How to Address the Sales Productivity Gap

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More than ever before, companies are facing a productivity gap with their salespeople — especially in B2B organizations where buyer behavior is changing constantly. According to a recent article from The Value Shift, “70% of the buying cycle is over before the sales rep even get introduced! That’s an alarmingly high percentage, but it’s due to the consumer having many more resources and tools at their disposal that they can use to research. Now, the rep needs to show value through their conversation by expressing their ability to solve the buyer’s problems. They need to do this with messaging and insights relevant to each stakeholder in the buying process.” If the rep can’t communicate that value because they don’t have the knowledge or technique to tailor their message, the conversation is over and the deal will disappear, or worse – stall and go into the land of ‘no decision’.

For modern sales leaders, getting their salespeople to focus their time on what’s most important for the business is paramount for success, but often overlooked (or avoided). Think about all of the decisions — both big and small — salespeople must face each day in terms of where to spend their time. Who should they call? What should they be selling? What marketing activities should they focus on? What meetings should they take (or skip)? What emails should be responded to first? The list is nauseating — and it only seems to increase each day. Modern day leaders realize that maximum productivity is the only way to achieve company success, and enabling their team to be more productive is of top priority. But that’s certainly easier said than done. How can modern sales leaders increase productivity while eliminating distractions for their salespeople — no matter what position or role they operate within?

Forbes and Brainshark recently teamed up to produce a very insightful article entitled “The Power of Enablement”. Below are several key themes throughout the article that directly apply to how modern sales leaders can bridge the productivity gap within their sales teams. Let’s dig in:

1. Focus on VALUE

Simply “selling product” isn’t the goal, even though that may seem counter productive. The goal is to know the customers needs so well that the salesperson can provide a solution – a value to what they need, versus immediately resorting to a tactical response. Value will make buyers lifelong customers and believers in not only your product, but your company vision. Focusing on value is a learned behavior, though, and it isn’t something salespeople inherently know how to do. So how can you train them to ensure their conversations are value focused? First, ensure they always deliver a consistent message to the buyer throughout the entire sales process – from marketing to signed contracts and even through renewals. Forbes and Brainshark revealed that 74% of the best salespeople, as defined earlier, focus on “consistency of execution” throughout the sales cycle.

2. Coach your front-line managers

Starting at the top of your sales organization enables your company to get the greatest return. Coaching your front-line managers will result in also influencing the 6-12 people that work for that manager. These managers are having 1:1’s with team members, instructing, teaching, and helping salespeople each and every day. It’s important to ensure those manager, before anyone else, have the right mindset and are focused on delivering incredible value. Dan Smoot, Executive Vice President, Market Readiness at Salesforce.com, commented, “Front-line managers are the most important people to hire in the company. If you don’t have great sales leaders, that is your first line of fault. We [Salesforce.com] had some issues, and now we spend as much time talking about sales leadership as we do about individual contributors.”
The Forbes article goes on to explain that “74% of top companies cite coaching or mentoring of salespeople as the front-line managers’ MOST important role”. It only makes sense to focus on the front-line managers first and foremost, as they each coach a number of individual salespeople. How can you ensure your front-line managers will be successful? It starts with ensuring they have the right information, as well as the right tools.

3. Fine tune efficiency and effectiveness

For companies that want to close the productivity gap, they need technology in place to enable salespeople to focus on their most important priorities: creating, progressing, and closing business. According to the Forbes article, “Top performing companies are investing [in technology] at a higher rate than their counterparts in underperforming companies. And they are looking to sales enablement technologies, analytics, and CRM systems to make the difference for their teams”.

Productivity isn’t just about eliminating wasted activity, and it isn’t just about having quality, value focused conversations. Both are extremely important, yes, but one of these without the other won’t move your company forward. According to CSO Insights, salespeople dedicate only 37% of their time actually selling (Wow, unbelievable!), and yet 58% are struggling to hit quota. There’s a massive disconnect in how salespeople are actually spending their time, and much of it is due to the distractions they get caught up in during their days. They may (and probably do) believe they are focused on the right activities. But without technology in place to simplify their roles and help them focus on the most important initiatives, their most important KPIs will suffer due to lack of focus and lack of direction.

4. Close the gap

Focusing on value, coaching front-line managers, and building efficiency + effectiveness with tools are all critical components of bridging the productivity gap. But for most companies, this can seem incredibly overwhelming. Where should you start? What can you do today that will impact your sales team tomorrow?

Without data and without understanding where your team is at today, there’s no way to improve. Begin by looking at data from your sales team, and determine what the most important KPIs are by role (sales development, field sales, mid-market, etc). Then, ensure each team member is fully aware of their KPIs – not just their quotas, but the activities they need to strive to reach every day in order to fully achieve success. Ensure those KPIs are not only visible to your salespeople, but are integrated into everything you do to serve as a constant motivator and encourager for the desired behavior.

Sales performance companies like LevelEleven believe focusing on data is a great place to start, and can help your company begin to put best practices in place to close the productivity gap with industry leading technology.

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