11 ways to make your sales team more productive

As a sales rep (or manager), you prioritize sales productivity. It's a key factor in the success and overall health of a business. If you want to improve your sales rep's numbers, you need to provide them with the tools to accomplish the task. That includes both physical tools (an efficient CRM software, solid lead lists, brochures and other marketing materials) and mental ones (sales training, coaching, and general and constant guidance).

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How to raise your team's productivity

The Bridge Group showed us during a research from 2016  that sales productivity is the number-one challenge for nearly 65% of B2B organizations. What are the reasons for this? Well, let’s look at some stats:

  • Two-thirds of sales reps fail to make their annual quota
  • Most sales reps spend more than 50 working days a year busying themselves with tasks other than their main activity
  • 87% of training content is forgotten within a matter of weeks
  • The average sales rep has to update hundreds of CRM data details each week
  • The average sales rep receives several hundreds of emails weekly

These stats highlight some of the main problems that stand in the way of productivity: time spent doing things other than the main task of selling; poor or discontinued training; lack of leadership; and an abundance of information that needs to be filtered

Productivity doesn't happen just by accident, it takes commitment, planning and focused efforts. Professional development expert, Paul J. Meyer, tells us. In order to achieve these, sales reps need a clear direction from the managers and need to be given the right tools to reach those highs.

So let’s look at ways to increase productivity by taking deliberate action based on known truths about the modern sales environment.

1. Embrace technological development

If you have the best tools available to you, then your job is made easier and you are therefore more productive. It’s not rocket science, but the majority of companies are still lagging behind when it comes to implementing technology to make their reps’ lives easier.

Salespeople are spending hours searching for information and recreating things. They are mobile and oftentimes they need to do things in the car or in a coffee shop. The resources should be available to them, and access to those resources can now be enabled with technology.

This is one of the main reasons why our manager decided that we needed to implement a CRM software and application.

It’s a sales manager’s job to keep on top of technological advancements to ensure that their reps are not working with obsolete equipment.

2. Don’t hold long meetings, let the sales reps... sell

One of the reasons reps spend 50 days a year on average attending to tasks other than selling is because their sales manager keeps calling pointless, interminable meetings whose sole purpose seems to be to make said sales manager feel important.

I think we all know what it feels like to have a pressing task in the back of your mind and your manager is keeping you from it because he just feels the need to talk a lot during a meeting.

Before calling a meeting, ask yourself if it’s really necessary or if your message can’t be conveyed simply through a detailed email or text message. If it is necessary, don’t insist on reps having to be there in person: if they have a client to meet, let them dial in remotely rather than having to sacrifice more time than they need to.

Another question to ask yourself prior to a meeting is: Is this meeting required or am I holding it because it a “manager thing” or because I just want to feel important? If either of these things is true, cancel the meeting and let your reps get on with the job they’re paid to do.

3. Destroy the multitasking myth

Hopefully we’ve all read about multitasking being complete nonsense, but it’s hard not to get sucked into believing that it’s quite possible if we just try harder.

Let your team know that doing one thing at a time, purposely putting off - or even refusing to take on - other tasks in order to give 100% focus on the most pressing priority, is what’s really going to show results.

The ability to say “no” is actually so empowering!

4. Remove some administrative tasks

Removing the administrative burden has a twofold effect on productivity. Firstly, it allows the salesperson to spend more time selling, which automatically makes an increase in sales more likely. Secondly, it shows your team that you are willing to actually do something tangible to make things easier for them, rather than just repeating empty motivational mantras in the meeting room.

The most effective teams have sales managers running interference on the endless administrative tasks, and talking with other functions about limiting the amount of administrative tasks in general.

Many companies are starting to hire appointment setters, for example. Maybe you should also consider it.

5. Start training and coaching the right way

Creating a productive sales team starts with onboarding. This is one of our top beliefs at Nexus.

Onboarding presents the opportunity to impact the future productivity of your salespeople before they ever make a sale. Effective training gets new sales reps up to speed quickly, but without overwhelming them.

Considering the fact that 87% of training content is forgotten within weeks, this money and time investment surely pays of on the long run.

Effective onboarding and continued training are the ways to make sure that your new sales reps don’t bail after a few months of doing heavy investments in their growth. A 2015 survey by the Brandon Hall Group showed that improved performance management resulted in increased employee engagement, which reduces staff turnover while boosting productivity.

In addition, research from the Corporate Executive Board Company found that sales reps who receive just three hours of coaching a month exceed their goals by 7%, boosting revenue by 25% and increasing the average close rate by 70%.

As a manager in this situation, you also need to accept responsibility for hiring good reps. There’s no point training recruits who are ill-suited to the job in the first place. Beware of placing too much weight on a job interview and make sure you evaluate the candidate’s abilities as a whole.

An article by Frank V. Cespedes and Daniel Weinfurter published in Harvard Business Review found a "low correlation (generally, less than 25%) between interview predictions and job success" so be careful with the charming sales rep.

6. Start a Gamification program

Let’s take this example. Based on a fantasy-football league, Adam Hollander’s FantasySalesTeam competition offers a variety of awards for achieving different targets both individually and as a team.

Salespeople can select a "fantasy" team of their colleagues, creating a mutually supportive network that encourages people to help each other gain success.

7. Focus on generating quality leads

Too many managers focus on the number of leads their team is getting, rather than the quality. But this can present your team with the considerable problem of having to sift through reams and reams of poor-quality leads, wasting their time going down dead end after dead end. Instead, try to provide them with a few high-quality leads.

8. Set goals properly

Setting the proper goals for your team can make a world of difference when it comes to getting them to prospect. If you think that salespeople aren’t aware of the nuances of their pay plan, and don’t modify their activities based on them, then you’re just lying to yourself.

Some companies even mandate a certain amount of prospecting per day, which can work for some sales reps, but not with others (like my former coworker who kept faking his calls).

9. Allow people to embrace rejection

If NASA does this, why shouldn't we? Silicon valley experts also embrace failure, because they consider that the best way to improve themselves is by learning through their mistakes and adjusting accordingly.

Salespeople should also adopt this type of attitude, especially since salespeople deal with rejection more often than any other profession in the world.  If management encourages salespeople to accept the fact that rejection will occur, and teaches them how to push past it, sales teams will be more likely to embrace calling. “Some will, some won’t. So what, someone else is waiting.”

10. Use other motivation than money

While it’s tempting to think that all salespeople are mostly motivated by money and will always do whatever it takes to make more, studies suggest that it's just an impression.

When coaching your sales team, you must remember that each salesperson on the team is different, so it's obvious that they'll be motivated by different things.

So as you’re considering how to encourage your reps and kick-start the month or quarter, try these ideas:

  • Run a competition around a specific goal - the gamification we were talking about
  • Offer praise
  • Offer opportunities to learn new things
  • Reward your reps with extra vacation time
  • Offer permanent & constructive feedback
  • Work together on a career plan

11. Overcome the knowledge gap with CRM analytics

When it comes to improving your team’s performance, what you want is to be able to rely on your data in making important decisions.

In fact, according to Harvard Business Review, the companies whose decision making is data-driven are more productive and up to 6% more profitable than those that don’t rely on data.

As a sales manager, not only are you responsible for the “big picture” sales strategy, but also for the day-to-day tactics. That is why it’s easy to get swamped with responsibilities and miss the important signs that your team is struggling with their goals.

The sooner you equip yourself with the right tools and data to make important decisions, the quicker you will be able to boost the sales game of your team.

Here’s where CRM can put an ace up your sleeve. Not only will CRM help you engage with prospects and organize contact information and manage sales, it can also help you manage and monitor your sales force.

In conclusion, driving productivity means creating an environment where it happens naturally. Cracking the whip over unproductive reps isn’t a solution, it’s a substitute for one. Put reps in a position where they can be productive, remove administrative clutter and equip them with the right tools. Then you’ll see big, permanent changes in productivity.