There is no shortage of productivity or enablement tools available to sales people and sales organizations. Many may be useful, fun to use, and allow sales people to do things they may not have been able to do in the past, not everyone gets the same level of productivity improvement, if any.
Let’s start by defining productivity, the simplest definition from an execution standpoint is:
The rate of output per unit of input. This leaves you three ways to think about how to gain and get ahead in productivity:
I. Increase outputs while maintaining inputs the same
II. Maintain output levels but reduce the inputs required
III. Increase outputs while reducing inputs
The latter being the holy grail, but the first two work well too. In the past sales leaders would look to add headcount and increase goals to drive more output. Over the last decade or so they have also been able to bring sales enablement tools into the mix. But productivity continues to be a tale of two cities, on the one hand there are a number of organizations doing some great things to drive measurable gains. Others struggle, advancement in technology, has not brought the expected productivity gains. When measured by average outputs per person, productivity for the period between 2000 and 2013, was only about a third of that between 1939 – 2000, 0.9% vs. 2.7%.
There are many factors that go into this, one is time. At the core, productivity tools should shift time in your favour. Time being a static input, despite all the cute phrases about time, it continues to be 60 minutes to an hour, 24 hours to the day, etc. How you spend or reinvest the recaptured time, the inputs, and create more output, will result in increased outputs. But this is not about time management, but time utilization. Organizations need to ensure that introduction of productivity tool is accompanied by a plan on redeploying the freed up time in a way that drive more results.
Sales people, like most people, when left to figure it out on their own will approach time like a gas. The same volume of gas will fill any container even when the size of the container is doubled. So when you gain time from a productivity tool, you need to ensure that activity is increased, not just spread out over time.
Success starts before the roll-out of the tool, not just planning, but benchmarking. Where are we now, where to we want to be as a result of introducing the app or tool, what are the metrics and milestones we’ll use as we move towards the stated objective. That objective needs to be specific, and more than just “we are looking to increase sales by 5%”. Since the goal is to change behaviours, the focus has to be activity, what, when, how, why and how much. It is usually best to start with the ‘why’, if sales people can understand why something is being rolled out, they are more likely to be engaged and not only use the tool, but deliver desired results. People who do start with the ‘why’ at times make the mistake of stating it from the company perspective, better to do it from the perspective of the sales person, tell them what’s in it for them. Rather than introducing a tool by saying how it will give management more visibility and the data to make decisions. Tell them how it will help them execute better, helping them get more sales and more commissions. They’ll use it, and you’ll get more visibility and data than you’ll know what to do with.
Any investment in enablement technology should include budget for training both the front-line rep and their direct managers. This means more than a two-hour webinar led by someone who sold you the tool and a Chrome extension for reinforcement. Since you are changing how they sell, you need have one of your trainers relate things to how they sell, how they execute, and how a change in one aspect of that will drive productivity across the entire sale cycle.