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Sales Productivity: Availability of Sales Collateral Materials

Sales Productivity: Availability of Sales Collateral Materials

A very interesting report, called 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.

In our first blog in this series, we took a look at the 5 Keys to Improving Sales Productivity, based on the report’s first finding. Our second blog focused on the importance of investing in sales productivity. The third focused on the vital importance of content and messaging to sales productivity.

Another key finding in this report was that sales reps spend about 1/3 of their time searching for content and creating new slides for upcoming meetings. The report also cites the Information Technology Services Marketing Association, which states that companies spend 16% of their overall budget on marketing content. The authors of the report then pose the question, “Why are sales reps spending so much time trying to re-create the wheel?”

The report also quotes data released by IDC and McKinsey that asserts that sales reps waste 10 to 20 hours per week on unproductive tasks (re-creating existing slides, curating materials for presentations, searching through documents) related to information retrieval.

Are They Really Wasting Time?

My experience with salespeople, and as a salesperson myself, stretches back over 30 years. I can confidently state that if salespeople are spending so much time searching for content and creating it themselves, there is a deeper problem than meets the eye. From my experience such a problem, when it is found to exist, has one of 3 sources:

1. The materials Marketing is creating and providing don’t actually work to help sales reps close sales, hence salespeople feel they need to create their own. This comes about from a disconnect existing between Marketing and Sales in which Marketing isn’t taking the time to actually find out what kind of collateral Sales really needs to bring opportunities through the sales process to a close. Often it greatly helps to have collateral materials for each stage of the sales process—but they won’t work unless they truly add value for the prospect.

One of my current long-term Marketing staff here at Pipeliner, years back worked at a company at which he was the Marketing liaison for Sales. It was his job to work directly with salespeople, find out what they needed, and create collateral materials that they could really use. For bigger deals, he would actually create materials specifically for that deal. While not all companies can afford to dedicate a Marketing person in such a way, it certainly helps to regularly communicate with Sales, find out exactly what they need, and produce it. Sales will then cease creating their own materials.

2. Marketing is creating valuable collateral materials, but salespeople can’t find them. A salesperson is only going to look for so long, and if they can’t find it they’ll re-create or re-assemble it. Lacking an efficient CRM solution (see #3 below), at the least Marketing should create a system that makes it extremely easy for salespeople to find needed collateral, and fully inform Sales of how it works.

I’ve also seen a combination of #1 and #2 above: Many of the materials Marketing is creating for Sales aren’t effective, and the ones that are effective are difficult or impossible to find.

3. The company’s CRM solution doesn’t allow all for easy access to collateral materials that correspond to each stage of the sales pipeline. With Pipeliner CRM, for example, any kind of document can be stored at each sales process stage and is available to a salesperson with a single click. A salesperson is already in CRM, is already talking to the client—and right there the salesperson has access to needed materials, with having to search anywhere at all.

Restoring Sales Productivity

The key to solving this issue and restoring sales productivity is to make sure Marketing is producing collateral materials that really work for Sales, and to make them easily available to salespeople. The most efficient way to this availability is, of course, through CRM.

With Pipeliner CRM, materials can be accessed for each sales stage with a single click. Get your free trial of Pipeliner CRM now.

Salespeople and the Higher Meaning

Salespeople and the Higher Meaning

It might seem odd to try and pin a ”higher meaning” on sales. Aren’t salespeople mainly in it for the money? It would sure seem that way, given how salespeople are portrayed in the media and in popular culture. But let’s take a closer look.

The Search for Meaning

How important is meaning to a person’s life? For at least one significant answer to that question we can turn to Victor Frankl, an Austrian psychiatrist and holocaust survivor, who founded an entire school of thought around a person’s search for meaning. Frankl saw this search as life’s primary motivation.

It is important to point out that Frankl also said that each person must discover such a meaning for themselves—nobody can give it to them. So while we cannot give each individual salesperson the meaning for their own life, we can certainly point out that they mean a great deal more than they might have been given credit for in the past.

Salespeople: Need for Meaning

Any salesperson will tell you: a career choice in sales, while it can certainly pay off, is also a tough way to go, tougher than many other career choices. This is true if for no other reason than the amount of rejection the average salesperson gets—for many, it’s in the range of 60-80%. Even the best salespeople in the world have a closing ratio of 40-50%—meaning the remainder is rejection. How many other professions have to deal with this level of adversity?

On top of this rejection, salespeople are often characterized with labels such as “pushy,” “arrogant,” “manipulative,” and other such labels, while not being recognized for the value they actually create.

Other professions generally have long ago realized their value to society and the culture. A nurse working through the night in an ER knows he or she is helping people. A police officer taking criminals off the streets knows the contribution they are making to society. Even the accountant, in slightly less dramatic fashion, knows that when they balance the books they are performing a valuable service.

So in addition to the high degree of rejection a salesperson experiences, they are also greatly undervalued, with their true worth to the culture rarely, if ever, pointed out and celebrated.

If for no other reasons than these, a salesperson deserves to understand their true meaning.

Media Portrayals

The negative stereotype of salespeople has often been propagated by the media and popular culture making many salespeople almost apologetic for their chosen profession. A very interesting book entitled Television and Movie Representations of Salespeople: Beyond Willy Loman by Kathrine B. Hartman, states that between the years 1903 and 2005, there were over 281 English-language movies made in which salespeople were negatively represented.

This negative representation has spread throughout the culture to the point where today salespeople are still frequently regarded with suspicion.

Interestingly this wasn’t always the case. If we go back many centuries to roughly 1200 AD, salespeople, then known as “merchants,” were the agents primarily responsible for opening up communication, commerce and trade between vastly different cultures—particularly Europe and Asia. Merchants had a positive reputation. For example, in the Arab world it was said that the trader was gracious, and had goodness and generosity.

So by developing an understanding of the higher meaning for sales—both in salespeople and society at large—we can start to overcome this negative stereotype once and for all.

It should be pointed out, though, that this negative reputation isn’t all-pervasive. As discussed in the Austrian School of Economic Thought, a product or service can only be sold to someone when they perceive its value in their own mind—something called subjective value. In order for that product or service to be sold, that subjective value must also exist for the salesperson; the prospect must value the salesperson, too. This shows that the negative portrayals of salespeople haven’t convinced everyone. If they had, nothing would ever get sold, ever.

The Higher Purposes

As we have discussed, most salespeople are not aware that they have a much higher purpose than anyone has ever given them credit for. A salesperson is the primary agent of a company engaged in trade. As pointed out by several authorities in the Austrian School of Economics, “Trade has a peacekeeping element.” This becomes rather obvious when you realize that 2 countries engaged in trade cannot be at war. The more successful the trade between 2 entities, the less likelihood of war or conflict.

To show how off the rails this can get, look at the state of trade in the world at this very moment. Trade cannot be conducted without an incredibly involved trade agreement, such as the one being proposed between the US and the European Union (TTIP). And now that Britain has left the European Union, a whole different agreement will be needed between Britain and the EU. So in terms of trade, the skills of salespeople are needed more than ever.

There is a second purpose, too. Salespeople, when they are responsibly conducting business (as I believe most of them are), are also engaged in creating wealth for themselves, their employers and their communities.

Interestingly these higher purposes are rarely taught or pointed out. Very few people seem to know how valuable salespeople are to our culture and society. Understanding this can directly lead to a salesperson finding their own meaning. It can also help a salesperson hang in there through the tougher times, when rejection is higher than normal.


Sales managers are often wrapped up in trying to motivate their sales teams. Some will attempt psychological tricks to create motivation—but salespeople can easily spot such fake motivations, and if it succeeds at all it will be very short lived.

As I said earlier, the seeming motivation for many salespeople appears to money. In the long run, though, I don’t believe that money alone will motivate anyone for very long—there has to be more meaning to life.

Part of this meaning, I believe, lies in altruism: the performance of good for others for no other reason than the good performed. When salespeople really benefit others, they not only make repeat customers but they help enhance their own reputations.

But in the end, while there are certainly other factors involved in motivation including the system of compensation, a primary motivation must be this higher meaning.


Every person wants to be happy. In my opinion, happiness is something that cannot be artificially created—it is something that comes as a result of doing or achieving something of significance. Once you have found a reason and acted upon it, happiness happens automatically.

Just like when people experience a truly deep and mutually fulfilling connection in a romantic relationship, happiness flows naturally.

In the same fashion, when a salesperson realizes that they are performing the tremendous service of creating wealth, peace and helping the community, they, too, could achieve this level of happiness in their professional life. It could put a real smile on their face when they sell, and not a fake smile, either—rather one that flows naturally from knowing the meaning and the reason they are selling.

Pipeliner is the first CRM solution expressly designed to empower salespeople. Get your free trial of Pipeliner CRM now.

Sales and the Moving Target

Sales and the Moving Target

Just ask any old timer: In days gone by, things were a lot more stable. A salesperson, for example, knew who to call on at XYZ company to make a pitch. And he could return to that company, and that person, to follow the sale through to a close.

Today’s sales universe is a far cry from that. First of all, B2B sales is rarely if ever focused on a single buyer anymore. There are several purchase approval points—decision makers—and a salesperson must know who all of them are. Today’s sales involve targets that are moving–and many more of them.


But there’s more. Our old time salesperson also knew something about that buyer. What kind of sports that buyer enjoyed. That buyer’s favorite haunt for lunch, or (better) after work drinks. Often the salesperson even knew the person’s birthday.

Today is no different—a salesperson must know something about each of the decision makers in a purchase. The more that’s known about each of these people, the better. But now the salesperson needs to know what matters most to each individual about the purchase and what their specific decision criteria are – their sports teams, not so much! And at the drop of a hat the salesperson has to be ready to follow up with any of them with the right information addressing their specific concern.

Multipliers and Moving Around

But wait…there’s even more. If a salesperson in a B2B business is really going to survive, there has obviously got to be more than one potential sale in the rep’s pipeline. Depending on the price of the product or service, it could be anywhere from 5 to 50 different sales pending, or even more. For each sale, there are multiple decision makers. And yes—the salesperson must be able to keep up with each and every one of them, at any and all times.

But wait—yes, there’s still more! Given all these people, in all these prospect companies, you know that not all of those people are going to remain on those jobs indefinitely. Some are very likely to leave the company, or shift positions, or get promoted. Our intrepid salesperson must keep up with that as well.

What Does It Take?

As we discussed in our last blog in this series, there is a huge difference between someone who would keep track of all such details in copious scribbled notes stuffed in pockets, briefcases and taped all over a desk and computer monitor, and frantically making calls to keep up with it all–and a rep who smoothly proceeds from one task to the next, one sales call to the next, while the whole time staying up with or even ahead of the game. Their secret is focus and clarity.

Such a salesperson, first of all, knows where each opportunity stands in the sales process. They’re able to tell which are closer to closing, which are more likely to close, and which are worth more in revenue.

Then, drilling down, the rep is able to instantly tell what task must be done next for that opportunity. Also instantly available is the knowledge of which decision-maker the salesperson should contact next, and data about that decision-maker so that the rep isn’t going in blind.

Given that there are quite a number of pending sales with pending tasks—the salesperson is also going to need an overall “plan of attack” on a daily basis. The rep needs to be able to jump right out of the gate with opportunities and tasks neatly prioritized.

The Trick

So how does a sales rep do it? Because there are many who do. The answer has 2 parts:

  • They’re basically organized, and have a good sense of what needs to go where. They actually operate their lives that way.
  • Most importantly they have utilized the right technology so that they can stay focused on all of these moving targets—and never lose track of any of them.

Stay tuned for more in our series on Focus and Clarity.

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