Emails. Phone calls. Meetings. More meetings.
Sales is a fast-paced environment, and it can be hard to find the time to get everything done that needs doing.
Whether you’re looking to increase the percentage of deals you close or just free up more time throughout the day, here are 14 sales productivity tips that can help.
1. Spend the first hour prospecting
Anthony Iannarino is an international speaker and sales leader. He writes at The Sales Blog, and is the author of The Lost Art of Closing and The Only Sales Guide You’ll Ever Need.
His advice to salespeople looking to get more productive is:
“Spend the very first hour on prospecting. There is nothing more important to being productive than creating new opportunities. Productivity in sales is measured in opportunities created and won. Everything else is necessary but not sufficient to generating the outcomes by which productivity in sales is measured.”
2. Qualify prospects more effectively
If you’re chasing up weak prospects, you’re going to waste a lot of time on “zombie leads” that never become customers.
In your sales strategy, it’s crucial to define what qualifies a lead—from both a marketing and sales perspective.
How you measure this is dependent on your business. You might use engagement with specific calls to action, contact requests, or even order page visits.
Collecting information about prospects through forms and behavior segmentation can give you all the information you need before you waste time on weak leads.
3. Treat calls like face to face meetings
When you don’t need to actually meet people in person, it’s easy to take a relaxed approach to calls. Colleen Francis of Engage Selling argues that this is a mistake that can hurt sales efficiency:
“Treat telephone calls the same way you would a face to face meeting with a client. Block the time in your calendar, put your phone on DND, turn off your email, cell phone and any social media websites, and close your office door. Institutionalizing focus will result in more work done at a much higher quality level.”
4. Batch the time you spend responding to email
If you spend your time constantly interrupted by replying to emails, you’re never going to get your most important work finished.
In The Four Hour Work Week, Tim Ferriss recommends batching your replies into just two times a day (11am and 4pm).
If you use email to do prospecting or follow up with leads, this may not be an option for you. But the principle behind the idea can still work.
Instead of using email reactively (whenever you get mail), proactively set aside specific times where you’ll be working on email—and focus on other work at other times.
5. Send more precise emails
Common wisdom on emails is that shorter is better. Right?
Maybe. In reality, your sales productivity will improve if you focus on sending more precise emails instead of shorter ones.
Cal Newport, author of Deep Work, has laid out a three-step process to saving time by sending better emails.
- Identify the goal of an email
- Figure out the process that will accomplish that goal
- Explain the process in detail so that everyone understands it
In the example he gives, imagine trying to meet a friend for coffee. Instead of replying to “Do you want to grab coffee sometime?” with “Sure, what works,” give a more detailed answer. You might include:
- A few times that work for you
- A suggested location
- A phone number to reach you at (eliminate back and forth)
What about for sales productivity?
The same principles apply whenever you’re trying to set a meeting. Be precise, provide specific times—and maybe use a service like Calendly to make the booking process easier.
6. Spend more time up-front on research
Don’t go into a sales call cold.
If you’ve gotten to the point where there’s a call or meeting with a prospect, you should be spending at least a few minutes preparing—and ideally would do as much prep as you have time for.
Deep understanding of a specific prospect can give you new ideas for how to present your offerings. What features and benefits should you emphasize? What are the concerns that may prevent this specific prospect from converting?
Spending more time on research can improve your conversion rate and make the selling process go more smoothly.
7. Understand your ideal customer profile
Who are your best customers?
In sales, you need to know the main drivers of revenue for your business. Focusing on the customers that create the most value for your business is a crucial way to increase sales productivity.
If you know more about your best customers, it’s easier to tell where you should be spending most of your sales time
8. Clean up—or automate—your CRM
A messy CRM adds unnecessary time to every deal. Every time you need to manually input data or update deals (and remind yourself of how to do those things), you’re wasting time that could be spent on literally anything else.
Take a few hours every month to keep your CRM squeaky clean. It will save you time in the long run.
Even better, use marketing automation to update your CRM automatically and take out data entry steps entirely.
9. Use automated lead scoring
Are you following up at the right time? What’s the exact moment a marketing qualified lead become a sales qualified lead?
Lead scoring can help you identify the perfect moment to follow up (and notify at that moment). Set up lead scoring through a marketing automation platform to track when contacts open messages and interact with your communications.
Then, get notified when your prospects reach a certain score threshold—so that you can follow up with people who are more likely to convert.
In general, opportunities to automate manual, behind-the-scenes processes are a great way to free up time.
10. Improve training and onboarding
This is more of an organizational tip than an individual one—but spending time training your team can pay off in your long-term sales productivity.
Good onboarding is the first step to a strong sales team, but ongoing training also has value. Every lesson you teach can have a ripple effect throughout your sales force, and your sales.
Improve sales techniques; improve sales.
On an individual level, practicing and constantly improving can help you as well. If you can improve your skills and convert more, higher value deals faster, your sales productivity is going up—by definition.
11. Know your key metrics
If you don’t have your sales KPIs ironed out, how do you know if your investment in sales is paying off?
Track key metrics so that you can identify weak links in your sales process. If you can find places where deals are slipping through the cracks—where a deal that could be won is instead lost—you can improve your conversion rate and produce better results.
Productivity expert Steve Scott of Develop Good Habits makes the point that it’s easy to fall into the trap of just “working harder:”
“Many people in the sales force think that working longer and harder will somehow magically equate to more sales. This idea could not be more wrong. Working on too many things at one time, being unclear about goals and not understanding your metrics may have you working hard. But not working effectively.”
12. Reward jobs well done
Sales compensation packages often involve commission. But making sure you acknowledge successful sales efforts with positive reinforcement can be a powerful motivator.
Don’t just rely on commissions as a motivator. As L. David Marquet says in his leadership book Turn the Ship Around, praise is most effective when it is immediate. Not hours or days after a success—but minutes or seconds.
13. Encourage referrals
New leads that come in through word of mouth are much more likely to be interested in what you have to offer.
It’s also easier to convert them into customers.
Having an existing customer vouch for you is huge, and setting up referral incentives—whether they take the form of points, coupons, or credit—can save you time and effort on every sale.
14. Align sales and marketing
Too many companies have marketing and sales teams that barely talk to each other.
You want to avoid situations where sales teams are throwing out low quality leads from marketing. Having regular touchpoints between your sales and marketing teams can help you create more better qualified leads.