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  • Mercer Smith-Looper

4 Ways to boost an underperforming sales team

Sales productivity suffers when not enough time is spent selling. Sadly, only 23% of a rep’s time is spent with prospects and too much time is spent on unproductive work. To free up more time, look for repeated tasks that can be automated, and review your sales processes to ensure they are current with technology, and keeping pace with strategy shifts.

It’s obvious when a sales team misses quota, but not so apparent as to why. 

Getting a grip on sales productivity can sometimes feel like a complex math equation. With the average sales rep working 50.8 hours per week, you’d expect them to accomplish more, right?

According to a recent study, sales reps engage in 39 different activities daily. As leaders, we know that salespeople are extremely busy and stretched to the max. With every new thing added to their plate, their sales productivity goes down, and they contribute less and less to their primary goal: bringing in revenue.

But the bottom line (pun intended) is, you want your sales team to sell more. You’ve tried incentivizing, monitoring, and coaching to ensure they can continue to sell and close deals. However, something is still going wrong, and you’re noticing that your sales team isn’t selling as much as they should or could be.

Let’s get to the root of the problem. Here’s why your sales team isn’t selling more and what you can do about it.

Audit your team’s workload

Your sales team is likely doing some selling, but are they doing enough? 

A study by Forrester shows that reps generally spend about 23% of their time selling and 27% doing internal, non-productive work. If you’ve noticed a dip in sales productivity but aren’t quite sure why, it’s a great time to do a “desk audit,” or tracking what activities are consuming your rep’s day and precious sales time.

Some companies may choose to do this with a time-tracking software such as Hubstaff, but it may be more beneficial and faster just to ask your team themselves. Here are a few things that you might consider asking:

  • Time spent with potential buyers, selling
  • Admin tasks, like email and calendar management
  • Internal meetings
  • Time preparing for buyer calls
  • Creating proposals and sales collateral
  • Manual data entry or cleanup
  • Scheduling
  • Other (and have them fill in the blank…it might be revealing!)

The answers to these questions will give you a starting point for the rest of your discovery. Once you have information about how much time your team is spending on extraneous activities vs. selling, you can back into the numbers. For instance, if they are working 50.8 hours a week and spending 23% of their time selling, they are spending about 12 hours selling per week. (Reality check: that’s 2.4 hours per day!) Then, take the amount of revenue that the rep has brought in and divide it by 12: that’s the value of each selling hour per rep.

Knowing this number helps you understand just how important it is to prioritize selling time. Additionally, you now have a baseline average and can monitor it as you make changes to your sales strategy. To improve sales productivity, you need to increase the selling time percentage by reducing time spent on non-productive and administrative tasks.

Pro tip: TravelBank’s sales team reduced time spent on sales proposals by 30% with Qwilr. Get a demo to see how you can do the same.

Look for tasks that can be automated

Some of the work that is sucking up your sales team’s valuable time can be automated. After you’ve listened to the tasks your team does every day and have a list of what’s consuming the most amount of their time, you can start to put sales processes in place to give them some of that time back

To identify tasks that could be automated, look for the processes that are most commonly repeated. For instance, if a sales rep does the same type of data entry several times a day for each different prospect, it has a high potential for automation. Conversely, one-off or individualized tasks are bad candidates for automation but are helpful to know as you prioritize your sales rep’s time.

As you identify processes to automate, there are a large number of tools that may help. A few of the more popular ones:

Every process you identify for automation frees up your team for more selling and prospecting time. Additionally, you may uncover tasks that should be moved from under the sales umbrella altogether. 

After a Forrester client conducted an audit on his team, similar to the one suggested above, he made a case for hiring staff to manage the customer service issues that were continually bogging his sales team down. After this change, his team went from achieving 25% of quota to 85%

The takeaway: small, meaningful changes to a sales team’s responsibilities can have a significant impact on your sales productivity. 

Pro tip: integrate Qwilr with your CRM to automate sales proposal creation and save valuable selling time. Request a demo to learn more.

Define your ICP, prioritize leads

When a new lead comes in, this is usually what happens:

But before a rep dedicates time to follow-up, make sure the lead is viable and aligned with your organization’s ideal customer profile (ICP).

Not all leads are equal, and chasing after low-quality leads or leads outside of your target ICP is derailing your team from being successful. If you haven’t reviewed your lead scoring or definition of an MQL lately, now is a good time to evaluate if adjustments are needed. If you’ve adjusted your sales strategy, likely your MQL definition needs an update, too.

It’s also not uncommon that as an organization grows, your ICP changes. As an example, perhaps you were previously targeting SMBs and now you’re going after mid-sized companies. Be sure to discuss the shift in your sales team meetings and how to transition from the old ICP to the new.

Keep in mind, if your team is following up on lower quality leads, not only is it potentially a lower revenue-generating lead, but it’s also an opportunity cost— time your sales team isn’t spending on higher-value leads instead.

Continue to iterate

Even if you find a sales strategy that works exceptionally well for your team, nothing should remain the same forever. Continue to measure your improvements, survey your team regularly, and review your processes to ensure that none of them are stagnating.

While it can be tempting to fall into an “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it” mentality, staying curious about what’s working keeps your team ahead of the game. Additionally, it lets your sales team know that you are committed to excellence. 

Let your team know their opinion matters, too. When you regularly ask for insights and discuss blockers to reach a defined outcome, they know that the team’s success is collaborative rather than solely falling on their shoulders. Manager support is one of the best ways to boost performance. No one wants to go above and beyond for a leader that doesn’t care about them.

Lastly, as a sales leader, don’t forget to continually educate yourself on what works for other companies. Encourage experimentation amongst your team members, and always remember to be curious. As an example, see how TimeHub simplified their workflows and improved the visual impact of their sales materials.

Supporting your team

Your sales team wants to sell, not to mention, that’s what they were hired to do. Most reps are highly competitive, goal-oriented, and let’s be honest— motivated by money. Thus, it’s in their best interest to close more deals and generate higher revenue for your company. 

To improve your sales productivity, pay attention to what is consuming your team’s time, look for areas to automate, help reps to prioritize and evaluate lead quality, and most of all, continue to iterate your processes to optimize performance.

Curious how Qwilr sales proposals can help your team save time, stand out, and win more business? In just 15 minutes, we’ll show you how. Get a personalized demo.

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