According to research by the Bridge Group, 65% of B2B companies admit to sales productivity (the rate at which reps acquire revenue) being the number one challenge they face on a regular basis. Given that only 20% of your sales reps are likely to meet or exceed their targets (the 20/60/20 rule), it’s important to streamline your team’s workflow, if you’re looking to increase your sales while minimizing your expended resources (like cost, time, and effort).
As a manager of sales reps, you’ll always have more than a dozen projects clamouring for your time. So, how do you dedicate enough time to activities that actually contribute to your business bottom-line? Should your team spend more time on vetting prospective customers or presenting product demos? What if you miss out on a million dollar deal because you were busy chasing a low-priority tasks?
If you’re looking to chase more aggressive business goals in the near future, it’s important that you’re aware of the exact time the sales reps spend on both pre and post-sales activities. More importantly, you must analyze: a) what an average working day looks like for a sales rep in your company and b) how you can implement time-saving sales processes to ensure a higher conversion rate.
How do sales teams spend their time?
According to a recent study, approximately two-thirds of an average sales representative’s time goes into non-revenue-generating activities, leaving just 14 hours (assuming a 40-hour work week) for actual selling activities like pursuing leads, following up with existing customers, and conducting external customer-facing meetings.
Apart from administrative tasks (14.8%) that include handling product issues, internal policies, and paperwork, most of their day goes into:
- Researching client activity (11.6%)
- Attending internal meetings (8.7%)
- Travelling (7.0%)
- Drawing up proposals or contracts (6.3%)
- Keeping their pipeline organized (4.5%)
While these responsibilities form an important part of being in sales, are they really worth sacrificing the productivity of your team?
With an effective time management methodology, sales representatives are able to dedicate 18.9% more time to selling. However, only 22.9% actually take active steps to streamline their workflow—something that can be changed by introducing appropriate tools and processes.
The sales productivity tool belt
Let’s take a look at some of the popular sales productivity tools in the market that should be on your must-have list for saving time.
When you collect and maintain detailed records of customers’ transactions, interests, requirements, and concerns, you can spend more time selling and less time going through messy spreadsheets and cluttered inboxes.
CRM software records, reports and analyzes all the interactions between your potential/existing customers and sales reps. For example, when a new prospect enters the CRM, you can quickly check:
- When you contacted them last
- The key highlights of the interaction.
- If they seemed eager to get in touch again (and if yes, the best time to reach out to them in the near future)
- The communication channel (email, call, etc) you used and which one they preferred
When you analyze what your customers really want, you can address their problems before they happen. Using the intel above, you can personalize your approach to selling and also set an automated follow-up reminder.
Using a CRM tool like Copper allows you to automatically sync all your contacts and other important account details with your Gmail, so you don’t waste any time on manual data entry. As a result, you can create tasks for gathering, nurturing and closing leads right from your inbox, without switching between multiple apps.
One of the best ways to increase productivity is to monitor where your team spends the most time. Copper tracks your sales activities, how long deals stay in each stage of the funnel and other metrics to give you insight into your biggest time-sucks.
Implementing CRMs can pose quite a challenge for sales reps, as they’re difficult to configure and customize without prior technical knowledge. Fortunately, because Copper is designed based on Google’s Material Design Principles, there’s not much of a learning curve and it’s quite easy to set up.
Employee time tracking
Most employees spend an average of 42 minutes (excluding lunch breaks) every day attending to personal tasks during business hours, including online shopping, surfing the internet, scrolling through social media, running errands, and taking calls. That’s almost eight hours worth of valuable working time being wasted every week.
In another look at employee productivity, you could be losing $11,000 each year on wasted time. And that’s just for two team members. When the size of your company grows, so does the opportunity for budget lost on time-wasting tasks.
Therefore, it comes as no surprise that nearly 72% of employers surveyed have introduced a time tracking system in their company for monitoring employee work hours.
When administered on a larger scale, employee monitoring encourages an open, honest, and transparent culture within the organization. Studies actually show that when people have eyes on them, they tend to be more motivated and disciplined to give their 100% to tasks at hand.
Using a tool like Hubstaff, you can easily monitor your team’s progress on a specific task or project in real-time. The time tracking software can also capture the screen activity of your employees (an optional feature that can also be turned off), including the websites and applications they use often. In short, you basically get an at-a-glance summary of what your team has been up to without having to visit their desk.
Want to know which employees are closing the most profitable deals for your business?
With Hubstaff, you can gauge the overall productivity of your team by tracking their individual activity percentages. You can even set budget and hours limits per team member or client to make sure your sales efforts are focused where they matter most.
When you’re able to accurately pinpoint the successes and areas for improvement (sorted by client, activity, team member, and date/time range), you’ll also be able to accurately estimate the budget and resource bandwidth for a future project.
Additionally, the Hubstaff mobile app has GPS tracking, which comes in handy for sales reps on the go.
Read more about time tracking for sales teams.
According to a 2017 study, most organizations struggle with minimizing costs (49.5%), meeting deadlines (45.8%), team communication (43.9%) and accountability (29%) when tackling various projects on an everyday basis.
Whether you work at a Fortune 500 corporation or a fast-growing startup, establishing clear project execution guidelines can increase sales team efficiency and save valuable time.
Before you get started on your next project, share a well-defined to-do list with your team so that everyone can be held accountable for the roles and responsibilities assigned to them. 77% of high-performing project managers use project management (PM) tools to increase team productivity and achieve their business goals.
While there are many PM tools available in the market for you to choose from, 73% of business leaders believe that reliability, user-friendliness and ease of integration are the three primary factors that everyone should look out for when investing in one.
Asana checks all these boxes by allowing you to plan, organize, and track your team’s entire workflow—from strategy to execution. For example, you can drag and drop project tasks (assigned to employees) across the board to create a more cohesive pipeline for every stage of your sales funnel. As a result, you’re always aware of who’s doing what and by when, so you spend less time on status update meetings.
Onboarding and nurturing new clients can often be a long, drawn-out process that might require input from multiple employees. Asana allows you to monitor progress on key prospecting initiatives to ensure a positive customer experience at every step. You can also integrate your preferred CRM with the tool to access your calendar, emails, and tickets from one place.
Similar to Asana, Trello is another PM tool that uses boards, lists, and cards to prioritize your projects in a flexible, engaging and rewarding manner. For example, you can invite a new client to the Trello onboarding board, and:
- Use cards to share resources, including knowledge centers, customer service contact, and guides.
- Add onboarding tasks for them to complete as they get acquainted with your product.
- Track their onboarding progress at every step, so you can save the day when they need help.
Now, you don’t have to get on multiple orientation calls to introduce every new customer to your product. Simply share this board with them to complete the onboarding process.
Similar to most PM software, Trello integrates with hundreds of third-party tools, which gives you a lot of flexibility for what you can do with the software. For example, if you’re looking to automate your workflow, you can use IFTTT to schedule an automated recurring task (daily or weekly) on Trello. You can even integrate Trello and Hubstaff for streamlined project and time management.
All your data on Asana and Trello is saved on the cloud, which means you can access your dashboard from anywhere, anytime—as long as you have stable internet.
On average, organizations spend $700 on labor for searching and replacing documents—and almost $2,000 on maintaining just one filing/storage cabinet. If you store your documents off-site, typical fees include the pickup service (about $40) and box handling charges (a couple dollars). In the end, manual storage and management of documents not only lowers the productivity of your team, but also burns a metaphorical hole in your pocket.
Sales reps spend the majority of their time in transit tinkering with proposals or making last-minute edits to the pitch. Having an offline backup of all your important documents accelerates the sales process and ensures productivity on the go.
Today, 93% of companies use cloud-based technologies to securely store their data, and here’s why: Imagine this:
- You’re headed to a customer meeting and need to review your prep materials, including the latest marketing collateral and past meeting notes.
- While en route, your teammate also shares the latest copy of the pitch that can be opened on any device, anywhere.
- After you’re done, you snap a picture of the notes on the whiteboard, which gets automatically uploaded to the project folder online.
- You can now immediately share the picture with your team and the attendees while granting the right level of access to everyone.
- Once you’re back, you draft a client-company agreement and send it to the customer for their approval and signature.
- You get an automated notification later about the agreement being e-signed.
With the right tool for document storage and management, sales reps can completely eliminate the unnecessary delays in their workflow and focus more on closing deals.
Google Drive makes for an excellent team collaboration tool that lets you store all your photos, designs, videos, spreadsheets, slides, forms, and word documents in one place.
For example, you can create and share surveys/opt-ins to capture leads or solicit client feedback. The responses are easily accessible through a connected Google spreadsheet.
Want to share design drafts with your creative team? Need your legal associates to quickly go over a contract before you sign? How about sending product mockups to a customer?
Invite your teammates, clients or any other external contacts to download, comment, edit, view, and collaborate on all the files on your Drive, without having to send them an email attachment. If the recipient doesn’t have a stable internet connection (for example, while on a plane or in an elevator), they can also view the files offline.
For most file types, you can also track any changes made to the document. This gives you a historical record of the content shared with each customer during a specific deal.
Another cloud-based, data storage alternative is Dropbox that also lets you create, edit, assign to-dos, review designs, add due dates, run meetings or manage tasks.
Need to send marketing collateral to a client, but don’t want them to edit any original files inside? Share a view-only link through email, text, or chat and get a notification anytime someone views, edits, moves, or deletes documents. Make annotations and comment on a specific part of a file or an image and see who added what.
When you collaborate with customers and your team, projects often end up consuming the entirety of the disk space on your device. Dropbox’s Smart Sync allows you to free up space on your local hard disk by sending your files directly to the cloud. And even though they’re off your system memory, they’re still easily visible on your desktop.
4 time-saving strategies for sales teams to try
Along with the above tools, you must have a set of repeatable steps that your sales representatives can use to convert leads in long-lasting customers. These sales processes can help boost overall productivity.
Document all the interactions that a lead has with your business, starting from the point of entry—for example, messages, phone calls and emails they received that prompted an action, and how they advance through your sales funnel.
Tracking behavior helps you visualize pain points, fine-tune marketing campaigns and set achievable targets for your team.
An ideal sales tracking process should help you measure the following metrics:
- Maximum number of sales that happen through an individual lead (or sales per source)
- Total sales in a given time period (monthly, quarterly or annual basis)
- Sales per demographic segment (age group, educational background, job profile, or location)
- Average time to convert a prospect to a customer
- New vs. recurring customer sales
- Customer retention/churn rate
- Average revenue generated per customer
When you monitor the performance of your team against these parameters, it’s easy to zero in on the sales activities that bring in the maximum revenue. Then you can dedicate your time and resources to projects that are more profitable in the long run.
Skip the manual data entry
Seventy-one percent of sales reps waste most of their productive hours manually entering data from documents like feedback forms, purchase orders, catalogues and invoices. In terms of output quality, accuracy, speed and other crucial factors, manual data entry is not only outdated but also has a higher error rate and a slow turnaround time. Not only that, but 20% of sales reps also admitted to manual data entry being their biggest challenge.
Think of your sales reps as the star athletes of a football team. They’re consistently pursuing new prospects, refreshing cold leads, or closing sales—activities that contribute directly to your bottom line.
You won’t ask your celebrated quarterback to keep score or pass the water bottles, right? When your sales reps spend most of their time manually entering data or creating forecasts, the company’s revenue-generating projects take a back seat.
Invest in automation and collaboration tools that specialize in data integrity and accuracy, so that your reps can focus their time on more important things.
Templatize when possible
On average, an employee sends and receives 124 emails every day. If you have an eight-hour work day, that’s more than 15 emails an hour, leaving you with only four minutes to process each email and take a necessary action before moving on. As a sales professional with countless things to do, how do you keep up?
Whether you’re operating independently or with a team in tow, it’s always helpful to have several templates of the most common email response that you send out. For example: Mixmax, an email automation tool for Gmail, lets you save and share templates for your team to use.
Automate tedious processes
Designed to eliminate time-consuming tasks, enhance productivity, improve revenue and increase conversion rates, AI-powered sales automation tools are game-changers.
Case in point: companies using sales automation have a 53% higher conversion rate and observe a 3.1% increase in the annual revenue growth rate.
Whether you’re looking to improve customer experience, manage email content curation or saturate the top of your sales funnel with active leads—there’s an automation tool for it . For example, Acquire offers live chatbots to attract website visitors’ attention and collect their contact details.
Identifying the winning sales processes for your team is not an overnight affair. It’s important to understand that almost every process has a bottleneck that can be eliminated if you look close enough. However, you must be open to improvement and constantly track your efforts.
For example, as your company grows, you’ll likely hire more sales reps to handle all the new leads.
- Here’s when you encounter your first bottleneck: Despite the higher headcount, your conversion rate hasn’t increased.
- Why? Because most of your employees are not skilled in presenting demos.
- How do you solve this? By organizing formal training and orientation sessions for everyone on your sales team.
Streamlining your sales processes simplifies selling for your reps and helps them focus on the more important things.
Adopting a time-saving approach to sales increases revenue and employee satisfaction as the reps are happier (and more productive!) when they spend more time doing what they love.
Additionally, great selling companies have crystal clear, service-level documentation that outlines the importance of every lead, the processes for managing them and the expectations from the revenue generation teams.
While these strategies are more profitable when implemented company-wide, sales reps looking to achieve better results can also use them to enhance their individual productivity. How will you help your team increase productivity and performance?
About the author
Dominique Jackson manages content at Copper, an easy-to-use CRM software for productivity. When he’s not writing, he’s binging a new Netflix series or testing a new green smoothie recipe.