These changes, however, do not require sales professionals to change their selling methodology. Creating uniformity around sales productivity is about using resources to their fullest. Therefore, it is not surprising to learn that 85% of executives in a McKinsey survey stated that “processes” empower them to share knowledge across regions and divisions.
Here, we look at the four best practices leaders should consider when seeking to improve sales productivity.
Sales Productivity Best Practices
- Define How Sales Productivity Will Be Measured
In our previous post, How to Measure Sales Productivity, we discussed four key sales productivity metrics. While it is important to choose the right measurements, it is equally important to communicate what those measurements are and why they will be used. This approach works best when leaders communicate the “what” and the “why” at the early stage of the onboarding process.
Sales professionals need to know what numbers the leaders will be reviewing so that they can focus their efforts in the right places. They also need to know the “why” behind the numbers. Understanding the leadership’s reasons for selecting specific measurements is critical for earning the sales professional’s support.
Answering the “what” and the “why” must occur regularly. It is not enough to answer these questions once. Sales meetings are great opportunities to address these two topics. Leaders can go one step further by calculating and sharing the organisation’s total productivity measurements in these meetings. This approach brings visibility to the leadership’s commitment to consistency in sales productivity best practices.
- Overlay a Framework onto Preparation Activities
Many leaders promote the importance of preparation. Unfortunately, this message often falls flat because it is not paired with a framework. Leaders must provide not only the direction, but also the tools for executing preparation.
For most organisations, a framework exists in the form of a planner that operates like a checklist. This approach is effective because it aligns everyone to the same process and ensures that no important steps are missed leading up to a call or an in-person meeting with the customer.
However, a checklist alone is not enough to drive meaningful change. A study published in the Journal of Empirical Legal Studies found that a checklist delivers results when combined with other practices. The researchers learned that factors like “training, teamwork, evidence on failures and reorientation on core tasks” determine how well a checklist works. Their findings also revealed that the efficacy of a checklist depends greatly on the organisation’s ability to determine which steps are critical. Stacking the list with endless steps as a “catch-all” effort only leads to high abandonment rates.
- Align Marketing and Enablement to the Sales Strategy
Productivity emerges not only from consistent practices, but also from cooperative practices. Selling demands more tools and capabilities than ever before because the sales professional’s solution is often designed to address sophisticated challenges. Therefore, making us of a multitude of capabilities requires a team effort.
To drive this team effort, leaders must create and maintain a connection between marketing, enablement and sales. Doing so ensures consistency of messaging. This approach also ensures that the technology, tools and content provided by sales enablement resonates with the customer’s core needs. Without all of these parts working in cohesion, the customer receives a discordant message that only further complicates already confusing challenges.
Fostering this connection means holding regular meetings to ensure that all team members are headed in the same direction. Leaders should also ensure that coaching efforts are aligned. Cooperative efforts also have the added benefit of instilling a sense of unity across the team. In short: clarity of purpose is what enables teams to work together.
- Structure Training around an Academy Format
Productivity is a continuous pursuit. As the sales professional’s career unfolds, they face increasing challenges in improving their productivity. For this reason, a sales academy is an excellent tool for boosting long-term productivity.
A sales academy is a structured system for training and developing a sales team. It consists of numerous programmes, which together form a single competency framework for driving the sales professional’s performance throughout their career. A sales academy includes a collection of learning tools like written materials, instructor-led classroom training, digital learning tools and coaching.
The academy structure allows training to grow in tandem with the sales professional. As the professional’s capabilities grow, the sales academy can deliver new content and skills to help the learner reach the next rung. This approach to continuous learning not only helps the sales professional, but it also drives productivity for the selling organisation. The reason: the training becomes focused on delivering the right skills at the right time via the most effective modality (e.g., instructor-led training, adaptive learning platforms, reinforcement tools).
The Picture in Full
Productivity matters more than ever in an environment where the competition is armed with the same information and technology as everyone else. In this setting, long-term success belongs to those who can make the most of these tools while focusing their individual skills in a way that yields results.
Driving productivity means first being intentional and clear about the ways in which productivity will be measured. Next, leaders need to develop a framework that drives consistent preparation. Leaders need to provide not only the message that preparation matters, but also the tools to execute that goal. Sales, marketing and enablement teams must all move in the same direction. Achieving this synchronicity requires regular communication. Finally, training must match the natural changes of the sales professional’s needs as their career develops.