05 Nov Five Tips to Increase Sales Productivity
In the article “Freeing up the Sales Force for Selling”, McKinsey noted an example of a logistics company that discovered that its reps spent 35 percent of the day selling because they were “consumed by non-sales activities such as billing-system updates, firefighting, and internal communications”. These activities can be a big drain on sales productivity.
Long complex sales cycles require months of work and can result in fatigue for the entire sales team. Doing an in-depth end to end analysis to fix these problems can take years – especially in large organizations – and tens of millions of dollars. With restructuring and management changes, having long term buy-in from multi-year sales productivity projects can be difficult to secure.
Yet the costs in terms of stalled sales, competitive inroads, low customer satisfaction and high sales attrition rates can be massive. To help solve the problem short-term, while addressing process flaws long term requires project management discipline applied to sales pursuits.
Applying Project Discipline to Complex Sales
Freeing up highly paid and valuable sales team members so they can focus on what they do best is smart business. By offloading daily activities that drag down their productivity to experienced virtual project resources, you can spread your most valuable account managers across more customers. This means that account teams can focus on pushing a sale towards completion instead of being bogged down in endless detail. And it also means that deals closer faster and, better yet, your customers experience a more cohesive process.
Applying a project manager to a sale doesn’t need to be expensive. Our experience on over 100 sales pursuits shows that it takes 2-3 weeks for the project manager to take over the process, then 5-10 hours a week per sales pursuit to completely free up an account manager’s time. After the sales closes, the project manager typically stays on board to fulfill the deal. We had one instance of a global videoconferencing deal where we helped find installers in Romania because the company didn’t have any partners there.
By applying these tips to your large complex sales teams, you’ll see results in less than 60 days:
1. Find virtual project managers who specialize in streamlining the entire sales process. While your account manager focuses on the sale and the customer, the project manager can make sure everything gets done and everyone stays accountable.
2. Make sure that you are constantly encouraging your account teams to delegate work to less expensive program resources. Not only does this save money, it means you can scale senior account managers across more accounts. You should never have a senior account manager tracking action items or spending hours preparing a PowerPoint deck when they should be strategizing a sale.
3. With input from the Sales Project Manager, have a sales business process analyst team look at your buy/sell process and where the blockages are, ideally by paying close attention to your top producers and their individual productivity. Bring in IT, help desks, proposal teams, advanced technologies specialists and human resources. Find the obvious gaps and remove inefficiencies by focusing project teams on solutions.
4. Once the Sales Project Manager has identified key support staff and specialized technical resources, introduce incentives so they help shepherd a sale to completion. Often, these teams aren’t eligible for sales incentives and by including them in sales programs, they will find ways to help push the sale to completion.
5. Start with a pilot, prove the concept, shop it to senior stakeholders and create a program communications plan to expand it across territories. Too often, initiatives are introduced across global sales teams before all senior stakeholders are on board, meaning budgets can be cut half way through the initiative.
Sales people aren’t hired for their logistics skills. Yet they are expected to put together the fine details of a deal, the ones that set your relationship with a client up for success. Free up their time to focus on their customers and closing deals and offload the rest to a virtual support project resources.