Sales Productivity is Broken. Here’s How to Fix It.

Sep 23, 2020

According to one report, sales reps spend less than 40% of their time selling, with the rest of the time spent on admin. Coupled with boring sales emails that get sent straight to the bin (if they even make it past the spam filters), it’s clear that a lot of potential value creation is being lost with broken sales productivity.

So, how can sales spend more time on high-value activities, that is, selling? How can you improve sales productivity in order to increase sales? Let’s take a closer look.

Sales productivity defined

These days, everyone wants to be more productive. Following the dictionary definition, that means getting a higher rate of output per unit of input. For sales, it means closing more deals per the hours your sales force puts in.

This still leaves an important question to be answered. Wyndham Hudson, VP of Product at Copper sums it up:

“Sure, we can be more productive, but is that making us more efficient? Are we working on the right things in this noisy world that we’re living in?” 

Wyndham Hudson (VP Product @ Copper)

Efficiency is all about working smarter, not harder. And making sure your sales team has everything they need to be efficient is key to increasing sales productivity.

Sales productivity starts with the right tools

In sales, if you want to be productive, you need to spend more of your time selling. To achieve that, you need all the relevant information about a lead in one place. That way, you’re able to find the hottest leads and close those deals, instead of chasing the data.

For sales, that one place is usually the CRM. So seeing data such as email campaign engagement or which pages a prospect visits on your website in your CRM, you can quickly gauge what topics they are interested in, without having to do additional research.

However, to improve your sales, you also need to improve your marketing productivity. Companies perform best when they make sure sales and marketing are aligned, rather than each operating in their own individual silos.

That means marketers need to get information about qualified leads in front of your sales reps as effortlessly as possible. You also need to minimize the time spent on building mailing lists and getting your message out.

For both sales and marketing, an important factor is finding and using the right tools for the job. By using sales tools that automatically communicate with marketing tools, you can focus on value adding activities—like reaching out to prospects and creating content—rather than worrying about whether you’ve shared the right information.

Using automation for improved productivity

Many people turn to automation in order to improve productivity and scale. Of course, it’s important to automate the right tasks. Any automation should be done with the purpose of allowing your sales team to be more efficient and effective, enabling them to spend more of their time on high-touch ‘human’ activities. 

Rather than focusing on features and functionality, or putting in automation in for the sake of it, a good place to start is by looking at the key jobs people want to solve.

For example, connecting a CRM like Copper to your marketing data with Outfunnel, the automation is there to sync sales and marketing data automatically, creating a seamless interaction. Sales stays up to date with marketing data and vice versa, without any manual work or need for extra sales training.

With the right tools, your salespeople can have all the necessary context in their CRM. Pictured: marketing data pulled into Copper CRM via Outfunnel.

Sales teams need to spend as little time on admin as possible, and software can automate a lot of those tedious and time-consuming tasks. It can also help scale other parts of the sales processes such as lead generation and outreach, with new sales tools being released every day. 

However, as much as we’re fans of automation, it’s not a magic bullet. While automation can save you time, that doesn’t mean every part of the sales process should be automated. Mistakes can happen and, without your direct involvement, you may not realize anything is wrong until it’s too late and it’s costing you sales. 

To work out what parts of your process you can safely automate, it’s good practice to go through the process manually until you fully understand each step. When we automated our onboarding process, we had already gone through it many times before, manually reviewing sign-ups and personally engaging with them. Far from being a waste of time, this gave us a far deeper understanding of our prospects and what obstacles they faced.

Measuring and improving sales productivity 

When it comes to measuring your productivity, there are two different factors to consider:

  • The subjective experience
  • The hard numbers

The subjective part is all about how the sales rep feels. If they’re only able to spend 40% of their time on sales activities, they’re going to get frustrated. They don’t want to do admin—they want to close deals and earn their bonuses!

When it comes to hard numbers, you need actionable data. For example, when it comes to the emails that your sales and marketing team send, you need to see which emails prospects engage with. What kind of open rates, click-through rates, and reply rates are you getting?

While this helps measure the effectiveness of your outreach, it’s no longer enough. Businesses need to go further and analyze which sales and marketing activities get the best results in terms of:

  • Booked meetings 
  • Close rates
  • Revenue

By tying this kind of sales data back to your marketing activity, you get a complete view of your funnel. You can then optimize your sales process and spend more of your time and money on the marketing activities that actually affect your bottom line. 

Regularly (at least every quarter), review all your closed-won and closed-lost deals and look for common denominators. Look at what the data is telling you, then adapt your sales process and how it integrates with the marketing function accordingly.

Adapting practices in sales teams

Even with smart automations and productivity strategies, sales teams can’t afford to stand still. As marketplaces change, new technologies emerge and unexpected challenges come up, companies have to be willing to experiment and adapt. 

That can be difficult for anyone, but it’s particularly challenging for large, well-established businesses. Changing practices and strategies that have been in place for years—or even decades—in order to improve sales productivity takes courage and commitment.

Paul Willerton, CSO at DeFeet International, experienced this first hand. Moving from traditional methods to digital solutions isn’t always easy. When he first introduced Copper as a CRM, he faced pushback from the sales manager who thought it was unnecessary and redundant.

However, Paul recognized that they needed a CRM where they weren’t relying on one single person for all their information—something that proved vital when one of their lead salespeople had a health scare and had to take a leave of absence for several months. 

Paul puts their survival down to their ability to make changes.

“Be prepared to adapt and make those hard decisions, and have the commitment in the moves you make. It’s imperative to survive… When you see the writing on the wall, don’t put off the decision.” 

Paul Willerton, CSO at DeFeet International

Conclusion: automation and the right sales tools are key to sales productivity

Nobody wants to spend most of their time on low-value admin work. The good news is that, by putting a few key practices in place, you can make sure you don’t have to. 

By using the right tools, you can better align your sales and marketing teams and easily share data between them. By thoroughly understanding your sales process, you can then automate the manual and time-consuming steps effectively. Finally, by measuring your productivity and tying results to activities, you can optimize your process and increase sales productivity. 

Watch the webinar on Bridging the Gap Between Sales and Marketing for more tips and insights about sales productivity:

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