Increase Sales Productivity with these Research-Backed Strategies

By Bill Peatman | Updated: 20 Jan, 2023

41% of companies report that low sales productivity is one of the top two business challenges they face. When salespeople fail to meet their quota, their companies can't achieve growth goals and invest resources into R&D, culture, and other initiatives that make companies great.

More productive salespeople translate into more sales and revenue, unlocking more opportunities and happier employees.

And guess what? Salespeople spend the bulk of their time on non-sales tasks. Depending on who you ask, this is how much time salespeople spend selling:

You already know this because you are living it.

What Is Sales Productivity?

Before you can figure out how to increase sales productivity, you have to identify what "productivity" is.

Sales productivity combines a salesperson’s efficiency (inputs) and effectiveness (outputs). In other words, you want to maximize the output (sales) and minimize the inputs (time, effort, expenses) to get that output.

Improving sales productivity requires a comprehensive approach that tackles inefficiencies in salespeople's actions and overall sales processes. By taking a two-pronged approach, you give your team the best chance of resolving the issues that prevent them from achieving your revenue goals.

How To Measure Sales Productivity

While its definition is pretty straightforward, measuring it is a different story. Sales productivity measurements are subject to considerable debate.

Unfortunately, there is no perfect formula for determining sales productivity. Nonetheless, these measurements are critical because they are often used to establish bonus and compensation schemes and determine who is laid off in a downturn. Additionally, sales productivity has a huge impact on a company's value to its investors.

As a sales manager, you need to consider a few key metrics to evaluate your sales force.

Conversion Rates

How many leads are your sales reps bringing in? How many of those prospects are they converting into loyal customers? The more prospects the sales team converts, and the quicker it's done, the better your productivity.

Cost of the Sales Team

For most organizations, the sales reps themselves are the most significant cost incurred. Perhaps you shelled out a lot of money to secure the top sales rep in your industry, and true to their reputation, they're a quick closer. However, just looking at the end numbers can lead you astray.

It’s important to factor in how much money they cost the company compared to how much money they bring in. If you’re not turning a profit, it’s not worth it.

Typically, you can do this math on a margin and identify an ideal ROI range. Then, you can apply this range to sales reps as you hire them.

Customer Acquisition Costs

Another key factor in determining sales productivity is the cost incurred to acquire a new customer. What you may find is that acquiring certain kinds of customers isn’t profitable for your business, and focusing on a different market will yield a higher return on investment.

It's possible you can increase sales productivity by focusing your sales teams on the highest ROI accounts or the fastest moving opportunities.

Market Conditions

Unfortunately, not everything is within your control. When determining sales team productivity, it's important to consider existing market conditions.

Companies in a fast-growing market with lots of competition require a different strategy than a company that is a leader in an established market. In a highly competitive market, the company may find that it needs the sales team to bring in more profit at a lower cost to sustain the business.

By monitoring these four key metrics, sales managers will always have an idea of their team's productivity. A good CRM tool can help determine metrics such as how many leads each sales rep and their sales team as a whole are converting into customers.

Careful tracking and collaboration with other departments, such as Finance, may be necessary to determine the revenue the sales team is bringing in vs. the cost to the company, as well as the cost to acquire new customers in a certain segment. Staying abreast of the latest happenings within your industry will help you predict how the market conditions will affect your bottom line.

The more information you have, the more effectively you can track (and increase) sales team productivity.

Learn More: Prialto's Guide to Getting your CRM Back on Track

8 Research-Backed Ways to Increase Your Sales Productivity

Here are eight research-backed ways to improve your sales productivity.

1) Leverage Your Marketing Team

In a sales and marketing executive survey, 84 percent of respondents said that content search and utilization is one of their top productivity challenges. Meanwhile, 57 percent of salespeople cited high-quality content as a top driver of sales. Houston, we have a problem.

Content drives sales, but salespeople don't have it or can't find it.

Buyers are more informed than ever. They want and need information on who you are, what you are, and how you are different than everyone else.

It's essential to share information about how you work, why customers choose your business, and testimonials and case studies from successful engagements.

You can also share information on specific support areas relevant to the contact's business.

For example, if you're a digital marketer, you might want to showcase some link building statistics with a lead who is unfamiliar with the benefits of your new SEO plan.

This content is critical in helping leads move through the sales funnel.

To boost your sales productivity, you should have three types of content always on hand:

  1. Email Templates
  2. Marketing Materials
  3. Conversation Starters

Using email templates for outreach campaigns, check-ins, follow-ups, and other standard messages will save you a ton of time on day-to-day communication - just make sure to appropriately personalize each email before sending.

Store them on a Word document, your company Wiki, or in your marketing automation platforms like Hubspot.

Having folders full of case studies, white papers, product/service offering sheets, etc. is an efficient way to give your prospects the information and social proof they need to move forward in your sales process.

This is critical because, according to Forrester research, 78% of executive buyers complain that salespeople lack relevant case studies and other content to share with them.

You’ll want to keep watch for articles and content relevant to your key relationships, whether they be on your prospect list or your client base. This can be a great way to spark conversations with contacts that you’re trying to maintain or build relationships with. There can be a lot of nuances here, so it’s essential to be adding value and avoid spamming.

Use a tool such as Pocket to store articles so they’re ready whenever you want to reach out to contacts. To save time, add tags referencing contacts’ names and/or categories so you can quickly find content that adds value for who you’re dialoguing with.

To use sales enablement materials productively, you need to leverage your marketing team. They can create and organize content that will help you educate prospects and keep them engaged.

2) Keep Your CRM Updated

Here's sales productivity data that might surprise you. Companies that use a well-implemented CRM enjoy powerful business benefits.

  • Customers spend 20-40 percent more with companies that use a CRM.
  • Companies that use CRMs increase retention and customer satisfaction by 47 percent.
  • Conversion rates rise by up to 300 percent for CRM users.
  • The average ROI for a CRM is $8.71 for every dollar spent on the platform.

Yet, 79 percent of the information salespeople collect never makes it into their CRM, and up to 70 percent of CRM implementations fail. Certainly, there is a connection. Sales reps don't have time to keep their CRM up to date, so the implementation fails. Even if they did, they should focus on higher-value-added tasks.

Accurate and up-to-date contact information captured regularly and entered correctly is crucial to growing your business. Your CRM is only as good as your data, and your data is critical to help ensure you have accurate sales tracking, sales reporting, and transparency.

When used correctly, CRMs can boost your sales productivity by:

  • Highlighting the opportunities that are most likely to close
  • Helping you keep track of the next steps for each prospect
  • Keeping your pipeline organized so you don't waste time looking for information
  • Enabling you to have more accurate forecasts

If you don't have time to update your CRM, something has to give. If CRM data entry is not the best use of your time, consider outsourcing it to a virtual sales assistant. See strategy #8.

Related: How to Successfully Drive CRM Adoption

3) Complete Sales Activities in Batches

According to the American Psychological Association, multitasking and quickly jumping from one task to the next reduces your productivity by as much as 40 percent. Productivity drops because it takes an average of 26 minutes to focus on an activity entirely.

To reach your optimal level of focus, you need to batch your tasks to work on similar activities (ex. intro calls, follow-up emails, prospecting, etc.) for 1-2 hours at a time. Batching boosts sales productivity because you can complete tasks faster and better than if you worked on each activity randomly throughout the day.

One of the most effective ways to batch processes is by adding call notes. Set aside time daily to review and update records to ensure you have time to reflect on conversations and capture accurate information such as action items/next steps etc. You can also set action items in your CRM for the exact dates and try to block time on your calendar to complete those follow-ups.

Figure out what activities are easiest for you to complete in batches and block consistent time on your sales calendar to do them.

Related: How to Improve B2B Sales Time Management

4) Be an Expert in Your Offering and Your Prospects’ Pain Points

A study from Value Selling Associates and Training Industry found that less than a third of B2B buyers think salespeople can effectively communicate how their offering solves specific buyer pain points. As a result, buyers often drag out the sales process while they're doing research. Even worse, the same study found that 58 percent of buyers think that salespeople will make false claims to get a sale.

Understanding pain points should be the first step of any sale. It would be best if you gained a complete understanding of what prospects are trying to accomplish. You can do this by asking clarifying questions and repeating/recapping the prospect's statements to document the pain points. From there, provide specific and relatable examples of how we support similar clients.

And make false claims. If you trick someone into buying something that doesn't operate as described, you will lose the customer and your reputation.

Being an expert in the specific pain points your product cures will help you close deals faster since you can fully address buyer questions so that they spend less time looking for answers themselves.

5) Proactively Seek Out Referrals

Referrals are 4x more likely to close than web leads. That is because 84 percent of buyers trust the recommendations of others over other forms of marketing. Thus, seeking out referrals is one of the most effective ways to boost your sales productivity.

The easiest way to increase your referral pipeline is to remain in close contact with your customer success team. They have a strong pulse on your happiest, most engaged clients and can recommend whom to ask for referrals from.

Additionally, if you have a list of clients from whom you tend to request referrals, check in with your customer success team first. They can let you know if any changes in your clients' experiences would make it inappropriate for you to request a referral.

As you build your referral pipeline, you need to find ways to show your clients that you appreciate the business they're bringing you. Depending on what motivates them, referral rewards can include:

  • Discounts on their service
  • Experiences such as tickets to games, spa certificates, etc.
  • Product/service upgrades

If you know your clients well, personalize your rewards based on what is most meaningful to them.

6) Follow Up with Prospects Fast

The time you take to follow up on a sales lead has a significant impact on sales. Think about it. If someone contacts you about your product, they are no doubt researching your competitors, too. A fast response time is critical in engaging new leads.

  • 78 percent of customers buy from the first business to respond to an inquiry.
  • Sales conversions are 391 percent higher in the first minute after a request.
  • After five minutes, conversion rates drop by 80 percent.
  • Most companies take five or more days to respond.

If that first quick response does not work, don't give up. You are still more likely to make the shortlist of a customer's options, and according to Salesforce, it takes seven to eight touches for a lead to engage. Yet:

  • 44 percent of salespeople give up after the first follow-up.
  • 92 percent of companies give up after the fourth touch.

Make a quick follow-up on your superpower.

7) Sharpen Your Prospecting

More than 40 percent of salespeople say prospecting is their biggest challenge. Due to unproductive prospecting methods, only 50 percent of the people you contact will be in your target market. Chasing down unqualified leads is a timewaster and demoralizing.

As you improve at strategy #4 and learn your customers' needs and pain points, use that information to improve your prospecting and qualification so you spend more time with genuine buyers.

You can go through a list of your best customers and find the commonalities to sharpen your prospecting. You want to understand

  • What industries engage with you the most
  • The size of the companies
  • The decision maker's title
  • The specific pain points they want to solve

It can also be helpful to review your lost deals and understand any commonalities they share so that you can avoid chasing similar types of businesses.

Once you have a list of your best customers' characteristics, you can use tools like ZoomInfo or LinkedIn Sales Navigator to search for contacts who share those characteristics.

Related: Eight Email Scraping Tools for Sales Prospecting

8) Hire a Virtual Sales Assistant to Boost Sales Productivity

If salespeople only spend 11-30 percent of their time selling, where does the time go? According to Pace Productivity's report, a salesperson's time allocation in a typical week looks like this:

  • Admin and paperwork: 7.3 hours
  • Email management and correspondence: 8.2 hours
  • Internal communication: 6.6 hours
  • CRM Management: 2.2 hours

A virtual assistant can boost your team's productivity by tackling most or all of these non-sales tasks, including:

And various other repetitive activities that pull your attention away from selling.

The clients who best leverage their assistants understand that they should not spend time on repeatable and process-driven tasks such as top-of-funnel sales activities and admin-related tasks. By offloading these functions, you instantly free up time to focus on strategic tasks and do what you do best. Sales productivity increased!

Learn More About Prialto's Virtual Sales Assistants

What You Should Do Now

If you want to increase sales productivity and need help with sales support, here are a few options to help you:

  1. Download our eBook "Spend More Time Selling with a Virtual Assistant" and get a better understanding of how a virtual assistant can handle tedious sales tasks to give sales leaders and teams more time to sell and take care of customers.
  2. Book a free consultation call with Prialto. We can help you regain more of your time to sell by offloading repeatable tasks to a fully managed virtual assistant. One of our experts will help you create a plan to delegate your tasks and we will even train your sales assistant for you.
  3. If you know someone else who’d benefit from sales support, share this post with them via email, LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook.