The 3 Most Effective Sales Productivity Tools
- Research shows that salespeople spend between 16 to 27 percent of their time engaging customers and selling.
- Sales managers spend more than twice as much time on administrative work as they do on sales coaching.
- The 3 highest impact sales productivity tools to save time, reallocate time from low to higher value activities and increase staff productivity are business process design, technology automation and sales analytics.
How to Improve Salesperson Productivity
I led a sales performance benchmark research study for IBM where we surveyed 1,036 companies and ranked the participants according to sales performance measures. The top 15% were designated Best-In-Class, the middle 50% designated Medians and the lower 35% designated Laggards.
We then compared and correlated several performance measures to understand what the Best-In-Class sales reps do differently than their lower performing peers. One item that stuck out was how top performing reps invest their limited time.
The diagram below shows how each archetype allocates their time among common tasks.
The take-away is clear. The Best-In-Class cohort spends more time engaging customers than their peers and less time researching prospects, creating correspondence and carrying out administration and reporting. But that doesn't happen by chance. It happens with sales productivity tools.
There are three ways to improve staff productivity. You can redesign processes to be more streamlined and effective, apply technology to automate manual activities and develop analytics to work smarter.
3 Sales Productivity Tools to Save Time and Improve Performance
Business Process Redesign
Whether called business process improvement, business process reengineering or business process design, this tool is a precursor to the other two.
When doing business process design with clients I always discover two things – activities that can be done in less time and activities that can be eliminated. The later delivers an immediate and sustained time savings.
I typically use Agile Value Stream Mapping as the process design technique because it quickly identifies idle periods which extend process durations, measures process tasks by value or non-value, and is well suited to eliminating non value-added steps and activities.
Staff productivity must be achieved in tandem with the realization of goals. Efficiency and effectiveness must be taken together to not just increase productivity but also increase performance. That means doing the right things and doing things right – in that order. Effectiveness first, efficiency second.
It's a mistake to try to increase your productivity solely by becoming more efficient with your time. Doing work faster doesn't matter if results decline. It's not enough to just measure the volume of work. You need to measure the volume of work that achieves targeted results. Becoming efficient without an aim toward effectiveness is a losing proposition.
Some of the common and high impact process improvement areas include focusing on the rights prospects and customers, achieving a 360-degree customer view and simplifying access to content.
Sellers can gain a significant productivity boost by focusing their limited time toward qualified prospects. Measuring prospect purchase readiness using calculated lead and opportunity scores can objectively rank prospects, make Go- or No-Go decisions, divest time from poor fit opportunities and double down on the best fit opportunities.
Those leads that are not sales-ready can be returned to marketing for inclusion into nurture marketing campaigns until they demonstrate buy signals and are ready to be transferred back for sales cycle engagement.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software is the customer system of record. Sales Force Automation (SFA) software is one component of CRM and the primary technology to achieve sales process automation.
SFA software can streamline and automate a sales process map, the lead to opportunity process, the quote to cash process, the strategic account management process, land and expand processes and many others.
Some additional technologies that deliver big salesperson time savings include the following.
- Workflow tools are especially powerful for process automation. Our mantra at Johnny Grow is that everything that gets repeated gets automated. But remember, you should apply technology only after you have simplified, streamlined and optimized your selling processes. Otherwise, you are just automating inefficient or low value processes.
CRM and SFA software have built-in workflow applications to automate repeatable processes. These apps usually offer multiple workflow types for different purposes, such as tools for synchronous or asynchronous workflows, time or event-based workflows, interactive or dialogue driven workflows, or simple variance alerts or notifications.
- Collaboration tools such as Enterprise Social Networks (ESN) digitally connect salespeople with pre-sales resources, product experts and other extended selling team participants. They capture important discussions and actually become a searchable knowledgebase for information and content that can be reused. These tools are often part of the CRM software. For example, Microsoft Teams with Dynamics CRM or Slack for Salesforce.
- Content Management Systems (CMS) integrated to CRM software can make information such as offerings, collaterals, price sheets, proposals, contracts, references and so much more easily accessible. That's important because the research finds that salespeople spend way too much time searching for content, and when they can't find it, they consume even more time recreating it.
Some CRM systems have their own content management systems while others provide packaged integration to apps like SharePoint. Some CRM systems integrate CMS with workflow to dynamically display contextual links to relevant information based on the customer type, demonstrated interest, position in the sales cycle or other context. These tools use a push-based approach to deliver the right content at the right time to the people who can use it.
There are many other technologies including mobile solutions, configure-price-quote (CPQ) applications, sales playbooks, self-service knowledgebases, prospect research and data upload tools (i.e., ZoomInfo, InsideView), or selling enablement tools.
Sometimes the simplest sales productivity tools are the most effective. For example, Outlook integration with your CRM system can sync contacts and activities. It can even replicate your CRM system inside Outlook so salespeople can start their day in Outlook and never have to leave that application.
Reporting & Analytics
Information analytics deliver the insights to work smarter. They can show where sellers spend their time, show how that time impacts performance and suggest best practices.
The key to analytics is to measure what matters. Analytics can enable real-time course corrections by applying data to shift performance in a rational way. But this only works if the right data is captured, surfaced in the right metrics and delivered to the right people.
Salesperson analytics are best displayed in role-based CRM dashboards that prioritize tasks and deliver focused metrics. When correctly designed, they prioritize actions based on what's most important at any point in time. That saves time and improves productivity.
When selecting your dashboard metrics, recognize that less is more. It's a good idea to focus on fewer but higher impact performance measures that correlate with revenue goals. Metrics should also be compared to a standard, such as sales quota, revenue target, prior year or industry-based benchmarks.
Top productivity metrics include pipeline value, forecast value, forecast accuracy, average deal size, quota progress, win rate, sale velocity and revenue leakage. Salesperson analytics should also include notification alerts to signal changes in opportunities, shifts to the forecast, neglected opportunities or other deviations that impact prioritized goals.
Lastly, recognize improving staff productivity is a journey. You are never done, and continuous iterations will achieve continued improvements. Applying a repeatable framework (using the three sales productivity tools in this article) will lend itself to easier and faster iterations, measurements that show quantifiable progress with each cycle and a sustainable performance improvement program.