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Sales Productivity Advice from 6 Experts

Favorite sales productivity advice from 6 industry experts.

The best sales organizations are consistently motivated, operate with efficiency and close deals at warp speed.

How do they get there? We asked 6 huge names from the sales world to give us their favorite tactics for driving sales productivity. Heed their words of wisdom and consider implementing the following tricks of the trade, shared below. 

Sales Productivity Advice from 6 Experts

As with our two previous expert-sourced articles, 5 Halftime Speeches from Top Sales Coaches and Management Pet Peeves of 5 Inside Sales Leaders, we consulted 6 leading names on their favorite sales productivity tricks of the trade.

They came through in spades. Here are 6 pieces of sales productivity advice from industry experts. 

Mike Kunkle - Sales Transformation Leader

Mike Kunkle

Mike's Background

One of the foremost thought leaders in sales effectiveness and training, Mike Kunkle is a highly-sought after speaker, coach and advisor to elite sales teams the world over. He has cultivated an amazing body of sales resources that you can find below. 

Mike's Advice

Individual sales reps sell, but sales force productivity is an organizational issue.  

Improvements in overall productivity require organizational interventions, which are then implemented, reinforced, and sustained by sales managers, who hold reps accountable at an individual level.  

Why do I lay this out so specifically?  Because I believed Geary Rummler and Alan Brache, when they wrote, “Pit a good performer against a bad system, and the system will win almost every time,” and have seen this play out over time in my career, again and again, in organizations where I have worked or consulted. 

If you don’t pay attention to organizational systems, processes, and technology, you will not provide the optimal environment in which your people can succeed – in which you can propel average people (life is a bell curve) to become above-average performers.

If you want to improve sales force productivity, don’t focus on tips and tricks.  Tackle the big issues and ensure that you:

  • Have the right people in sales and sales manager roles (and have a proven-effective process for selection and onboarding).
  • Are focused on the right target customers and current accounts, in their territories.
  • Have a great understanding of the problems you can solve and how you solve them.
  • Have a great understanding of the buyer personas who buy from you.
  • Establish clear criteria for opportunity determination (the criteria that constitutes a qualified opportunity that’s worth pursuing and the likelihood of winning).
  • Implement a solid demand gen process that finds the problems you can solve (and preferably buyers with [some] interest in solving them).
  • Implement a sales process that aligns to your buyer’s buying process (or can adapt to it, because they’re not all the same).
  • Are focused on buying process exit criteria, or those things each buyer needs to close out the current stage and move forward.
  • Employ a sales methodology that helps move opportunities through the pipeline, using your top-producer practices as the internal best practice.
  • Use CRM purposefully and track things that that makes sense, based on the above.
  • Only use other technologies that support your sales team in determining opportunity and serving your buyers and guiding them through their buying process.
  • Develop analytics and reporting that illuminate where opportunities are progressing well and where there may be gaps in results and behaviors.
  • Spend as much or more time training your sales managers as you do your sales reps.
  • Allow your managers to focus on hiring, training, coaching, development, and managing reps.
  • Ask both sales reps and frontline sales managers how you can get out of the “Sales Prevention” business. You’ll be surprised at their answers. Listen.

Related reading:

Managing Sales Productivity
Sales Coaching Practices that Get Big Results
Simple Methods to Improve Sales Rep Performance
Sales Coaching Quick Hits
Developing a Sales Evolution Plan
Simple Truths of Selling
Use Buying Process Exit Criteria to Increase Your Sales
Navigating the Sales Performance Ecosystem Parts 1, 2 and 3

Jim Obermayer - CEO at SLMA

Jim Obermayer

​Jim's Background

As the CEO and Executive Director of the Sales Lead Management Association, Jim Obermayer leads one of the largest organizations dedicated to improving sales processes in the world. Jim also hosts SLMA Radio and brings years of consulting experience to both B2B and B2C sales teams. 

Jim's Advice

Having been a sales manager at various B2B companies, plus an interim sales manager at dozens of companies, there is the one tactic that is always a winner: Sales leads must be followed up until the person buys or dies. This is a tactic often left to the discretion of the individual sales person, which is broken 99% of the time.  

Research continues to show that only a few percent of all sales leads are ever followed up.  In better than average organizations, sales lead follow-up still only reaches a 25% average.  It takes an extraordinarily educated sales force and management team to hit 80% or better and these are the winners in the market place.

Research, however, has consistently shown that 45% of all raw inquiries (not even qualified leads) turn into a sale for someone within 12 months.  22-26% will turn into a sale in six months and 10-15% results in a sale for someone within three months.  

“100% follow-up Rule:  Corporations (Salespeople) that have a 100% inquiry follow-up policy will sell more than those that don’t.”

We know the closing percentage of raw leads. We know follow-up is poor at best for a typical company and its competitors.  

If you are a sales manager and you insist on a 100% follow-up policy and your competitors are average or less, you will win more deals.  If you are a salesperson, 100% follow-up will place you far above average and you will make quota.

The CRM systems help in accountability, but unless there is a marketing automation function, follow-up is not what they do; even then follow-up is usually email.  This is why so many telemarketing companies have done well doing what the salespeople should be doing.

“Inquiries rot and die unless they are not followed up.”

Recommendations:

  • Determine the percentage of follow-up by your salespeople.
  • Initiate a business rule that every lead will be followed-up and a personal contact made.
  • Use a marketing automation system to help in the contact and qualification of leads.

Sales will increase in 90-120 days.  

Laurie Page - Managing Partner at the Bridge Group

Laurie Page

Laurie's Background

As a Managing Partner with the Bridge Group, Laurie has spent the last 15 years helping her clients build high performing teams by transforming their sales process methodology, measurement and metric development, project management, and recruiting.

Laurie has also been voted one of AA-ISP's Top 25 Most Influential People in Inside Sales three times (2011, 2013 and 2014).    

Laurie's Advice

Nothing about the sales process is as simple or predictable as it used to be.  

One of my favorite tactics to drive sales force productivity is to focus on narrowing the gap between your top 15% or 20% of sales folks and the rest of your sales force.  Does it not make more sense to improve the performance of the folks you already have on board, rather than adding additional head count?

To accomplish this, successful sales organizations are now relying on strong onboarding programs, improved data, analysis, processes, and tools. 

These new tools and processes, such as targeted marketing campaigns, a CRM that matches your company’s needs and a quality SDR organization can allow your field and inside reps to zero in on high-potential, qualified segments and leads on a more level playing field.

Team meetings, targeted training sessions and role-play can be used to leverage the knowledge and skills of you top producers, benefiting your entire sales organization.

Many companies make the mistake of promoting their top salespeople to management positions, but often the most skilled salespeople don’t have the coaching dexterity needed to effectively guide a whole team.  Consider keeping your top producers where they’re already successful and make certain they are being compensated like rock stars.

The bottom line is that to improve overall productivity, you must focus on growing each individual salesperson’s output, from top to bottom.

Brandon Bruce - COO at Cirrus Insight

Brandon Bruce

Brandon's Background

Brandon is co-founder Cirrus Insight, the 2nd-highest rated sales application of all time on the Salesforce AppExchange.  Cirrus Insight perfectly integrates your inbox with Salesforce.  It has applications for your Gmail, Outlook, Office 365, iPhone, iPad, and Android inbox.  

Brandon leads sales, marketing, and operations.  He once raced his bicycle 508 miles across Death Valley in the Furnace Creek 508 and finished in 35 hours and 7 minutes.

Brandon's Advice

My favorite sales productivity tactic at Cirrus Insight is that we send a text message to every employee every time we make a sale.  

You might think that sending all those text messages would create a lot of buzzing and dinging of mobile phones in the office. And that’s part of the fun.

We started sending text messages when it was just two of us running Cirrus Insight. Today, we have over fifty employees who receive these instant order alerts.  

Why do we do it?

Celebration

Everybody knows that when all the phones in the office go off at the same time that it’s time to celebrate.  Whether the sale is for $1,000 or $100,000, the text alerts create a company-wide positive feedback loop.  

Motivation

Nothing motivates behavior like positive reinforcement.  A text alert not only announces a new sale, it tells the marketing team, the sales team, and the success team that they all did a good job.  And it tells the engineering team that the product they built was the right fit for the customer.  The real message behind every text alert is: “Great job. Let’s do it again!”

Transparency

Real-time sales alerts promote company-wide transparency.  Every employee gets a text message at the same time for every sale.  

Nobody is left out of the loop.  We’re all in it together.

Coaching

A text alert for a sale is the perfect coaching opportunity.  What went right?  Can we do anything even better next time?  What did we do to win this sale that we can apply to other opportunities in the future?  

We all have a tendency to focus on the lost deals, but postmortems on wins are arguably even more important.  We can learn what works and repeat.

Ready to set up order text alerts for your team?  Just create a listserv (aka email group) consisting of mobile phone email addresses (e.g. 5555551212@txt.att.com). You can then send sales notifications to the listserv email address and every group member will receive a text message.

Ron LaVine - CEO at Accelerate Your Sales Results

Ron LaVine

​Ron's Background

As the CEO of Accelerate Your Sales Results, Ron brings a vast amount of experience in all things sales consulting, training and coaching. Ron specializes in removing fear from the sales outreach process and improving cold call results.

His live Cold Call Sales Training Workshops enable inside sales & field sales pros to see, hear & do action steps resulting in more appointments & faster enterprise business development.

Ron's Advice

A good approach to drive sales force productivity once you have narrowed your target market and defined your decision-maker's persona is to:

1. Explore and list the Benefits (faster/slower, easier/harder, less expensively, gain an advantage, avoid a loss or do something better or more effectively) and the Effects (a.k.a. the corresponding Results your solutions have produced for your clients).

2. Tie these Benefits to the corresponding Results (increase or decreases, more or less).

3. Then try to quantify (in terms of currency, percentages, number of resources) over a period of time (weeks, months, quarters or years).

This is the basis of creating a compelling message which, when relayed to a prospect through a communication channel that appeals to them (visual, auditory or kinesthetic/feeling), will cause Attention, Interest, Desire and Action provided the message is produced and delivered correctly.

The reality is, what prospects care about is: "What's In It For Me and My Company?" The fact is, what prospects really want are solutions that produce results. The secret is to tailor and deliver your message in a problem solving or opportunity causing way that will attract the prospect's attention and cause them to act upon it.

Chris Young - CEO at The Rainmaker Group

Chris Young

Chris's Background

Chris is the founder of The Rainmaker Group. Over the last decade, he has fine-tuned the "Rainmaker Talent Selection Algorithm" to identify future performers.

Chris's work has dramatically-improved the productivity and profitability of many companies; he lives by the Jack Welch mantra: "Control your destiny or someone else will."

Chris's Advice

The key to driving Sales Force productivity Is data intimacy.

When it comes to driving sales force productivity, the following essential accelerants are required:

  • The right talent.
  • The right talent doing the right things.
  • The right talent doing the right things under the right management.

The key is the right talent. Without the right talent, nothing else matters.

Recently a Client called asking how to help take a particular low producer to the next level. They really believed in the salesperson and wanted to save them.

Unfortunately, my Client’s forehead was already flat. They had already tried goal planning, training, activity tracking, and rep rides.

In reviewing the low producer’s assessment results, the problem was clear. The low producer was not “wired” to sell.

Despite the best intentions of my Client, their coaching efforts were largely wasted. The best sales coaching in the world is not going to fix broken job fit. It was not a failure on the part of my Client from a coaching perspective. It was a failure in their hiring process. 

Maximizing sales force productivity requires the best salespeople. Low producers must be replaced by high producers. A high producer will typically outsell a low producer by 10-20 times. 

If you have read this far, you intellectually get what I am saying. It makes intuitive sense. But until you emotionally own this costly problem you will do nothing about it. Until you get intimate with the data, you will continue to do what has gotten you to where you are now.

Get intimate with the data. Assess your salespeople using a valid sales personality test. Identify the characteristics that make each salesperson perform at the level they do.

Compare each salesperson’s assessment results with their activity levels and overall sales performance. Look for patterns. You will find them. 

Until you get “data intimate” – you will not reach the next level of sales productivity.

The 360° Sales Management & Productivity Platform

Ambition is a sales management platform that syncs every sales organization department, data source, and performance metric on one easy system.

Ambition clarifies and publicizes real-time performance analytics for your entire sales organization. Using a drag-and-drop interface, non-technical sales leaders can build custom scorecards, contests, reports, and TVs.

Ambition is endorsed by Harvard Business Review, AA-ISP (the Global Inside Sales Organization), and USA Today as a proven solution for managing millennial sales teams. Hear from our customers below.

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