How to Improve Sales Productivity: Process and People

The wheels on the sales machine never stop turning. Your team is constantly working to build relationships with prospects and close new deals. But productivity is flagging, directly impacting your reps’ abilities to deliver the revenue stream the business depends on to grow.

When this happens, it’s important to review the situation objectively. From the people you’ve hired and manage to the process you’ve put in place, you need to be able to assess the impact you’re having in both areas to determine how you can improve sales performance.

To help you diagnose where your sales function may be experiencing challenges, let’s look at your process and people.

A sales meeting ending on an agreement and a handshake seen from aboveUnder the bonnet: your sales process

When reviewing how to improve sales productivity and sell more, a key consideration is how well your salespeople understand the sales process.

Often, when a sales team doesn’t follow the process, it’s because it’s flawed. Reviewing the sales process can be challenging, especially if you helped define it in the first place, but it’s essential that you can step back and look objectively at the steps your team is following.

  1. Have you put in place a process your reps can follow?

  2. Is the process user-friendly?

  3. Is your team following the process, or does every salesperson have their own process?

  4. Do you frequently review and update the process to reflect the needs of your buyers?

  5. Do you seek feedback from your customers on the buying process and how it could be fixed or improved?

The theme here is that your sales process needs to be created around the needs of the buyer, not your internal accounts team. If you suspect that your process is broken, or over-complicated, it could well be that you’ve not reviewed it in regard to how your buyers are making purchasing decisions — and how you could best help them along the way.

Discover how an inbound sales approach could improve your team’s ability to engage and close new customers.

Looking at your people: aces in their places

When assessing the activity and performance of your salespeople, there are several markers that you can use to indicate how effectively they are spending their time and where there might be problems with the way they’re carrying out their roles.

  1. Are your salespeople spending a great deal of time writing content?

  2. How else are they being efficient — or inefficient — with their use of time?

  3. Are they using the CRM in the same, consistent way, and can you reliably use it to pull reports and make informed decisions?

  4. When engaging with a buyer, are your reps talking about the product instead of the buyer’s challenges?

  5. Can you confidently say they’re the right people for the role?

If you have a good solid process supported by a robust CRM and data but you’re still experiencing problems, it may well be people-related.

Related read: HubSpot CRM: best practices and pro tips.

If your problem is process-driven...

Your team might spend upwards of 20 hours every week surfacing data and setting up dashboards, but it doesn’t mean anything if they can’t use that data or those dashboards to inform their actions.

An effective sales team is one capable of making fast, data-driven decisions. Underpinning this is a sales process designed around the salespeople and their activity, enabling them to quickly and accurately determine what is going on in the CRM at any given time, and what this actually means in terms of sales conversations.

Yes, every deal is different, but you still need to have a defined process, otherwise your salespeople will all follow different processes for every deal.

How to create an effective, data-driven sales process

When we say ‘effective’ here, what we mean is a sales process that is both predictable and scalable, driving dependable revenue growth month on month.

  1. To achieve this, your sales process must be based on actual activity. It’s no good to establish a process and tell everyone to use it. This means mapping the process as it is now.
  2. You can then use this map to identify and fix gaps, optimising and iterating from a solid base grounded in the way your sales team really operates.
  3. Key to this is the integration of your processes, technology, and systems, improving productivity and providing end-to-end data for performance analysis, KPI reporting and decision-making.

If it’s people-related...

People-based problems typically manifest themselves as salespeople who sell differently every time and a team of salespeople who all sell differently from one another. The underlying problem here is one of consistency.

Deal strategy should always be customised to suit the prospect, yes, but there’s a fundamental difference between knowing the process and deviating from it in a strategic way, and making up a completely new sales process ad hoc for every conversation.

You’ve identified what's going on in your sales team now — but what should be going on, and how can you fix the way your salespeople are selling to get there?

Automate repetitive, low-value tasks like lead allocation

The more of the higher volume, lower value tasks you can automate, the more time you will save your salespeople. Lead allocation is one such task that benefits from automation, reducing the risk of leads going missing and giving your team the opportunity to follow-up with newly qualified MQLs more quickly and efficiently.

One way in which sales, marketing, and service software provider HubSpot recently achieved this was using a sales chatbot. The bot, which they built in a similar way to how you would set up a workflow sequence, lives within Slack and sends a notification to sales reps if there are unworked MQLs in their name.

When they reviewed the impact of this chatbot to see how effective it had been, they saw that it had actually reduced unworked MQLs by half.

A sales rep’s inbox is often overwhelmed. By implementing the chatbot in Slack, where the sales reps live and where they communicate, you can ensure that its notifications are visible and that it integrates naturally with a chat interface the team already knows and loves.

Use BANT to improve lead qualification

If your sales and marketing alignment is successful, marketing will have already conducted a baseline qualification before marking a lead as an MQL.

There are many methodologies for sales qualification, most of them claiming to be more sophisticated than the one before, but in reality, very few salespeople follow a consistent method. If you haven’t got one in place already, we recommend starting with the daddy of them all: BANT.

BANT is a means by which your sales team can further qualify the lead based on a series of key areas: Budget, Authority, Need, and Timing.

Learn more about BANT and how you can use it to improve the quality of your leads in our free sales ebook, How to Sell More and Grow Better.

How to improve sales productivity with sales enablement

With a shift in the sales landscape comes new services and technology to help your team sell better. Like the challenges it addresses, sales enablement is still an emerging area, but its goal is as familiar as ever: to help your department improve productivity and contribute to the growth and advancement of your business.

As one of the first UK HubSpot Partner agencies to proactively execute on the sales enablement market, we have a deep understanding of the way sales enablement services can be delivered to achieve this. Sales enablement wears many faces, but it can be understood as equipping your team with the technology, processes, content, and training to better serve your prospects with what they need, shortening the sales cycle and increasing their close rate.

When we think of machines, we think of sexy words like efficiency and automation. But it’s important to remember that machines need maintenance like anything else. And for all their time-saving and automative capabilities, they still depend on operators to make sure they’re working to the best of their capabilities.

Get this right, and the impact of a predictable and scalable process for building new customer relationships will give you and your company’s stakeholders greater confidence to invest in your growth and dramatically increase the value of your business.

To learn more about maximising the time your sales reps actually spend selling and ensuring they’re as effective at this task as possible, download our specialist sales ebook now.

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Chris Grant
About the Author
Chris is the Sales Enablement Consultant at BabelQuest. Working as part of the Expert Practices team, he helps sales teams get better.