The Sales Productivity Paradox

Ask any VP of Sales what their top priorities are, and undoubtedly "improving sales productivity" will be among their top 5 most pressing issues. When you look at how much time salespeople actually spend selling, it turns out to be less than half of their workday. Efforts to improve the slice of the pie devoted to actual selling is therefore given priority when it comes to allocating the sales technology budget.

Today's Focus on Sales Technology

Auto dialers, prospecting tools, and outbound email systems are just some of the many sales technologies used for qualifying, presenting, and closing deals. With all this tech available to us, why is it that we still cannot get sales reps to spend more of their time talking to prospects? The answer may lie in the way we are approaching technology for sales.

The focus of most sales technology vendors today is about improving specific processes; from lead generation and outbound prospecting, to presentation sharing and beyond. The most common tools in a salesperson's toolbox may help improve specific activities, however, they do not necessarily make the salesperson more effective at selling.

Sales Efficiency vs. Sales Effectiveness

Sales productivity is a combination of two factors: efficiency and effectiveness. Efficiency relates to tasks and processes, while effectiveness deals with the knowledge and skills of sales reps.

You may be able to craft a compelling email, generate a great lead, and put a prospect through your entire sales process. But the real question is, can you replicate this process dozens, or even hundreds of times, to achieve the same result? Relying on manual methods won't get you there. However, by automating manual tasks through the use of social selling tools, such as outbound emailing and automated dialing, you will be much more efficient in terms of lead volume and lead to close ratio.

Let's take a look at a rep. They’ve just joined a company, and went through the traditional onboarding process. Although this person has been given a set of social selling tools, will this rep be efficient in using these tools at their disposal? More importantly, will this rep be very effective? It’s hard to say.

Effectiveness is the other leg of productivity, which really makes a difference between sales reps getting close to their quota, and really crushing their numbers. It means knowing how to articulate your value proposition, understanding how to conduct a discovery call, and handling objections gracefully. Without focusing on improving rep effectiveness, social selling tools will only amplify potential ineptitude. Sales reps should look closely at their pipeline to identify if deals are stuck in the middle, “suddenly” lost to competitors, or are continuously being pushed to the next quarter.

The Role of Sales Enablement

Sales enablement plays a huge part in sales effectiveness, but is often seen as an efficiency driver. Think about the mandate your company has for sales enablement. Is sales enablement mostly hunting for and evaluating new tools? Is sales enablement just operating as an administrative function to sales leadership, such as running reports and creating dashboards? Or, is sales enablement a true partner, assisting your sales leaders in identifying areas for improvement, and developing strategies to solve the current gaps?

How Can You Improve Sales Productivity Within Your Organization?

The answer lies with sales enablement. Even if you don’t have a formal sales enablement function or department, you can still have specific goals and guidelines. Sales enablement influences sales effectiveness by focusing not only on tools and technologies, but also the specific goals related to one’s knowledge and skill set.

By working with sales leaders, sales enablement can determine the key criteria for ensuring each member of the sales team is ready for their “moments of truth” (i.e. contact with prospects and clients). It involves at a minimum:

  • Articulating the company’s value proposition
  • Handling sales objections
  • Navigating and negotiating deals
  • Overcoming competitive situations
  • Proving the superior value of your solution

These items cannot simply be replaced by tools, but they can be taught and evaluated with technology. By using technology to look at the sales productivity equation, many companies are discovering that they can not only improve the efficiency of their sales reps, but also make vast improvements in their productivity as a company.

Daniel Kuperman

Daniel Kuperman

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