A study carried out by The Bridge Group in 2015 showed that sales productivity is the N°1 challenge for 65% of B2B companies. As a consequence, optimising this productivity should be a major focus of attention for every company: the effectiveness, responsiveness and productivity of the sales team have a direct and significant impact on revenues.
In order to truly understand this subject, we must first agree on what is meant by sales productivity. What is it and why should you worry about it? Sales productivity consists of maximising sales results while minimising the resources used to achieve them (costs, efforts and time spent). On average, 20% of your sales team is genuinely high-performing and regularly hits or exceeds their targets. That leaves substantial room for improvement in terms of the productivity of the majority of your sales staff. Very often, improving sales productivity consists primarily of relieving workload and eliminating superfluous or unnecessary tasks.
Here are some statistics that throw light on the subject of sales productivity for B2B companies:
- 2/3 of sales people do not hit their annual targets (source: Aberdeen)
- The majority of sales people spend over 50 days per year on tasks other than sales (source: Domo)
- 80% of sales are made between the 2nd and the 5th call to the lead. But only 20% of sales people go further than the 3rd call (source: Thunderhead)
- The average sales person has to update almost 300 pieces of information per week in their CRM system (source: Implisit)
- B2B sales people receive on average 600 e-mails per week (source: The Brevet Group)
In short, these figures show that the majority of sales teams have too many things to do and too little time to do them. This permanent overload is very difficult to manage for sales departments and quickly wears out sales people, even the best ones. However, there are always solutions for improving the productivity of your sales teams.
The majority of studies carried out on the subject by different bodies, like Aberdeen for example, show that, generally, the more companies grow in size, the more they experience a decrease in their sales productivity. This may seem strange. While companies increase their sales staff and aim for increasingly high sales targets, it seems that they are unable to adapt processes, best practices and sales tools to their growth.
So here are 7 practical tips that could help you improve the productivity of your sales team.
1- Continuously train your sales people
A study by Aberdeen carried out in 2015 shows that an average of 7 months is needed to integrate and correctly train a new sales person. That represents an average cost of 30,000 dollars. It’s a considerable sum. Reinforcing and developing a sales team is therefore a significant investment for the company. Even more so as the same study revealed that 87% of the lessons learned during the initial training are forgotten in the following weeks… Continuous training is therefore just as vital for ensuring a good level of skills (with regard to products/services and in terms of sales processes) over time. 55% of working sales people do not have the necessary skills to hit their targets. 45% of companies simply do not have continuous training processes for their sales people. However, again according to the Aberdeen study, this would enable a 50% increase in the turnover generated by each sales person over the year.
2- Automate secondary tasks as much as possible
On average, a sales person dedicates only 30% of their working time to sales. The time spent on non-productive and repetitive tasks means is time not spent selling. Therefore, as soon as you can automate an activity, do so. Free up time for your sales people so that they can do their real job: sell. Reduce and eliminate a maximum of administrative tasks, such as data entry, and automate processes as much as possible. The companies that put methodologies in place, and particularly those that apply them, are 33% more effective than the others.
3- Align your marketing team and sales people
It’s become a really well-worn subject, but it is important to reiterate it again and again, because the majority of B2B companies continue to persist down this dead-end street: silos have to be broken. This mentality in which the marketing department and the sales team function like two entirely separate entities must cease. A study by Forrester shows that only 8% of B2B companies effectively make their sales department and marketing team work together. However, this lack of communication has real negative impacts on the company: missed opportunities, losses in sales, etc. At year end, the bill can be steep.
4- Offer the right content at the right time
It may come as a surprise, but sales people spend 30% of their working day looking for or creating content for their leads. This could be a brochure, a sales presentation, etc. It’s one of the tasks that takes them the most time. However, the sales people will say that it’s marketing’s job. But marketing will reply by indicating, backed up by studies, that 70% of content created by marketing is simply not used by sales people. Why? Because the sales people don’t find it relevant. And when we consider that, in B2B, 95% of deals are influenced by the content proposed, we can quickly measure the impact of such discord between marketers and sales people. Once again, the sales people need to be supported by marketing. They have to know which content they can count on depending on each stage of their sales cycle. And marketing has to produce this content in advance and make it available, for example, in a cloud space, for sales people at all times.
5- Think “Social Selling”
There is a lot of talk of this at the moment, but social selling is effectively becoming increasingly important in the prospection strategies of B2B sales people. Sales people can use social networks at all stages of the sales process. In order to network, in the first instance, create links, identify people and hierarchies, then to enter into contact, prospect, convince, provide advice, etc. Sales people can join discussion groups that their leads belong to, engages conversations depending on their targets’ interests and expectations, show that their approach is relevant. Again, according to Aberdeen, the sales people who use social networks well in their sales processes have 79% more chance of hitting their annual goals.
6- Measure the essential metrics
It’s not very complicated to measure sales results. Turnover is either rising or it’s not. It’s more difficult to assess the sales process itself. The majority of companies don’t improve their sales productivity because they’re not searching through their processes for the points where they could make gains in productivity and improve their results. Don’t simply look at the number of euros that came in at the end of the month. Also consider metrics such as the useful calls ratio (useful calls being those when the sales person has actually spoken to the contact person on the line) compared to the number of calls made, the conversion rate for appointments, the conversion rate for an initial presentation becoming a decisive second appointment, the length of the sales cycles, the pipeline conversion rates, and the average number of contacts with the lead up until the signing of the contract. Use dashboards to visualise trends and locate the points of difficulty in the actions undertaken by your sales people. Collecting and analysing these types of data will enable you to rapidly identify opportunities for improving productivity. This brings us to the final point: tools.
7- Invest in the right sales tools
As indicated at the start of the article, incorporating and correctly training your sales people is a real investment. It is therefore a good reason to invest in order to equip them with the tools that will enable them to be rapidly more effective. The first tool is a CRM system. There are many solutions: SalesForce, Microsoft Dynamics, Sugar, Zoho, Ines, etc.
But there are other tools to complete the panoply of the perfect Sales Person 2.0. For more detail on this subject, refer to Frédéric Canevet’s article on this blog. Finally, new tools, called Sales Intelligence tools, made their appearance some months ago. These are disruptive lead generating and scoring technologies. We now talk of “predictive sales”. These technologies, based on the intelligent exploitation of Big Data, can predict the demands of the companies targeted from the cross-referencing and weighting of an entire stream of marketing data, news, segmentation criteria, business signals, etc.
In the United States, these solutions have already been on the market for several years, but focus exclusively on the American market. The most well-known are InsideView, RainKing and Discover.org. For the French and European market, the spearhead in the field is the Sparklane for Sales solution. This lead detection and scoring solution enables a sales person to save precious time in their prospection. They can thus automate the hunt for new leads, but also closely monitor their clients’ developments for upselling or cross-selling. In short, this kind of solution will quickly become a must-have for sales departments wanting to rapidly improve the productivity of their teams.
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