Sales and Sales Management Blog

August 22, 2012

Guest Article: “The Five Golden Rules of Boosting Sales Rep Productivity,” by Nancy Nardin


Five Golden Rules for Boosting Sales Rep Productivity
by Nancy Nardin

Sales software tools can transform the means and methods by which a sales rep’s productivity is not only measured, but calibrated. However, sales leaders should not be quick to take hold of the misguided notion that tools alone will provide all the right answers. A paradigm shift in thinking, and a modification in behavior, must also be considered.

The focal point of this article is not to examine or suggest possible changes that reps must make. My purpose is to zero-in on the changes that sales leaders must make to ensure that productivity gains from tools are not negated by pursuing issues that are off-target. If you want to ignite your sales rep productivity, and subsequently drive it right off the charts, consider these five golden rules.

1. Don’t misuse their valuable time, or yours

Every minute you spend “following up” with, or giving directives to your reps, equates to time they won’t have to talk to a prospect or to execute on their sales objectives (let alone close deals). Carefully analyze the reasons ‘why’ you check in with reps, and the critical ‘nature’ of its purpose. Perhaps you’re anxious to hear how a deal is progressing, or to get a general reading on what’s happening in the field. Those are indeed legitimate intentions. As an alternative to ‘checking in’ with reps, why not use a reporting tool such as Front Row Solutions that provides a rapid and effortless technique for reps to periodically update the system with their activity and progress throughout the day? The question you should be asking is this; “Can you get the vital information you require without doing so at the expense of a rep’s productivity or tasking focus?”

2. Only request what is truly important

Just like everyone else, when managers lock onto an idea or inspiration, they naturally want to act on it without delay. This often means picking up the phone, and asking a rep to provide the desired information. Though the request may be important in general terms, in reality the interruption means the rep must now redirect their time and focus. If it’s truly an important request, take a moment to think it through within a framework of efficiency. Determine whether the idea can be integrated into a current initiative, or whether someone else be delegated to perform or initiate the task. Is it really necessary for them to divide their current focus or objective that very minute (or ever), to briefly re-align themselves with your spur-of-the-moment idea or insight.

3. Evaluate what you want versus what your reps need

There is one question I hated to deal with when I was selling: “How’s it going?” Another version of the same pointless question is “What’s going on?” If you thought about it critically, where would you begin if you were a rep and were asked not only to endure but respond to those ambiguous questions? The truly important pieces of information are; is the rep’s forecast on track, are there any red flags, or will deals come in as predicted. What a rep needs is to focus time executing on the processes that will bring a deal to a close. Consider using a tool like Cloud9 Analytics that allows you direct and invaluable insight into the pipeline, as well as enhanced predictive performance analysis.

4. Conduct an audit for performance assessment

What are the primary obstacles to improving or streamlining productivity levels? The shoot-from-the-hip response is undoubtedly, that reps just need to kick it up a few notches. That’s because we generally evaluate performance and motivation from the standard thresholds of ‘attitude’, or ‘commitment’, or the degree of ‘hunger’ a rep happens to exhibit. My suggestion is to take it up a notch on their behalf. Have a neutral party spend a few days with several reps to observe and audit their day-to-day performance and activity. The idea is not to focus on incorrect behavior, but to investigate and ultimately reveal those particular tasks that can be streamlined. This includes evaluating the time required for a rep to create a complex proposal, or respond to an RFP. Do performance obstacles arise because the rep must search for the appropriate marketing content, must write or re-write content, or spend inordinate amounts of time formatting or enhancing the document in a captivating manner?

5. Eliminate the productivity-killers

Once the audit is complete and available for review, analyze the productivity-killers to formulate your plan of attack. First eliminate or improve on the processes that are the easiest and quickest to resolve. Then, attack those elements that needlessly rack-up the most time and keep your reps from interacting with prospects. If responding to proposals and RFPs devours too much valuable time, consider a tool such as Qvidian’s Proposal Automation, which streamlines the proposal-generating process to nearly half the time – on average – resulting in more professional, and highly effective proposals. If your reps are wasting valuable time researching for the right contact for prospecting purposes, you should definitely consider a tool like iSell by OneSource.

Take-aways

Consider these five golden rules of sales rep productivity, and free your reps from the time-killing obstacles that you may be guilty of imposing on them, without even realizing it. Eliminate roadblocks that stand in the way of optimum sales performance. You’ll not only lead your team to quota faster, but you’ll enjoy a much smoother ride in the process.

Nancy Nardin is a nationally recognized thought leader on sales and marketing productivity tools. Her firm, Smart Selling Tools – of which she is the founder and President – is dedicated to helping marketers and sellers apply process and technology to drive revenue.  Get more from Nancy at Smart Selling Tools Blog.

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3 Comments »

  1. Nancy, your post is spot on. The primary responsibility for any sales manager is to ensure everyone on the sales team hits their individual sales plan. Everything else will be forgiven if that is accomplished. To that end therefore, what are the high priority, high impact activities a sales manager can help their team accomplish? Number one is to make sure the focus is on the right activities, in the proper measure, done well, and to provide support to that end.

    Tools such as those you describe are exceedingly helpful and the addition of a focused sales manager is the icing on the cake.

    Comment by Scott Messer — August 27, 2012 @ 8:22 am | Reply

  2. This is a great article . . . the exciting thing is that software tools are now starting to follow these rules too. Now that reps can buy tools for themselves from app stores, they can buy tools that simple help them eliminate productivity killers and help them sell. Like Expensify. And (we hope!), like Selligy! (http://www.selligy.com).

    Thanks again for a great read!

    –Chris.

    Comment by Chris van Loben Sels — August 27, 2012 @ 12:58 pm | Reply

  3. […] Guest Article: “The Five Golden Rules of Boosting Sales Rep Productivity,” by Nancy Nard… (salesandmanagementblog.com) […]

    Pingback by Now Recruiting. Give me 15 Years & I’ll Give You a Million Dollars! « Jeff Oakes — September 1, 2012 @ 9:09 am | Reply


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