Retention of sales reps is challenging enough – but failing to keep them motivated, engaged and productive is perhaps the biggest reason reps fail to reach quota.
Last week we provided you with daily habits to see better sales productivity with your team. What strategies should sales leaders follow to help their sales team reach their max productivity level?
The facts are sobering – and the costs escalating. And with sales reps’ average tenure being 2 years or less, sales leaders need all the help they can get.
#1: it takes an average sales rep 7 – 9 months to be productive at an average cost of $30,000
#2: 2 out of 3 reps fail to reach their annual quota
#3: the average annual turnover for sales reps is 34% – higher for less experienced reps 
Why do sales reps leave a company?
Setting aside compensation issues, the primary reason that reps leave a company within 24 months or less relates directly to the above statistics.
Research finds that productivity is the primary challenge for B2B organizations (The Bridge Group). And “productivity” is a double-edged sword that affects both sides – management and sales teams. Sales reps will quickly get discouraged when they are unproductive – i.e., when they fail to make quota. Because of the direct impact on revenue, sales leaders are constantly seeking new processes and technology to optimize productivity.
The right kind of training
To impact productivity, sales leaders must be willing to change – and reps must be willing to adapt to new – training cycles. Training must be viewed as a continuous, on-going process rather than a once-a-year or once-a-quarter event. Most companies still use a fire-hydrant approach to training and on-boarding new team members. What happens? 80% of information communicated in that “event environment” is forgotten within 30 days. It’s no surprise it takes reps 7 to 9 months to become effective in their jobs. And add to that a diverse product line with constantly changing features, price deals, new competitors, new incentive plans – and that average period to effectiveness lengthens right into the average tenure for many reps.
How can you minimize the costly, recurring cycle of replacing and retraining reps? A process implies on-going coaching and constant reinforcement with continually updated data, information and best practices. What does this mean? It means you must have the right technology in place that can automate as much of the process as possible.
Putting all that in place requires commitment. First, sales leaders must be willing to embrace technologies that make a rep’s job easier by providing the right and up-to-date information at the right time and they must constantly review, assess and incorporate those best practices that lead to a faster close rate. Second, sales reps must be willing to adopt and use the technology tools that are made available to them by their companies. This adoption will only be achieved if sales leaders can convincingly show reps that the sales tools will help them be more productive. [More on this challenge later!]
Graham Young, a Performance Consultant, Coach and Speaker uses neuroscience and psychology to explain how to maximize productivity. His reasoning is that achievers get complacent and stop following those best practices that got them to that successful point or under-achievers lose confidence, become jealous of co-workers’ success, and become hyper-focused on short-term opportunities cutting off long-term vision and success. Read Young’s article on how a sales rep can elevate their performance (Entrepreneur, The Damaging Psychology of Sales Reps and 3 Crucial Habits of Top Performers, August, 2016).
Young gives us several tips that sales leaders can use to improve their team’s productivity:
Graham’s Tip #1 – consistency. Reps must learn to employ good habits – aka “best practices” – and must do so consistently. If an organization is going to have a better quota attainment, they must have metrics that will help them develop and evolve their “best practices” and they must continually update those practices that will help their sales teams perform better. Otherwise, it’s Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity: “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” If you don’t have best practices or you’re not updating them based on the results your sales team is getting, you need to find someone inside your organization (or an outside sales coach) that will help you get started.
Tracking successful performance
Graham’s Tip #3 – track successful performance. If you don’t, how can you replicate it? You must know what activities lead to successful outcomes. This sounds like, a time-consuming endeavor, but today’s sales enablement platforms often provide that data. It just takes a commitment by the sales leader to review, revise and implement those best practices across sales teams so even poor performers will benefit.
Statistics clearly show that use of sales analytics results in a 4X increase in quota attainment. But knowing that fact and getting reps to use technology may be the biggest challenge of all. Knowing that the software is keeping track of everything a rep does may be perceived as a threat and invasive. What a sales leader must be able to do is show the sales team that the sales tool is designed to help the rep – not to spy on a rep’s activities. When reps understand that technology will cut down on their record-keeping time, will provide them with accurate, consistent product information and competitive intelligence so the rep will sound knowledgeable in their conversations with their prospects – that it will help them achieve quota, then a rep will be more willing to use the technology.
Oh – and Tip #2? . . . you’ll have to read Young’s article. He creates programs and workshops that simplify the brain science behind improving sales productivity and performance. You can learn more about Graham Young and his recommendations at http://www.gystrategies.com/.