Every sales team wants an extra edge. Even a small productivity boost means more time selling to more prospects. So what are best practices to increase sales team productivity?
Miller Heiman’s research department asked that same question. It looked at where sales teams are making investments to lift sales productivity in 2015. The top two investments are to
- Improve product knowledge and market competitive intelligence (82%)
- Improve process, skills, or competency training (81%)
Let’s explore in more detail why these best practices are so important and some guidance on how to get these investments in place.
- Product and Market Knowledge
Forrester regularly polls B2B buyers for their perspectives. A question they often ask is buyers’ opinion of the people that sell to them. A shocking 80% of B2B buyers think that the sales people they interact with add no value to their evaluations.
When sales people aren’t adding value to a sales process they’re more likely to be ignored or excluded from an evaluation. Buyers want insights that help them to build better businesses. That means data, intelligence, and opinions that help the buyers generate business cases for change.
A rep that simply “checks in” versus adding value is going to be vastly less productive. That’s because no matter how much effort they put in, their outputs (meetings, opportunities, closed won deals) are going to be lower than a valued rep. And those outcomes are the true measure of rep productivity.
But finding and using content isn’t easy when a rep has limited time. So how do you get your reps to use materials that add value? Let’s first look at the second investment recommendation.
- Improve Process, Skills, or Competency Training
The second investment recommendation clearly relates to training and ongoing education of reps to improve their efficiency and outcomes. Improved sales skills and general competency help reps communicate more effectively and confidently guide prospects toward close.
These best practices could be internally generated based on your own internal experiences. Or they might be industry standards that your teams want to apply. Adopting best practices can have a major impact. In fact, Aberdeen Group suggests that sales teams are up to twice as likely to hit quota when they bring on best practices across their teams.
Yet, one key challenge with training must be addressed. That is that the majority of training information is forgotten within days of the end of training.
Why do these skills get forgotten? Because they often are needed only in particular instances that don’t occur often. Or there may be too many permutations to recall. Or, well, the reasons are many. To keep the productivity gains that come from this improvement requires reinforcement.
So how should sales enablement, sales leadership, and marketing get product and marketing knowledge into their sales teams’ hands? And how should they reinforce skills and process best practice to help guide their teams? It comes down to two elements: quality and context.
Great Content Gets Used, Sometimes
Marketing and sales enablement teams have learned the lessons of content marketing. They know that high quality materials are useful for both internal teams and prospects. So, look carefully at the assets you’ve already produced, such as blog posts, eBooks, scripts, sales tactics, and other tools. Organize and clean-up your repositories to make it easy for sales people to find your content.
When sales people find and use your materials, they’ll typically see results quickly. Prospects will engage more with higher quality content and better informed reps. Prospects will also start to assign more value to sales people that use these messages, so engagement (and hence productivity!) rise.
If you measure the usage of the content and process you can see whether or not the material is actually being used by sales people. You can also see which content is more correlated with advancing leads or winning deals. You should also understand where gaps exist in your content library – where sales people can’t find a particular case study, for example. That lets your content creators assess where they should invest next from a content perspective.
Putting it Into Context
While great content boosts productivity by increasing engagement and interest in the funnel, it’s only useful if sales people can actually find and use it. Sales people are under a great deal of time pressure. They don’t have time to search through portals and hope to come across content.
At the same time, they often don’t know what material they should be looking for or that content exists that would be useful. The approach sales enablement and leadership should take is to recognize that all product knowledge and competitive intelligence is context-driven. Let me explain.
A bank in Germany is going to respond to certain pains differently than a credit union in North Carolina. A senior IT leader will value different insights than a junior marketer. And a late stage prospect will have different information needs than one that has just started evaluating solutions.
So for sales people to have improved product knowledge and market intelligence, it’s important to combine content’s quality with content’s relevance. Make it easy for reps to find the right tool that lets them bring value to their prospects based on sales stage, geography, persona, or any other segment that matters to you.
It’s vital that organizations invest in the proper tools and strategies to increase sales productivity. Focus on these key best practices to make sure your reps are highly valued by your prospects. That’ll pay massive dividends in the bottom of your funnel.