Increasing sales productivity: New e-book highlights a mobile-driven approach

Boosting sales productivity is the number one daily challenge for most sales teams, but mobile technology can help.

SkillFitness can show you how.

SkillFitness, a mobile-centric platform for skills development, recently released a new e-book “Increasing Sales Productivity: Leveraging Mobile Technology to Improve Results”.

“We’ve found three areas where sales managers can greatly improve their teams productivity, “ said Bill Young, president of SkillFitness and a former senior sales executive with more than 20 years of experience at companies such as IBM, National Computer Systems, and Capella Education Company. “They include improving the speed of ramping up new sales people, increasing the effectiveness of experienced sales people, and managing turnover to keep high performers on the team.”

Bill added that mobile learning platforms such as SkillFitness can help improve sales productivity by providing a structured approach to the challenge, while delivering training in a format preferred by most Millennial-generation sales people: on-demand, 24/7, and via social learning on their mobile devices.

“We work with a lot of large clients in highly competitive industries. They need to get people up-to-speed and productive quickly,” Bill said. “One of our clients reduced training time for newly promoted customer-facing employees from more than a month to five days – that’s almost an 80% improvement. We decided to distill what we’ve learned from our customers into this e-book so everyone could benefit from their experience.”

Download your free copy of “Increasing Sales Productivity” here.

Increasing Sales Productivity Part 6: Retaining the reps you want to keep

This is the final part of our six-part series on using mobile technology and social learning to increase sales productivity.

We’ve seen that increasing sales productivity is a fight against sales turnover.  There are three tactics for winning this fight. We’ve already discussed the first two: speed ramp up to get reps productive faster and make your established reps more engaged and effective.

The third tool is to reduce turnover by keeping the reps that are core to your success.

Turnover can be a good thing; eliminating deadwood and bringing fresh ideas into the organization.  But turnover can also be a problem – especially when you see your top sales people heading for the door.

But beyond keeping your top performers, turnover can be a huge time and money drain on the organization. Turnover in typical sales organizations occurs at an alarming – and accelerating – pace.  According the CSO Insights, the combination of voluntary (10.3%) and involuntary (12.1%) sales professional turnover reached 22..4% in 2015. And that turnover rate is 31% higher than reported in previous years.

And if that weren’t enough of a challenge, a Miller Heiman Group study reports that two-thirds of firms surveyed plan to increase the size of their sales force.

What does this mean in raw numbers?  If you are starting the year with a sales force of 100 people and plan to increase your sales force by 5%, you’ll lose 23 people to turnover plus need to hire five new positions for a total of 28 new hires needed to be recruited, hired, onboarded and trained – all while still making your numbers, coaching and managing the rest of the team, keeping customers happy and preventing competitors from encroaching on open territories.

One solution is to hire for success. CSO Insights reports that 60% of sales organizations need to do a better job of hiring sales people that will be successful.  You can increase your odds by hiring the specific skill set for the position, including the rest of the team in the hiring process, and clearly outlining what the new hire can expect when they come on board.

It’s also important that new hires understand the path to success.  We’ve seen how mobile, social learning platforms can help your new hires get up-to-speed faster while also making your experienced reps more effective. And success breeds staying power; successful reps who are making quota tend to remain with the organization.

But success means more than just making the numbers. People – especially Millennials – stay with organizations where they are valued and where they can develop both personally and professionally.  Sales representatives who see a constant investment in their professional progress are more likely to remain with your organization – helping you get off the turnover treadmill and master the sales productivity challenge.

Schedule your personal, one-on-one, online demo today!

Or contact us to learn more about SkillFitness.

Increasing Sales Productivity Part 5: Aligning sales and marketing goals

This is the fifth part in our six-part series on using mobile technology and social learning to improve sales productivity.

Although Sales and Marketing often share the same goals and objectives, they may find it tough to work together. In fact, they often find it tough just to talk nicely about each other. According to a Corporate Executive Board study, 87% of the terms used by Sales and Marketing to describe each other are negative. So not only are Sales and Marketing not working together, they often regard each other with some degree of distain and distrust.

Usually, Sales and Marketing teams have focused on achieving their own goals, isolated from each other through a lack of communication, coordination and cooperation. This is despite the very real positive effects that occur when Sales and Marketing teams work more closely together.

For example:

  • MarketingProfs reports that organizations with tightly aligned Sales and Marketing functions enjoy 36% higher customer retention rates and 38% higher sales win rates.  They also report that companies with aligned Sales and Marketing generate as much as 208% more revenue from marketing.
  • Marketo reports that when Sales and Marketing teams are in sync, companies are up to 67% better at closing deals.
  • Bulldog Solutions reports that the alignment of the Sales and Marketing functions impacts revenue growth by up to three times.
  • SiriusDecisions reports that B2B organizations with tightly aligned Sales and Marketing operations achieved 24% faster three-year revenue growth and 27% faster three-year profit growth.

So how do you start addressing a misalignment between Sales and Marketing?

Establish shared definitions and processes:  Create company-wide definitions for commonly used terms and have both sales and marketing people practice explaining them.  Common terms that may need shared definition often include:

  • Contact
  • Lead
  • Qualified lead
  • Opportunity
  • Account type (for example: dealer vs distributor vs reseller)
  • Other stages within your sales process

Once shared definitions have been decided and internalized by individual reps and marketers, you’ll find it much easier to work together in alignment.

Rehearse customer-facing communications:  Marketing spends a lot of time and effort creating positioning statements, value propositions, and competitive comparisons.  These are then spewed at the reps with PowerPoint presentations during daylong sales meetings. Often, they are mostly forgotten by the reps. Or worse, half-remembered and practiced in front of customers.

Have reps practice delivering value propositions or positioning statements in their own words, the way they would express them in front of a customer or prospect. Share their attempts with Marketing. Marketing will learn valuable lessons on customer language vs the marketing jargon that often permeates these materials. And that will help Marketing translate the materials into customer-facing communications such as the website, catalogs and sales literature.

Share best practices:  When your high-performing reps share their best practices with other reps, invite Marketing into the discussion.  Marketers often are masters at scaling communications. For example, if you have a star rep that excels at upselling, Marketing often can translate what they do into sales tools, sales materials or specific training to help less-skilled reps improve their performance in that area.

Make it a game: One challenge with established reps is keeping them interested and engaged in material that – at least in their opinion – they already know.  Gamification – the technique of using games to reinforce learning – creates healthy competition and is especially helpful in keeping established reps engaged. For example, if they really do know the material, they will quickly gain points and move to the top of the leaderboard by demonstrating their knowledge. But if the training identifies a gap in their knowledge, they are motivated to quickly master the new material to maintain their lead.

Gamification works.  According to Salesforce, 71% of companies that implemented gamification saw an 11 to 50% increase in sales performance. And gamification also helps new reps. Research from Aberdeen revealed that 31% more first-year reps achieved quota when gamification was added to their training.

We’ve seen that quickly ramping up new reps and keeping new and established reps at the top of their game is vital to improving sales productivity in the face of high turnover and short rep tenure.  In our next blog post, we’ll look at the final piece of the puzzle – increasing rep tenure and how to use mobile learning to help retain your high performers.

Schedule your personal, one-on-one, online demo today!

Or contact us to learn more about SkillFitness.

Increasing Sales Productivity Part 4: How technology transforms sales managers into sales coaches

This is the fourth in our six-part series on using social learning and mobile technology to improve sales force productivity.

Millennials value coaching and mentoring above all other developmental opportunities.

But too often coaching – real coaching – doesn’t happen in a sales organization.

Effective coaching centers on helping reps focus on things that matter and that can be managed, influenced and measured directly. But sales is a numbers-driven game and many managers focus on sales objectives and quota. Yet sales objectives such as revenue – while important– cannot be measured directly; they are the results of decisions made by buyers and can only be influenced indirectly.  What can be managed directly are the sales activities and behaviors that lead to achieving these sales objectives.  From an individual rep productivity standpoint, these include:

  • How they use their time
  • What they focus on
  • Achieving and maintaining high levels of motivation

Sales managers face several other obstacles in providing effective coaching.  When we talk to VPs and Directors about why their sales managers don’t coach, they say three “reasons” often come up:

  • No time.
  • No skills.
  • No structure.

Let’s dig a little deeper:

No time to coach: This is the #1 reason managers give for not coaching their people as much they should.  There’s no question that managers today are buried by incoming texts and emails, virtual and face-to-face meetings, management and stakeholder reports, compliance and regulatory concerns, customer problems – and sometimes the expectation that they are available 24/7 to solve them. 

No coaching skills: Why aren’t managers making the time to coach?  Many may not know how to.  Sales managers are often promoted up out of the ranks, but individual sales professionals aren’t required to coach. As new managers, they need to learn how.  Fortunately, coaching is a learned skill. Once leadership trains managers, gives them the tools and holds them accountable for coaching, most managers will develop into effective coaches. And leaders often tell us that managers, with practice, often find they are more skilled at coaching than they originally thought.

No structure:  Even given the time and willingness to coach, many managers say they don’t have the structure or context to think from when it comes to developing their people. Managers need to stop confusing weekly or monthly check-in meeting regarding the numbers, on-going projects and customer activities with coaching. It’s not. But sales leaders tell us that managers don’t “get it”; they insist they are coaching when in reality they are just managing the day-to-day activities of the business.

In our experience, there are two other factors that contribute to why managers don’t coach:

No accountability:  Many leaders mention that there are no real metrics to determine if coaching is really happening, and if it is, how effective the coaching is.  Just asking reps about their manager’s coaching skills often backfires. The rep tends to over-report the amount and effectiveness of coaching – either out of fear of retaliation by the manager or the fear that they manager actually will start coaching and the rep has neither the time nor desire to be coached!

No way to scale:  Teams today are increasing virtual, geographically distributed, and organized around projects or customers rather than functional areas. Travel is expensive and time consuming. Some technical solutions for collaboration and communication are available, but most are not designed specifically for coaching and skill development.

Is there a solution to helping managers coach more often and coach more effectively?

There is and it’s called microcoaching.

Microcoaching are coaching sessions conducted in very small periods throughout the day, week or month. These brief bits of coaching increase the number of “touches” between the coach and the trainee. And that is the secret to its effectiveness.

The way SkillFitness works is by having learners view a short, bite-sized video of the concept or skill they want to master on their smart phone or tablet; use the built-in camera on their mobile device to practice and capture a video “selfie” of themselves demonstrating what they’ve learned; and then submit their best attempt to their manager for feedback and coaching.

How does SkillFitness help address the issues around managers not coaching?

Time. SkillFitness turns the rep and managers mobile devices into a powerful anytime, anywhere coaching platform. Managers tell us that using SkillFitness allows them and their teams to squeeze learning and coaching into spare moments in their busy schedules.

Coaching skills:  SkillFitness breaks skill and performance development into small, bite-sized chunks that make sense to both the coach and trainee. The coach only needs to provide feedback on that specific skill, making the process of coaching much less overwhelming and much more focused.

 Structure: SkillFitness is designed around adult learning techniques that are focused on the proven way adults best learn, incorporate coaching and feedback, and produce outcomes and results.

Accountability: Built-in dashboards track trainee, manager and team engagement, mastery and effectiveness. You’ll know who is coaching and how good they are at it.

Microcoaching works to encourage more coaching and better coaching. For teams using SkillFitness, it’s not unusual to see coaching sessions increase from once a month or a couple times a year, to daily or even several times a day. And managers report that the multiple, easily executed coaching sessions improve their coaching skills.

The results are worth the effort; Research by the Miller Heiman Group shows that coaching – especially a structured coaching program – can have a dramatic effect on achieving forecast.

Win Rate of Forecast Deals

  • Formal coaching process– 53.6%
  • Informal coaching process – 45.7%
  • Discretionary coaching process – 44.7%

If your managers aren’t coaching, try microcoaching.  Sometimes a little coaching, delivered the right way, goes a long way.

Schedule your personal, one-on-one, online demo today!

Or contact us to learn more about SkillFitness.

Increasing Sales Productivity Part 3: The power of best practices

This is the third in our six-part series on using social learning and video role play to increase sales productivity.  In parts 1 and 2, we looked at the dramatic effect reducing ramp up time has on sales rep productivity. Now we’ll examine how these same mobile learning tools and techniques can make experienced, productive reps even more effective.

The challenge of maximizing sales productivity doesn’t end with the ramp-up period. Experienced reps need to be focused, continuously updated and motivated.

According to Salesforce, only 55% of companies have a formal sales training process. However, ongoing sales training can yield up to 50% higher net sales per rep. Sales teams need ongoing guidance, training and coaching to be effective and productive.   They need to be trained on what to say and how to say it, on the competitive landscape, on new products and product developments, and how to guide customers through the sales process.  This is supported by research by the Aberdeen Group, which showed companies focused on formal ongoing sales training lead non-adopters in team attainment of quota, customer retention, and the overall percentage of reps making quota.

Many of the advantages offered by mobile learning platforms that help speed ramp-up time also aid in keeping the sales force up-to-date, trained and motivated.  But these platforms also enable several techniques that are especially useful in increasing the effectiveness of experienced reps.

These techniques include sharing best practices among the sales team, helping sales managers coach more effectively, and improving communication between the sales and marketing functions.  Let’s start by looking at the power of sharing best practices.

Research by Miller Heiman Group showed that on average 60.1% of companies revenue was generated by the top 20% of its sales people. This leaves the majority of your sales team with plenty of room for improvement.

With such a wide gap between top performers and the rest of the team, it is important for managers to encourage their star sales reps to collaborate and share their best practices.  Yet only 23.8% of companies have a formal process for doing this, according to the Miller Heiman Group.   But sharing best practices can have a huge impact on quota achievement. The Aberdeen Group found that sales teams that encourage the use of best practices doubled sales rep quota attainment to 82% compared to 39% for teams that did not.

Mobile learning platforms make sharing best practices, success stories and tricks of the trade easy.  You simply video your top performers role playing or explaining what they do best and the rest of the team practices, shares and comments on what they learned. High production quality video isn’t necessary. In fact, we’ve found informal videos are often considered more engaging and real by a generation that grew up on YouTube. 

Along with improving team productivity, best practice sharing has the advantage of encouraging sales teams to work with each other rather than against each other. And with many reps working remotely, they may feel disconnected from the team. Best practice sharing helps keep them engaged and informed.

Mobile learning platforms like SkillFitness not only make it easy for your reps to learn from each other, they also transform sales managers into more effective coaches. In our next post, we’ll look at how mobile technology can improve manager coaching skills.

Schedule your personal, one-on-one, online demo today!

Or contact us to learn more about SkillFitness.