In 2015, Salesforce reported that the average company spends around $24,000 per person to improve productivity. However, 49% have zero, or very few ways of actually measuring the results of their efforts. As most seasoned sales pros will tell you, this problem is not new, nor will the struggle likely end any time soon for most organizations. But that doesn’t mean your business has to remain stuck in bad habits or continue applying less than best practices to your sales initiatives.
Every business that includes a sales team understands how important it is to measure performance and look for improvements. In fact, many of you are probably familiar with those meetings where everyone gets excited about improving, and then somewhere along the way through the daily grind, all those lofty ideas for improvement get lost.
The concept of creating efficiencies in your day-to-day sales operations doesn’t have to be a Herculean task or require a think tank of rocket scientists to figure out. In fact, it’s often too easy to overthink operational efficiencies, because the biggest improvements often come from the simplest changes.
Whether you run an online business or are part of a sales team, there are lots of ways to get bogged down in the daily routine of prospecting and selling. Make sure you’re making the best use of your time – here are a few tips:
Dedicate time for sales analytics. It’s so easy to get lost in a million sets of numbers that are important to a variety of teams. You need to know which numbers really matter most to your sales success. This also includes reviewing what data you look at each month – you might realize that one set of data isn’t really telling you what you need to know. Or you may realize that you should be tracking a new set of numbers based on new business objectives or changes in the market. Reviewing sales data can be a fun distraction, and even kind of addictive – but make sure you’re making good use of your time and focusing on the right metrics that are truly driving your success.
Make an “appointment” to communicate with and prospect for leads. Most sales people hate prospecting – they consider it to be a low-yield, time-sucking activity that isn’t as much fun or as rewarding as closing deals. In an ideal world, you’d have nothing but hot leads waiting to hear from you every day – but the reality is, you need to make time for prospecting. Make it a regular part of your work routine. It’s so easy to weave these into your day – think of all the meetings you have with other team members, think of the time you already spend on reports or administrative activities. So why would you NOT set time aside on your calendar for the most important thing you do? Prospecting and communicating with potential customers or partnerships is the bedrock of your sales responsibilities. Prospecting is sometimes tough, and it’s not always fun, but it’s a guaranteed way to keep feeding your pipeline with promising new business opportunities.
Use automation where it makes sense. In our digital era fueled by “big data,” it’s no wonder there are countless customer relationship management (CRM) tools available for all types of organizations. These customizable software applications can give structure to your sales ideas and turn them into action. If your business is using outdated CRM software, or isn’t taking full advantage of its bells and whistles, invest some time in re-thinking your approach to sales automation. This can be a proactive way to up your sales game. Don’t use automation as a crutch – it might not make sense to automate every part of your sales process, and there is still a lot of value in getting on the phone to talk with customers, especially for complex B2B sales. But if you can use sales automation effectively, it will free up more time and space for the human element of building customer relationships.
Base benchmarks on smart key performance indicators (KPIs). How well aligned are your sales goals with your organization’s overall business objectives? It is essential to make sure your goals for each product, service or sales channel maximize the potential for your company to meet its revenue goals. Each area of your company’s business has its own responsibility to generate profits. For instance, a food company may expect a certain level of retail sales from each product line it releases; are you doing enough to promote the benefits of each line to every retail distributor relationship you have? Are some products selling better than others? Are some channels outperforming the rest? Don’t just look at top-line overall revenue; go deeper into the specific product lines and adjust your strategies as needed.
Get outside your silo. Every organization – large and small – is at risk of falling into the “silo” mentality. People with relevant roles tend to huddle together and get too busy to communicate outside their department. Even solopreneurs can become “siloed” if they get too comfortable with a certain product, industry, or target market – complacency is the enemy of creativity and innovation. However, there are several efficiencies that can be created with just one monthly KPI meeting. During this meeting, every team, including the sales team, speaks to their success and shortcomings, so connections can be made and problems solved. A master KPI spreadsheet should be kept in a library, or “wiki” that all team members can access. Another way teams can get out of their silos without leaving their desks is by creating a shared drive where key resources and information can be shared. Look for ways to “cross-pollinate” with different people at your company. Or if you’re a solo business owner, look for networking opportunities with people from various categories and industries so you can get fresh perspectives.
Many of your sales processes can be more efficient and productive with just a few small changes to the way you use your time, the way you communicate you’re your customers and your teammates, and the way you approach sales analytics and benchmarks. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel – just re-evaluate how you’re approaching each new day at work.
Do you have ideas for simple ways business and entrepreneurs can make the most of their time and maximize sales performance? Please share them in the comments below.
Gregg Schwartz is the Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Strategic Sales & Marketing