Five Ways to Boost Sales Productivity

Even sales people who don’t have a service or project management component to their role wrestle daily with boosting sales productivity. The magic to maximizing sales productivity lies in being ruthless with your time. Here are five ways you can sharpen your focus and get a strong ROI on your sales time and effort.

Live in Your CRM – I routinely see sales people that, despite having a CRM tool provided to them, don’t use it. To me that’s like building a house and saying “thanks for the compressed air nail gun, but I’ll just stick to my trusty old hammer.” Sure, you can still build that house but it will be a much slower [and painful] process. CRM is the first software top sales producers open in the morning and it’s the last one they close at night. They update it real-time as they work on their deals. Doing so allows them to shorten the time it takes to pick up the thread on each deal, create a well thought out strategy around how to progress it, plan for a productive sales meeting and then hold it.

Score Your Sales Opportunities – Time spent working on low probability deals is time you can’t invest in high probability ones. I’ve created a simple yet highly effective scoring method that my clients use to score their deals. The score tells them what information they have about each deal, which information they don’t and what to do about it. Create a deal scoring process to apply to your sales opportunities. Use what it tells you to determine which deals have the highest probability of becoming closes and invest your selling time accordingly.

Activate One New Sales Opportunity Daily – All sellers know an empty sales funnel is a dismal sight. Filling it is the heavy lifting of sales work and can be a slow process. If left to run dry, filling it becomes an urgent activity that eats a ton of time and causes your schedule to back up. Activate [reach out in an attempt to book a meeting with] at least one net new sales opportunity every day. That’s 5 per week, 20 per month…you get the math. Taking this approach will spread out the time this task takes over days and weeks, and keeps your revenue production evergreen.

Honor Prime Selling Time – When their buyers are available is when great sellers sell. Sounds obvious, right? Outside sales people who “take five minutes” to pop into the store, or Inside sellers who “take five minutes” to find a good roofer on the web during the work day erode their sales productivity [BTW, we know these seemingly small activities rarely take five minutes]. Discipline is not easy. Sell when it’s time to sell, and slot the other stuff into non-prime selling time hours. Within one week an appreciable increase in productivity will be seen.

Don’t Do Trade Shows – I know I’ll get lots of pushback on this one. Trade shows are huge time – and money – eaters. Unless the show is one where the express purpose is to book orders, don’t go. Pay the attendee walk-in fee and get the attendee list instead. You can gain far more meaningful traction toward reaching your sales goals from your desk [using the trade show attendees’ list] than you can from walking the show. This is not my opinion – this is what my clients have told me. If you just need some time out of the office, take a few vacation days instead.

Think you or your team could be more productive but feel stuck as to how to get there? I’d be happy to help with ideas and suggestions [at no charge, just to help out…]. Feel free to contact me at [email protected].

Accountability And Sales Success

The-Oz-Principle-CoverSales is the ultimate accountability sport. Win or lose, the scoreboard is visible for everyone in the company to see. The accountable sales team owns their results and continually strives to improve them. Getting to accountability is not always easy though. I have found a tool that makes that road a whole lot smoother. Let me share it with you.

The Oz Principle is a book by Roger Connors, Tom Smith and Craig Hickman. In it, they describe a highly effective method any organization can follow to increase accountability towards performance improvement.

In the book the authors identify a line in business that separates success from failure. This line applies to every employee in every department – from sales to operations to management. Below the line is the blame game. It’s where people come up with excuses for why sales targets weren’t met or projects weren’t completed on time. Above the Line® is where people take ownership. These people look for solutions. They are the action takers; the ones who are committed to success.

It is perfectly normal to slip below the line once in a while. Sometimes it feels very legitimate to blame someone or something else for a current situation, especially when we feel helpless to change our circumstances. But what is discussed in The Oz Principle®, with comparisons to L. Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz, is that it’s only through accountability that we find the best solutions & achieve greater success.

We can tell we are below the line if we are ignoring or denying a problem, claiming it’s not our job, pointing our fingers at someone else, wanting someone to tell us what to do, spending our time covering our tails, or deciding to wait and see if the problem will go away on its own.

When this happens, it helps to keep The Oz Principle’s definition of accountability in mind:

A personal choice to rise above one’s circumstances and demonstrate the ownership necessary for achieving desired results — to See It, Own It, Solve It and Do It.

This definition includes the 4 steps to achieving accountability: “See It, Own It, Solve It and Do It,” which this book gets into in great detail. When applied, this simple process works magic when it comes to getting a team to be more accountable for its situation and results.

The power of this book lies in its language. It provides a nonjudgmental, safe and respectful way to talk to your team about accountability, or lack thereof. To say “what I’m hearing from you sounds like Below the Line language” is far more respectful and productive than saying “quit your whining and get this thing figured out!”

I highly recommend this book to anyone in business. Over the years I have referred my clients to it innumerable times. Applying The Oz Principle changes the way your sales team looks at down markets and poor sales performance. It gives them a way to see their sales situation differently, take ownership of the elements that are theirs and create solid solutions that get revenue flowing again.

Two Tuna – Two Salmon

The following exchange occurred at a sushi restaurant recently…

Me: I see on the menu you have tuna sashimi [note: for non-sushi people, sashimi is a generous bite-size piece of fish without the rice blob beneath], and Salmon sashimi, but not a combo. Could I please get 2 pieces of tuna and 2 pieces of salmon sashimi as one order?

Server: No, I’m sorry I can’t do that.

Me:  [surprised] Why not?

Server: Well, a combo is not on the menu and the boss is not here to say it’s okay to offer it.

Me:  ???

How empowered are your people? Do they have the authority and information required to make decisions of the type they need to make?  Having to “go to the boss” to get authorization for seemingly straightforward requests tarnishes your customer’s experience.

At best, going to the boss is a minor irritant like the sushi example above. At worst, it creates distrust in the mind of your customer. If you have bought a car it is likely you been left sitting in the Sales Associate’s office as they went to speak to the manager to get approval on one of your requests. You were probably thinking “Why do they need to go to the boss on this one? Is this some sort of ploy or negotiating tactic?”

Dealing with an empowered employee is a liberating experience. They either A) have been given reasonable authority to make day-to-day decisions or B) know the parameters within which their decision-making must be made. Either way, you end up with issues resolved more quickly, smoothly and with pleasant journey along the way.

Have a look at your policies and procedures. Are there decisions that require one up approval today that would be better put the hands of your staff?  Are there decision-making parameters you can outline that will facilitate them providing a better customer experience?  Perhaps allowing your folks to say yes to a 2 tuna and 2 salmon request will result in more satisfied buyers.

Bon appétit!

When patience is NOT a virtue

Client: [speaking proudly] “I worked a sales lead for 18 months, and I finally landed it!”

Me: “Awesome!  A quick question for you… What size deal was this?”

Client:  “Well, not a large one. To be honest, it was more on the medium to small side.”

Me: “Question…Over the 18 months, what was involved in closing it?”

Client:  “Oh, numerous emails, several telephone conversations and a few face-to-face meetings. But, I finally brought it home [smiling].

There are often several reasons behind doggedly working a sales lead for an extended period. Maybe the lead is a large one or strategically important.  

When I see undue effort being spent on a small opportunity I think a mistake is being made.  The time and effort applied to that small sale [that is frustrating and takes forever to close] could in fact be applied to finding the the firm’s next huge client.

As my meeting with the client unfolded we talked about the notion of return on time invested. We talked about the desire to win, sometimes to our detriment.  We also talked about the reality that when you apply time and effort to one task, others remain unattended to or sometimes go undone.

Don’t let pride or stubbornness [I WILL get this waffling buyer to commit!] get in the way of executing on other higher value sales activities.  When it comes to chasing small Leads for an extended period, patience is not a virtue.