We all have too much to do and too little time. Sales reps in particular have a full plate, from cold calling and following up with prospects to setting and preparing for meetings. It’s easy to get distracted, off-task, or even overwhelmed, and the end result is that sales productivity suffers. Unfortunately, the efficiency, effectiveness, and productivity of the sales force has a direct and significant impact on revenue.

What is Sales Productivity?

Sales productivity means maximizing sales results while minimizing the resources expended, such as cost, effort, and time. According to the 20/60/20 rule, only about 20% of your sales team are top performers who often meet or exceed quota, leaving a majority of your sales team with room for improvement. Therefore, optimizing sales productivity should be one of the most important aspects for a business to focus on.

Sales Productivity: By the Numbers

Studies show that industry-wide sales productivity is continually on the decline. While many organizations are growing their sales teams and increasing revenue goals, they aren’t scaling their processes, best practices, and sales productivity tools appropriately.

Let’s take a look at some of the data:

  • Sales productivity is the #1 challenge for almost 2/3 of B2B organizations (The Bridge Group)

  • The average sales rep spends only 15% of their time engaging with prospects or customers (Alexander Group)

  • 2/3 of sales reps fail to reach their annual sales quota goal (Aberdeen)

  • Since 2007, sales quotas have risen 33%, but the percentage of reps hitting quota has fallen by 25% (TimeTrade)

  • The average sales rep spends over 50 full days away from core selling activities each year (Domo)

Productivity Pitfalls

Every sales rep and sales manager is sure to encounter one or more of these challenges, and in today’s competitive and fast-paced sales environment there is no room for mistakes.

  • Internal pressure to perform and expectations to overachieve

  • Misalignment and lack of communication between the sales and marketing departments

  • One-and-done sales training

  • Lengthier sales cycles

  • Hesitation to adopt new technologies, processes, or best practices

  • Relentless distractions (i.e. smartphone alerts, emails, meetings)

Sales Productivity Solutions

Fortunately, there are several steps that sales leaders and sales reps can take to overcome these pitfalls and turn their productivity slumps into productivity peaks.

1. Provide the right content at the right time

Sales reps spend about 1/3 of their day looking for or creating content – one of the biggest consumers of a rep’s time. Yet 70% of content never gets used by sales because they are unable to find content that is relevant and at a time when they need it. To make content productive, the sales team must know what collateral to use and when to use it. A sales enablement tool can recommend and surface best practice content based on the sales situation, saving the sales rep the time they would have spent looking for and / or creating content.

2. Get social

The power of social selling can help sales teams relate to and engage more intelligently with buyers throughout the sales process, from networking and prospecting to customer service. With prospect insights such as demographics, company and industry news, and where buyers encounter pain points, sales reps can quickly and effectively drive an engaging and meaningful conversation. An Aberdeen study even shows that social-savvy sales reps are 79% more likely to attain quota.

3. Enable sales reps with the proper tools and technologies

High-performing sales teams have access to and leverage the best sales tools on the market to work smarter and more efficiently. Sales enablement technologies, for example, aim to align marketing processes and goals and then arm sales teams with the tools and content to improve sales execution and drive revenue. Sales enablement, by nature, empowers and enables sales reps to work more efficiently.

4. Don’t hesitate to automate

Less than 1/3 of a sale person’s time goes to core selling. For example, the average rep needs to update over 300 CRM records per week. Automating these unproductive or repetitive tasks will save steps and time so that reps can get back to core selling activities.

5. Make metrics matter

Many organizations are not consistently improving their sales productivity because they do not regularly track productivity gains and results. In fact, a CIO Insights report shows that 40% of organizations indicate that scattered information and limited visibility into data impair their sales organizations. Determine which metrics are most important (such as call rate, sales cycle length, pipeline conversion rates, and average number of touches until conversion), and use dashboards to visualize trends and gain valuable insights into sales rep activity. Then take a step back and use this data to determine what makes top performers so successful, as well as what is inhibiting under-performers. This is not to say that you should be cloning top reps and ignoring the strengths and weaknesses of individuals. It’s about identifying and leveraging the habits and methods used by the A team and adopting those best practices across the sales team. This strategy is effectively utilized by 89% of the world’s largest and most successful sales organizations, according to Miller Heiman.

6. Work smarter

A recent study conducted by Wrike, found that working on too many things at the same time is a problem for 60% of sales reps, and unclear priorities is a problem for over half of reps. When you are nearing the end of the month or end of the quarter, identify the most critical tasks you must achieve and then prioritize accordingly. Focus on quality over quantity for best results. For example, instead of prioritizing prospecting, reconnect with past customers and lost opportunities – those people who have already journeyed through a majority of your sales funnel.

Shelley Cernel is the Senior Marketing Manager for KnowledgeTree.