How Sales Managers Improve Salesperson Productivity

Highlights

  • Sales managers can apply several systemic processes to double the amount of time salespeople spend selling.
  • Salesperson productivity gains deliver a force multiplier effect and significant revenue impact.
  • With sales process redesign, managers can reduce their own lower value activities and double the time investment in strategic planning and coaching.
Johnny Grow Revenue Growth Consulting

Sales managers most often scale company revenues by either hiring more reps or increasing the performance of the existing team. Due to constraints such as time and money, the latter is the preferred choice.

But increasing salesperson productivity is not done by happenstance or wishful thinking, it's done by design.

How Managers Drive Productivity for Staff and Themselves

There is a short list of key areas where sales managers can deliver the biggest salesforce productivity improvements. Those areas include improved focus, time reallocation, coaching, process automation, technology enablement and supporting analytics.

1

Stop Selling to Unqualified Buyers

Most managers believe salesforce productivity takes the biggest hit when administrative tasks exceed time spent selling. That's partially true, but for many organizations the single biggest source of wasted time is selling to buyers who will never buy.

Sellers waste tremendous time selling to unqualified prospects. Sometimes it's due to a lack of objective qualification scoring. Other times it stems from happy ears salespeople who shortchange or bypass the qualification phase in an effort to engage with a receptive prospect. The problem is exacerbated for sellers with small pipelines as they become more willing to chase any deal rather than prospect for a right deal.

To increase salesforce productivity, it's essential that sales managers vet each sales pursuit to verify the opportunity is a qualified. This could be done with technology using AI-generated lead and opportunity scores.

2

Reallocate Time Based on Impact

Time reallocation is a process design exercise to help staff and their managers separate the urgent from the important, and not confuse activity with progress. It starts with time analysis. Just about every selling activity that matters is measurable. However, reps are notorious for not accounting for their time. And managers are not much better.

The best place to record activities is the CRM system. It should capture internal tasks (i.e., document generation, to-do items), customer engagement activities (i.e., telephone calls, emails, meetings) and events. Most CRM systems can automatically capture the majority of activities. The technology can then be used to show which activities advance opportunities and which don't.

If a task is worth doing, it's worth recording and measuring in the CRM system.

Sales Manager Time Reallocation

Also, investigate administrative time.

Selling administration is a pervasive challenge that should be tackled systemically with sales process design or reengineering. When we tackle this problem with a defined method, we typically find significant low value or no value time in the areas of meetings, manual effort and underutilization of technology.

For example, meetings are often meant to boost effectiveness but often have the opposite effect. Many meetings have a way of perpetuating simply because they are the norm and not because they add value. Reducing or eliminating these habitual get togethers delivers a significant and sustained time savings.

For essential meetings, be sure protocols are in place to get value. Meetings should deliver agendas in advance, state the purpose or objective up front, time-box discussion items, use a parking lot to table follow-on or off topic discussions, and end the meeting by verifying the intended purpose or value was achieved.

3

Step Up Sales Coaching

Good managers recognize their greatest impact is to apply sales coaching to grow the contributions of each of their reps and achieve a workforce multiplier effect. However, a frequent misstep is determining how coaching gets allocated among staff.

Most managers spend a disproportionate amount of time coaching the highest and lowest performers. While all staff need coaching, investing more time with the central core selling group will produce the greatest revenue uplift.

Salesperson Revenue Allocation

The middle 60 percent represent the biggest revenue upside opportunity. Research from Qvidian shows that a 5 percent improvement among the middle 60 percent delivers a 91% greater revenue impact than a 5 percent improvement among your top 20 percent.

4

Process Automation

Once you understand how sellers spend their time you can begin to simplify, streamline and automate.

Don't be tempted to automate processes before they have been simplified and streamlined. Process automation only works if the processes are effective. Bad processes that deliver inconsistent or poor outcomes are not helped by technology.

Business Process Automation

Customer facing processes should be designed for effectiveness, then streamlined, then made efficient and then automated with technology, in that order. Optimized processes not only deliver repeatable outcomes and quality results, but they also create confidence and trust.

Process automation is a prerequisite to effectively scale a selling operation.

"Eighty-five percent of the reasons for failure are deficiencies in the systems and process rather than the employee. The role of management is to change the process rather than badgering individuals to do better." —W. Edwards Deming

5

Technology Enablement

Once manual efforts are identified, prioritized and many times eliminated, the remaining can be automated. Sometimes manual activities are incorrectly considered automated because they take place in shadow systems. While custom apps, spreadsheets or other shadow systems may capture data electronically, data integrity is suspect, the data is siloed, and it cannot be shared.

The alternative is to process all activities in a centralized application or a few integrated applications.

The CRM system is the customer system of record. Ideally, it should deliver everything a seller needs so they can spend their day in a single application.

CRM software, or possibly the Sales Force Automation (SFA) software within the CRM suite, offers several capabilities to improve sales productivity. Strategic sale methodologies integrated within CRM improve win rates. Repeatable processes integrated within CRM automate sales cycle steps and increase velocity.

CRM workflow apps are one of the top sales productivity tools to automate just about any repeatable activity. They facilitate processes to save time, create consistency among reps, provide measured visibility and facilitate predictability.

6

Business Intelligence

BI or analytics are the source for continuous improvements.

Analytics surface information so managers can intervene timely, set targets and forecast future performance. CRM dashboards are effective in highlighting the right measures and making metrics actionable.

Some of the top measures include revenue to date, revenue growth, win rate, average deal size, sales cycle velocity, sales quota attainment, pipeline value and trending, forecast value and accuracy and revenue funnel leakage. You also need to track selling progress based on operating variables, such as revenue per rep, territory, product or line of business. Variances in any of these metrics often reveal misplaced time or focus, and improvement opportunities.

The key to analytics is to measure what matters. Analytics enable near real-time course corrections by harvesting data to detect variances. But this only works if the right data is captured, surfaced in the right metrics and delivered to people that act.

Finally, metrics should measure follow-through. Business leaders know they get what they inspect, not what they expect. So, dashboard metrics should also measure remediation plan progress and be periodically reviewed as part of the coaching sessions.

See the 6 steps sales managers can use to improve salesperson productivity and performance.

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