Sales Productivity Is a Journey, Not a Destination

Mark Welch, Founder, Street Savvy Sales Leadership

Sales Productivity Is a Journey, Not a Destination

I view sales productivity as a journey, and a never-ending one at that, because there are always new ideas emerging, changes in the market and advances in technology that can help boost results. (Just think about what LinkedIn and other such platforms have done over the last few years, for example. They have turned the networking and recruitment market on its head.)

And, of course, as we all know in Sales, you can always sell more. The demands of the organization are always higher from one year to the next. Many Sales leaders make the mistake of fixating on one issue or challenge, or even a couple of issues, only to find that improvements don’t materialize and, in fact, sometimes go the other way.

Another challenge is that sales productivity problems will likely be a unique set of issues in every company. So, a Sales leader moving from one company to the next, using the same set of assumptions or preconceived ideas without taking a fresh look and developing a new point of view, will be doomed to failure or, at best, will generate only marginal improvements.

At its core, sales productivity, or overall sales improvement, ultimately must be owned by Sales leadership and have the support not only of Marketing but also the rest of an organization. It needs to be an overall company effort. The first-line Sales management role is mission-critical in the full engagement of a sales force. (I would argue that this also applies to second-line management, as well as more senior leaders.) It is management that is responsible for a clear majority of failures. In fact, the authors of a recent study conducted by the Robert Half Group found that the two most common reasons top employees leave a job are: first, poor compensation, and second, having to report to a poor manager.

When I was interviewing sales reps as part of my research for this book, I learned that over three-quarters of those I interviewed had at some point in their career left a company because of management. The top reason by far was micromanagement, followed by lack of support, lack of leadership expertise, manipulative or dishonest management, no opportunities for career growth and a toxic culture. It goes without saying that if an organization is causing its sales reps to want to leave, sales productivity will be negatively affected.

Looking externally, how we engage with our customers can also positively or negatively affect sales productivity. So, ask yourself: Is your organization structured in such a way that it creates challenges or barriers to doing business? Is yours a company that is easy to do business with? Does it put unnecessary complexity and barriers in the way of getting a deal done? It is equally important to ask yourself: How easy is the company to do business with after the sale? A company’s reputation in this area can help or hinder your sales efforts.

As Jill Konrath writes in her book SNAP Selling, “How can we simplify our messaging? Presentations? Proposals? Conversations? How can we make it easier for customers to understand the value they get from us? How can we help customers navigate through the decision-making process, avoiding the bumps along the way? When you keep it simple, you make it easier for customers to buy from you.”9

I say that sales productivity is an overall company issue. The entire company and all its functions must be aware of how everyone can work toward making it easier for customers to do business with you as a company. For example, billing is typically a Finance issue, so Finance should always be thinking of ways to make it easier for customers to receive and then pay their bills.

All customer interactions need to be conducted in a professional, effective and timely manner so that the customer senses efficiency. For example, if you take too long to respond or to react to a presales customer query or interaction and the competition beats you to the punch, you could lose that customer’s business on that factor alone. The same applies to delivery and after-sales support.

As a Sales leader, you must work proactively with other departments to help make the company’s processes as user-friendly as possible. Overly complex contracts or orders that may baffle the customer, or stringent rules and provisos that favor the supplier will negatively impact the client relationship. I was so vocal about this at one organization I worked for that I was handed the role of team lead when it came to modifying the customer contracts and order process. It made my Sales leader life easier and brought me close to the legal department—not a bad thing when you find you need their help.

Suffice it to say, winning new customers is not solely the responsibility of the sales team. If you as a company are easy to do business with, both before and after the sale, word will get around. It’s a small world. Customers talk with other customers. Your good reputation in this area alone can help bring in multiple new customers. If you otherwise have little to no product or service differentiation, ease of doing business could be one of your key differentiators.

(Excerpted from Street Savvy Sales Leader by Mark Welch. Copyright 2018 by Mark Welch. Excerpted with permission from Figure 1 Publishing. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.)

About the Author

Mark Welch (Toronto, Canada) is a sales organization advisor, sales team developer, certified sales and sales leadership coach, and author. As the founder of Street Savvy Sales Leadership, ( Mark helps business-to-business companies build, and grow best in class sales teams. His passion is helping to build high performance, focused, accountable sales organizations and answering that critical all-encompassing question, “How do you get the most sales productivity out of your sales organization?”