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Why Did Salespeople Spend Only One-Third of Their Time Selling Last Year?

Dave Orecchio
by Dave Orecchio on Feb 9, 2015 1:05:00 AM

Let's diagnose the 4 problems with sales productivity. At Bristol Strategy, we understand the importance of applying our Sales and Marketing experience to helping our clients fine tune their marketing to improve sales. It is as simple as that. So you could understand that when we came across the recent research report stating sales teams spend only one-third of their time selling, we were compelled to share our point of view.

It is no wonder that with such low sales productivity that 79% of companies (according to the report) top priority is to improve the productivity of existing sales representatives in order to achieve sales targets. Sales productivity is a pretty broad objective. Let's drill in, to break the problem apart, as identified by this research and identify possible solutions.

Problem #1: Half of organizations do not measure productivity.

Surprisingly, nearly half (49%) of organizations have the means or ability to measure productivity. From a sales point of view, it is easy to figure out if a sales representative has met his or her sales plan. The difficult part is understanding exactly where in the marketing and sales funnel, the process is breaking down. The best approach is to adopt Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) throughout the marketing and sales funnel to understand which phase of the process is breaking down and implement initiatives to address this gap.

Solution: Most businesses have adopted sales force automation to track leads, opportunities and sales. Not enough of them have adopted marketing automation to enable KPIs to track Visitors to Leads, Leads to Marketing Qualified Leads (MQL), Marketing Qualified Leads to Sales Qualified Leads (SQL), and ultimately SQL to Opportunities. This is low hanging fruit and by combining marketing automation tools with the proper content strategy, these KPIs can lead your organization to focus marketing investment in just the right places.

Problem #2: What is Marketing's role in sales productivity?

It is significant. By understanding the solution to problem #1 above, you can see that armed with marketing automation that helps businesses economically execute lead generation campaigns, marketing automation also provides detailed analytics at each stage of the marketing funnel. For this reason, if the tools make the work more effective and provide KPIs to measure, what is Marketing's role?

Solution: Marketing should understand the highest priority target customers (otherwise known as a buyer persona) and develop content for each stage of the buyer's journey for information (Awareness, Consideration, Decision). With that understanding, the marketing team must create campaigns that attract the buyer using the on-line and off-line channels where the buyer seeks information. They should measure the success of each campaign by the number of visitors that convert into leads and then progress through the marketing pipeline until they are sales qualified leads. The goal of Marketing should be to improve sales productivity. When this approach is correctly performed, then the types of Sales Qualified Leads that the sales team starts with are highly qualified, ensuring their time investment is with the best prospects.

Inbound Marketing Buyer's Journey for Information

Problem #3: Sales reps spend 31% of their time searching for or creating content.

Sales representatives think differently than marketing people. They optimize their sales process at each stage and attempt to manage the perception of the buyer so that the only right answer is your product or service. To implement this sales approach, they spend 31% of their time searching for or creating content.

Solution: The key to addressing the content needs for sales starts with the marketing team creating a content strategy that anticipates and models the sales process of the company's best sales rep. A strategy should include:

Inbound Marketing Content Strategy 1) Content for each stage of the buyer's journey for information

2) At the awareness stage, create content that addresses your best prospect research about the problems and goals they are most likely to spend money to address.

3) Use marketing automation tools to enable sales to send personalized emails to prospects that answer their awareness stage (educational) questions. Create an email nurturing campaign that automatically sends these emails once the prospect downloads any awareness stage whitepapers.

4) At the consideration stage, create content (whitepaper or other high-value materials) that transitions the prospect from problems to solutions while introducing your company's products and services.

5) Use the marketing automation tools to create a nurturing email campaign that addresses the typical objection handling questions at the consideration stage of the buyer's journey. These emails should be sent automatically when a buyer downloads any consideration stage content or initiated by a sales representative once he or she determines that the prospect is in the consideration stage of the nurturing cycle.

6) Format and deliver the content and emails listed above so that each provides offers that represent the next stage in the buyer's journey. As the prospect selects additional content, your business builds thought leadership and a strong reputation with them.

Once prospects select decision stage content, they are ready for sales engagement (Sales Qualified Leads SQL). These types of opportunities are delivering solutions to solve their problems, a much more productive sales engagement. This content strategy and delivery methodology would gain back most of the 31% of sales reps' time searching for or creating content because the sales representatives could also use this content with their manual opportunity nurturing process. Automating the top of the sales funnel reduces the time spent (20% according to this report) on reporting, administrative, and CRM-related tasks because the marketing automation is integrated directly into the sales automation tool. Lastly, fifty-seven percent of survey respondents cited high-quality content as a top driver of sales.

Problem #4: Access and utilization of content.

Access and utilization of content, mobility are key disconnects between what sales reps need and what is being done. Modern cloud-based automation tools provide mobile access to most aspects of data and tools. Marketing and sales automation tools enables sales reps to find and use content anytime, anywhere.

Solution: Implement the three recommendations above but ensure the tools you have provided enable fluid access to the information for the sales representatives both from their computer and their mobile devices.

The Bottom Line:

You may believe some or all of the statistics from this research. What matters is if your business has identified the need to improve sales productivity and you are not sure where the productivity leakage is emanating from. This should trigger your need to get more granular when measuring your marketing and sales process and use tools that provide facts that your business can act upon. If your business needs help addressing any or all of these problems, please reach out to Bristol Strategy. If you would like to learn how Bristol Strategy can revitalize your marketing plan while improving sales productivity, please download our company whitepaper. We help businesses address these issues and many other marketing challenges.

Bristol Strategy - inbound marketing for high-tech companies

Bristol Strategy is a full funnel inbound marketing agency and inbound sales agency offering the full complement of  Inbound Marketing services that enable our clients to surpass their business objectives by transforming the way they engage with their buyer on-line.  Reach out to us to learn more about how our experience and capabilities can help your business grow. 

Tags: Sales Productivity Lead Nurturing

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Dave Orecchio
Written by Dave Orecchio
Dave Orecchio is one of the earliest adopters of Inbound Marketing. As one of Hubspot’s first customers and CEO of a Boston-based startup, he experienced the benefits of this effective digital marketing methodology. Dave now provides Inbound (marketing & Sales) services to businesses to help them grow and realize the positive results that an integrated program can provide. Dave is a high-tech marketing and sales expert with more than 25 years of business experience.
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