80% of B2B customers expect a B2C experience, but you have no chance of delivering that without a single source of information about those customers, according to Sara Varni, Senior Vice President of Marketing, Sales Cloud.

This is one of the key takeaways I had from Sara’s sales keynote session at Dreamforce 2017. I also had the privilege of sitting down with her beforehand to discuss the future of sales in today’s increasingly automated and digital world.

Here are my key take-outs from our discussion that unlocks how to truly drive sales productivity.

1. Give your sellers an extra hour of selling every day

According to the sales professionals surveyed in the State of Sales Report, excessive administrative tasks is the top cause of ineffective internal processes. In fact, reps spend 64% of their time on non-selling tasks according to the report.

This was one of the key insights from my talk with Sara: there are a lot of administrative tasks and routines that can consume a salesperson’s time. For instance, many salespeople have a Friday afternoon data entry ritual to get the CRM up-to-date for a Monday morning sales meeting.

It’s important to automate as much as possible so salespeople can focus on talking to their customers and prospects. Tools like mobile, analytics, and automation can dramatically increase the productivity of a sales team. Analytics tracks and interprets actionable customer data, mobile sales apps allow reps to look at those insights instantly, anywhere, and automation provides relief from manual data entry.

For example, T-Mobile has given its sellers an extra seven hours a week by implementing an automated CRM. That’s a staggering performance gain. Imagine if you had another day of sales activity every week!

"T-Mobile took their quote to cash process from 102 clicks down to just 7"

2. Provide sellers with everything they need to create and track customer satisfaction

Sales teams need to make it easy for sellers to do their homework and provide value right out of the gate in order to meet the new expectations of the connected customer, says Sara.

Anyone reading this already knows that it’s more crucial than ever to ensure that customers are engaged. In a multi-channel environment, they can find another seller with the click of a button. However, according to the State of Sales Report, sales reps are still struggling to create and track customer satisfaction, with the lack of required tools or software cited as one of the top reasons.

Sara outlined how businesses can successfully drive high customer satisfaction by providing a single view of the customer across all platforms. By connecting your disparate systems of engagement, you can create access to customer data across the entire organisation.

Sales reps with this information are equipped to quickly understand and act on customer data at any given touchpoint.

3. Harness automation and Artificial Intelligence (AI)

The level of timely buyer/seller interaction absolutely determines the probability of winning a deal.

That’s why augmenting human sales expertise with AI is crucial. AI can act as a virtual deal coach that provides predictive lead and deal scores along with opportunity insights, and with prompts for the best next steps and methods of outreach.

As well as lead scoring capabilities, AI will also enable salespeople to automatically get account insights like customers’ latest news, M&A activity, and expansion updates. It can also analyse emails and calendar events, to identify new contacts and relationships, automating a lot of tedious research and data entry for sales reps.

More importantly, intelligent technologies will enable usher in predictive selling, a new frontier of sales. According to the State of Sales report, by 2020, more than half (51%) of consumers and 75% of business buyers expect companies to anticipate their needs and make relevant suggestions before customer contact.

4. Sales productivity is more crucial than ever in this increasingly complex selling environment

Adopting the right tools, like an intelligent CRM with built in artificial intelligence will give your team more time to sell by giving them everything they need, including real time coaching and recommendations, ensuring their time is maximised.  

One thing Sara reminded me was that businesses can't roll out new capabilities from the executive ivory tower. Sales managers need to have empathy, sit with the sales team, watch them, and implement in a way that works best for them.

By following these key steps, you can drive more productivity in your sales organisation and empower your sales professionals to spend more time with the customer. You can check out more sales tips from trailblazers around the world in Salesforce’s State of Sales Report.

If you’re keen to hear some further sales insights, I recently appeared on the Quotable Sales podcast to discuss why social selling isn’t the answer. You can listen to it here.