The journey needs to be a company wide effort
Sales productivity is a journey, you are always looking to improve sales productivity, you’re never 100% complete because there are always new ideas, and changes in the market and technology that can help boost results (Just think about what LinkedIn/Social Media has done over the last few years as an example. It has turned the networking and recruitment market on its head). And of course, as we all know in sales, you can always sell more. The demands of the organization are always higher from one year to the next.
Many sales leaders make the mistake of fixating on one issue or challenge, or even a couple of issues, only to find that improvements did not materialize and in fact sometimes went the other way.
As Jack Welch once put it, “Productivity is not the squeezing out of a rag. Productivity is the belief that there’s an infinite capacity to improve anything.” (1) I believe that is the case in Sales and Sales Leadership, there are always ways to improve sales productivity. We just need to focus on the right things and be relentless in the pursuit of continuous improvement.
For the majority of businesses over the last few years sales productivity has decreased, partly due to a tougher marketplace and more challenging buyer behavior, but equally due to increasing pressures on the sales teams to engage in non-selling activity, without the commensurate support to go along with it.
The other challenge is that sales productivity problems will likely be a unique set of issues in every company. A sales leader moving from one company to the next using the same set of assumptions or preconceived ideas without taking a fresh look and point of view will be doomed to failure or at best mediocrity, or perhaps marginal improvements.
At its core, sales productivity, or overall sales improvements ultimately must come from Sales Leadership with the support of Marketing, Human Resources and the rest of the organization. When sales productivity becomes an overall company effort, incredible improvements can transpire.
Are you structured in such a way that creates challenges or barriers to doing business with your organization? Are you a company that is easy to do business with or difficult? Do you put unnecessary complexity and barriers in the way of getting a deal done?
As Jill Konrath States in her book Snap Selling, “How can we simplify our messaging? Presentations? Proposals? Conversations? How can we make it easier for customers to understand the value they get from us? How can we help customers navigate through the decision-making process, avoiding the bumps along the way? When you keep it simple, you make it easier for customers to buy from you”. (2)
Sales productivity is an overall company issue as it takes the whole company and all its departments to be aware of how they can work together, towards making it easier for customers to do business with you as a company. Delivery and after sales support, the same message, be the easiest company to do business with in your industry.
Overly complex contracts that the customer must sign is another rampant example, stringent rules and provisos that have an unbalanced protection for the supplier’s interests without regard to the customers.
Billing is typically a finance issue, the finance department should always be thinking of ways to make it easier for customers to receive and understand their bill simply, and pay it as easily as possible.
The easier you are to do business with as an organization before and after the sale, word gets around, it’s a small world. Customers talk with other customers. Your reputation in this area can help bring in multiples of new customers by this factor alone. If you have no product or service differentiation, ease of doing business could be one of your key differentiators.
The easier you are to do business with as a company the more productive your sales force can be
The marketing sales relationship is one that cannot be underestimated in terms of how well the organization is going to perform in building the business.
There is not much worse than a dysfunctional sales marketing relationship where you can typically find them working at cross purposes and not always on the same page. A collaborative, well executed strategy and relationship between sales and marketing will help in ensuring you meet your growth objectives.
Both must work in synch, marketing needs to know what’s going on in the market, and needs to listen and research on a regular basis to ensure the programs and plans will make sense in the market. They need to collaborate and develop processes that work well together to ensure that the leads and lead nurturing is meeting the needs of the sales force. All the programs need to dovetail with what the sales force is executing on in the customer base. So, the web marketing strategy, social media strategy, pricing, marketing content all need to be aligned.
In particular, due to our ever increasingly educated buyers in this digital era, content is king. Marketing can no longer focus solely on the top of the funnel for developing and nurturing leads, sales needs content support thru out the entire funnel. Relevant and valued content for sales is paramount in increasing their success in the market. This can only be accomplished by sales and marketing working very closely together thru-out all stages of the funnel.
In the corollary, sales needs to ensure they are working with marketing collaboratively so changes and improvements can be made to programs that will support the revenue objectives of the company. There are some statistics I have seen that suggest that 70% or more of material developed for sales is not used. What an incredible waste of company resources. Many Companies spend literally thousands and thousands of dollars on this material, For What?
Do not leave the sales productivity journey entirely to sales leadership. No doubt sales leadership needs to ensure it is helping its sales force be as effective and efficient as possible, but the overall company needs to put skin in the game as well to enable overall business success.
In many companies there needs to be a paradigm shift to enable major sales productivity improvements if they want to win in the marketplace.
More detailed insights on sales productivity and other sales organization imperatives can be found in my upcoming book, The Street Savvy Sales Leader, A Guide To Building Teams That Consistently Win New Business, or on my website, www.streetsavvysalesleadership.com.
Street Savvy Sales Leadership
For individual sales or sales leadership coaching, workshops, sales leadership contract engagements,or advising contact firstname.lastname@example.org
1)Jack-Straight From The Gut-Jack Welch and John Byrne-Warner Business Books, 2001, page 126
2)Snap Selling-Speed Up Sales and win More Business With today’s Frazzled Customers, Jill Konrath, Penguin Group, New York, 2012