The Ultimate Guide to Sales Productivity

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Sales Process

What is Sales Productivity?

Sales productivity is all about maximizing time spent on the most critical sales rep activities (prospecting, client meetings, networking) and minimizing the resources needed to accomplish them (i.e. time, money, effort).

Here is a simple formula for sales productivity:

[Sales Productivity = Efficiency x Effectiveness]

Efficiency pertains to the distribution and use of resources. Time is everyone’s most valuable resource because it’s the only thing we all have equal amounts of. Highly efficient sales teams spend time on high-impact activities and minimize low-impact activities.

Effectiveness relates to how well you use your resources to accomplish goals. Suppose two competing teams are equally efficient and split up their time the same way. On each team, all sales reps spend 80% of their time selling and only 20% on administrative tasks. If one team has higher sales effectiveness, they will outperform the other.

Related: Efficiency Vs. Effectiveness

Sales Productivity Stats:

Sales Productivity Examples

  • Productive: A salesperson makes 100 calls to qualified prospects instead of filling out their expense reports. This is an example of high efficiency and high-effectiveness.
  • Unproductive: Instead of following up with prospects after a tradeshow, a salesperson comes back to the office and works on the paperwork that piled up while they were out. Two weeks go by, and tradeshow prospects have still not been followed up with. This is inefficient because there’s too much time spent on non-selling activities. It’s also ineffective because the leads are now lower quality.
  • Productive: Instead of writing individual emails, a sales manager creates a series of prospecting templates so they can personalize and automate their email outreach. Sending individual emails might be more effective, but is far too inefficient.
  • Unproductive: A salesperson spends two hours every Friday afternoon updating their activity in their CRM instead of taking prospects out for a happy hour. There are more efficient ways to spend this time. The salesperson could use a tool to automatically update their activities, or only update their activities when their prospects are not available to speak.

Measuring Sales Productivity: where do I begin?

It can be tempting to start adding productivity-boosting tools right away. But before you change anything, you need to understand and document your baseline sales process. If you don’t know where you’re starting from, it will be impossible to tell how you’ve improved later on.

Depending on your industry, the main steps of your sales process probably follow some version of this pattern:

  • Prospecting
  • Qualifying
  • Needs Assessment
  • Demonstration of product/service
  • Proposal
  • Negotiations
  • Closed won/lost

In each of these stages, there will be a series of smaller tasks to be completed. Make sure to map those out as well.

Once your entire process is mapped out, look for the areas that consume valuable selling time (i.e. your bottlenecks). This is where the data from your CRM will come in handy. A few areas that typically add a lot of hours of administrative work to your sales cycle are:

Manually documenting sales activities

  • Does your sales team complain about having to log activities in your CRM? Collecting sales data is extremely important, but it shouldn’t take hours to complete each week. Sync your email, calendar, phone and more to your CRM to avoid double entry.

Proposals

  • What is the length of time your sales team needs to complete a proposal, get it approved, and deliver to the prospect? How many manual steps are there?

Signing contracts and collecting payment

  • Using paper contracts requires scanning, emailing, or even worse: snail mail. If you’re not currently using one of the numerous document signing tools out there, you absolutely should be.

Handoffs between departments

  • How often does your sales team have to follow up with updates from implementation?

Get Baseline measures

After you have a good handle on your entire sales process, get a baseline read of your appropriate sales metrics and KPIs (calls made, emails sent, conversion rates, length of sales cycle, etc.). You will need a starting benchmark to make sure you achieve what you’ve set out to do: increase sales and reduce resources used.

If you have trouble prioritizing, rate each step of your process on efficiency and effectiveness. Then, plot them in a matrix like this:

sales productivity formula

After you’ve determined what exact metrics you’ll track, you’ll want to start looking into different ways to streamline your process with the appropriate technology and productivity tools.

Tools to Improve Sales Productivity

The best sales tools allow top salespeople to automate many of the activities they once did by hand. For example, instead of spending three hours customizing a proposal for a prospect, a rep could use a tool that lets them click one button to populate the entire document.

If you choose the right technologies and train reps to use them effectively, it’s as if each rep has a personal assistant. The “assistant” handles the administrative tasks and busywork, while the salesperson spends as much time with prospects as they can.

Here are the types of tools I’ve found most helpful when increasing sales productivity:

When you consider adding a new tool, ask yourself how easy it will be to integrate it with your CRM. If your CRM doesn’t integrate with anything, you might want to make a change. On the other hand, if your CRM already offers a specific tool that you need, consider using it instead of another cheaper option. Each new integration could cause a lot more headache than saving a few dollars a month will make up for.

Remember that simplicity is key to sales productivity. Adding steps and tools will do nothing but slow you down as you learn to use new technologies. So don’t just add things. Look for steps in your sales process you can remove, too.

Putting the plan into action

So far, you have mapped out your process, chosen the areas for improvement, taken baseline measurements, and selected some tools you think will help. Now, it’s time to take some action!

If you aren’t a sales enablement or sales operations expert, I recommend finding one to help. The only thing worse than no technology at all is technology that has been implemented poorly. Some teams even employ a dedicated Sales Productivity Manager these days.

During implementation, keep close contact with your sales managers so they can have input into how things work. After all, they’re the ones using the systems every day. You’ll also need to train reps on whatever solutions you implement so there’s no lost time between transitions.

Automate, automate, automate!

If a machine can do a task just as well as you can, you shouldn’t be doing it. Not only are machines faster, but they’re also more accurate.

Standard areas to automate include:

  • Appointment scheduling
  • Proposal creation
  • Emails
  • Activity tracking
  • Task creation
  • Alerts
  • Lead status progression (new -> attempted to contact -> connected -> converted)
  • Contact life-cycle progression (lead -> qualified lead -> opportunity -> customer)

Once you get into automation, the possibilities are endless. The main thing to remember is that simplicity wins. The more complex and confusing your processes are, the more likely it is that small errors could result in downtime and lost productivity.

Bringing it all together

I want to leave off where I started: maximize your selling time and minimize resources needed to accomplish your goals. Sales (and business in general) is all about tradeoffs. You should always be asking yourself, “is this activity contributing to me closing a deal?” If it’s not, your follow-up question should be, “what else should I be doing instead?”

Nathan Kittrell is the Founder/President at Scale A Sale — a sales & marketing agency focused on generating more revenue for businesses. Nathan is a business growth expert with extensive sales and marketing experience in the technology space as both a seller and leader.