STOP WASTING YOUR SALES TEAM’S TIME:
5 PRODUCTIVITY KILLERS
Unlock Your Data • Unleash Your Sales
Introduction: Providing Sales Reps With More Selling Time ....................
Understanding Sales Productivity .............................................................
How To Measure Sales Productivity ..........................................................
5 Attributes Of Effective Sales Leaders ....................................................
5 Productivity Killers .................................................................................
Using Technology To Drive Productivity ...................................................
Benefits Of Greater Sales Productivity .....................................................
4When you consider the demands and expectations
placed on salespeople today, it gives you a new
appreciation for your top performers.
A successful sales rep is more than just a product expert;
the rep is an expert on their customers’ businesses,
industry trends and the competition. For each of your
customers, a rep calls on the organization and works to
develop relationships both deep and wide, helping your
company become a trusted partner instead of being
merely a transactional supplier.
Sales reps build business cases, help negotiate contracts,
manage responses to opportunities, handle customer
escalations, provide constant updates and reporting,
and act as a conduit to customers for the marketing and
While juggling all of these tasks, your salespeople are also
expected to increase volume numbers by product line
and food category and deliver an increase over last year’s
revenue and margin numbers.
All of these tasks and expectations leave little time for
actual selling. In fact, the average salesperson spends less
than 45 percent of their time selling, according to research
by Gartner. In some cases, reps devote 90 percent of the
workweek to travel, preparation and administrative tasks,
and only 10 percent on actual face time with customers
INTRODUCTION: PROVIDING SALES
REPS WITH MORE SELLING TIME
With so many tasks and expectations, sales
reps have little time for actual selling.
5To clarify how you define and measure sales
activity, you first need to distinguish
between two terms that are often
misconstrued: efficiency and effectiveness.
If you tell a food manufacturer that their sales reps only
spend 10 percent of their time selling the company’s
products and services, it sounds like the reps aren’t doing
their job. But statistics like these are often misleading
in terms of what’s actually happening and could result
in inappropriate investments attempting to increase
That’s why it’s important to understand and define what
constitutes selling activity. From one perspective, your
sales reps spend most of their time on tasks that aren’t
considered selling time. But the work involved in the
administrative tasks, presentation creation, travel, meetings
and email is critical to moving opportunities forward and
making a single hour of “face time” truly successful. In the
military, the relationship between support and combat is
often called the “tooth-to-tail ratio.” During World War II,
the United States armed forces had a ratio of four support
soldiers to one infantry soldier, but that has evolved to a
7:1 ratio, according to military historian John McGrath.
Similarly, today’s sales teams need to invest an increasing
amount of preparation time (think “support soldiers”) in
order to have a single hour of infantry time with a prospect
or a customer.
To clarify how you define and measure sales activity, you
first need to distinguish between two terms that are often
misconstrued: efficiency and effectiveness.
1 Efficiency: When you improve efficiency, you’re
reducing the time and effort it takes to perform a
task, making it easier and faster. It allows a person
to complete more tasks in the same amount of time,
improving output and productivity. Gartner defines
efficiency as “the input-to-output ratio, with a focus on
attaining maximum output with minimum resources.”
2 Effectiveness: In laypersons’ terms, effectiveness
describes your ability to achieve a desired result. It
starts with an end goal, and considers “all the variables
that could change or can be changed to make it
better,” according to Gartner. For sales effectiveness,
the end goal would be to generate revenue, using the
right skills, strategy and tools to win at each stage in
the sales cycle columns, total cells, and line/subline
UNDERSTANDING SALES PRODUCTIVITY
6Both efficiency and effectiveness are important for a
successful sales organization, but they’re not the same.
A sales team could be highly efficient yet ineffective, and
vice versa. Many sales organizations are effective despite
having the odds against them in terms of inefficient
As author and management specialist Peter Drucker said,
“There’s nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which
should not be done at all.” That’s a great reminder to keep
effectiveness in mind when you’re working on making your
sales organization more productive.
To improve your sales productivity, you need to
understand it (distinguishing between effectiveness and
efficiency) and measure sales activity. That means choosing
appropriate metrics and collecting the right data to report
on sales productivity.
There are essentially seven different areas to consider in
assessing your sales productivity:
1 Income Statement: Revenue and margin are top-
level, basic measures of sales productivity. For more
refinement, divide your gross margin dollars by your
field selling costs to see what it is costing for the sales
team to deliver each margin dollar. The percentage
that indicates good sales productivity varies depending
on your industry and sales coverage model (direct,
If you use partners, consider sales-out revenue in
addition to sales in. Combine it with weeks of inventory
at partners to get general health metrics on your
indirect channel. Note that it can be a challenge to
get timely sales-out information from partners. Start
with the top few partners to develop a cost-effective
method for acquiring this data.
2 Sales Load: Sales load measures your revenue per rep.
This metric tells you how well your quota is deployed
and how well your reps are doing.
3 Sales Force Cost: Here, you’re looking at the cost of
your sales force (including sales managers) as a percent
of revenue. The goal with this metric is to understand
your cost to deliver the revenue that’s coming in.
4 Compensation Plans: The total number of sales
compensation plans is often a good indicator of
efficiency. Having many different plans means you’re
trying to fit the comp plans to specific situations, rather
than optimizing your sales environment, and that’s
a problem. When sales reps have to spend lots of
time making sure reporting and their compensation is
accurate, that’s time they’re not spending on selling.
5 Pipeline Management: Here, you’re combining five
different measurements to understand sales trends and
momentum: pipeline size, shape and velocity, plus win
rates and close rates. Together, these give you a sense
of how the sales organization is moving opportunities
along, providing early indicators as to whether or not
the team is going to meet quota now and in the future.
HOW TO MEASURE SALES PRODUCTIVITY
When measuring sales productivity, there
are seven different levels to consider.
76 Sales Performance: The goal with this metric is to
identify your high and low performers. You could
define the low threshold at 50 to 60 percent of quota,
for example, and define high threshold at 95 to 100
percent of quota. Depending on the point in the
quota period, this metric provides a quick indicator of
who may need help and who may be poised to blow
through their target.
7 Sales Training: Here, take the number of salespeople
who have received training and divide it by the number
targeted for training. Since it’s possible to deliver poor
training to everyone, you want to be sure to hold the
instruction and teaching organization accountable as
well by including quality metrics such as rating by the
Collecting the data for these metrics requires involvement
from several groups to ensure a sustainable and accurate
reporting method. It is easy to underestimate the amount
of energy needed to define these metrics so they
accurately reflect your business and then find an efficient
way to deliver the data in time to be useful. Here’s where
your sales operations team is extremely valuable. Their
expertise can be leveraged to work across the functional
areas to define the metrics, develop the reporting and
deliver the information. It is easy to underestimate the
amount of energy needed to define these metrics so they
accurately reflect your business and then find an efficient
way to deliver the data in time to be useful.
It is easy to underestimate the amount of
energy needed to define these metrics so
they accurately reflect your business and
then find an efficient way to deliver the data
in time to be useful.
8Often, excellent sales reps are promoted to sales
management. Although the new role happens overnight,
the training and required sales management skills do
not. In a function that is continuously in the spotlight,
sales managers need training and support to develop
management and leadership skills. And, management
and leadership skills are different. To start building those
leadership skills, here are five attributes typical of effective
sales leaders that should be cultivated:
1 Clarity: If you want people to do a good job, give
them a good job to do. Being clear is the most
important way to motivate reps and drive productivity.
Sales reps do best when you provide a clear,
actionable goal with clear responsibilities and target
lists. Give them an account list, explain what customers
they should call and list the sales activities you expect
them to complete.
2 Consistency: When the market landscape is changing,
sales reps may become uncertain and unfocused as
to what they’re doing. That’s why it’s important to be
consistent in how you provide clarity. To keep reps
focused, make sure you provide consistency in terms of
their territory, compensation, goals, responsibilities and
training for specific skills and product knowledge.
3 Data-Driven: When it comes to coaching and
guidance, stay away from subjective personal
measures. Using quantifiable goals and data-driven
coaching is more useful and motivating for sales reps.
4 Timeliness: Make sure you constantly provide
feedback to sales reps in a timely manner. When the
feedback is close to real-time, reps are better able to
relate it to the action that they took.
5 Team-Focused: Create an environment where the
whole sales team is in it together. Sales managers
don’t need to be best buddies with the reps; they
need to create a positive team environment while
remaining tough yet fair. If you’ve demonstrated that
you have their backs, they won’t interpret a tough
call you make as throwing them under the bus. You’re
removing obstacles and clearing the way for them to
5 ATTRIBUTES OF EFFECTIVE SALES LEADERS
9When your sales team consistently delivers the target
revenue and margins, your entire organization benefits —
from the individual reps to the shareholders. Strong sales
productivity metrics, as discussed above, keep everyone
focused on the target and ensure data is being used to
drive decision making resulting in better decisions that
fuel an upward spiral of business success. And since
competitive salespeople want to work for successful
companies, a reputation for productivity and success gives
your sales organization access to the best talent.
Those benefits are beyond the reach of many
organizations, however, due to major productivity killers
hidden in their midst. Could one of these five problems be
holding your company back?
Making The Sales Team Hunt Their Own Food:
When the sales team has to drum up their own demand
in addition to capturing it, reps waste time preparing
for and calling on unqualified leads, which is inefficient
and ineffective. Salespeople won’t be successful,
resulting in high turnover and unmet revenue and margin
This massive productivity killer arises when the marketing
team isn’t effective at creating demand. Instead of taking a
lead that’s been nurtured by the marketing team, the sales
reps have to do all the legwork of finding information,
creating materials and then making calls to try to engage
prospects. This problem often goes undiagnosed and
emerges in different ways, depending on the sales
Danger signs include an incoming call volume that’s below
targets and an increasing outbound call volume
with declining or negligible close rates. Also watch for
salespeople sending their own email campaigns (that
should be marketing’s job) and field sales CRM entries
with many opportunities stagnating while only a few move
slowly through the pipeline.
Solving this problem requires coordination and
accountability between marketing, sales and sales
operations (especially if sales operations is involved in
measuring or distributing leads). All of these departments
should be part of the conversation, with a common
definition of what constitutes a qualified lead and clear
metrics intertwined between sales and marketing.
Often, the marketing department isn’t effective at creating
demand because the metrics it is held accountable for
miss the target. Hold marketing responsible for developing
and deploying demand generation programs that deliver
relevant, screened leads that use the sales team’s energy
5 PRODUCTIVITY KILLERS
A reputation for productivity gives your
sales organization access to the best
The key is bringing these departments together in
a proactive way. If you’re reactionary, your support
organizations don’t have time to prepare, which hurts your
sales productivity. Have a marketing calendar to avoid
surprises and hold sales responsible for acting on those
leads, with SLA metrics that measure responsiveness to
leads and sales pipeline velocity.
Marketing and sales also need the ability to hold each
other accountable for providing each with specific items.
For example, marketing should commit to delivering a
certain number of calls each day or qualified, profiled leads
each month. This enables the sales organization to hire the
right number of reps (the number varies by industry, but a
starting point is looking for approximately 30 calls per day
per sales rep). In turn, marketing holds sales accountable
for the call drop rate, lead close rate and average order
size for each sale.
Inadequate Tools For Managing A Complex Portfolio:
For your salespeople to cover a complex product offering,
such as a large product portfolio segmented by different
product categories and multiple quality tiers within each
category, their sales productivity depends in par on having
the right tools to manage this complexity in an efficient,
effective manner. Otherwise, the cost to your organization
could be catastrophic, with the inability to quickly provide
product and pricing information to customers, resulting in
There are lots of potential problems with managing a vast
product portfolio. When it takes your reps a long time to
create quotes, they can’t respond fast enough and may
be losing many opportunities. And when the process is
difficult due to complexity, you’re likely to see a high order
error rate on the back end. In other words, whatever’s
actually coming through is often wrong.
One indication of this problem is when a sales organization
is using specialized reps that only cover a portion of the
portfolio (like National Chain Accounts or Distributor Buying
Groups). This leads to high field selling costs relative to
the sales revenue. Another symptom of this productivity
killer is that your reps are selling a fairly narrow selection of
the available products, with low bundling rates of multiple
categories and or products. Even when your company is
making good products, your sales team won’t be able to sell
them if they don’t know about them. You end up scrambling
to dump these products on the market somewhere,
resulting in unnecessary resource strain, inventory
obsolescence and disposal costs for your products.
The product management team is key to solving this
problem, since they’re likely to play a large role in creating
and managing a centralized product catalog. This team
should also develop proactive training programs and “sweet
spot” bundle opportunities for the sales organization that
align with product management and product marketing.
Your sales partners or channel organizations should also
be involved, since they also need the right processes,
Marketing and sales need the ability
to hold each other accountable for
providing each with specific items.
capabilities and tools to effectively sell your solutions. Of
course, your supply chain needs to support this distribution
method, coordinating across operations, manufacturing
and logistics teams. If you want to extend to new channels
such as e-commerce, you’ll also want IT involved to ensure
the right infrastructure for performance, scalability, security
In addition, support the tools and capabilities with a
hands-on, interactive style for product training to help
salespeople quickly internalize information or access it for
future reference. Skip the PowerPoint in favor of hands-on
activities. Use Configure, Price, Quote (CPQ) technology
with guided selling and crossselling capabilities to make it
easier for the sales team to create an offer that is aligned
with the specific requirements of each customer.
Creating this type of platform proved helpful for a global
company that has an ongoing acquisition strategy. In
order to efficiently sell more product types and bundled,
programs, as well as up-sell and cross-sell, the company
wanted to enable a single sales rep to sell across a broader
— and constantly expanding — product portfolio. Having
a centralized product catalog with guided selling — along
with effective hands-on training — allows the company to
arm their individual reps with the tools and information
Manual Processes That Slow Quote Approval:
Inefficient, manual quoting and approval processes are
major productivity killers, making it difficult for your sales
team to turn quotes around quickly and close the sale.
Signs of this problem include quote approvals that take
several days or even weeks, especially with unique deals or
bid/no bid requests.
When these approvals aren’t happening at the speed of the
marketplace, you lose sales opportunities to faster, more
Improving sales productivity in this situation requires
definition of clear business rules driven into tools that
enable automation of the processes. Using CPQ (configure,
price quote) along with price optimization and guidance
enables automated workflow approvals. Using business
rules based on the pricing guidance, sales reps can make
decisions that follow established business rules allowing
for automated approvals. Decisions not within business
rule thresholds require management review and approval.
This approach means reps get the guidance and speed
they need and management gets the peace of mind that
business rules are being met.
These tools have a powerful impact when used correctly.
Food manufacturing giant BRF - Brasil Foods used pricing
optimization to reduce its price execution cycle by 70% and
increased their gross margin by 2%.
Use Configure, Price, Quote (CPQ)
technology with guided selling and
crossselling capabilities to make it
easier for the sales team to create an
offer that is aligned with the specific
requirements of each customer.
Generic Annual Performance Reviews: At many
organizations, sales reps only receive performance feedback
as part of the company’s standard review process. This
approach to sales performance wastes a lot of time. Without
timely, relevant, fact-based coaching that helps them boost
their skills, it takes far longer to identify and address ways
that sales reps could improve. In fact, it can enable less-
than-optimal tactics and practices to persist if there isn’t a
culture of constant improvement that quickly identifies and
implements coaching actions.
Sales reps tend to be competitive and prefer working in a
winning environment. Sales management wants and needs
to build a world-class sales team. Taking a generic approach
to reviews and feedback with the sales team can perpetuate
an environment that limits the speed of productivity
There are several ways to use performance management
to improve your sales productivity. Even if your reps have
annual performance reviews based on the standard HR
process, consider augmenting them with regular, real-time
guidance and coaching that draws on sales analytics data.
For example, you could use data to compare each rep
to their peers in terms of adherence to pricing guidance,
product penetration and product mix. Alternately, you
could build a coaching session around comparing the
pricing and product mix the rep sold to a customer against
other customers in the same market segment, identifying
opportunities and strategies for improvement.
For the best results, use a mix of public and private
performance feedback. Setting competitive metrics that
are public and quantifiable provides transparency, allows
everyone to participate and creates a foundation
for realtime feedback. Private conversations are an
opportunity to coach individual reps on specific fact-
based actions that would improve their performance in
pricing negotiations and presenting new opportunities to
customers. It’s also a good idea to ensure regular joint calls
with reps to see how they behave in front of customers,
get examples and insights on soft skills, and ensure they
are making overall progress based on the coaching.
A good example of this solution comes from a distribution
company that specializes in the food service market. The
company had been using a manual pricing system that,
over time, had become cumbersome and unworkable for
the distributor, its sales force and its customers. In addition,
competitive market forces in the midst of a reccession were
creating pressure to lower margins. To achieve these goals,
the company needed a way to unify and simplify its sales
process and use real-time feedback to improve sales rep
This company simplified its sales process by deploying an
automated pricing strategy solution that would be much
easier to understand and would help improve margins
and customer relationship at the same time. At the time
of deployment the food distribution company worked
with its sales reps to help them with change management
and supporting the new solution-oriented sales model.
As a result, the sales team has a process that’s aligned
across sales channels, reducing proposal creation time
Computing giant Hewlett- Packard used
pricing guidance to reduce its quote
turnaround time by 25 percent, with
automated approvals for 80 percent of its
and improving time to market for new products. It also
provides them full visibility into each customer’s “buying
patterns,” cross-sell opportunities, as well as insights during
the negotiation process to manage discounts and improve
margins. The ongoing, proactive coaching uses feedback to
drive new levels of sales performance.
If you’re ready to overhaul your sales team’s performance,
it takes a village. Of course, sales leadership needs to
drive the change but then quickly enlist the participation
of HR, learning and development, and sales ops to drive
implementation. Having a coordinated, sustained approach
to sales performance management will help ensure it
becomes a core competence of your business, or at least
the sales team, and removes this potential productivity killer.
Sales Reps Not Holding Themselves Accountable: While
the previous four productivity killers have focused on the
sales organization as a whole, this level is different. Often,
the sales reps are also responsible for their own poor
productivity. Sales is a skill set that needs to be developed.
Building a world-class sales team starts with a group that
brings a varying set of experience levels and techniques.
Some of those experiences and techniques may require
retooling and refinement.
To ensure long-term success, all sales reps need to
develop a disciplined approach to managing their selling
time and consistently follow the team’s sales methodology
for calls, opportunity management, and all activities for
each stage of the sales and customer buying cycles. If
your company doesn’t have a clear sales methodology,
you can’t hold salespeople accountable. Indications that
you’re not holding each rep accountable include low
customer satisfaction scores and high turnover in the sales
organization. When you leave the sales team to its own
devices, reps tends to sell the products they know, using
tactics that they find most comfortable. As a result, many
salespeople don’t hit their plan or activity level targets,
and fail to deliver on their revenues, margin and volume
Alternately, you may have sales reps that deliver the
numbers, but do it in a way that has a negative impact on
productivity across other areas of your product portfolio and
Your sales methodology needs to be supported by
appropriate onboarding, training and coaching. To hold
individual reps accountable, make sure that you establish
clear expectations and train them on exactly what you
need them to do. Next, give reps tools and support that
reinforce desired behaviors over time, and provide a
mechanism for starting a conversation when they don’t
understand something or are struggling with the sales
process. Your sales management also needs training to
provide effective oversight and have those one-on-one
conversations. Too often, sales managers aren’t prepared
to help sales reps with inefficient and unproductive work
habits. Reps that don’t find their own solutions get shown
the door, which is often a waste of good talent. Sales
managers need the ability to engage at the right level and
help a sales rep change their behavior and get back on
course, or guide that person toward a role better suited to
Setting competitive metrics that are
public and quantifiable provides
transparency, allows everyone to
participate and creates a foundation for
If your organization faces one of these five productivity killers,
the solution is likely to require investment in technology.
Lots of companies are developing solutions for improving
sales productivity, but organizations need to be mindful of
the end-state they want before investing in technology. You
don’t have to take on a two-year project to get this done,
but you need an end target so you know exactly what you’re
trying to accomplish.
Piecemeal solutions aren’t useful to sales organizations
anymore — you have to take a holistic, platform
perspective to drive sales effectiveness and efficiency.
Many companies are starting with CRM. It is a great
technology to get the sales team organized and better
managing opportunities. Yet, research is showing the vast
majority of companies are not getting revenue or win rate
increases from CRM. And almost no one is even talking
about margin improvement. Don’t stop at CRM. Extend
your investment in CRM with the addition of CPQ that
includes pricing optimization and guidance. Now, the sales
team has a complete set of tools and capabilities that will
help them identify and successfully pursue and deliver
incremental revenue and margin.
In addition, mobile technology isn’t new, but it’s increasingly
important for sales organizations. When you provide sales
reps with tools that enable them to accomplish more at the
point of the actual sales conversation, they’re going to be
more productive and effective. In a retail environment like
car sales, for example, salesmen know that their chances of
selling a car drop dramatically if you leave the lot. They
want to help you make a decision on the lot, because their
chance of closing the deal is much higher.
That concept also applies in the food manufacturing space.
When you’re working with busy procurement departments,
R&D professionals or sales & marketing professionals, make
it easier for them to make quick decisions, using mobile
technology and sales automation. Sales organizations
should definitely consider and evaluate mobile technologies
that help reps be more responsive and productive.
Finally, some new training technologies also show great
potential for increasing sales productivity. “Gamification”
of training tools makes it easier and more fun to internalize
information, and is certainly relevant to the generation
entering the workforce now. Automated coaching system
also show promise as a way to improve reps’ business
acumen, behavior, competence and specific deal and
USING TECHNOLOGY TO DRIVE
CRM alone isn’t enough to drive sales
effectiveness and efficiency. Be sure
to also use CPQ that includes pricing
optimization and guidance.
STOP WASTING YOUR SALES TEAM’S TIME: 5 PRODUCTIVITY KILLERS
BENEFITS OF GREATER SALES
When you overcome these five sales productivity killers,
you unlock significant benefits for your organization. Some
of these benefits are quantifiable, when you see how your
sales productivity metrics drive increased revenue and
margins while also creating a winning environment and
upward spiral of business success.
A more efficient, effective sales process means lowered
costs and increased incremental profitability. That business
success fuels investment, supporting continued
success and business growth. That success spiral is
intoxicating, however, and management needs to maintain
focus and motivation. To stay ahead, you must continue to
innovate and not become complacent with current success.
Sales productivity also offers benefits that are more difficult
to quantify. These include a positive brand value and
reputation within your industry and among the public.
People want to work for a successful company with a
positive brand image; having that tends to lower employee
turnover and gives your sales organization access to the
best talent available.
Ready to learn more about using CPQ and pricing
guidance to improve your sales process? Visit the PROS
Food Industries page http://www.pros.com/industries/
Piecemeal solutions aren’t useful to sales
organizations anymore — you have to
take a holistic, platform perspective to
drive sales effectiveness and efficiency.
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more effectively. We apply years of data science experience to unlock
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and which prices are most likely to win. PROS offers cloud solutions to
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