How to increase salesman productivity

Why does everyone believe that one can do better than before? Maybe that's because that's usually true? The thing about sales is that it can always be done better, usually by increasing your sales force. But not every company has a budget or means to constantly improve the size of the sales team.

Increasing sales isn't always about the number of people involved in it. You can expect a better return on investments if you're investing in efforts and quality over quantity. So here are the essential principles and tips that will help you improve salesman productivity without overblowing your budget.

Table of contents

  1. Sales productivity key factors
  2. What you should improve in sales management
  3. Reward and Recognition (other than money)
  4. How to calculate sales productivity
  5. How to improve salesman productivity. A step-by-step guide
  6. Best tools to improve sales productivity

1. Sales productivity key factors

There are multiple factors that can influence sales person productivity, but not all of them lie on the surface. This question is actually trickier than it seems. While one can think that a successful sale is shaped by the skills of a salesperson, his knowledge of the product/service and its actual quality, there are other factors that influence whether a deal will be successful or not.

Let's take a look at some of these factors:

Consistency

While you definitely should approach each lead and client individually, you should follow through a consistent sales process and methodologies. This means while you can experiment with different approaches to clients, you should re-use what works and be consistent in what you're communicating to every lead instead of coming up with messaging on the fly.

Pressure

Salespeople need to meet their quotas. There's no running away from this and they know it. But we all get bad months when we can underperform no matter who's fault it is. And the rush to eventually try and meet these quotas can negatively influence the actual quality of the sales process. However, keep in mind that sales quotas need to be reasonable. If a salesperson faces impossible numbers to achieve each month, there's no reason to even try when you know that you'll fail anyway.

Miscommunication

Salespeople do not work in the information vacuum. The messages they use should arrive or coincide with what the marketing department produces (as they are the ones who're bringing in leads, even if not all of them). The same is true in reverse: when a marketing department fails to mention an important lead information, the reps' work won't be as effective. This is where having a centralized lead/client database in a CRM is essential for providing a consistent client experience.

Outdated methods

Yes, your sales tools or strategies might be working, but are they as effective as your competitors? Are you actually using the best tools that the market has to offer? The problem is, while clinging to the good-old stuff, you might be missing on the progress. Your market and clients are moving forward and if you're not following the trends, you're greatly reducing the sales team productivity compared to what it could potentially be.

Concentration

While our attention span is decreasing, the quotas and competition usually only rise. Studies prove that after you, for example, check an email, it takes around 40 minutes to get back into the work or creative process. Each distraction, like a Facebook notification, a chit-chat with a colleague, or an unintentional procrastination significantly decreases the volume of you've completed, let alone its quality.

2. What you should improve in sales management

While sales reps are your company's stars and moneymakers, sales management is what keeps them all in the same flow. Effective sales management is the key to getting the maximum output of your sales rep's activities. Even if a team works perfectly on their own, there are probably several elements that you can do to increase salesman productivity. Here are they:

Create a standardized process

This can't be stressed enough: every team needs a roadmap to follow when working with leads and clients. This isn't about that somebody doesn't know what to do or as a mean to add more tasks to a rep.

It's important to have a single sales process that everyone on the team should follow. Ideally, a CRM for sales can help you with this in form of a sales pipeline and the fields that require sales reps to fill them with client data. Keep in mind to request only the most necessary information - do not make the reps collect everything they can and figure out what to do with this data later. This would only give reps more overhead and distract them from the main activity.

Another clear advantage to having a standardized sales process is that it makes your sales team easier to scale. Their onboarding and teaching process becomes much faster and reduces the possibility of mistakes that the newcomers can make or the data they forget to enter.

Here a sales CRM can give you an additional benefit of flexibility. Because a good sales process should be occasionally reworked and updated, reflecting those changes in a pipeline or a record structure will help your team to get used to them faster.

Employ analytics

Every sales rep works towards some result. But what result should it be? How do you decide whether each sales manager does his or her job admirably or underperforms? This is where you need to decide on proper metrics.

This might be difficult at first because when only starting it's difficult to see the whole picture. But once you've decided on how you should measure your salespeople productivity, you need to make those criteria known and understandable to the team. Ideally, a CRM system should be one of the sources of your analytics, considering that that's the tools your reps are using for logging their activity.

At the same time, keep in mind that your teammate's productivity should be compared to the correct metrics. For example, out of a context, 2 closed deals are definitely less than 10. But if you consider the total revenue from those 2 deals, it might be higher than compared to 10. This is where you need to decide what to do about such productivity stats. If one person brings in the same or more revenue than the other with a higher amount of leads, then maybe you need to improve the quality of the leads or check if the second rep is underselling where it's possible.

Listen to feedback and work on it

Asking the right questions, noticing developing trends and reacting accordingly are some crucial qualities that an effective sales manager should obtain or develop.

Each person on the sales team has a ton of interactions with leads and clients. The information they obtain is important not only to sales but also to the product, marketing, and support departments. Collecting their observations and direct client feedback is the right way to improving your product or service. At the same time, sales metrics obtained from your CRM is your feedback on the sales managers that should also be analyzed to assess their performance.

3. Reward and Recognition (other than money)

This is another aspect that can be improved in the sales management, but it deserves a separate spot. How do you motivate your team to perform better? Salespeople, like anyone else, need a certain incentive to do their job better. And while money is a great option, it doesn't work for every rep, not every company can allow itself additional expenditures and it also can get stale quite fast. So what to do?

Job-related prizes

Once again, a salesperson isn't driven by money alone. How about adding paid vacation days to a salesperson's credit that doubles the sales volume this month? A few days isn't much, but if accumulated throughout a long period of time, a good long vacation is something nobody would reject.

Others incentives might include prizes that elevate the salesperson's status in the team and, at the same time, improve his or her productivity. If sales reps are working from the stationary PCs, then a laptop might be a nice upgrade for them. Team incentives is another option. For example, a sales team might reach a common goal way faster if they that there's something of a common value on the line, like a better lounge area or other recreational facilities.

Valuable goods

This is something of a hit and miss, but worth a try. You can either announce a certain valuable prize for the best performing rep or make it a personal surprise. The later one works better because it's difficult to come up with an incentive that everyone would like to get. However, if you go for a personalized prize, try to make it special, something along that person's hobbies, but what he or she would probably not buy personally.

4. How to calculate sales productivity

We already spoke about how to calculate the productivity of a sales team in "How to build a sales team" guide. While measuring the dollar amount of sales per person is one of the most popular methods, it's applicable only to the teams. There are other ways to measure productivity and they might be more useful depending on the exact sales activity your reps perform.

Conversion rates

The pure number of contacted leads means almost nothing. At the same time, the number of closed deals also lacks some context as to the end result. For example, you've closed 10 deals during the previous month. Is it a good or bad performance? Definitely good, even great if you've contacted 10 leads (9 or 8) during that period. But if you've made a hundred of calls, then the results look poor. So let's take a look at conversion rates.

Conversion rates are the percentage of prospective customers who take a specific action you want. In our case this might be the per cent of people who've purchased your product or service. It's simple to calculate:

However, keep in mind that these rates are not universal. In some businesses, closing a single deal out of a hundred is already considered a success, while in another, a 1% conversion is a proof that something isn't working.

Average sales (per hour)

Knowing how effective is your sales performance on an hourly basis is an important aspect in many businesses. But only consider the time spent only on the sales activity, excluding any preparations, meeting, etc if you're going to calculate it.

Actual vs forecasted

Creating a sales forecast is a completely different topic. It's no less company-specific than the way you calculate performance. But let's say that you have a forecast or a quota to reach. Do your reps reach this quota? Are they failing or overachieving? In both cases, you need to know the exact measure of the deviation to either rethink the quotas or reconsider the sales process. This is referred to as “Mean Percentage Error” (MPE) and here's how you can calculate it:

5. How to improve salesman productivity.
A step-by-step guide

Now, with all above mentioned taken into consideration, let's approach the improvement of your sales team productivity readings. Like with all else involving productivity, these steps might not be a 100% accurate guide for your team or industry, but they can serve as a set of guidance and tips to follow.

1.Training and onboarding

Of course, you've hired bright and talented people to do the sales job. These are the people that will be telling your potential clients how good your product or service is and turn them into real fans. But can they do so without knowing everything about the very same thing they are trying to sell?

A salesperson can not know absolutely everything, but they should aspire to do so. And you must help them on their first steps. Start training them as soon as possible, give a crash course on the product, answer their question now and ASAP when questions arise. Sales, product, and customer management training and onboardings aren't easy, but they are what will shape the real professional out of you sales team.

2. Combine marketing and sales

The left hand should know what the right one is doing. This is true about sales and marketing departments. In fact, while they perform a different activity, they are parts of the same cycle. Even when a marketing department brings in a lead, it's work here isn't done. Depending on how the sales department communicates with a lead, marketing department should send different follow-up messages, announcements and advertisement.

What's great about a CRM system is that it helps marketing and sales communicate in a natural way, without any hassle. When the CRM data on a client is up to date and accurate, each department knows how to approach that client. A CRM is also a great tool for segmentation, letting you decide your client database into different categories and show them relevant information or deliver relevant offers.

3. Automate as much as possible

People should do what software and machines can not. In case of sales, it's exactly that - sel... building relationships with leads and customers. While software might help, a personal touch, a face-to-face communication is irreplaceable. But most other things are, in fact, replaceable.

Automate as much as possible for your sales team to have more time to interact with clients. Set follow-ups to forget about forgetting to write back; invest in email marketing automation; use integration services to eliminate data re-entry, etc. If there's a more or less simple and standardized process, it should be automated and carried out by software.

4. Give the necessary content

Most B2B sales (and a great part of B2C) are influenced by the content that leads can find or are provided with. So a good piece of content should always arrive from the marketing department when it's needed most. Salespeople shouldn't waste their time and do somebody else's job. This is another aspect of a good marketing and sales cooperation. Set a working channel for these two departments to communicate and organize it so that if one needs something, the other one provides it.

5. Measure progress

This isn't a step, but more of a repeated process. Always be measuring your sales team progress and adjust your activity accordingly. Consider measuring different stats, such as the number of sales, conversion and close rates, sales cycle life, etc. A single metric won't show you all peculiarities of your team's work, but their combination with the analytics tools might show some improvement opportunities.

6. Best tools to improve sales productivity

Skill is important, but so are tools. Here's a list of the most popular tools for improving productivity of your sales team.

NetHunt CRM

A CRM is one of the most important tools for a sales manager. NetHunt CRM gives you access to your leads and client interaction data, sales pipeline and followups. Considering NetHunt has email marketing capabilities, it can also help you quickly segment a group of client and send them a personalized mass email. NetHunt fully integrates with Gmail and G Suite, so such CRM is the most effective solution for the email-focused sales reps.

DocuSign

DocuSign is an electronic signature and digital transaction management software that drives productivity by facilitating the electronic exchange of business documents. This tool is perfect for salespeople who have to deal with contacts and documents a lot and it definitely makes the life easier.

Slack

Remember we've mentioned the communication aspect between sales and marketing. Well, you can use any messaging app for that, but we can't recommend Slack enough. This app is perfect for such purposes, because of it's 1-to-1 and group-focused chats. It also lets you store files and links in a way that makes them easy to find when you need them months later.

WiseStamp

And if you're actually using emails for communication (what you should be doing) then a nice signature would leave not only a good impression on a potential customer but will provide them with most of the contact information they need. With WiseStamp you can embed links to your latest posts, social media profiles and wrap it in a nice-looking and memorable shape. Combined with a personalized message, this is a correct way to make the first impression.

Zapier

Zapier may not be your typical "install and play with it a little bit" app because it has a clear professional focus. When almost every service and app has an API, but not a direct integration with one another, Zapier comes to the rescue. Zapier lets you set simple triggers to make one app do something based on an input from another app. This is the automation part that's important for saving salespeople time and Zapier does this job the best.

Skype

While emails are great for communicating with leads and client, they aren't as fast as a VoIP-call app. And Skype is still one of the most popular ones out there. If you're in a B2B segment, it's 99.9% chance that the person you're trying to reach out has a Skype account.

NetHunt CRM for Gmail

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