plan for objectively assessing candidate fit.
- Create solid onboarding training and ramp-up plans for new hire sellers. Don’t rely on past experience and osmosis for them to pick up the skills and practices they need to succeed. After all, the mistakes they’ll make while learning all happen in live-time with your customers…
- Offer ongoing, high-value training on selling skills, not just on your product offerings. Create a learning culture and set expectations for continual development.
- Learn how to be an effective sales coach. Coaching is not the same as mentoring, so be sure to learn the difference and master the skills for field coaching. Unlike training, mentoring or managing, true coaching has a 5.7x ROI that’s measured by increased sales productivity.
- Determine what you want your sales culture to be and then take proactive steps to create and maintain that culture. Set the example, set expectations, and recognize the actions that align with getting the right results the right way.
- Thoroughly and objectively evaluate every single tool your sellers use. Get rid of any functions, features or outputs that are low value and erode selling time. Understand how sellers use these tools and what value they get from them, both short-term and long-term.
- Make connections throughout your organization to find ways for sellers to get the support they need. Address any misunderstandings about handoffs or workflow. Educate sellers and others about the right ways to work together and the shared outcomes desired.
- Eliminate internal competition. There are plenty of external competitors to deal with. Internal competition is usually counter-productive. If you set up contests, be sure they are good-natured and everyone has a fair shot at winning. If you have structures where sellers are vying for the same accounts, consider the pros and cons carefully. The unintended consequences of internal competition are seldom worth the potential benefits.
- Get to know your market, your competitors, your industry, and your customers. Expand your thinking about what you and your sales team can do to meet demand, create demand, and anticipate future demand. Be proactive and introduce new approaches instead of scrambling to react when old approaches no longer work.
- Be a leader of people, not just a manager of sales. Stay tuned in to what your team needs to succeed. Be an inspiring force with a vision for the future that others want to be a part of.
If you’ll do these ten things, you’ll see results in productivity. Each requires time and attention, but this is high-value time. Another great way to spend your time is in meeting 1-to-1 with sellers to talk about ways they can become more productive. They want that just as much as you do!
Meeting 1:1 to Equip Sellers for Increased Productivity
To help your sellers stay on track and to monitory what you can do to increase individual productivity levels, you should make it a practice to routinely meet 1-to-1 with each seller.
In these meetings, focus on working ahead to reach goals instead of looking back at what’s already happened and can’t be changed. These are planning meetings. Ideally, sellers should prepare for each meeting more than you do. They should come prepared to talk about:
- What they learned since the last meeting
- What obstacles they’re experiencing and need help overcoming (be sure they really need help!)
- Their plan for learning in the coming weeks
- How they’re going to reach goal, broken down into action items vs. “wing and a prayer” hopes
- Updates on any projects or assignments
When you set up these meetings, keep in mind that they should be sacrosanct. Don’t view these as optional, subject to change, or easy to move around on the calendar. For the seller, a meeting with the sales manager is one of the most important things that will happen that week. Respect their time and their need to get some of your time. This is ennobling and important for employee engagement (which is, on its own, a driver of productivity!).
We’ve prepared a downloadable infographic for you that’s a blueprint for 1-to-1 meetings. You can use it to plan your meetings. It’s field tested and proven to increase sales productivity and seller morale. Use this and other PFPS tools, consultation and coaching to dramatically increase sales productivity for your team!