Being in the Know: Colleen Honan Suggests Three Ways to Improve Your Sales Productivity

First published in Winning Edge, September/October 2013

After weekends, holidays, team meetings and training there are only 215 days of potential selling time in a year. That’s 143 hours each month for reps to do everything from prospecting and pitching to negotiating and closing deals. And 35% of this time is spent not on selling, but on ‘productivity killer’ tasks like searching the web for a contact and updating forecasts.

If you can find a way to save just one hour a day on these tasks you’ll gain an extra 26 days of selling time, according to Nancy Nardin (author of The 215 Principle), which equates to 28.5% more revenue.

This may seem impossible in a world in which the pressure to generate leads has shifted from marketing to sales, bringing yet more non-selling responsibilities – but  winning back that hour is achievable if these three pillars of sales productivity are in place.

1.   A STRATEGY THAT TARGETS PROSPECTS WHEN THEY’RE OPEN TO CHANGE

Best-in-class companies have moved from a ‘dial for dollars’ approach to using sales triggers to gain first-mover advantage. Prospects are in non-buying mode most of the time, and 57% of their decision process is complete before a salesperson is engaged. The goal is to target them when they have an unarticulated need for your product or service.

This depends on having access to the critical information that tips you off when the buying window is likely to open – and getting it first.

An example of this kind of trigger would be a change of executive: they’ll need to make a rapid impact, they have resources to spend, and they’re often open to changing a service or supplier.

2.    AN EFFICIENT PROCESS THAT TRANSFORMS HOW REPS SELL

The Internet makes it easy for reps to research business information that helps them get to the hottest opportunities at the right time, find the appropriate contact and craft a compelling reason to call. But they should be selling, not surfing.

The key to being first is less about being everywhere, and more about being in the right places and filtering out the noise. Using technology that automates the ability to recognise that important new information is ‘out there’, and the process of bringing it into the database, can turn the CRM into a profitability tool. This involves linking internal data to relevant high-quality external business information sources, content and feeds, and setting up triggers on key events and companies that directly alert the right person to a development that might open the buying window.

Sales teams can also maximise their time by scrupulously prioritising prospects to target searches on:

  • The right company: which firms fit into your ‘sweet spot’ in terms of industry, size, geography, etc?
  • The right person: who has the right title and role; are they a decision-maker?
  • The right timing: where is the target in its buying cycle?
  • The right issues: what are the most relevant issues the target faces, and the trigger events that indicate it’s ‘in the zone’?

3.    INTEGRATE EFFECTIVE TOOLS INTO CRM

The third pillar of sales productivity is making sure triggers are highly actionable as part of daily selling.

The investment organisations make in their CRM is staggering – Gartner expects it to reach $5bn this year – yet 74% of sales teams have poor CRM adoption, according to Nancy Nardin. To enable reps to make the best use of business information, organisations need to tackle common issues including lack of training, a one-size-fits all mentality for screens and fields and poor set-up and processes.

Bad data is a major time waster and deal killer. Technology can link data in Microsoft Dynamics or Salesforce.com with external business information, keeping it current, complete and cross-checked. When a new fact emerges, in a press release, news article or analyst report for instance, records and documents like account profiles and financial models are updated automatically. Salespeople can also add useful information to the system at the press of a button.

The days when sales reps could rely on marketing to find leads are gone, and the extra tasks are nibbling away at selling time. With the right selling strategy, process and tools, however, it’s still possible to build happy and productive teams, who know exactly who to call, when to call and what to say.

Colleen Honan

Colleen Honan

SVP, Global Sales and Services at OneSource Information Services
Colleen Honan, Senior Vice President of Global Sales and Services for OneSource Information Services, is responsible for the company's worldwide sales initiatives including direct, channel, go-to-market strategies, and alliances. Previously, Colleen held a variety of executive positions for which she consistently met revenue and new business goals. Prior to joining OneSource, Colleen held customer service positions at Thomson Financial Networks. A frequent industry speaker addressing sales processes and sales organization structures, Colleen earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Merrimack College, North Andover, MA.
Colleen Honan
Colleen Honan

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