Increasing_the_Productivity_of_Your_Sales_Force

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					Increasing the Productivity of Your Sales Force
By BNET Editorial
published on BNET.com 5/02/2007


     The first task of a program to improve sales force productivity is to determine how much time
     the sales force actually spends selling. Factors such as poor call rates, travel time, sickness,
     and vacations all serve to reduce potential sales time. Database techniques can improve sales
     performance by enabling analysis of comprehensive sales support information and facilitating
     stronger control.

     A comprehensive customer database can build a complete picture of customers and their response
     to various sales and marketing initiatives. This data can be used to focus the sales force on the
     most important customers and prospects. The database improves control by supplying reports on
     performance, sales costs, and the effectiveness of sales support programs.

     Many companies utilize a geographical sales force structure. While this model has limitations,
     Geographical Information Systems (GIS) solutions can improve the management of a geographically
     based sales force.

     The leverage of various technologies—such as laptop computers, pervasive Internet access, and
     teleconferencing (as well supporting functions like telemarketing)—can also greatly enhance sales
     force performance and productivity.



     What You Need to Know

     Should I employ a telemarketing function in addition to my field
     sales force?
     Telemarketing and other services can be used to handle many of the routine sales functions,
     such as making appointments, confirming deliveries, checking orders, or following up on inquiries.
     Telemarketing is not a substitute for face-to-face selling, however, which is an important factor in
     building and maintaining customer relationships.




     We base our sales and marketing campaigns on market sectors.
     Would there be any benefit to taking territories into account?
     Many companies now align their sales and marketing resources by market sector in order to provide
     customers with a specialist service. For practical reasons, however, a geographical element may
     improve productivity and effectiveness. For example, regional direct marketing could be integrated
     with a local sales drive to improve business in a high potential territory.




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Is There A Danger of Information Overload on the Web?
It is nothing new for sales representatives to grumble about too much information. The solution is to
ensure easy accessibility. A good overview is essential, and an effective search capability makes it
easier to locate the appropriate information. Inform the sales force what is available to them, why the
information is useful, and how to find it. If the information is important, the reps will use it.




What to Do

Measure Productivity
When trying to improve sales force productivity, first determine how much time the sales force actually
spends selling. A basic calculation appears below. Without even accounting for extended travel time,
this calculation illustrates the relatively small proportion of time sales reps spend in front of customers
and prospects.

A Basic Calculation: Annual Calls
Calculate potential work-days per year:

5 days/week x 52 weeks/year = 260 potential work-days/year

Deduct time for anticipated days off:

15 vacation days + 10 holidays + 5 sick days = 30 days off/year260 days/year – 30 days off = 230
actual work days/year

Estimate call rates & compute annual calls:

2 sales calls/day x 230 days/year = 460 sales calls/year

or

4 sales calls/day x 230 days/year = 920 sales calls/year

Even at the higher estimated rate of 4 sales calls per day, this basic calculation yields only 920 calls
per year. In rural territories, or anywhere that travel times are longer, the total number could be much
lower. Thus, it is important to institute programs and other management techniques to maximize the
productivity of each sales rep.




                                                   -2-
Improve Focus
Effective use of a comprehensive customer database can help to improve sales force performance.
Database reports can provide a wide range of information that builds a comprehensive picture of
customers and their response. Useful details can include:

 • customer profile and contact information;
 • customer purchasing history;
 • any known problems;
 • individual sales or direct marketing initiatives and the response;
 • wider communications programs or promotional activity within the customer’s sector;
 • competitive activity on the account;
 • profitability of the account.

This kind of detailed data can be leveraged to focus the sales force on the most important customers
and prospects, thereby improving productivity and profitability.




Increase Control
A customer database can also provide information on sales performance, sales costs, and the
effectiveness of support programs. This information can facilitate increased control through better
allocation of resources, improved territory planning, enhanced training, and the development of other
forms of support such as telephone sales. Useful data for management may include:

 • individual sales representative performance;
 • overall performance of the sales team;
 • comparative performance of different sales channels such as field sales, telesales, distributors
   and agents;
 • impact of marketing campaigns on performance;
 • cost of sales;
 • effectiveness of different call patterns.




Increase Coverage
In a geographical sales force structure, sales reps are responsible for customers in geographical
sales territories. This structure has a number of limitations, however. It can be difficult to allocate
consistent resources across all territories, and client service may vary from territory to territory. A



                                                    -3-
geographical model does not accommodate vertical market expertise, and does not allow the sales
force to develop product or market expertise.

Geographical Information Systems (GIS) can convert customer data into maps indicating the relation
between customers’ behavior and their location. By identifying and targeting resources to areas with
the highest potential, sales force productivity and effectiveness can be greatly enhanced.




Reduce Unnecessary Inquiries
Publishing sales information on the Internet provides genuine time and cost savings. Sales staff has
immediate access, 24x7, to critical inventory and pricing details. For example, if shipment data is
updated nightly, reps can access current information each day on what has been shipped, to them or
to their customers, and then update customers accordingly.

Because such information is immediately available, the time spent making and answering regular
inquiries decreases significantly. Sales employees are thus able to increase their focus on the real
job of selling. Information can be accessed and orders can be placed 24x7, increasing flexibility and
productivity.




Keep Product Information Current
The more complex the product or service, the more difficult it is for the sales force to stay current. It is
far easier to effectively support a sales force if they are equipped with laptop computers and Internet
connections. Reps can use laptops to store and present information on a wide range of products and
services, and this information can be updated regularly from a corporate database via the Internet.




Use Teleconferencing
Teleconferencing makes it easier to bring far-flung sales teams together, even at short notice.
Travel time is eliminated; a teleconference requires only the time for the meeting itself. The freedom
and flexibility of teleconferencing means your organization can make better use of meeting time,
according to your communications needs.




Support the Sales Force with Telemarketing
Telemarketing can be used to enhance sales force performance and productivity. A telemarketing
team can follow up on sales leads, qualify prospects, and set up appointments. This frees the sales




                                                    -4-
force to increase face-to-face customer meetings and concentrate on top prospects. Courtesy
telephone calls increase customer contact and add a personal touch to the sales process. They
provide an opportunity to assist with any initial problems and offer additional products and services.

The integration of telemarketing with the sales force can significantly reduce overall sales costs,
particularly if you have been relying on a traditional field sales team. The cost of keeping a sales
team on the road continues to soar, and it does not always represent the most cost-effective way of
reaching customers. Research indicates that more and more people prefer the telephone for doing
business. With a telemarketing function, sales and marketing activities can be refocused. Identify
high-cost sales and marketing tasks, and look at lower-cost alternatives based on direct marketing or
telemarketing.




What to Avoid

You Don’t Measure Productivity Before You Try to Improve It
When undertaking an improvement program, you must first measure sales force productivity. Many
companies measure performance by sales volume alone, but many other factors affect sales force
productivity, including call rates, level of support, quality of information, allocation of customers, and
travel time. Consider all these factors when planning improvements.




You Place Too Much Emphasis on Incentive Programs
While an incentive program may result in a short-term increase in sales, it can disguise underlying
problems in sales force performance. Other activities, such as increased training, better regional
management, different account allocation or greater marketing support, may lead to even higher,
more sustained levels of performance. An incentive should not be treated as a short-term fix. It
should be integrated with other aspects of sales force management for long-term performance
improvements.




You Focus on the Wrong Customers
Sales teams generally have a “comfort zone,” and prefer to dealing with regular customers and avoid
difficult prospects. This comfort zone may be inhibiting your business’s growth if it means that the
sales team are spending their time on the wrong people. To help them target the right prospects, use
database analysis to identify buying patterns and other factors that they can use to enhance their
targeting.




                                                    -5-
    Where to Learn More

    Web Site:
    American Marketing Association: www.MarketingPower.com




Copyright © 2007 CNET Networks, Inc. All Rights Reserved.




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