We are pleased once again to be participating in the DeFinis Communications blog carnival. This time around the topic of increasing sales productivity.
For over 15 years I held a variety of sales and marketing positions primarily in the high tech industry. I held positions called “Pre-sales Engineer” “Solution Architect”, “Strategic Industry Manager”, etc. Every time my position aligned the Marketing VP I heard how Sales could do things better and vice versa. While the departmental bickering rarely did much to improve results I have found a number of productive themes through the years that made the sales organizations I worked in and supported successful.
1. Take collaboration to a lower level
Silos in organizational structure are the first way to kill productivity. Yet organizations that try to foster cross departmental communication usually end up with managers who spend more time in meetings hearing about other departments initiatives at a high level than they do managing their own teams. Some of the best most productive organizations I have been involved with foster collaboration at the field worker level. Ask your quota carrying sales reps (not sales management) to devote 10% of his or her time to cross departmental meetings whose focus is on developing new collateral, branding, product R&D and innovation ideas. When the folks who actually spend 90% of their time sitting across from or on the phone with your prospects get involved early on in any process it reduces rework and increase adoption rates for the messaging that marketing does develop. When you invite sales to the process early you have a chance to road test new messaging, phrasing before you spend lots of money to have it printed on ads and coffee mugs!
Once your sales staff sees that their opinions are being heard and implemented they will be more motivated to use the sales tools they are given.
2. Seamless handoff through the sales cycle
Nothing frustrates a sales person more than having to babysit past sales after they should have moved on to Account Management / Customer Service. Nothing frustrates Account Management / Customer Service more than having a poorly documented account thrown over the wall with little or no idea of why they purchased the solution or what their business environment is. Nothing frustrates a client more than repeating to Sales, Account Management and Customer Service the same information over and over and over again as if they aren’t all part of the same organization. Nothing says “I don’t care about your business” more.
This is one of those an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure sort of situations. If from the minute a prospect enters the “serious buying potential” state in your sales process the sales rep needs to begin documenting with the intent that someday this prospect will be a client that Account Management will need to own and understand. Ideally there is an internal CRM system in place that is being utilized for this purpose.
Sales people cannot be productive if they are repeatedly dragged back into customer support issues as the sole person with a deep understanding of the clients business processes. Giving them a facility to document their knowledge and move on will increase productivity.
3. Where have all the admins gone?
When it comes to cutting admin time / money surely the pendulum has finally swung too far! I know gone are the days when every middle manager had an assistant sitting outside their office but many a former colleague tells me they have whole organizations where one admin supports 50 sales reps. Which tells me they are really supporting only the Sales VP and the rests of the staff is making their own copies and mailing their own Fed Ex packages. Most the software sales organizations I have worked in had sales reps making anywhere from $125-$350K a year. If we assume an average salary of $200K a year then that works out to roughly $100 an hour. If 10% of a sales staff of 20 reps time is used up on administrative tasks then that is 80 hours of lost productivity (20 reps x 40 hours a week / 10% = 80 man hours or $8000) per week. That works out to $416K per year. Even if two quality admins cost you $50K a year with pay and benefits you are still $316K ahead.
Giving your sales staff administrative support doesn’t make them prima donnas! It allows them to focus on winning new business and being focused on that goal alone.
Do you have other suggestions for how organizations can help better allocate their resources to make their sales staff more effective?