Improving Sales Productivity without Increasing Headcount

Last updated: 03-16-2020

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Improving Sales Productivity without Increasing Headcount

What would happen if your sales team spent half of its time selling? 

You might be saying to yourself, “I should hope they are.” Yet for most teams, for every eight-hour day, only three hours and twelve minutes – 40% of the time, according to LinkedIn’s State of Sales Report – is dedicated to actual selling. 

Supposing a 10-person sales team increased its selling time from 40-50%, that’d average out to exactly eight additional hours of selling time per day. Or, to think of it another way, an additional full-time salesperson working at max efficiency. 

Congrats! You’ve just increased your sales productivity without increasing headcount.

“How did I make it happen?” you ask. 

With the following sales team productivity tactics, you’re sure to find a few ways to boost your team’s selling time beyond the 40% benchmark. 

Not long ago we asked industry influencers how sales pros can achieve maximum sales efficiency. Among the excellent advice, The Johns Hopkins University’s Joël LeBon offered up a unique way to think about sales productivity: 

If customer activity is a truer definition of sales productivity, then it makes sense to spend most of one’s time working with sales enablement tools that encourage customer activity by making it central to the experience. Put another way: when sales pros are using the tool, they’re likely engaged in customer activity. 

A tool like LinkedIn Sales Navigator, for instance, goes beyond providing several ways to seamlessly connect with buyers by also empowering sales teams to do so intelligently. 

The State of Sales Report referenced above also made clear that it’s no longer a matter of whether or not we should use sales tech – it’s a matter of whether we’re using sales technology better than competing sales teams. 

It’s hard to recommend any sort of exact sales tech stack because there’s no such thing as the perfect one. It all depends on what you need from new sales tech and – in some cases, like when you’re entrenched with a specific CRM – the technology you already have. Generally though, here are a few questions to ask to guide your refinement efforts:

Check out this sales tech stack breakdown from Sales Hacker to see which categories most sales tech stacks cover, along with the rationale companies provide for why their tech stacks are built the way they are.  

Like most aspects of selling, sales training can be thought of as something we simply must do or something that sets us apart. If it’s the former at your company, it’s hard to blame you when considering that up to 85% of sales training fails to deliver ROI. 

Still, sales training shouldn’t be dismissed as a potential differentiator: SiriusDecisions found that high-performing sales teams invest 27% more in their sales training. For a good primer on how to fix your sales training process, this article from HubSpot lays out five reasons your current sales training may be failing you. 

Another key stat referenced in the HubSpot article is that high-performing organizations are far more likely to invest in ongoing sales training. The ongoing part of training is all the more critical because more than 80% of new skills are lost within a month.

A final note on sales training: Given all the modern-day distractions, it’s a good idea to train reps on how to stay focused amid all the email notifications, social alerts, collaborative channel pings, text dings, and anything else that takes salespeople away from the task at hand. 

Sometimes it’s hard to tell whether you need to hire more salespeople because you’re still not sure whether the people you’ve hired months ago are ultimately going to produce like you need them to.

Fine-tuning your onboarding processes and clarifying ramp expectations is a good way to not just get a better handle on your resourcing needs, but also to provide team members with an experience that says you’re invested in their success and want to see them stick around. 

As for how to go about it, Adam Honig provides tips for reducing ramp time, plus here’s how OpenView partners reduced ramp time by 40%. 

Speaking of sticking around, it’s not hard to understand how sales staff attrition would negatively affect productivity. If you’ve ever experienced a surge in turnover, you know. Thisroundup of stats from Xactly Corp shows just how detrimental attrition is, while shedding additional light on the depths to which this problem plagues so many sales teams. 

The pivotal impact of attrition on productivity gives companies all the more reason to invest in ongoing sales training, along with a more attentive, more analytical approach to onboarding. The effect on attrition is an important-yet-sometimes-missed factor when calculating ROI for onboarding and ongoing training. 

Lastly, which sales-related functions take premium time away from the sales team, sales leaders, and sales operations staff? Of these tasks, can any be safely entrusted to a third party without needing to worry about a decline in quality or timeliness?

If the answer is yes, and you do not consider the task to be a core competency or competitive differentiator, then you should seriously consider outsourcing it. Since you’re reading this, it’s safe to assume you’re not looking to outsource sales as a whole, but you might consider contracting out specific aspects of your hiring, training, or marketing functions to professional services firms with a proven track record of results in your niche. 

Regardless of how you go about boosting selling time, the key is to encourage it, rather than demand it, by creating an environment where sales team members can intuitively and confidently engage in customer activity throughout the day. 

What would happen if you spent 10% more time each week reading the LinkedIn Sales Blog? Find out by subscribing. 


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