Boosting sales productivity is one of the most powerful methods you have at your disposal for improving sales, and transforming your results. Unfortunately, it is also one of the most misunderstood aspects of sales and sales management.
Many companies still stick to religiously measuring activity targets, like number of sales calls per week, number of prospecting calls or emails sent or other easily quantifiable measures. Where these may be easy to adopt from a management perspective, in my opinion, they certainly are not the most effective ways to measure sales productivity – instead, in this post I’d like to give you 21 new ideas for boosting your productivity and making more sales.
Go For Quality Over Quantity
1. Set clear goals & milestones
The first step, as always, is to set clear goals and milestones. Unless you’re clear on what you want to achieve, how will you know you’re getting there ? If you’re getting started, I would highly recommend you set anywhere from 3-5 stretch goals, and for each of those, identify at least one milestone that will let you know you’re well on track.
2. Spend less time “doing stuff”
In the day-to-day, sales can be a repetitive business. Because of the very nature of selling, results often occur after months or even years of investing your time and effort. Therefore, many sellers fall into the trap of “getting busy” – simply managing and tracking activities, regardless of their impact on the overall result.
Rather than spending your days doing repetitive tasks that may give you a sense of accomplishment in the short term, but will not contribute to your long-term results, spend some time reviewing your overall goals and identifying the actions that would get you closer to them, so you can focus on those first. In other words, make sure you build in enough time to do some strategic thinking – not just “doing stuff”.
3. Find what works – and do more of it
I highly recommend you find what works (what delivers actual results in terms of sales) and do more of it. To me, this means periodically reviewing your closed sales, and identifying the factors that helped bring those in. Was there anything specific you did in terms of prospecting ? Any outreach approach that worked particularly well? Any needs discovery of closing technique you adopted, that helped you get better results? Any specific target segment that seemed more receptive to your messaging ?
Finding and identifying these so-called “best practices” is one of the most powerful levers you have your disposal for boosting your sales productivity and transforming your results.
4. Cut something from your list every day
If you’re anything like most of my clients, you’ll find yourself starting every day with a pretty big to do list. In most cases, you’ll also find yourself ending every day with at least a few items on the list remaining.
My golden rule is: if you’ve not managed to complete a task on two consecutive days, relentlessly cut it from your list. Unless there is a valid reason for you not complaining that task, it’s probably not that important and won’t impact your long-term results. If you do this every day, Monday to Friday, you’ll not only have saved a significant amount of time but you will also find your level of stress decreases dramatically.
5. Leverage your strengths
Let’s face it – for each and every one of us, they are things that we are good at and there are things that we are not so good at. Unfortunately, many times our occupation as sellers assume us to be good at everything. We need to be good at prospecting. Needs discovery. Closing. Negotiating. Growing existing relationships. Cross-selling. Up selling.
You get the message. Not everyone (not even you) is equally good at all of these things. If you can, try cutting something from the list by having someone else do them, reducing the time you spend on them or eliminating them altogether (which, granted, may be difficult sometimes). I’ll give you some ideas on how to do that further in this post.
Adopt a sales productivity system
6. Adopt a productivity method
7. Start with the most important stuff first
I start every single day by doing the most important stuff first. Strategic thinking. Producing content. Prospecting. Whatever it is for you, identify the most important thing you absolutely, positively must be doing in order to close more sales, and do that first. Every day.
8. Set time constraints
In my experience, and that of many others, tasks and activities tend to expand or contract into the time you’ve allowed for them. This works in two ways. If you set a 60 minute meeting, you can rest assured that meeting will take 60 minutes. On the other hand, if you’ve allowed only 20 minutes for that same meeting, chances are you’ll be able to accomplish the same things in much less time.
Try experimenting with this: gradually reduce the time you allow yourself for certain tasks, especially non-strategic ones, and see if you can accomplish the same things – but in less time.
9. Plan your week
Every Sunday morning, I sit down with a cup of tea and plan my week. I start by reviewing (often mentally) my quarterly targets, and what I’d like to achieve for the week. Then, I break that down into activities and tasks, which I distribute evenly over the week.
I tend to start with Mondays, but I’ve heard of others who like to start planning their Wednesdays first and then plan from the middle of the week outwards. Whatever method you pick, just make sure you plan your week ahead of time. That’s the key.
10. Work your plan
In the midst of the hustle and bustle of day-to-day business, it’s easy to abandon any plan you have made for the week when the going gets tough. Which is why, in spite of their well-meaning efforts, many people are frustrated at the end of the week because they just don’t feel like they accomplished what they set out to do.
Here’s the secret: don’t plan your entire week. On any given day, allow at least two hours for unforeseen interruptions, distractions and last-minute events.
11. Put in place periodic measurements
Similar to point number 2., I would highly recommend you put in place some kind of periodic measurement so you can spend less time doing stuff and more time focusing on the things that truly matter.
Personally, I’m a big fan of the (individual) quarterly review. Every quarter I review my results, and the activities I engaged in that got me there. More often than not, I find several things that didn’t work (which means I can now cut them, or find ways to improve upon them) and a few, core things that helped me achieve the majority of my results.
Putting in place these types of measurements will help you identify the 20% that will get you 80% of your results. Doing this over time, with incremental improvements made every quarter or so, will completely change the way you sell – guaranteed.
Think outside the box
12. (Re)define your target segment
Most of us have a vague understanding of what our ideal clients look like. We often know their industry, geographical location and probably some of their titles. Problem is, we may be selling to the right kind of people, but not the bestkind.
Every so often, I like to experiment with redefining my target segment or audience. Maybe I’ll look into it entirely new category of titles. Start bottom-up instead of top-down. Or look at an entirely new industry niche segment altogether. Almost always yielding surprising results.
13. Try some new tools
I’m a huge fan of sales productivity tips, and we truly live in the Golden age when it comes to finding easy-to-implement, cost-effective tools that can have a dramatic impact on your sales results. From marketing automation to sales 2.0 tools, I’m always looking for new tools that can help me be more productive, gain valuable time and serve my clients better.
14. Automate a few things
Even though I’m not a huge fan of their food, McDonald’s has mastered the art of automating and standardizing processes to such a degree that it has allowed them to build a global presence, and one of the strongest brands on the planet.
And now, with the power of technology at your fingertips, you can do the same. Start by identifying some routine, low value added activities that you have to do every single day or week. Then, try to find clever ways of automating those, either in part or whole – meaning you can now forget about them, and spend your time doing more of the things that actually deliver results.
15. Get some outside help
Even though you may not formally have an assistant, there are many options to get some outside help for low value-added, routine tasks and activities. From hiring a virtual assistant on oDesk to mentoring a junior talent in exchange for some help on designing a proposal, many clever ways to outsource means you have more time to focus on high value added, strategic activities.
16. Try something new every quarter
One of the most powerful enemies we have is routine – being stuck in our ways. I highly recommend trying something new at least every quarter. A new tool. Approach. Some kind of technology. Target segment. Referral method.
Forcing ourselves to try something new every quarter, or whatever timeframe works best for you, enables us to get out of the rut and gradually make improvements in terms of our business and our sales.
17. Get out of the building
I’ve personally found one of the most powerful sales productivity tips – especially when we are faced with problems or challenges – to be this: go outside. Take a walk in the park; literally. Clear your mind, and you’ll be surprised at what new approaches come to you, without effort on your behalf.
Team up with others
18. Leverage the goodwill of others
Many times, there is quite literally a small army of people who were willing to help us, if only we would ask. Sure, you could spend hours on LinkedIn and social media trying to find some kind of a hook to reach out to that executive you’re targeting. Or, you could simply find a common connection and ask them for a referral.
Leveraging the goodwill of others is one of the most powerful ways to building shortcuts, transforming our results as well as giving others an opportunity to savor the satisfaction of helping a fellow human being.
19. “Buddy up”
On and off throughout my career, I’ve teamed up with others in a sort of unofficial 1-on-1 coaching relationship. We helped each other overcome challenges, find new, creative ways of doing things and pull each other up when we were down.
If it makes sense to you, I would highly recommend you find a “buddy” and setting up a weekly call or meeting to share and exchange ideas and push each other to try new things.
20. Build an accountability network
Similar to the point above, I highly recommend building an accountability network – a group of people with whom you share your goals, objectives and what you’re trying to accomplish. Just the simple fact of knowing that others are aware of what you are trying to accomplish will often be enough to keep going when things get a little tough.
Shared accountability is a strong social mechanism for making sure we stay true to our path and achieve our goals.
21. Be a copycat
Nobody said you have to do everything by yourself – very often, copying tried and tested approaches from others is a great way to find new sales productivity practices to adopt. So go find some interesting voices out there. Listen to what they have to say.
Observe what your more successful colleagues, or top sellers inside your firm do. And over time, you may well find you will become one of them.
What sales productivity tips do you have ? What methods have you found that work for you ? And which tools do you use to boost your everyday sales productivity, focus and results ?
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