Ask SCORE: How can I increase sales productivity?

by Ken Sethney, Volunteer Mentor, Kitsap SCORE 

Let me begin by saying that I have tremendous respect for sales people. They have an extremely difficult and vitally important job. When they are successful, everyone wins —customers, owners, managers, widget makers, support staff, and consultants.

Therefore, it is in everyone’s interest that sales people are given the support, encouragement and tools they need to succeed. To that end, I offer the following strategies for increasing sales productivity. When they are successfully implemented, your customers and everyone in your organization will benefit. 

1) Integrate Sales & Marketing

Sales people are different from marketers. Outgoing, gregarious and aggressive vs. quiet, analytical and introspective. It is important for management to understand these differences and provide leadership to get marketers and sales people working toward a single goal. Productivity is increased when marketers generate high-quality leads and sales people are better equipped to close them.

2) Generate high-quality leads.

Redefine the role of marketing in your organization. Use marketers to identify, qualify and track leads throughout the selling process. Ask sales people to evaluate leads and work with marketers to continually improve the process. Set a goal of reducing unproductive sales calls and eliminate “prospecting” from your sales team’s vocabulary. Productivity will increase as sales people gain more time for productive selling.

3) Identify sales opportunities.

Research has shown that 95% of all sales leads generated by websites, print advertising and trade show attendance are ignored by sales people. Why? They are unqualified leads, ones that did not necessarily represent sales opportunities. Finding warm bodies isn’t enough. Sales calls are too expensive to waste on unproductive efforts. Refine marketing techniques to identify genuine opportunities before the first sales call.

4) Develop sales professionalism.

It takes more than a nice suit, stylish shoes and a winning smile to be successful. It’s time to get beyond the old-fashioned “motivational“ seminars and focus on developing new skills. Encourage every member of your sales team to read Neil Rackham’s excellent books, starting with “SPIN Selling.”

Develop a training program based on Rackham’s methods and follow it rigorously throughout the year. SPIN methods are based on careful analysis of 35,000 sales calls. Rackham gets huge fees from multi-national corporations to teach them what he knows. You can buy his three New York Times best sellers for less than $50.

5) Reward productivity.

Making a sale isn’t good enough, the sale must be profitable. Use CRM systems that track productivity for each sales rep, each customer, each sale. Make sure that sales people know how decisions they make in the field will effect your bottom line and their commission checks. Teach them to focus on value before price. Base incentives on profitability, not just sales.

It’s your bottom line.

If you want some help to improve your sales productivity, consider taking advantage of the free mentoring services offered by SCORE. Reach out to Kitsap SCORE and speak with a volunteer. We have expertise in planning, funding, sales, marketing and many other aspects of starting and running a business.

Ken Sethney is a volunteer business mentor and branch manager for Kitsap SCORE. Contact him by email at

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