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Three Steps to Improving Sales Rep Productivity

June 24, 2015 | By Steve Silver

  • For b-to-b sales reps, productivity means revenue per sales rep
  • Sales operations can identify issues and designate strategies for improvement using a three-step approach
  • Surveying reps, conducting interviews and identifying solutions can help to accurately assess the state of your sales productivity

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (USBLS) defines labor productivity as real output per labor, and growth in labor productivity is measured as the change in this ratio over time. It is labor productivity growth that enables workers to produce more goods and services than they otherwise could for a given number of work hours.

Sales GrowthIn the case of b-to-b sales reps, growth in productivity means more revenue per sales rep. While multiple sources and factors can lead to productivity increases, sales operations can identify issues and prioritize actions using a three-step process:

  1. Conduct a sales activity study. This type of study identifies how sales reps spend their time. Data can be gathered in a number of ways, including a time-and-motion survey, collection of systems data, asking reps to complete a daily journal or deploying software that monitors time spent on individual tasks. Once the data is collected, it can be categorized into four relative productivity quadrants, based on whether it is a core selling activity or other activity, and whether it involves direct engagement with customers.
  1. Interview and observe. No matter the mechanism for conducting the sales activity study, results must be augmented by interviews and observation of reps in action. The purpose is to validate, understand root causes and confirm results – before taking corrective action.
  1. Identify and implement solutions. Now it’s time to identify, prioritize and implement solutions. The guiding mantra should be “people before process, process before technology.” Sales operations, usually in collaboration with sales enablement, must address the skills, competency and knowledge of sales reps before moving on to major process or technology changes. Once you’ve addressed the people side of the equation, you can begin to redesign processes, eliminate or offload tasks, modify existing tools or implement new technologies.

Economists study labor productivity to understand and inform a deeper understanding of changes in the economy, ideally leading to better prediction of future results and guiding policy decisions. Sales operations must do the same. Before buying the hottest new technology or rolling out the latest sales methodology, be sure you assess the state of your sales productivity, analyze historical trends and understand the drivers and impediments to growth.

Steve Silver

Steve Silver is a Senior Research Director of Sales Operations Strategies at SiriusDecisions. Steve brings with him more than 20 years of executive-level experience spanning sales operations, sales and product marketing. Follow Steve on Twitter @jstevensilver.