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5 Keys to Improving Sales Productivity
Blog / Sales Management / Sep 20, 2016 / Posted by Nikolaus Kimla / 6066

5 Keys to Improving Sales Productivity

A very interesting report called the State of Sales Productivity Report has just been released by Docurated. Compiled from anonymized data from the Docurated sales productivity solution and a survey of 127 sales and marketing executives, the report examines the state of sales productivity from both the sales rep and sales management perspectives.

It’s no surprise that, for the near future, companies are aiming high. 56% of teams are expecting to hit sales goals that are at least 20% higher than last year.

But what’s really interesting here—and something I have often stressed myself in sales management ebooks and articles—is that 79% of respondents see improving productivity of existing sales reps as the key to improving overall sales productivity and making those targets. It is far less expensive, not to mention much more reliable, than constantly hiring new reps to make up for a lack of improvement in existing ones.

Here are 5 ways I’ve personally found to improve productivity of existing sales reps.

#1: Spend most of your time being a sales manager

It can happen, especially in growing companies, that a sales manager must double as a sales rep. It can also happen that sales reps lean on a sales manager to come in a close deal for them; in emergencies, such things may need to be done.

But the truth of the matter is, while you’re spending the majority of your time having to do something else than manage, you’re not going to be improving your salespeople at all. As soon as possible, you need to cut back on your sales positions and, with the majority of your time, take on that sales manager role. Only then can you truly begin to improve sales productivity.

It is true that you should always maintain some position in sales. For one thing, your salespeople have to know that you can sell, too. Additionally, selling every so often keeps you tuned in and familiar with the process, with customers and with the constant changes that can happen in the industry.

But with the majority of your time, live up to your job title and make sales management your major endeavor.

#2: Have real knowledge of what reps are doing

A sales manager that isn’t totally tracking with reps to fully know what they’re doing is, to one degree or another, operating with guesswork. When it comes to increasing productivity, guesswork is not a great way to go. First of all simply guessing what reps should be doing may or may not work. But second of all, what if the rep follows what you say—and since it wasn’t based on accurate data, it’s wrong, and the rep doesn’t succeed with it? That rep isn’t likely to listen to what you say for very long.

This doesn’t mean micro-manage—track every call, watch every step, etc. A sales rep is dealing in the real world and with sales complexities, and won’t necessarily proceed the exact same way as everyone else. What it does mean, though, is: are you seeing real progress toward your sales goals? That is what you really have to know, and what you really have to watch.

So the place to start is to accurately know what the sales reps are up to. Now, how is that done?

#3: Have an accurate, reliable CRM solution

Knowing all about what reps are doing comes down to your CRM application.

Many CRM applications—especially legacy systems—only provide a partial picture of rep activity. On top of that, this partial picture is often presented in such a complex fashion that the sales manager has no choice but to resort to other measures to discover what activities reps are engaged in. These include constantly chasing up reps to ask them what they’re doing, and holding frequent sales meetings for the same purpose. This “chasing up” often leaves a sales manager little to no time to coach and mentor (#4 below).

A primary reason that these CRM applications don’t paint a complete picture is that they aren’t flexible enough to be exactly tailored to a company’s operations. No 2 companies are alike—and no company anywhere follows a pattern laid down by a CRM developer who has never interacted with that company.

Pipeliner CRM was designed from the beginning to be instantly customizable to a company’s sales process—and to the activities within each sales process step as well. Pipeliner is instant intelligence, visualized. It provides the precise data you as a sales manager need to accurately coach and mentor.

#4: Use CRM data to coach and mentor

Once you are actually getting actionable, usable CRM data, you must use that data to coach and mentor sales reps.

For an established company, there are best practices that have been found and used by your experienced reps. These are usually reflected in the sales process, and the activities and tasks required in each sales process step. The easiest way to coach is against these established best practices.

There are other ways, too. You can pair salespeople up with each other—an experienced one with a new one. You can hold seminars in which the experienced reps share with the up-and-coming reps.

If you are an experienced successful rep yourself (most sales managers are), you can also utilize your own valuable experience for mentoring and coaching.

Sales best practices can also be shared through CRM—especially if you are using Pipeliner CRM. Best practices can be saved to the sales process stage to which they apply, and accessed with 1 click by any rep needing to review them at any time.

#5: Stay current with all: sales process, best practices, coaching and mentoring

A fatal mistake made by many sales organizations over the years is to evolve great processes—and then never update them. Processes become stale, and salespeople abandon them and start improvising on their own. Worse, they also more or less abandon CRM because they can no longer follow it, and CRM data becomes less and less reliable.

Markets change. Economies change. Product lines change. Customers change. For that reason, your sales process must remain dynamic, and be changed to reflect changes in all of these other factors. When a stage is found to be outmoded, alter or eliminate it. When it is found that reps are in reality doing an extra step in a sales process, add it in. When there are tasks and activities within sales process stages that need to be changed, change them.

This dynamic approach also impacts your choice of CRM solutions—your CRM must be flexible enough to be changed on the fly: sales processes, and tasks and activities within stages, too.

Pipeliner also adds an additional exclusive feature which greatly assists companies to evaluate their sales process: the Archive. The Archive holds all lost deals, with all data intact, including at which stage the deal was lost. You could say that the Archive is the flipside of your process, and shows clearly where your process needs improvement. An additional bonus is that you can restore lost deals to the active pipeline with one click when needed.

A dynamic approach also ties right into your coaching and mentoring. What is the best approach now to moving an opportunity along, and closing a deal?

Hopefully, these tips can be of use to you! But however, you do it, improving sales productivity of your existing team is the most sure-fire way to improve overall sales productivity.

Pipeliner CRM, with its instant intelligence, visualized, is the backbone of a sales operation and the most reliable way for a sales manager to improve sales productivity. Get your free trial of Pipeliner CRM now.

About Author

CEO and partner of and the uptime ITechnologies, which I founded in 1994 and has since played a significant role in the development of the IT-environment. pipeliner is the most innovative sales CRM management solution on the market. Pipeliner was designed by sales professionals for sales professionals and helps close the gap between the requirements of C-level executives for transparency and the day-to-day operational needs of field and inside sales. I am also the founder and Initiator of the independent economic platform GO-AHEAD!, which orientates itself on the principles of a free marketplace in terms of liberal and social responsibility. Connecting people, the trust of business leadership in terms of values such as freedom, self-responsibility, and entrepreneurial spirit, and strengthening their awareness in order to create a dynamic boost within the economy triggered through spontaneity, all stand for the initial ideas surrounding GO-AHEAD! I studied in Los Angeles and Vienna and received my Masters's Degree in 1994. I am married and have 3 children My Specialties are in: Sales Management, Sales CRM Software, CRM Cloud Solutions, SAAS, Business Strategy, Software Development, "Pipeline Management", Social responsibility, outbound sales, b2b sales, inside sales, sales strategy, lead generation, sales process, entrepreneurship, coaching, mentoring, speaker, opportunity management, lead management, Austrian School of Economics

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